The head of the big steer

 

 

In the year 1900, when Isaac was eight and his younger sister, Hamas, was four, the news arrived that a hundred Russian Christians were coming over the mountains in their covered wagons. Everyone was pleased. It was the custom in Kara Kala to hold a feast for the visiting Christians whenever they arrived. In spite of the fact that he didn’t agree with the ‘full Gospel’ preached by the Russians, Grandfather considered their visits as times set apart for God, and insisted that the welcoming feast be held on the large level plot of ground in front of his own home.

Now, Grandfather was proud of his fine cattle. With the news that the Russians were on their way, he went out to his herd and looked them over. He would choose the very finest, fattest steer for this special meal.

Unfortunately, however, the fattest steer in the herd turned out, on inspection, to have a flaw. The animal was blind in one eye.

What should he do? Grandfather knew his Bible well: He knew he should not offer an imperfect animal to the Lord, for didn’t it say in the twenty-second chapter of Leviticus, verse 20, ‘But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer; for it shall not be acceptable ….’?

What a dilemma! No other animal in the herd was large enough to feed a hundred guests. Grandfather looked around. No one was watching. Suppose he slaughtered the big steer and simply hid the blemished head? Yes, that was what he would do! Grandfather led the half-blind steer into the barn, butchered it himself, and quickly placed the head in a sack which he hid beneath a pile of threshed wheat in a dark corner.

Grandfather was just in time, for as he finished dressing the beef, he heard the rumble of wagons coming into Kara Kala. What a welcome sight! Coming down the dusty road was the familiar caravan of wagons, each pulled by four perspiring horses. Beside the driver of the first team, erect and commanding as ever, sat the white-bearded patriarch who was leader and prophet of the group. Grandfather and little Isaac ran up the road to greet their guests.

All over town preparations for the feast were underway. Soon the big steer was roasting on a spit over a huge bed of charcoal. That evening everyone gathered, expectant and hungry, around the long plank tables. Before the meal could begin, however, the food must be blessed.

These old Russian Christians would not say any prayer – even grace over meals – until they had received what they called the anointing. They would wait before the Lord until, in their phrase, the Spirit fell upon them. They claimed, (a little to Grandfather’s amusement), that they could literally feel His Presence descend. When this occurred they would raise their arms and dance with joy.

On this occasion as always, the Russians waited for the anointing of the Spirit. Sure enough, as everyone watched, first one and then another began to dance in place. Everything was going as usual. Soon would come the blessing of the food, and the feast could begin.

But to Grandfather’s dismay, the patriarch suddenly raised his hand – not in sign of blessing – but as a signal that everything was to stop. Giving Grandfather a strange penetrating look, the tall white-haired man walked from the table without a word.

Grandfather’s eye followed the old man’s every movement as the prophet strode across the yard and into the barn. After a moment he reappeared. In his hand he held the sack which Grandfather had hidden beneath the pile of wheat.

Grandfather began to shake. How could the man have known! No one had seen him. The Russians had not even reached the village when he had hidden that head. Now the patriarch placed the telltale sack before Grandfather and let it fall open, revealing to everyone the head with the milk-white eye.

‘Have you anything to confess, Brother Demos?’ the Russian asked.

‘Yes, I have’, said Grandfather, still shaking. ‘But how did you know?’

‘God told me’, the old man said simply. ‘You still do not believe that He speaks to His people today as in the past. The Spirit gave me this word of knowledge for a special reason: that you and your family might believe. You have been resisting the power of the Spirit. Today is the day you will resist no longer’.

Before his neighbors and guests that evening Grandfather confessed the deception he had attempted. With tears rolling down his face into his bristly beard, he asked their forgiveness. ‘Show me’, he said to the prophet, ‘how I, too, can receive the Spirit of God’.

Grandfather knelt and the old Russian laid his work-gnarled hands on his head. Immediately Grandfather burst into joyous prayer in a language neither he nor anyone present could understand. The Russian called this kind of ecstatic utterance ‘tongues’ and regarded it as a sign that the Holy Spirit was present with the speaker. That night Grandmother, too, received this ‘Baptism in the Spirit’.

It was the beginning of great changes in our family’s life, and one of the first was a change in attitude toward Kara Kala’s most famous citizen.

 

Read the next testimony to know who that person was and other interesting things

 

From: The Happiest People on Earth. The long-awaited personal story of Demos Shakarian as told to John and Elizabeth Sherrill, U.S.A. 1975, pages 16-19

 

 

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