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Temple of the Heart and Other Christian Poems

TEMPLE OF THE HEART

and Other Christian Poems

 

Alfred D. Byrd

 

 

 

 

Temple of the Heart and Other Christian Poems

 

Copyright © 2016 Alfred D. Byrd

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

 

Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other works by this author. Thank youfor your support.

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

An Alliterative Haggadah

Athaliah

Atonement

Autumn

David in Exile

An Empty Shell

The Fullness of Life

Haiku Proverbs

The Highest Place

His Love for His Lost Sheep

In Many Ways

Joseph in Egypt

A Mound in Mosul

The One Who Learns

Nightfall over Nineveh

The Purpose of Life

A Song of Angels

Supper of the Birds

Temple of the Heart

Theophany

Three Graves in Ephraim

A Wall at Rabbah

When Neither Space Nor Time

 

 

 

 

AN ALLITERATIVE HAGGADAH

 

In the seder at Passover, Haggadah is the telling of God’s dealings with Israel from Abram’s call to leave Ur to Solomon’s consecration of his templeJewish history’s most joyous eventwith a focus on God’s delivering the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It’s a mitzvah, a fulfillment of holy obligation to God, for the seder’s head to tell Haggadah as fully as one can. Here’s a version of Haggadah in the ancient English meter of alliterative verse for whoever may feel led to use it in study or in celebration of God’s blessings to us. May it bless you to read this poem as it has blessed me to write it.

 

Ancient Israel entered our knowledge
Through one who welcomed a word from our God.
In an age of idols, in Ur of Sumer,
Abraham answered urgent instructions
To relent from his love for the land of his birth
And to pace a path of perils and doubts
In hope of a home of heaven’s choosing.
Through guidance from God — through goading, at times—
He came to Canaan, recast from then on
By his line of light as the Land of Promise.
He became through coming at the call of God
The Father of Faith and founder of nations.

The Father of Faith confided his birthright
By oath to Isaac, his offspring by marriage.
Isaac, as ordered, was offered to heaven
As a gift to his God, but regained through a ram,
Unsullied substitute, saving the chosen;
And Isaac ended by adding to Jacob,
A trickster and tramp, the trust of the Land.
That son, though second, received the birthright
Confirmed to the first, whom he fooled two times,
But then had to hide from one hurt for all time.
The trickster was trapped by tricks of his own
And ought to have ended in exile — but God
Recalled him to Canaan and came in the night
To fight him as foe, yet fill him with hope
Of leaving a line that would live forever.
Deceiver received as a sign of blessing
A name announcing renewal of purpose:
“Israel” honored an outlaw reformed
With a prize of praise as “a prince of God.”

The line of the Land would leave for Egypt
Because of conflict from coldness of heart
Of brother for brother. The brides of Jacob
Were sisters who saw their siblings as rivals;
The malice of mothers was mirrored in sons.
For Joseph, the gentle, jealousy festered,
Bringing his brothers to break up their home
By selling their sibling to serve as a slave,
The lowest of low in a land of “gods.”
In Egypt, however, his honor returned
When he drew from a dream, the dread of a king,
A plan to replace the plight of famine
With excess to eat for the ends of the world.
When he rose in rank to rule by the king,
He called his kindred to come where he lived—
He haled the Hebrews, made holy to God,
To settle in safety for seasons of peace.

The joy of Joseph in joining kindred
Was only an instant in ages to come.
It would turn in time to a tale of grief.
When he met his demise, there mounted the throne
A king who recalled no kindness of Joseph’s
And blighted his blessing with a blow to freedom.
Being filled with fear of fighting to come,
He hated the Hebrews, though holy to God.
They would learn, he believed, how to lift a sword
To threaten his throne — to throw it to chaos!
To keep his kingdom from conquest by guests,
He humbled the Hebrews to holding the status
Of livestock that lived in the laws of Egypt
As slaves, all but slime, who would slink to their beds
And tell with their tears a tale of their loss.

In heaven there heard their howls of dismay
One moved by mercy — the Maker of all.
Our God regathered those given to grief
By sending a son as a sign of hope
To release the line that was loved by God
From service to sin — the sayings of masters.
The law of the land was lethal to him:
“A son of servants,” it said, “must be slain
To keep the kingdom from conquest within.”
His mother was moved by demands of love
To consign her son, concealed in a chest,
To riding the river to ruin or hope.
A master’s mercy moved him to safety:
A princess proffered reprieve to the son,
Who, raised from the reeds, was reared as her own.
She made him Moses to remind the world:
“A baby was borne to rebirth on the waves.”

Imbued with beauty by birth and by home,
The son of servants, now seen as a prince,
Was allowed to learn the lore of Egypt,
Making him master of men and of “gods.”
He bore his burden of beauty with grace
Until, being told the tale of his birth,
He put compassion for the poor and weak
Ahead of his hopes for heights of glory.
Seeing a servant assaulted by whip,
The son of servants summoned his courage
To save the servant from sorrow and grief;
But, fired by fury to fight unwisely,
Moses would murder a man of the king
And must leave the land, his life now forfeit,
To sigh in the sand as a son of exile.

He lived a whole life in a land of thirst
Before he would find what he faced for God.
The shearing of sheep was his share in life
When he led his lambs to look for forage.
Heading for highlands where he hoped for grass,
He witnessed wonders that woke him from doubt.
A bush was burning, but bore no damage
From fire that had formed a furnace of light.
The One Who awoke the worlds to being
Had sent him a sign — was saying the Name:
“I am who I am, the only, the true.
I have heard the hope of households of slaves
For release from lives that they live in vain—

For a life of love on land of their own.

To give them this gift, you must go back home
And call to account the king of Egypt:
‘Release my loved ones to live in freedom,
Or face misfortune from the fire who speaks.’
If you feel unfit to face him alone,
Then bring, to be brave, your brother, Aaron,

To give for his God his guidance to you.”

The guidance of God, forgiving, but clear,
Was moving Moses to meet what he feared.
He went from wonders to work for his God
By taking tidings of a test of heart
To Pharaoh, his foe, though favored in youth
For owning the awe that honors a prince.
When he came to court to call for freedom,
Moses remembered the mountain of pride
Erected by rulers from the realm of the stars
To bear them above the baseness of mortals.
“Silence, you subjects! You’re seeing the king.
By descent from the sun, he’s the son of Ra.”
The mouth of Moses, mentioning “freedom,”
Angered and outraged the offspring of “gods.”
In fury, Pharaoh defied his Maker,
Embittered bondage of bearers of loads,
And hurled the herald, though holy to God,
From court to courtyard to come to the street.
The herald was hurt by hate from a friend
And worse by the words of workers, his kin,
Who said, “Who sent you to serve our masters
By turning our tasks, which take us all day,
To work too weighty for the weak to bear?”

He regained from his God a gift of purpose
That undid his doubts and daunted the king,
Though never enough to negate his pride:
Through words of the One were wonders performed,
Revealing to view a vision of God
As caster of kings from court to defeat.
A river, corrupted, was running with blood;
The frogs were frightful; unfriendly, the gnats.
Magicians jested, enjoying the show
Until they toppled, returned to their wits
By failure to fake the forming of bugs.
Would Pharaoh forfeit? No, filled with conceit,
He bargained with bonds and badgered his guest
To keep his kindred, the called of their God,
To labor for life in a land of thirst.

A flurry of flies inflicted on Egypt
Defilement of food, which they fouled with their touch.
The livestock were lost; unlovely pustules
Debased the beauty that bound one to pride.
From heaven, hailstones harrowed the gardens;
Locusts alighted, relieving the fields
Of barley’s burden: the barns would be free.
A day of darkness daunted Egyptians,
Groping greedily — grasping no solace.
For some, there was sight: the servants of God,
Though housed in hovels, were holy and blessed.
Their Maker marked them, “Immune to My plagues.”
In the court, the king took counsel with none,
But found defiance a force that kept him
Mighty and matchless, though marked for downfall.

Before the finish of Pharaoh and gods,
A word from the One awarded Moses
Enormous knowledge: the name of the plague
That would cure the king of keeping hopeless
Abraham’s offspring, dishonored and chained.
Our God would give them the gift of a feast
To hold in their hearts their holy purpose
To leave for a land where they’d live with God.
“I announce a night to be known for death,
But also for honor for offspring of slaves.
The firstborn, favored, will fail in their sleep
Unless their loved ones have learned to obey
The will of the One. Let them wet their doors
With life from a lamb — the life is the blood—
Which will hold from harm the household within
When I come to kill both court and hovel.
Memories matter. Remind My people,
The line of loved ones who live by My words,
To renew this night, their night of freedom,
Whenever, in awe, they eat of the lamb.
When they break the bread that they’ve brought in haste
In leaving a land where they lived as slaves—
Their bondage, bitter, is bound in their tears—
Let them hold at heart what’s holy and true:
Their lives were released by love of their God.”

The guidance of God — a gift of foresight—
Would come to occur as called from above.
The servants, seated inside their houses,
Were blessed by the blood that emblazoned their doors
With a seal of safety — a sign to their God—
As they ate with awe the offered, the lamb.
Outside, a sorrow: the ceasing of life
In firstborn fated to fend for themselves
Against the true God, the Giver of life,
Who gathers this gift when we go our own way.
Though forceful, Pharaoh was filled with remorse
As he saw a son, the seal of his hope,
Reduced to his death for deeds of his sire.
In mourning, he mouthed, “Let Moses come in.
He has won his war — his way to freedom.”

The line of the light was leaving for home
With aid from Egypt — an offer of wealth
In payment for pain and a past of grief.
The line would be led by light from on high —
A gift of guidance given to servants.
To point them to peace — a pillar of fire
(Too vast for our view, it was veiled in smoke),
Would hover ahead, helping travelers
Carry their cargo on course to their goal.
Though led from the land, they lingered in thought
At ease in Egypt. Eating its foodstuffs—
Apples, apricots, onions, and fish—
Though something seldom received by their kind,

Was a lure to lust — a loss to be mourned
As they left delights for a land unseen.
Not only offspring — Abraham’s kindred—
Would leave those delights for the Land of Promise;
A few of the folk that followed the “gods”
Defied by a foe, the First and the Last,
Would go with that God, the Giver of hope,
To win the reward awarded by faith.

A setback! A sea was set in their path,
And Pharaoh would find defiance renewed
In a heart that hated their hope of escape.
He planned to replace his plunder of slaves
Once more in the mire of moaning their lot
As they bent their backs to burdens to bring
Both honor and awe to Egypt — the king!
He summoned soldiers and set them in march
To seek the servants (the sea was a trap),
But a field of fire — the force of their God—
Would sever soldiers from seizing their prey
Until it was time for a turn of fate.
To the awe of all, there opened ahead
A roadway that ran through the rush of waves
To allow the line that loved the Maker
Travel untroubled — a trek on dry land
To seacoasts made safe by a sign from God.
The force of Pharaoh followed the slaves,
But the sea resealed. It sent to their death
The foes who refused to favor freedom.

At Egypt’s outcome, Israel frolicked
As they gave their God, their guide and their shield,
Their praise for reprieve from the proud and harsh.
The dance being done, their doubts were renewed,
For the light, their leader, led them through desert.
They ached there to eat, or even to drink,
Until they were turned to talking of praise
Of water, a wonder that welled from a rock,
And of bread that was brought at the break of day
From the heights of heaven to help them along.
Are marvels a means to make us thankful?
Sadly, our song is, “How soon we forget!”
They grumbled and groaned, and greeted Moses
With taunts that tore him: “Return us to Egypt!
We loved our life there, our living at ease
By mountains of meat and mounds of spices.”
The past is perfect when pondered by hearts
That fear no future in the face of tests.

The light was leading the line that was free
To a bush that had burned, but had borne no harm
From the force of its fire, a form of their God.
In heights made holy by heaven’s presence,
Their God would give them guidance in justice
Through a list of laws of love for their God
Allied, they would learn, with love for neighbors.
A life is not lived for love of itself,
But also in awe that honors the King,
Who names our neighbors as needing our care
And arrayed in rights as real as our own.
The one who wanders, working injustice,
Must come to the court and account with life.
Whoever honors Creator and neighbor
Will live in the land in light and at peace.
At the heart of hope was heaven’s presence:
The choicest of chests was charged with the fire
That had burned in a bush, but is borne from the heights.
Along with the laws of light and of peace,
Their God would give them as gifts for all time
A priesthood of praise, the promise of feasts,
A tent to be turned to temple at length,
And altars honored with offers of blood
To save them from sin, their ceasings of love
Whenever they erred or acted with pride.

These gifts of their God were given to them
To hold them holy, to help them repent,
And to serve as signs of someone to come:
Messiah, savior, a son of the line
And a gift of God to guide us truly.
In days of darkness, of doubt, and of fear,
He’d come to call them to keep their God’s Law,
To give to their God the gift of turning
From living a lie to loving the truth,
And to learn through love to be light to the world.

From heights made holy by heaven’s presence,
The light is leading the line to its home.
Because of conflicts that come from mistrust
In leaders and laws, the line goes astray.
Not all will enter the end of their hopes,
For many will mutter, “I’m mad at my life.
It’s better to be in bondage in Egypt
Than to live by laws that leave us homeless.”
The plague of displeasure will pluck from glory
Even the elders who ought to have praise.
The men in command — yes, Moses and Aaron!—
Are doomed by their doubts to die on the road.
In fires of defeat, one finds a remnant
Protected through time by ties to their God.
A few are faithful. Fearless Joshua,
Captain of courage, will keep them on track
To the light’s allotment, the Land of Promise.

The line of the Law, in the Land, their goal,
Rejoiced in the justice of judges who heard
A call from the King of the court above
To cancel conflicts by calling to mind
The guidance of God on good and evil.
To follow the first was to find contentment.
Often, however, evil was master,
And the line of Law was lost in darkness.
Foreigners fought them, defeated their ranks,
And sealed them to service both sad and shameful
Until they returned to the tent of God.
“We ask for your aid, Creator and King,
In healing our hurts and harming our foes.
We’ve learned our lesson: the Law is the guide
That leads us to light and life in your will.”
The servants received a season of freedom,
But brightness was brief. They broke commandments
And, sadly, would sink to service again.
They sought a center, but saw only doubt.
Each rebel would read what’s right from his heart,
Yet hearts can feel hate and harm what they love.

A people in peril were partners with doubt
When they called for a king to keep them from harm.
Rejecting a judge of justice and faith,
A priest and prophet, they prodded Samuel,
Fighting their folly, to find them a man
Who’d be known for renown from neighbors, their foes.
With guidance from God, he gave them their wish,
For Saul, to their sight, was the seal of glory:
He looked a leader unlikely to fail.
To rely on looks may lead us astray.
The heart is what holds our hope of rewards
When we go before God, the giver of judgments.
For Saul, his success would send him misfortune.
Eager for action, he acted proudly,
Honoring impulse and earning disgrace.
“To do your duty, be daring and quick!”
His impulse urged him. “Honor demands it.
Don’t wait for wisdom! Your will is your God’s,”
But Saul was deceived by success without truth.
His will was worthless, working disaster,
And the death that he died was dark and bitter.
Defeated by foes, he was filled with remorse
At losing his land and the love of God.

The line of the Law was lost once again.

To salve their sorrow, Samuel found them
A king who would keep the counsel of truth.
A man like Moses, a master of sheep,
David, God’s darling, would do for his land
Such works of wonder that he won a name
As righteous, a ruler unrivaled in grace.
Defeat of his foes was the first of his tasks;
Then he led his land, once low, to its heights.
What sealed his success? A center of worship,
Conquered capital, called by him “Peaceful” —
Ancient Ariel, honored as holy
By all who give ear to Abram’s belief
In guidance from God to go where he leads
In hope of a home of heaven’s choosing.
David, in doing a duty of worship,
Removed to its midst a marvel of God,
The choicest of chests, which, chosen to bear
The law of the Land, would lead it rightly
As long as its love for the light was true.

In sorrow, one says, “A servant of God—
Yes, David! — may do what dooms one to shame.”
He earned dishonor through acting on lust
That moved him to mar a marriage of friends
And murder a man who meant to serve him.
When he begged to build, embodied in glory,
Holy and hopeful, a house for his God,
A prophet reproved him. “You’re proud and bloody.
The work that you want is willed to your son.”

The work of wonder rewarding belief
In God, Who gives us guidance and hope,
Is a realm of rest with room in its midst
For making a mansion for meeting our King—
Not a lord of land, but the Light of heaven.
A tent had taken tattered refugees
Outwards from Egypt to enter Canaan,
The land allotted to the line of Jacob;
But now was needed to renew their faith
A place most pleasing — a place for all time.
To David’s darling, dutiful Solomon,
Conceived in sorrow, but sealed to a throne,
Our God had given the guidance to build
A household of hope, a home for the One
Whose Spirit had spoken and spurred creation.
The heights of a hill would hold a temple
For giving to God one’s gifts of service
And gaining the guidance to go through the world
With light of the Law and love of the One
To keep one secure in a kiln of testing.
To the heights of that hill from heaven, God’s throne,
A fire is falling, filling an altar

To prove the Presence and promise to all
A gift of guidance: “Our God is with us!”
May we learn from the Law to love our neighbors
And come to our King, the keeper of life,
With prayers of praise for our pride, our God.

 

 

 

 

ATHALIAH

 

Ahab sends me, Jezebel’s daughter,
Servant of Baal, to Judah to be
A queen beside an heir of David.
Marriage brings me no one to honor.
Judah’s ruler can’t equal his sire:
My husband’s father adores the Lord,
But bows to Ahab to keep the peace
Between the parts of David’s kingdom.
Keeping that peace, my mother tells me,
Hinges on trading the Lord for Baal.
A god unseen can’t guide a people
Needing an image to see and trust.

I do my part for her who sent me:
Bearing a son, I sit at the side
Of husband and son, who fill a throne,
But heed my words as I tell the kings,
“The Lord is a dream, but Baal is real.
Your strength depends on choosing the one
Who’ll make your land secure in a world
That’s full of dangers testing your will.”

Success rewards my efforts for Baal.

The kings accept my words as their guides:
They keep their temple, but build my groves
For worship pleasing to taste and touch.
My mother’s desire, achieved, has made
Two kingdoms once one as one once more.
A plan well laid bears fruit for all time.

The Lord, however, won’t go away.

He raises Jehu, a man of blood,
To claim a land that had been David’s.
Jehu takes pleasure in what he does:
He kills my son, the king of Judah;
Jezebel, Mother, he gives to dogs
That eat her body and drink her blood;
He cleans the land of Ahab’s descent,
And then he kills the prophets of Baal.
Disaster has struck; can all be lost,
For I am alone against the Lord?

Am I a quitter? I’ll steal a page
From Jehu, who knows the way to change
The world to what he wants it to be.
The men beside my throne still heed me;
Taking my orders, they bare their swords
And kill the house of David that’s left.
I hate what I’ve done; I’ve known the dead,
But now the throne of Judah is mine,
And I can save my mother’s vision.
Jehu has half of what was David’s;
Having the rest, I’ll soon have Jehu’s.
Let him attack me, for he’ll confront
A queen who matches his deeds with hers.

I wait for Jehu, but he stays home,
Forgetting the zeal that won a crown.
How often someone who’s full of fire
Will flare and fade, reduced to an ash.
I’m safe in Judah and now can plan
To spread the worship of Baal from here—

What’s this? A trumpet sounding challenge?
Something’s bringing the temple to life.
My men rush in and stammer in dread,
“They hid a boy, an heir of David!
Joash, he’s called; they’ve made him their king!”

What story is this? I rush to find out.

I’ve won my throne by acting at once,
But now I see the fruit of patience.
Soldiers guard him; a priest anoints him;
Joash is ready to rule the land—
A boy to do the work of David!
Tearing my clothes, I show my outrage:
“Treason! Treason!” I shout to the crowd.
I wait for my son to take my part,
But they’ve gone elsewhere, hiding, no doubt.
The fools can’t see how useless flight is;
It buys you some time, but ends in death.

As for mine, it comes without delay.

The priest is speedy; he sends the guards
To end a threat to Joash, his king.
A pagan’s lifeblood won’t stain the temple.
Jezebel, Mother, I’ve done my best,
But no one can master sudden reverse.
The Lord has won in Judah today;
What future will come, my eyes won’t see.
A sword is swung; it enters my flesh—

 

 

 

 

ATONEMENT

 

 

Why does one feel the need to seek atonement?
Why, in the past, did one approach a priest
With lives for him to slay beside his altar,
With gifts to burn within its holy fire?
Was there some debt that asked a price of blood?
Behind the rite, was there a sense of sin?

At first, we failed to understand our sin,
Or how or where we ought to seek atonement.
Knowing no more than that our hands shed blood,
We sought their cleansing through some temple’s priest,
Who stood between us and his master’s fire
To expiate our deeds upon the altar.

God, for one people, though, ordained an altar
Where He could clearly show the cost of sin,
Where servile beasts were offered to the fire
And, dying in our place, brought forth atonement.

He set apart one of our kind as priest
To cover guilty lives with guiltless blood.

God’s types foreshadowed what the perfect blood
Would someday do when shed upon an altar
By One Whom God ordained a perfect priest.
His perfect blood would not just cover sin,
But blot it from our lives with full atonement
To let us stand unstained before God’s fire.

In time, the Word of God, Who shares His fire
Took on a form whose veins held human blood,
The substance that would make the true atonement.
He gave this gift upon a cross, His altar,
To bear, and bear away, our load of sin.
This Sacrifice, Who saves us, is our Priest.

When we, by faith, accept Him as our Priest,
His Spirit comes into our lives as fire
And makes us His redeemed ones, freed from sin;
Then, cleansed from death’s defilement through His blood,
We yield our lives in service at His altar

To thank the One Who gave us our atonement.

Because our Priest has offered His own blood,
A sacrifice by fire upon the altar,
He now removes our sin and makes atonement.

 

 

 

 

AUTUMN

 

Is there a need to weep when that time comes,
When summer’s blaze of life is quenched by autumn?
When grey clouds spill the burden of their rain,
And sodden leaves are stripped off by the wind,
And swift, bright days give way to slow, bleak nights,
Does not the human heart begin to weep?

It seems that even nature learns to weep
When, blighting earth’s green robes, this season comes,
Wailing with mournful notes throughout the nights
To let all know what lies beyond the autumn.
The message of life’s end flies on the wind;
The tears of those who mourn descend as rain.

Thus, as the season turns, bringing the rain,
It mirrors the change of heart of those who weep

For hopes now blasted by the chilling wind.

Both man and nature weep when that time comes,

For man and nature both encounter autumn,
When days of joy give way to hopeless nights.

And, if, within the endless chain of nights,
One’s life were washed away by bitter rain,
Who would not fear the onset of the autumn?
If all dissolved and passed, who would not weep?
And, so convinced, some fear, as life’s end comes,
Their soul’s dispersal on a soulless wind.

But some have found the strength to face the wind
In God, Whose love sustains them through the nights;
Secure in Him, they smile as life’s end comes.
On those who know God’s love, His gentle rain
Of grace will fall to cleanse the tears they weep,
And help them stand against the storms of autumn.

A better life awaits, beyond the autumn,
The ones whose hearts have felt the Spirit’s wind;

Alive again, they have no need to weep,
For they will see a day with no more nights.
Their faces turned to feel God’s healing rain,
They live in hope until His summer comes.

Why should one fear the autumn? Its stormy nights,
Though harsh with wind, bring forth the needed rain.
There is no need to weep when that time comes.

 

 

 

 

DAVID IN EXILE

 

I’M TAKING the road to Gath again.

I’ve spoken with Saul, who acted sorry
For hunting my life, but he weeps and says,
“Forgive me! Come home!” then changes his mind
And tries to kill me. I can’t believe him,
However greatly I want to do so.
It’s safer to risk my life in Gath,
A place where some seek my death in vengeance,
Than stay with my king, a kinsman afar
Who’s led by madness to see my service
As treason against him, my love as hatred.

I know his reasons to fear and hate me.

A shepherd, a youth, I came from nowhere
To play my harp to lift him from gloom;
I killed Goliath, who mocked the LORD
And threatened enslavement to all who serve Him.
Maybe, reports have come to Saul
Of what I’d hoped would stay a secret:
The prophet, Samuel, coming to me,
Had drenched my head with juice of olives
And told my kinsmen, “David is king!”
I took his words to mean that I’d wait
For Saul to die of old age in bed
To get from God’s hand his crown and his throne.
To Saul, I guess, if he got the word
Of what I’d be, it must’ve seemed likely
That I’d do any deed, even take his life,
To hasten the day when I’d get his crown.
His fear, I can grasp, but it filled his hand
With a spear to pin my corpse to a wall,
His mind with schemes to kill me by stealth.

My Lord, I praise you for friends whom I’ve found—
Jonathan, dearest, his son, who loves me
Above the throne that should come to him,
And Michal, Saul’s daughter, his gift to me—
My wife, who hid me from death at his hands.
His children love me and tried to save me,
But he wears the crown; they owe him honor.

I’m starting to miss the wife whom I knew
Too little to learn to love as I should
Before she helped me escape at night
From soldiers summoned by Saul to stab me
Sleeping in bed. She’s my wife no more,
For Saul, to hurt me, took back his daughter—
Gave her in marriage to someone besides me.
How much he hates me if he harms his own kin
To get at me! Am I worth such vengeance?

ESCAPING from Saul, I fled to Nob,
Some friends beside me, to seek Your guidance.
Your tent, my Lord, and Your priests were there.
Forgive me! I failed to foresee their danger
From one who obeys the voice of madness.
Was my lie, my Lord, the cause of the death
Of those who helped me because of that lie?
I told Your priests, “I’m doing Saul’s will.”
I asked them for food and said, “I’m clean”
When they said, “If you’re clean, we’ll give you the bread
That’s holy to God, for we have no other.”
That bread, they gave me to stay my hunger;
They gave me the sword that slew Goliath;
For me, they asked Your Urim and Thummim—
Mysteries hidden from all but You!—
Of safety for me, of paths for my feet.

I saw there a man of Saul’s named Doeg,
Who’d come from Edom to tend Saul’s flocks,
But Doeg, I paid no mind. He was there,
I thought, to bring the priests some cattle.
Only much later did a priest, an exile
Like me from the wrath of Saul, bring news
Of Doeg’s telling the king of my stay
At Nob, of Doeg’s killing the priests
Who’d helped an exile who told them a lie.
The priest brought with him the Urim and Thummim,
With which, my Lord, You’ve guided my steps,
But he brought no peace to a heart that wonders
Whether my acts have doomed the guiltless.

BEFORE I learned of Doeg’s murders,
I’d taken the road to Gath the first time.
Achish, the king, I hoped to persuade
Of my use to him as a man of war
No longer his foe, but a sword for hire.
A fool, I was to forget Goliath!
I’d made my mark as a man of war
By killing the giant, his hometown’s hero;
His death had earned me no love in Gath.
The king’s advisors remembered that death.
They brought up some verses chanted by women
When I came in triumph from killing Goliath:
“King Saul, in battle, has slaughtered thousands;
David, our hero, ten times as many!”

Achish looked angry; I had to think fast.

Perhaps, Saul’s madness gave me my notion:
I played the madman, drooling and scratching.
No one dared harm me. Madmen are sacred,
Marked out by the gods, the pagans believe.
I won my life, but lost my refuge;
Achish desired no more of my kind
To clutter his palace and beg for handouts.
Mercy has limits among Philistines!

AFTER their king had chased me elsewhere,
I wandered about in Judah and Moab.
Thinking of verses caroled in triumph,
I wondered how much they meant to Saul.
Were my days of exile the fruits of a song
That had roused the king to see me as threat?
It had felt so good to listen to praises,
But they’ve turned to curses bitter to bear.
My Lord, please spare me from lips that flatter,
From tongues that tell me how great I am!

AS I PASSED through Judah, my parents and siblings
Arrived at my side and went at my heels.
My loved ones would know no safety with Saul.
He’d killed his priests; he’d kill my kinsmen.
The ones who could fight, I made my men.
For the rest, I sought a place of safety

Until the madness of Saul is past.

My father and mother, I took to Moab.

They found there a home in the court of the king.
They wept when I left, and I saw their grief
At leaving a land that they’ve loved since birth
For the sight of sand and the sound of strangers.
Bethlehem, crowning the hills, is green;
I cry whenever I think of my home.
My parents also must cry to lose it.
Listen, I’m grateful to Moab for giving
My parents shelter, safety in exile,
But I need to know, “How long will it last?”

WHEN I CAME from Moab to stay in Judah,
The priest showed up with Urim and Thummim.
Not long would he wait to put them to use!
“Philistines,” my neighbors called out, “have come
To attack our town. We need your help!”
I asked you, my Lord, “Should I go, or stay?”
You told me to go, and I saved the town,
But I got no good from winning the battle.
The townsmen, from fear of Saul, betrayed me,
As You said they would. I had to hurry,
Taking my men, who were now six hundred,
Wherever a hole might keep them from harm.

I STAYED awhile in pastures of Ziph,
Where I got a gift — Jonathan’s coming! —
More precious than pearls, like water in drought.
He calmed my fears and foretold my success;
He made me promises binding our households
To peace forever when I reign as king.
His visit, though brief, restored me to hope,
But makes me ask You, my Lord, just how
I’m better than he is to rule Your land.
A man of war, compassion, and truth —
A friend like him should sit on a throne.
Is my life in exile making me worthy
To wear the crown that should rest on his head?
Are these strokes of Yours like hammer on anvil
To make me a sword that will shine in use?

THE ZIPHITES betrayed me to Saul, who came,
Along with his army, to seek my life.
You saved me, my Lord, in a way of Your own;
You brought Philistines against the Land
To recall the king to doing his duty,
Saving his people, not seeking to kill me.

While he fought the foe, I was fast at running
Southwards to caves at the Spring of Goats,
Engedi, oasis, a garden like Eden
With rocks to shelter an army in safety—
Safety from Saul? Engedi gave little
As soon as the king had chased off invaders!
Only Your mercy, my Lord, could save me
From death at his hands when he came straight there,
Along with thousands — yes, five to my one—
To hunt me throughout the rocks and the holes.

I hid with some men in a cave of shepherds
And waited with dread for the king to find me.
But you, my Lord, delivered my life.
He entered my cave with none beside him;
He sought to cover his feet, as we say.
While he sat in silence, my men, in whispers,

Told me to kill him. I wouldn’t, my Lord!
To kill a man unarmed is murder,
And more so if he’s by right a king
Picked out to wear a prophet’s anointing.
Creeping upon him, I cut from his robe,
Which he’d laid aside to keep it unsoiled,
A piece of its hem, a trophy of courage.

When he left the cave, I came behind him
And called out, “King Saul! Please look at your robe.
Its hem has been cut, and here’s what’s missing!
Just think! I could’ve taken your life
If I’d used my blade, not on cloth, but on you.
When I heard advice to end your days,
I let you live on, for your life is sacred.
Don’t listen to men who tell you the lie
That I want to hurt you or give you to foes!
It’s you who’s hunting a dog, a flea!
May the LORD decide between you and me,
Protect me from you, and end our conflict.”

No one can cry like Saul when he’s sad.

He said through his tears, “You’re right, and I’m wrong.
You could’ve killed me with blame from no one,
As all but you would’ve done just now.
May God give you good for your act of mercy!
Someday, you’ll wear my crown, I see now,
And those who serve me will run to praise you.
I ask you only to spare my children.
Don’t kill them, but let them retain their homesteads.”

It hurt that he thought that I’d harm his children.

Jonathan, Michal — I love them dearly.
In lands around us, however, a king
Who wins his throne through conquest will kill

The sons of the king who reigned before him
To keep them from claiming his throne for themselves.
Saul’s worries, this time, made sense to me;
I swore what he asked to comfort his heart.

WHEN HE WENT to his home, I wanted to follow,
To see his son and my wife, Saul’s daughter—
I wanted to trust him, to play my harp
By his throne to soothe him as I’d done at first.
Too often, however, I’d seen his turnings
From wisdom to madness as fast as a blink.
I wanted to trust him, but waited to see
A change of heart that would last awhile
Before I came in reach of his spear.
Did I miss a chance to end my exile?
How I wish that I knew that question’s answer!
I stayed behind and have no home.

THE KING had left Engedi not long
When I heard a wailing: “Samuel’s dead!
His hometown’s citizens quickly, no doubt,
Buried his body, but fasted at length,
Along with a host that came with praise,
For one who had led his people with wisdom.
He was the last to judge us in freedom;
Our lust to become like peoples around us
Led us to ask of the LORD a king.

Samuel honored the will of the LORD:
He called first Saul and then me to a throne,
But saw his first choice stumble and fall,

His second run off in fear of his life.

Tell me, Samuel, what thought came to you
When you breathed your last? Did you see your kings
As lost in failure, or look beyond this

To a time of hope —to God’s fulfillment

Of what He’s promised His people as sure?

I wish, God’s prophet, to have been by your grave
For the fast observed by a land that mourned you,
But I had to stay in exile to keep
Alive the hope that you placed in me.

THE PROPHET’S passing brought peace awhile.

I came from the caves to sit in pastures
And play my harp for shepherds’ pleasure.
Almost, I made my way back home.
I longed to guzzle Bethelehem’s water,
Sweetness to quench an exile’s longing,
And play my harp in childhood’s pastures.
An exile’s daydream, an exile’s heartbreak!
The king, I knew, was watching my hometown.
To go there is death until I reign.

The place where I stayed wasn’t bad, however.

You gave me, my Lord, a home to replace
The one that I lost to a king who hates me.
My men were guarding some flocks from robbers
And beasts that indulge a taste for sheep,
And grew to be friends with those who tended
The flocks for the man who owned them, Nabal,
As rich as a king, but a boor, some said.
I heard of his wife, a lady of manners,

Abigail, worthy to be a queen,
But trapped in the hills in bonds to a fool.

I was short of supplies to feed my men
And thought, [For the work received from my band,
This Nabal should send me some grain and fruit,
As well as the meat from a sheep or two.]

I sent some men to speak to Nabal
Of what was right; his words were like stones
That shattered the peace that had been between us.
He called me a slave who’d fled his master!
A man from nowhere, I was in his eyes!
What man who wants the respect of others
Can hear such insults and feel no outrage,
No lust to take revenge on lies?

I grew hot, I admit, and lost my reason.

“Cut off his manhood!” I cried in my rage.
As drunk with anger as one gets with wine,
I called my men to carry their swords
Against his house till none lived within it.

How many had died had I done my will
You alone, my Lord, can tell me truly.
You stopped my madness by sending Your word
Through a voice of reason, a woman of wisdom.
Abigail, riding a donkey, showed up,
Along with a team of donkeys weighed down
With food for my men for weeks to come.
Although she was dressed like a queen, she knelt
Before me and said, “My lord, don’t kill him!
He’s a fool and deserves to die, but please
Don’t stain your hands with blood that’s needless.

“When I heard of your needs, and Nabal’s insults,
I came at once with what you see.
Let it be a sign of what will come!
Our God will keep your life in His hands
And bring you at last to a throne of glory.
When you wear your crown, let it shine in peace
Undimmed by the death of a fool this day.”

I think that I fell in love at once
With her who had come, both brave and clever,
To save a husband unworthy of her.
How I wished to have her, my wife, my shield
In a land of exile where I slept alone!
Michal was lost; Nabal lived, though.
Abigail, sadly, belonged to him.
You’ve said, my Lord, “Don’t split apart
What I’ve put together as man and wife!”
I gave her her wish and sent her away,
But she walked in my dreams and gave me no peace.

In time, my Lord, you gave her to me.

She told her husband of what she’d done,
And his face went slack, and he fell to the ground.
His servants took him to bed, where he died,
A man of hate whose hatred had killed him.

When I heard the news, I sent some men
To ask her to come and become my wife.
What I asked, I knew, was much, and I feared
Her spurning my offer, or saying at best,
“I’ll come when I’ve mourned my man as due him.”
What You gave, my Lord, was all of my hope,
My men’s success at once and in full.
When she’d heard their message, Abigail summoned
Handmaids to help her saddle donkeys.
She came with her maids, a queen’s attendants,
To marry a shepherd, a king with no throne.
The day of marriage was like a dawn
In a land that’s known no light for years.

I GRIEVE, my Lord, for what I did next.

I married a woman beside my true wife.
I needed allies to strengthen my cause.
To win an ally, I made a marriage
To seal my ties to a man of might.
One wife, I had had; I had now one more.
I know of Sarah and Hagar’s conflict,
Of Leah and Rachel, jealous sisters
Coupled to one man too little for two.
I wish to honor Abigail only,
But I live, my Lord, in times that are tough.
A man needs friends and children beside him
To sleep with no fear of a knife at his throat,
And wives are a way to earn me allies—
To gain respect in the eyes of strangers.

MY TIME of peace came soon to an end.

The Ziphites, ever the servants of Saul,
Told him again the place where I hid.
The odds were again his five to my one,
And I had no cave to hide me this time.

You saved me, my Lord, with the gift of nightfall
And with sleep that sealed the eyes of Saul’s men.
While they snored, I went with one man, my nephew —
Abishai, lacking nothing in courage —
To seize my chance of success with Saul.
He slept like one dead as I stood above him.
Abishai said to me, “Uncle, let’s kill him!
I’ll strike just once. He’ll die from my blow.”

I felt the sorrow of living once more
Through deeds that I’d done, and might do again.
I spared my king; I took a trophy;
I showed it to him; he wept and cried out,
“Forgive me, my son! My madness is over.”

The king and I, we parted in peace,
A peace that’s empty, like skins with no wine,
Like gourds through which the wind wails sadly.
He means what he says, but forgets his words.
He’s lost, my Lord; I can’t believe him.
I can take no longer the life that I live
Of time after time of hunt and escape.
It can’t go on; it must reach an end.
I don’t want to die; I don’t want to kill him.

I knew, my Lord, when I spoke with Saul
That I must, to keep the peace that he swore,
Depart from the land where he wears my crown.
I must go, my Lord, where none speaks Your Name—
Go far from Your tent and not see Your altar.
When he hears, the king, that I’ve gone to strangers,
I’ll be as good as dead in his eyes.

I know, my Lord, that You’ll find a way
To keep Your promise to make me a king.
I trust Your word, but see no way
To make it come true while I run from Saul.
It’s not my desire to go where I do,
To bring Philistines my men to serve them,
But You can, my Lord, recall me from exile
When You’ve freed my king from the bonds that he wears.
To end the game that he plays with me,
To spare him from having to chase me further,
I’m taking the road to Gath again.

 

 

 

 

AN EMPTY SHELL

 

Master, my life was like an empty shell
From which the wind drew forth an endless wailing.
What lay within that tomb, I could not tell;
It died before its birth, although its failing
Went long unnoticed by its eyes of death.
They were deceived; a show of life had lifted
That shell, that tomb, to hide its lack of breath.
The wind gave voice to one whose dust it sifted.

Master, I could not bear that emptiness
Once You had taught my eyes to see Your glory.
I prayed, with words You taught me, that You would bless
And fill my life, once I had learned Your story.
You emptied Yourself; You filled a life like mine;
You lived my death to make my life divine.

 

 

 

 

THE FULLNESS OF LIFE

 

The fullness of life
Was mine under summer’s sun;
The world had blessed me.
Why trust in a source unseen?
My own strength fed my pleasures.

Then grief came to cast
Autumn’s shadows on my joy.
Had some god cursed me?
The loss of my pleasures showed
The emptiness of my ways.

Treasures I’d once loved
Lay covered by winter’s snows.
The world had cursed me.
All I knew was vain — what then?
I called on the Source Unseen.

Now, a new light feeds
Spring’s growth in my life of joy.
My God has blessed me.
What change has His coming brought?
New fullness to all my days.

 

 

 

 

HAIKU PROVERBS

 

Proverbs can tell us
How best to go through the world
With wisdom as guide.

Jewels may glitter,
But eyes of thinkers prefer
The glow of wisdom.

Growing in wisdom
Mirrors a dawn that brightens,
Blazing at zenith.

Heaven will test us.

Feeling the cleansing of fire,
We’ll gleam like silver.

Character? Costly,
Gotten by passing a test
Within a furnace.

Someone with wisdom
Listens to all that is said
And grows in knowledge.

Happiness blesses
Someone who judges wisdom
Better than silver.

Honey to tastebuds,
Wisdom, as well, to the mind—
Pleasant and healthful.

Someone rejecting
The light that comes from wisdom
Stumbles in darkness.

Images fool us.

Sometimes, what looks like wisdom
Causes misfortune.

Wisdom commences
In giving an ear to words
That show your errors.

Often, we’re talking
While needing to hear what’s said.
Restraint is golden.

Keeping a secret
Can hold a house together;
Gossip destroys it.

Smiling and babbling
Are signs that should tell the wise,
“Deception is here.”

Speaking deception
Causes the speaker himself
To lose direction.

No one will miss you,
Making your way through this world
With brags and slanders.

Slandering neighbors
Wins you a day of triumph,
But years of conflict.

Spreaders of gossip
Render your life a nightmare;
Silence protects you.

Favor is given
Foremost to those who listen,
Doing what’s needed.

Joking of danger
Earns one a name for raising
Trouble from nothing.

Showing attitude
Leads you only to conflict.
Treasure politeness!

Hardest in doing,
Greatest in easing your mind:
To rule your anger.

Anger is deadly;
No one avoids in the end
What comes from outbursts.

Flipping a quarter
Gives you more helpful results
Than hours of quarrels.

Insults may hurt you;
Insults returned, however,
Hurt you much longer.

Doing violence |Robs one of trust and respect,
And bites the biter.

Answering softly
Eases argument’s passions—
Conflict averted.

Hearing witnesses,
Listen to all that is said;
Then ponder judgment.

Falsely accusing
Innocent persons of wrong
Will end in sorrow.

Shielding your life
More surely than guns or alarms
Is walking wisely.

Holy offerings
Given by hearts of evil
Sicken the heavens.

Honoring heaven?
Start then, by hating evil.
Arrogance blinds one.

Arrogance leads you
Along the edge of a cliff
With vision clouded.

Choosing what’s helpful
Benefits better than gold
One’s way of living.

Walking discreetly
Keeps one from taking a path
That ends in darkness.

Living discreetly
Is better than diet and pills
For staying youthful.

Guilty consciences
Rob us of sleep in the night
And joy in daytime.

Drinking for pleasure?
Better to offer your wine
To one in sorrow.

Rulers and drinking
Mingle poorly for persons
Crying for justice.

Choosing companions,
Focus on wisdom and peace
To earn contentment.

Boasting of lovers
May win one an air of guile,
But breeds misfortune.

Lustful wanderers,
Seeking a thrill in the night,
Are turned to victims.

Burning in bonfires
And burning for neighbors’ wives
Are sadly alike.

Jealousy festers,
Poisoning even what’s good.
Respect your neighbor.

Partner for lifetime—
Better than lover for now
To yield contentment.

Promised beauty’s praise
To one without the promise
Leads one to heartbreak.

Being complacent
Robs one of fruit of the now
And bars a future.

Slackers will tell you,
“It’s deadly to go outdoors;

To sleep is safest.”

Promises saying
“Money will rain from the sky”
Deliver troubles.

Hunting for riches?
Chasing a moth that flutters,
Laughing at capture.

Wealthy tomorrow?
Taking shortcuts will yield you
Bitter misfortune.

Peaceful poverty
Bothers you less than the sting
Of wealth with conflict.

Riches are nothing
Unless they come with wisdom
To use them rightly.

Being too wealthy
And lacking a way from debt—
Equal misfortunes.

Stolen abundance—
Sweetness at first in the mouth,
But rocks to stomach.

Earnings through falsehood
Vanish like dew in the dawn
And leave misfortune.

Rainless as sandstorms,
Someone who brags of a skill,
But can’t perform it.

Bottomless gullets
Nourish the ones who proclaim,
“I’m owed a living.”

Wealth without sorrow
Reaches the one embracing
Rightness as wisdom.

Diligent workers
Manage, by doing what’s due,
To vanquish hunger.

Holder of riches,
Lacker of wealth — together
Offspring of heaven.

Hatred of parents
Shortens the hater’s lifespan
With loss and heartbreak.

Honoring brawlers
Erodes foundations of peace
On which we prosper.

Wander the desert
Before you share a household
With lies and anger.

Children unguided
By love and law of parents
Gather misfortune.

A spouse who’s helpful
Exceeds the beauty and worth
Of gold and jewels.

Parenting children,
Keeping a house in order—
Wisdom is needed.

Whirlwinds are weakest
Against those using their chance
To build a castle.

Teaching the foolish?
Pouring out water on sand.
You gain no harvest.

Wisdom is fragile.

Fighting with fools will make you
Foolish to others.

No one has vision
Except the one who desires
The Light from on high.

 

 

 

 

THE HIGHEST PLACE

 

One who would hold the highest place
In the body of Christ, which one gains by grace,
Should keep in mind the teachings of its Head.
When His disciples bade Him name
The one who’d earned the seat of fame,
He placed a child in front of them and said,
“Unless, as children do, you show Me faith, not pride,
You will not gain your place in My beloved Bride.

“To pass My kingdom’s gate, you must
Display a simple, childlike trust.
True life is lived by loss of self in Me.”
For, though Christ stood in Heaven’s height,
He stooped to save us from our plight
And washed the feet of sinners He would free.
He did these acts of love to show us how to live
As children of our God, whose hearts rejoice to give.

For Christ has said that, though we rate
A lord to hold the highest state
Because, when he commands, his slave’s knee bends,
Christ’s own design is that He bless
The greater who has served the less:
This servant will be chiefest of his friends.
For even Christ, though God, forsook His Kingly pride
To serve the cause of love when, in our place, He died.

 

 

 

 

HIS LOVE FOR HIS LOST SHEEP

 

As Christ, to show His love for His lost sheep,
Suffered our deaths and brought life from the deep,
So we should let His love within us leap

From heart to heart, displaying its full might,
And, loving all as brothers, should invite
All persons to receive the Spirit’s light.

And we should use the blessings we’ve received
To see our brothers’ sufferings relieved,
For thus we ease the pain of those who’ve grieved.

In sharing love, let’s use a common voice
To praise or mourn. Rejoice when friends rejoice
And weep when others weep should be our choice.

When each holds each his equal in esteem,
The rich and poor made equally to gleam,
Our love will call the world to share our dream.

When worldly foes strike out, let’s not strike back,
But, with our love, supply the love they lack.
To earn our bread, our hands should not be slack.

Though worldly trials never seem to cease,
But prompt our hidden anger’s swift release,
The Spirit’s guidance leads us to seek peace.

Our Savior died to consummate the Law
And rose to rid us of our every flaw.
Let’s aid each other, then, to show our awe.

As any chance arises to do good,
Let each, as Christ once did, bear his own rood.
In showing love, we stand where Christ once stood.

As Christ our Savior entered the abyss,
Reclaimed our souls, and won us lasting bliss,
So let us greet our brothers with love’s kiss.

 

 

 

 

IN MANY WAYS

 

At many times, in many ways,
Our God had told His people of His glory
Through prophets moved to sing His praise,
Yet prophets’ words told less than His full story;
But, when the time was right,
He told it through His only Son,
The Maker and Possessor of all things.
This Son will rule with might,
For, welcoming the Cross, He won
The eternal scepter of the King of Kings.

The Son compared His Kingdom’s state
To leaven, which, when baked within the bread,
Expands its size, but not its weight,
And this portrays false teaching’s harmful spread;
And to a merchant’s quest
That takes him through this fallen earth
To sift the pearls that grow within its slime;
And, having found the best,
He sells his all and pays its worth
To make it his and cleanse it from its grime.

And Christ compared His Kingdom’s day
To the net the fisher casts into the sea
To find, and trap, and take away
Its fish, whether they come to the net or flee;
And, when the catch is in,
And the fisher hauls the fish to land,
He sits, casts out the bad, and saves the good,
As angels, judging sin,
Will start the reign of Christ as planned
By parting those who fled from those who stood.

When Christ has won the whole world’s praise
As God had planned before He made the light,
He then will join His Father’s blaze
And give Him back His throne in Heaven’s height.
Yes, Christ will take His own,
For He, the Son of God, must reign
Till every foe accedes to Him as king.
But now, all creatures groan,
Expecting Him to come again
And set them free to live with Him and sing.

 

 

 

 

JOSEPH IN EGYPT

 

His home in Canaan, gift of God Most High
To his father Jacob’s line, lies far behind
As Joseph looks with terror-stricken eyes
Upon a crowded square in which are bought
And sold the lives of cattle and of men,
And sees his own life put upon the block.
How mocking seems the name of “God-will-add”
His mother, Rachel, gave to him, “For God,”
She said, “Will add another son through me
To multiply my husband’s heritage;
And with my sons I’ll make my place secure.”
But Rachel is no more, her second son,
The son of sorrow, having proved her death;
And now her husband’s count of sons will fall,
For who would count a son sold as a slave?
For, even now, a lord of this black land
Weighs out a pile of silver as his price,
And, seeing this, the second silver pledge
Exchanged for him, the boy looks back in thought
Upon the first, the weight his brothers’ hands
Had taken from the traders — distant kin,
Children of Ishmael from Midian—
Who took their purchased slave to Egypt’s marts.

How mocking seem the dreams he used to dreamed!
In one, he saw the sun, his father’s sign,
The moon, which pictured Leah, Jacob’s wife,
And, last, his brothers in eleven stars
And all bowed down in homage to their chief,
To him who wore the rainbow as his coat—
And then he told his family this dream.
Then Jacob laughed. “My son, will you indeed
Rule over us? Take care! Your brothers’ hearts
Must still recall the first of your strange dreams,
In which the sheaves of wheat your brothers reaped
Knelt down before your own. This raised their ire,
As did the bad report you once brought back
Of how the sons the handmaids bore to me
So poorly kept my flocks compared to you.
Perhaps, I might’ve fed their jealousy
By giving you your many-colored coat,
A sign of greater love than I’ve shown them.
So tell them no more dreams, bear no more tales,
For they won’t bend their knees to you, I fear,
Before they give your dreams a bitter test.”

Few days went by before his words came true.

One morning, Jacob sent young Joseph out,
His many-colored coat upon his back,
From where he dwelt in Hebron, north
To Shechem, where, he thought, his other sons
Were tending flocks. “See how your brothers are,”
He said, “and hurry back with your report.”

At Shechem, Joseph found no trace of them
And wandered long amid the empty fields
Until a stranger, kindness in his gaze,
Happened across his path and say to him,
“It seems, my son, you’re lost. Whom do you seek?”

“My brothers, sir, the sons of Israel,
Who pastured here their flocks, but now are gone.”

The stranger smiled. “They left here not long since
To find a better grazing ground in Dothan.
Go seek them there; my blessing’s on your path.”

Thanking the man, Joseph set off again
And found his brothers where the man had said.
He called to them, “I bring our father’s greetings—”

At once, they set upon him, stripped the robe,
His father’s gift, from Joseph’s trembling form,
And cast him down into a nearby pit.
His trust betrayed, he called out pleas and threats:
“If I’m set free, our father will forgive—
But he’ll avenge my blood if I get killed!”

One brother laughed and said, “Tell us more dreams!
Or tell us how you’ll come up from that pit!
Without our help, you’ll find that hard to do.”

They then sat down to eat their midday meal,
And Joseph stilled his voice. Surely, he thought,
My brothers have their fill of jokes by now.

His brother Judah killed this hope in him.

“I see a caravan,” the man called out,
“Approaching from the north, from Gilead.
Why spill the blood of one of our own flesh
And cover it with earth to hide our guilt?
These traders, bound for Egypt, at a guess,
Should pay us well to take him off our hands,
And we’ll attain our goal without his blood
To stain our hearts with sin in heaven’s sight.”

His brothers talked, accepted Judah’s plan,
And called the passing traders to a trade.
Soon, Joseph was displayed before their gaze
And heard with bitterness his finer points
Discussed as if he were, not man, but beast.
“What price for him?” one trader asked at length.

Judah then smiled and spread his hands. “We trust

Your honesty to judge the young man’s worth,

And we’ll accept your offer, if it’s fair.”

The son of Ishmael smiled back and said,
“Your words are courteous. For him, we’ll give
As much as we can spare, for we must pay
From our own funds his body’s maintenance,
Egyptian tolls, and fees of marketing.
Will twenty silver pieces be enough?”

 

These clinched the deal, rough fingers seized the boy,
And he was dragged away while silver clinked
Into his brothers’ hands. In fear and grief,
“Stop this!” he cried. “This joke has gone too far!
How can God bless a brother’s treachery?
What’ll our father say?” No answer came.
He cried, “Why won’t you look me in the eyes?”
They hung their heads; perhaps, their ill-gained wealth
Absorbed their thoughts, as it did Joseph’s heart
While he rode southwards on a camel’s back
As goods his buyers hoped would bring them gain
In Pharaoh’s marketplace beside the Nile,
Where silver purchases his life once more.

The traders’ chieftain turns and grins at him.

“Well, lad, we’ve made a profit on this trip,
And we’ve got you to thank. If you do well
By your new master, life won’t be so hard.
His name is Potiphar, a councilor
In Pharaoh’s court; he’s bought you for his house.
Don’t run away or cheat him, if you’re wise.
He doesn’t speak our tongue, so you’ll learn his
And come to bless your luck. That’s my advice!”
The trader grins once more and turns away
To yield him up to his new master’s hands.

And, now, this son of Mizraim, his lord,
Spare as a stork beneath his linen robes,
Regards his slave with eagles’ eyes of jet
Above a hawk-like nose, and speaks to him
In clicking tones a bird of prey might use.
He frowns at Joseph’s silent stare and points
To two attendants, guards by their attire,
And gestures for the boy to follow them.
And now, through dusty, sun-drenched streets, the youth,
Bewildered by this strange, new city’s din,
Walks in his master’s train, and calls to mind
An ancestor who came there long ago.

“O God of blessed Abraham,” he prays,
“You once protected him from Pharaoh’s power
When, fleeing famine in Your Promised Land,
He settled in this place and told his wife
To say she was his sister, not his spouse,
Lest Pharaoh slay him. Pharaoh paid instead
A mighty brideprice out for Sarai’s hand;
And then, O God Almighty, righteous Judge,
You punished Pharaoh and his land to keep
The bride of Abram from a stranger’ bed.
You shielded Abraham from harm and shame,
And sent him forth from here with greater wealth
And honor than he’d had when he arrived;
And now — You have, I know, the power to do
The same for me — I call on you to shield me
As long as I’m a slave within this land.
Redeem my life from servitude; restore
The promise of the dreams you sent to me!
O God, heed the distress that makes me cry!”

He follows on with dawning confidence:
The prayer has stilled the anguish of his heart,
For he has faith to bear his testing’s start.

 

 

 

 

A MOUND IN MOSUL

 

 

Welcome, visitor! Here is the sight
That you’ve come across the world to see.
It isn’t a lot, a mound of earth
Amid a plain consumed by the sun.
Don’t judge, however, by looks alone;
This mound is more than it seems to you.
It holds, a tale of this land has told,
Some bones of worth, the prophet Jonah’s.

You smile! Are you sure of what took place
When he left the stage revealed by God?
You think, I guess, that he went back home
To live his life with no thought of fish.
Surely, he must have left this country:
He hated the ones who heard his words,
A people whose hands were red with blood,
Who longed to conquer Jonah’s people,
And whose ways were cursed before the Lord.
This people, Jonah never could like!
When they changed their ways, at least awhile,
We read of Jonah ablaze with wrath
At God for sparing his foes from death.
How much did Jonah abhor this land!
He loved a gourd more than men or beasts.
I see why you speak of his return
To where he could live with those like him.

Scripture has told us no more than this:
Our Lord rebuked him for pride of heart,
For hating children of God like him,
However foreign their speech and gods,
However savage their ways had been.
Could he hear the voice of God and learn
Not a thing from what his Lord had said?
Could he feel the hand of God and make
No turn from what had displeased his Lord?
Can we meet the One Who made our lives
And leave that meeting unmoved, unchanged?

Scripture has said no more of Jonah.

Our tale has said that he stayed with us
And died with those whom he hoped would die
At the hands of God in fire and blood.
Did he change his heart to please his Lord?
Did he learn from pain, his tale of woes,
Through the grace of God to love his foes?

 

 

 

 

THE ONE WHO LEARNS

 

The one who learns from merely sight and reason
Is captured by the pleasures of a season
The world sets forth and gives the name
Of life’s best goals, to make this claim:
“What one perceives is all that there can be.
Reports of life beyond one’s death
Are idle tales of wasted breath;
If there’s a soul, it finds its end in me.”
And many put their faith in this world’s claim
That life lacks any lasting meaning.
They call the joys of earthly life their aim,
Eternal life but empty dreaming.

But others hear, within, another claim:
That death is but the freeing of life’s flame
To burn, with undiminished glow,
Freed from this world’s dark ash of woe.
To these, the substance of the present world
Will nullify, too closely held,
The lasting bliss the Maker willed
To be one’s gift once this life’s flag is furled.
To live, but not to seek one’s Maker’s grace,
Is but to run for empty pleasures.
One leads awhile, but loses then life’s race

And forfeits life’s unending treasures.

So claim your Maker’s prize while time remains.

Seek God’s, and not the world’s, rewards
And yield to His command:
Accept His way to cleanse you from sin’s stains
And live your life to be your Lord’s
As, from the start, He planned.
When you rebelled, and death became your state,
He’d paid in full the ransom fee.
He came in His own Son to bear your fate
Upon the Cross and set you free.
Yield, then, to Him Who bought you with His blood
And gain His life and love as lasting good.

 

 

 

 

NIGHTFALL OVER NINEVEH

A retelling of the Book of Nahum from the Assyrian point of view

 

 

WATCHERS atop the walls are shouting,
“Nineveh, judgment has come for you!”
For years past count, we have ruled the world
And made the few whom we spared from death
Our slaves, who served us from fear of pain.
With bows, they brought us our meat and wine;
With cries, they took the lash of the whip;
With smiles, they did whatever we said.
Who knew that they loathed our strength and grace,
And begged their gods to send them relief?
The peoples whose lands we made our own,
Whose sons and daughters we took from them,

Have cast their shackles aside and joined
In armies that rage against our walls.
Chariots rattle across our plains;
Horses trample our fields and gardens;
Soldiers with spears and armor charge us.

“Robbers,” they shout, “we’ve come to take back
Our goods and kin who’ve served your pleasure!
You came with war to shatter our peace,
Ate up our grain, and killed our soldiers.
You sacked our cities and took away
Not just our wealth, but also our friends.
You made them travel on foot for months
And build new homes in lands of strangers.
Any who spoke against your evil,
You stuck onto poles! You stripped their skins
To make a hanging to grace your walls!
Murderers soaking in blood, you’ve reached
Your day of judgment, your hour of death!”
From east and south and west the soldiers,
Hating Nineveh, loving its wealth,
Have marched against us. They form in ranks
And ready engines of war for use.

Nineveh, you are the home of kings
Who reached the ends of the earth and took
Whatever pleased them to grace their halls!
Explain just how you’ve let the nations
Escape the bonds that you laid on them!
Our walls were meant to stand forever
In praise of the gods who blessed our lives.
If we had the kings who won our wealth,
We’d keep it always, but they are gone,
And we are left to reap their harvest.
Princes to whom the wealth has come down
Have lived for pleasure, not trained for war.
A glut of wealth is not a blessing;
Weakness is born of gold and leisure.
Scions of kings who conquered the world
Are not their fathers, and we must guard
The walls that watched the wealth of empires
Come here to give us a life of ease.

The time for talking of cause is done.

The assault is on! With cries of rage,
The soldiers who seek our life move up
Against our gate, against our rampart.
Raising their ladders, they scale our wall.
Although so many are cast to death,
Enough of the foe has reached the top
To send our soldiers rearwards in rout.
Our gate has fallen meanwhile apart,
And nothing hinders twilight’s coming.
Chariots enter our streets in droves
And roll wherever the foe desires.
The death of greatness begins with screams.
The people hurries hither and yon
In search of safety that none can find.
The foe, in fury, butchers children
Whose fathers have put their kin in chains.
The death proceeds with eagles’ swiftness.
Shouldn’t our end have been much longer,
A siege of decades, endless warfare?
Shouldn’t our soldiers have died in place
With heaps of foes to mark their passing?
The gods of strangers savor triumph;
Ashur, our god, has left us to die
Bereft of glory, likes dogs or rats.

Our king has fled for hills to the north,
But nowhere he goes will guard his life.
As flames go up from palace and homes,
I draw a veil on plunder and rape.
The slaves became the masters today;
The masters perish, lordship ended.
Nineveh, greatest to grace the earth
Of cities raised up by men of might,
Has died as it lived, in fire and blood.
Our dead, no hand of kin will bury,
But jackals will eat, and leave the bones
To bleach in the sun, to turn to dust.
The city swiftly will fade away.
Not even a mound will mark its site
To tell the peoples of times to come,
“The one who dreams of war and glory
Faces my judgment, a death of shame.”

 

 

 

 

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

 

Considering the purpose of one’s life,
One may be led astray by earthly pleasures.
Though comfort lies in knowing that the Maker
Designed to furnish order to the world
And hope of final peace beyond one’s death,
Its hard to yield to the Creator’s claim.

For God — Creator, Maker — puts His claim
On all that one both has and is in life,
And many fell that His demands are death
To full enjoyment of their earthly pleasures;
And, thinking thus, they choose instead the world
And set aside the knowledge of their Maker.

And some deny there even is a Maker.

Believing thus, they further make the claim
That chance alone gave order to this world
And purpose is found only in this life.
Believing thus, some spend their strength on pleasures
That merely fill the gap from birth to death.

And some point out the cruel fact of death
As proof that this world lacked a loving maker.
The crippled, dying young, deprived of pleasures,
Are put in evidence to back this claim,
For what creator would have given life
To those who only suffer in this world?

But faith will teach one that the present world
Is but the womb that brings one forth at death
And settles, through one’s choice, the state of life
One has, forever after, with one’s Maker.
One here makes hell’s or heaven’s world one’s claim
By prizing either brief or lasting pleasures.

The faithful, choosing hope, reject those pleasures
That spurn eternal gifts for this brief world.
They yield instead to God, their Savior’s, claim
And gain, as His free gift, release from death
And endless joy from being with their Maker
Where they receive from Him the cup of life.

Since empty pleasures only lead to death,
It’s best to flee this world and seek one’s Maker,
For thus one comes to claim His gift of life.

 

 

 

 

A SONG OF ANGELS

 

1

 

BEFORE the earth had received its form,
The One Whose will had planned creation
Fashioned witnesses, creatures of fire,
Awoken to life by the breath of God
To praise the One and to do the word
Of the Source of light, of life, and of law.

The creatures of fire were made by God
To live forever, unchanged by time.
They take no mates and bear no children—
Offspring are needless to those called out
From nothing to live unstained in light.
They have by birth neither flesh nor blood,
And go unseen by our eyes, unless,
Fulfilling missions assigned by God,
They take the form of humans awhile.
A few who have gained from God a glimpse
Of creatures of fire unveiled have told
Of light too great for our eyes to bear.

At the heart of all is the Throne of God,
Who has made both heavens and earth to be.
Around the throne, to left and to right,
In rank on rank beyond our numbers,
Armies of creatures of fire attend
The One Who made them adept for service —
Armies forever ready to move
At the will of the One Who formed creation.
Heaven’s armies, uncounted, are endless,
Riding chariots fashioned of fire.
Daily among us, these move unseen
To do on earth the will of heaven.

Cherubim, standing nearest the Throne,
Are winged for flight and appear like jewels
Shining with light of the fire of the One.
Forever seeing the Presence of God,
They hold a place of honor in heaven.
Notions of humans have veiled their light:
Despite the paintings of masters of art,
No creature of fire was ever a baby.
Cherubs are awesome, not cute, to our sight!

 

 

2

 

BESIDE the Throne, a cherub presided:
Lucifer, firstborn of creatures of fire,
Was fashioned perfect in wisdom and beauty,
But found subjection to God a burden,
Making the firstborn of creatures second,
Always a servant, never a king.
He conceived the thought of setting a throne
Beside the Throne of the One on high,
And drew a third of those in heaven,
Servants of God, away from their duties.
Warfare of darkness with light ensued,
Stretching through time to a day of triumph
Leaving the light unstained with evil.

Bearer of Light was Satan, Accuser,
Herald of guilt, when he came to Eden,
Garden of God and home for humans
Innocent, knowing no shame or death:
Their God had made them for life and for love.
They had no law but to spurn as food
The fruit of a tree that gave one knowledge:
Goodness and evil clearly revealed
At the price of death for one who learned them.

Lucifer, wanting to be like God,
Would tempt his prey with what he desired:
“Don’t fear this death of which you were warned!
Just eat the fruit to claim your reward
Of wisdom making your mind like God’s!”

The father of lies and of those who tell them,
Lucifer savored success just then
As he saw the ones created for life
Rejecting their Maker and earning their death,
A parting from God and a loss of hope.
What he won, however, he lost at once
As he met his God and earned a judgment:
Forfeit of honor and exile eternal,
Ending at last in a home of fire
For him and for all who follow his lead.

He has, however, a role to play:
The cherub who led the revolt on high
Can accuse the humans before the Throne
Of failure to keep the laws of God.
To those who obey, he can do still more:
The cherub has gained permission to test
The faithful with hardships: bereavement and pain.

 

 

3

 

TO KEEP the humans from tasting a fruit
That makes its eater deathless in body,
Able to spurn the call of a grave,
But leaves the eater’s spirit sinful,
Always falling away from the light,
The Maker assigned to guard the garden
Cherubim, sealing their brother’s defeat,
And a sword of fire, a symbol of judgment
Telling the humans, “No sin can succeed.”

Determined, however, to love to the end
The humans, created as objects of love,
The One has sent the creatures of fire
To serve a creature fashioned from dust,
But woken to life with the One’s own breath—
To serve the ones who fell, but would see
Salvation, the gift of return to the light.
The One has assigned the creatures of fire
To shield the faithful from harm in this world
Until the time appointed for death,
When they take the faithful’s spirit on high
To await the triumph of light and of truth.

 

 

4

 

AS TIME went on, but humans went down—
They survived a flood, but then were scattered,
Filling the world with greed and with strife—
The Maker, wanting humans of faith,
Called out a man from a land of wealth
(In terms of gold, but of God — how poor!)
To be the father of all who trust
The One alone as the Source of truth.
The man, along with kinsmen of doubt,
Departed his home to go afar
To a land picked out for him by God.
The man called out persisted in faith,
But kinsmen of doubt desired the world
And chose a home among the wicked.

Seeing the faith of the man called out,
The One came down with creatures of fire
To reward the man and to save his kin.
The One announced to the man of faith,
“A child will come to preserve your line,
To hold this land, and to praise My Name.”

The One, remaining behind, sent on
The creatures of fire to yank from doom
The kinsmen loving pleasure and wealth.
From the midst of lust and of hate, they came,
And fire from heaven consumed a place
That spurned the One to do what it willed.

The word of the One Who came below
Contains for all who read it a lesson:
Coming among us, creatures of fire
Have looked like guests who enter our homes,
Where we give, if true to God, our wealth
To meet the needs of strangers made friends.
The one who gives to one with nothing
Honors in truth the One Who made all,
And gains in heaven a name of praise.

 

 

5

 

ASLEEP alone one night in a field,
A grandson of him who was called by God
To come to a land of worship in peace
Received a vision of things on high:
A staircase, reaching from earth to heaven,
Traveled by creatures of fire who came
And went without rest to learn and to do
The will of the One Who sits on the Throne.
The vision confirmed a promise of God

To keep the children of truth secure,

Whatever testing might come their way.

 

 

6

 

WHEN THEY LEFT the Land and became in exile
Servants bearing a burden of grief,
The One remembered the Promise and called
From the midst of despair a man to lead them.
Living at first in the court of a king,
He earned disgrace and became a shepherd,
Living for years in exile from exile.
Seeing, however, a vision from God,
He came from exile to free his people:
Wonders and signs, the gifts of the One,
Dismayed oppressors and slew them at last.

The One came down, a being of flame,
To lead a march from exile homewards.
Creatures of fire would witness a gift,
The One’s revealing to children who strayed
A code of laws to guide their conduct.
Keeping the Law when they reached their land
Would please the One and preserve their freedom.
Breaking the Law, however, would bring
Disaster at first and end in exile
Leading the people again from the Land.

The creatures of fire were ever present,
Watching the good and the bad alike,
And doing the work of the One on high.

 

 

7

 

MUCH LATER, the children of truth were facing
Conquest by foes who despised their ways.
The eyes of most were fixed on a siege
And saw no future but death or bondage.
Surely, the foes had numbers and strength!

A prophet, however, perceived the truth
That lies beyond a mortal’s perception.
Praying for God to open the eyes
Of those who doubted, and lived in dread,
He won a blessing that eased their fear:
They saw between the foes and themselves
An army of creatures of fire commanding
Chariots ready to speed to battle.

Warfare may reach an end unforeseen:
The One determines who loses or wins.
The weak were spared from the strong that day.

 

 

8

 

IN A TIME of sorrow, the death of a king,
A prophet in mourning received a vision
Taking away a veil from the earth
To show him the truth of heaven behind it.
Wonders were filling the people’s temple:
Seraphim, six-winged creatures of fire,
Concealed with two pairs of wings both feet
And faces from light of the One on the Throne
As they flew and called to one another,
“Holy, holy, holy — our Maker,
Ruler of armies of creatures of fire!
The Maker’s glory is filling the earth.”

The prophet, seeing the vision, grew humble,
Knowing how small he was before God.
A seraph, however, seizing a coal
Make holy by touching the altar of incense,
Symbol of prayer ascending to God,
Would touch the prophet — a fire on his lips—
To free him to speak to then and to now
Of doom for all who stay in the dark,
But of hope for all who turn to the light.

He would tell good news: a savior was due,
Messiah, anointed by God to come

Deliver the fallen from death into life.

 

 

9

 

IN TIME, the children of truth grew wicked,
Losing both land and temple to strangers.
Desperate children needed a vision
Giving meaning to heartbreak endured.

A prophet living in exile received
A visit from one who unveiled the hidden.
Seemingly human, the creature of fire
Revealed a nature holy and high.
A body of gemstones enveloped in linen
Belted with gold must come from heaven—
Deathless, righteous, godlike, this creature
Glistened like lightning that dazzles the eye.

The prophet, weary, regained his strength
From the touch of a hand, from the sound of a voice.
It told him of warfare beyond his sight,
Of creatures of fire — the faithful, the fallen—
Fighting for nations that rise and decay.
The children of truth, however, are guarded:
Michael, the chief of creatures of fire,
Will come when needed to face the foe.

 

 

10

 

IN TIME, the children of truth came home,
Rebuilt their temple, and lived in the hope

Of seeing shortly heaven’s highest,
Promised Savior, to lead them to glory.
Their hope was fulfilled in a way unforeseen:
A creature of fire who bore a message—
Gabriel, herald of light and of peace—
Astounded a virgin with news of a son
Begotten by God to be born from her womb.

In time, the Virgin gave birth to the Son,
And news of His birth would reach the peoples.
Gabriel, aided by hosts from heaven,
Announced to shepherds, humble, but faithful,

“Glory to God! Messiah has come
To bring the fallen the hope of peace.”

The creatures of fire would guard Messiah,
Needing protection while still a child,
From those who, deceived by Satan, would try
To thwart His mission of saving the lost
By bearing their sins through death into life.
The creatures of fire would comfort Messiah,
Tempted by Satan, but passing the test,
With strength to travel the road ahead
To the end mapped out by God from the start.

 

 

11

 

MESSIAH, becoming human in form,
Encountered demons, spirits of darkness

Serving the cherub betraying his Maker.

One day, Messiah, taking a trip,
Was met by a man filled up with demons
Making him mighty, but twisting his will
To go without clothes and to sleep by graves.
The demons, seeing Messiah, shouted,
“Chosen of God, we know who You are.
Have You come to send us ahead of our time
To the place of torment prepared as our end?
If you say, ‘Depart from this man,’ we prefer
To live in beasts than to go to our home.”

Messiah permitted the demons to go
To a herd of pigs, considered unclean
By those who lived in the land of His birth,
But the pigs, when touched by demons, revolted,
Drowning themselves to be free of evil.

Meanwhile, the man who had been possessed
Regained his reason and worshiped Messiah,
Freer of humans from dark and from death.

 

 

12

 

MESSIAH, facing a death of shame
That would free the loved ones of God from death,
Could have called from the Throne an army to save Him—
Creatures of fire on fire to protect
The One Who is one with the One Who is all.
Instead, Messiah accepted the task
Of raising the fallen from darkness to light.
In a time of grief at what He faced,
A creature of fire came down to comfort
Someone human, though come from the One,
Who needed the strength of a friend just then.

By hands of humans, He died a death
That freed the faithful from fear of death.
By the hand of God, He rose to life
To fill the faithful with life eternal.
Creatures of fire who witnessed His rise
Would tell His students, shaken with doubt,
“Don’t look for the One Whom you serve in a grave!
Messiah has risen. Go spread the Word!”

 

 

13

 

MESSIAH having ascended on high,
His students went out to teach the world
The truth of His birth, of His life, of His death—
Of His rise from the grave with life for all
Who trust in His blood to free them from sin.

A student imprisoned for teaching the Word
Awoke to feel a creature of fire
Releasing his chains to lead him to freedom.
Rescued from prison, the student went on
To rejoin his friends who put faith in the One.

 

 

14

 

THE ONES of us who trust Messiah—
Childlike in faith, immortal in hope,
We love our Savior above ourselves—
Can rest assured of creatures of fire,
Observant always of what we do,
Who keep our names in front of the Throne.

Although the creatures of fire take part
In the work of the One to save us humans,
The work is strange to watchers on high,
Who know no sin and need no rescue
Bringing a soul from death into life.
They see the love of the One for the lost
And can do the works for which they are sent,
But cannot say why temptation prevailed,
Or why Messiah has died to save us—
Dying and rising, the path of rebirth!

Whenever a life that is lost is saved
By making a turn from dark into light,
The creatures of fire throughout the heavens
Witness the joy displayed by the One
And by those already delivered from death:
They welcome sisters and brothers to bliss.

The faithful, the ones who accept Messiah,
Shedder of blood that cleans us from sin,
Must fight the darkness of creatures of fire
Who followed the cherub who fell in spurning
Heavenly rightness for things that seem good,
But yield a harvest of wrong and of grief.

 

 

15

 

AT A TIME foreknown by the One alone,
Messiah will come again from the heights
With the voice of the chief of creatures of fire
To call the faithful, living or dead,
From a world in darkness to light by the Throne.

A war by the Throne! Faithful and fallen
Fighting to free or to seize the heights!
A meeting of leaders shaking the heavens!
Michael, the chief of creatures of fire,
Confronts the cherub, Bearer of Light,
The snake that deceived Eden’s humans.
Battle comprises armies of light
And armies of darkness — the rebels have lost!
The cherub of darkness is cast to the earth,
Along with his armies, to wait for the end.

Messiah, coming with creatures of fire,
Will take a throne and send those servants,
Knowing the ways of lies and of truth,
To gather all lives, both good and bad,
And to sort the lives to left or to right
According to how they viewed the One.
The ones who spurned Messiah will go,
Bereft of hope, to flame and to pain;
The ones who gave Messiah their trust
Will share with creatures of fire the light
That comes undimmed from the Source of love.

 

 

 

 

SUPPER OF THE BIRDS

 

TO MANY who walk the earth today,
The time ahead may seem unending,
Pregnant with promise of good to come.
They fail to see what sweeps across them,
Shadows of wings that wait for the dead.
A series of days of wealth and glee
Appear to some their birthright, the due
To lords of this age who call the shots
And see good fortune as sure to stay.
A series of nights of wine and lust
Is promised to those who serve the creed
Of raising pleasure above the truth.
The warlord rising on heaps of dead,
The king who squats on a throne of blood,
The bankers rolling in wealth ill won,
The charmer who smiles his way to fame,
The minstrel stooping to praise the proud —
They all delight in things of the now
And show no fear to die or be judged.
A feast for humans is what we see
If we look at things with eyes half shut—
With eyes that disdain the light of God.

OUR WORLD of toys is like a palace
Standing amid the shade of some palms—
A garden, fragile, though fair and fresh,
Surrounded by sand without an end.
Within the palace are food and mirth:
The wine is flowing, dulling one’s mind
To judgment coming at break of day;
The laughter is loud, and none need know
Whose pain has bought the party its flash.
The rush of the now provides the thrills
That meet one’s needs till one looks outside
To see what’s waiting for those who leave
The party to face a road to home.
One looks, perhaps, but rejects what’s seen:
The shadow of wings, racing swiftly,
Coming to claim a foretold repast.
One seals one’s eyes with wisdom for now:
It’s best to have fun and set one’s hope
On needing never repay one’s debts.

OUTSIDE the palace are shapes of terror
Restlessly searching amid the clouds
Or watching in trees that line the road
For those whose bellies are filled with wine,
But whose hearts are void of faith and hope,
To come to where their blindness leads them.
Raptors in rows await a dinner
Promised by God at the end of days.
The flesh of kings and of men of blood—
The flesh of all who make the present
Chiefest of values, both means and end—
Will meet the fate set down for their works:
What’s gained for self will go to others
Caring nothing for dead ones devoured.
The goods of fools will feed the vultures
Waiting for them, unheeding, to die;
The ones alone who save in heaven
Treasures of faith will retain their wealth.
From all who shut their eyes to the truth,
A feast of birds will claim in judgment
Godless ambition reaching its end.

 

 

 

 

TEMPLE OF THE HEART

 

SOLOMON built you, Temple of God,
Atop Moriah to be for all
A place for joining humans below
With heaven above. A place apart,
An altar merging justice with peace,
A veil dividing holy from vain,
An ark, the throne of heaven on earth—
The plans for these transpired through prophets
Wakened from silence with words of truth.
To crown the work, a pair of pillars,
Jachin and Boaz, flanking the doors,
Proclaimed the sureness of life and land
As long as we loved and kept the Law.

At first, we bore the name of “faithful,”
Making the temple a place of light.
Reminding ourselves each night and day
To fill the altar with gifts to God,
We lived in peace because of rulers,
Scions of David, singer of psalms,
Who kept his teachings and showed his faith
In the One Who made a youth a king,
A shepherd of men instead of sheep.

In time, however, we turned from God
To mimic nations living by us
Because their ways, seducing our eyes,
Seemed better to us than laws of “Don’t!”
For us, the One became the many,
Offering pleasures atop a hill,
Beneath a tree, or within a shrine
When we found a mate who housed a god
(Or so we told ourselves at the time)
And gave us a hope of wealth and joy.
Perhaps, our god of the day would ask
A life in exchange for lusts fulfilled.
If we had to yield a life for this,
That life was well spent, the priests would say.

At times, invaders would come to us
And ravage our land. Our king would then
Despoil the temple of gold to buy
A ransom of peace, an end to war,
But not a time of truth and justice.
Sometimes, we turned to our God awhile,
But then we’d slip from the heights again
And writhe in darkness shrouding our deeds.
The prophets of God would say to us,
“Unless you turn to your God in truth,
The temple won’t save your lives, your land.
Your loss of faith will bring destruction.
Even the temple of God will burn
When you see your God depart from it.”

We laughed at them, foretellers of doom,
For we’d heard their kind of words before.
We failed to grasp the gift from our God
Of a chance to change our hearts, our deeds.
A time of testing, a time of hope—
A window would close at last on us
And leave our lives to face their judgment.
Babylon, coming southward in arms,
Besieged the city won by David,
Starved us for years, and then broke the wall
That kept the world away from our homes.
As we watched the foe stream in through gaps,
They took us captives, the ones who lived,
And we watched the flames arise on heights—
Moriah’s summit, holy to all—
Where we’d turned our backs on God, our King.
The temple — our heart, our joy — was gone,
And ashes drifted, marking our past.

We went as exiles, mourning, eastward.

Babylon makes us labor as slaves
And tells us to sing of who we’ve been.
Our mouths forget; our hearts remember
Being children beloved of God.
What mattered hardly enough at home
Is precious, treasured by us afar.
In dreams by night, in visions by day,
We see the temple standing again
On heights made holy, hosting our God.

The prophets tell us of hope to come.

When we’ve served our time for deeds of doubt
And kept our faith in homes of exile,
Heaven will change the course of nations.
Babylon falling, Persia will rise,
Allowing exiles to claim their homes
And serve their gods in houses apart.
Again, we’ll raise up a house to God,
But now we’ll keep the law in our hearts
And do with our hands all things required
Of those who know the One as their King.
A temple of heart, a temple of hands—
Our God is with us, and we are God’s.

 

 

 

 

THEOPHANY

 

 

I. The Throne

 

Through countless ages of ages let us honor with praise
The Creator of all that exists, the only true God.
His name, like His nature, Eternal, He knew no beginning,
Remains in motive unchanging, and will meet no end,
Is one in His innate nature and age-long designs,
But to others appears in three Persons in purpose and works,
As the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in special communion.
The Three Who are One always were and will be forever,
Having seen the end from the outset and ordered them both:
The Three Who are One are worthy of worship and service
Both now, in the sight of the sun, and someday in heaven.

 

 

II. The Council

 

Before the world was founded, its future was planned.

God put in place a pattern, a purpose for nature,
The creation of life in the image of His insight and will.
Foreknowing that minds given means of making free choices
Would trade their trust in their Maker for tragic rebellion,
He elected to spare our lives and lead us to bliss,
And predestined the means of undoing our deadly offense.

Before the world was founded, the Father loved us
When He chose that His Son would suffer for the sake of the fallen,
And His Spirit would spur our repentance and inspire us to faith.
So saved, we would soar on His wings to receive the glory—
The glory of glad communion in the glow of God’s presence—
Arranged by the Father’s foresight for the fullness of ages,
Produced by the death of the Son on a day of atonement,
And received through the Spirit’s summons in our season of turning.

Before the world was founded, the Father had chosen
To give the Son He loved glory in the glow of foreknowledge
That, a blameless, unblemished lamb’s, His blood, beyond worth,
Would release us from empty lifestyles — us loved while unmade.
Witless, weak, and low-born, and in worldly terms poor,
But rich in the realm of faith, we would ruin the mighty
For their fall and our faith to be to the Father’s glory.

Before the world was founded, we fell by lot
To the Son as His holy inheritance to be held in His love
Through the choice, which God made to remain unmoved through the ages,
To deliver the life of His Son to give life to the dead.
No effort of ours would save us, but only God’s calling,
And His working in time, in this world, of His will for the ages,
Would bring us in brightness of glory as a bride to His Son.

Before the world was founded, the Father and Son
Received the Spirit’s consent to serve as Their Herald.
He would carry Their message of comfort to our kind, lost in darkness,
Would summon our souls to repent, and would seal us to life.

Before the world was founded, our faith was rewarded,
For, in love and wisdom, our Lord lay down our pathway—
A mystery hidden from humans, but held in His knowledge —
For the children He chose in His love to cherish and train,
To make anew in the manner of the mind of His Son.
He was brought forth the first of the brothers embraced by the Father
When He called us according to grace in His counsel of love,
Makes us right in response to His Spirit, through Whose speech we cry, “Father!”
And will set us in glory as sons who receive renewed bodies.

Before the world was founded, its features were chosen
To make it the place for humanity’s molding and testing,
The place where the worth of our works would be weighed in the balance.
God turned our world out in time for eternity’s gain
And planned each part of its pattern with this purpose in mind.

 

 

III. The Creation

 

Day One

 

Once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit had spoken in council,
The Creator gave the order, and all of the universe,
As modeled at first in God’s mind, emerged and unfolded,
Arising by will of its Ruler from the realm of nothingness
To be filled by the Master’s fingers with forms He had planned.
Through the Word Who would wear our kind’s flesh, through the Wisdom of God—
Through the One Who was with God in purpose and was God in nature,
The cosmos came to conception and was carried to birth
To bring to light the Word’s Bride as its brightest of offspring
So that all of the parts of creation will honor their Maker
By praising the Word at His wedding to the work of His love.

The Holy One fashioned the heavens from highest to lowest
To contain all of time and space for our tale to unfold in.
He filled each field with the creatures formed by His hand
To play their own parts in the pattern He had purposed for all.

He first formed the highest heaven, the Holy One’s dwelling,
Where He sits on the Sovereign’s throne in the sight of His Temple,
And the glow of His glory reflects from a glassy sea.
The highest heaven, God’s throne room, holds the pattern
Of the perfect making whose models would be made to instruct us
In houses where humans would render a holy service
To the One Who descends to receive it from sanctified lives.
Pleased to make sons who would serve Him and sing in His heaven,
God filled it with angels He formed from the fire of His altar—
From fire, the Sovereign’s substance, the sign of His holiness—
To move on the winds as messengers of their Master’s will.

He next formed a nearer heaven where, by night and by day,
The scintillant stars, the sun, its satellite planets,
And the moon, which marks out time by its movement through phases,
Would appear at the time of God’s purpose to populate space
And travel in ceaseless circuits as signs of God’s foresight.

He last formed the lowest heaven, the layer of air,
When He opened in empty space that azure expanse
As the sea where clouds would sail, and successive breezes
Would let the lightning vary with the light of the sun.

The heavens the Holy One fashioned herald His glory
And proclaim His work as worthy of its witnesses’ praise.

Having ordered the bounds of creation for the ultimate good,
God also made the Earth as His art had conceived it.
He hung His work in the heavens as a home for the creatures
He would mold from physical matter and move with His breath
For their lives to abide in His light and lead to His glory.
At this instant, the newly made earth was empty and formless,
Darkness shadowed its depths, and day had no place there.
The Holy One’s Spirit of harmony hovered with blessings
Over a wasteland of waters His will would give shape to
In a series of wonderful words of wisdom and power.

He called out, “Light, become!” and the cover of darkness
Was rent with sudden radiance. Its rays would illumine
The Creator’s faultless artwork for all to admire,
For light is the Living One’s substance, the luster of flame,
Revealing the rule of righteousness to reasoning eyes
And leading those loving that righteousness to the Lord of perfection.
He looked at the light He had made, and He loved its goodness.
He deeded light to daytime and darkness to night,
For He made with the opposite intervals an age-long covenant
For each to succeed the other in an alternate series
Of spans of working and waiting for the world to observe.

The dark that had covered the deep, and the dawn that followed,
Made, as evening and morning, the commencement of days.

 

Day Two

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
God worked His will on the air, the wind-bearing heaven,
Which He fixed in place as the firmament and filled with His works
As He wafted the waters above from the waters below
And assembled their substance as clouds that sail on the breezes.
He set apart in His purpose two portions of water,
The mass that moves in the sea and the mist in the sky.
This work of the Sovereign signalized the second day.

 

Day Three

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
God worked His will on the sea as His word went forth:
“Let the waves that cover the world make way for the land
To rise to the region of light and rest in one place!”
Answering swiftly the order the Creator had given,
The ocean opened a gap that the earth then filled,
Looking to nurture the lives the Lord would set there.
When God fixed its hidden footing and its features aboveground,
And set for the surge its boundaries as the sands of the shore,
He labeled the solid “land” and the liquid “sea.”
He looked on these fruits of His labor and loved their goodness.

From the land the Lord brought forth a living creation
Of fragile, but fragrant flowers and fruit-bearing trees,
And arranged them according to kind as the kingdom of plants.
These conserve the light in their substance, conceive new growth,
And set their seed in the earth to descend through time.
The lives that took root in the land would let all others
The Lord, with His breath, would give life to live as well.
Pleased with the plants, He blessed them and supplied their needs
With wetness of wavering mists and waters of streams.

Eastward in Eden, God planted an opulent garden
As the site for the giving of souls and a scene for communion.
He raised a river to water it and to run from that place
In four streams that enlivened the lands that lay by their banks.
To this garden, God gave all trees that were good for food
And all that pleased the eye with their elegant foliage—
The scented cedar, the plane, and the seasonless pine.
Among them, He marked out two with momentous purpose:
The Tree of Life, which lets one live forever,
Holds the healing of evil with its health-giving leaves,
And fruits afresh each month to yield freedom from hunger;
And the tree that would try our parents, who might trust in God,
Or, going for knowledge of good, gain only evil.

He looked on the life He had made, and loved its goodness.

Evening brought to the earth the end of the day.

 

Day Four

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
God worked His will in the heavens with His word of power,
Saying, “I set in their places sources of brightness
That will bring the dazzle of day or the dimness of night,
Serve as signs to mark the seasons and years,
And, lamp-like, light the earth for its life to go on.”

Having spoken, He hung in space two special bodies,
The larger to light the day, and the lesser, the night—
The sun, our sovereign daystar, which sends us our growth,
And the moon, whose monthly waxing marks us our seasons.
He set them in ceaseless motion to serve His purpose
Of drawing our eyesight outward from the earth to God’s throne.

Also, to ornament night with its own type of beauty,
The Holy One placed in their heaven the host of stars,
All of which endlessly move as ordered by law.
He counted their countless number and called each one
By a name that He alone knows as nature’s King.

To each of these objects, God gave its own resplendence—
One, as He willed, to the sun, one to the moon,
One to each wandering star, and one to each fixed—
To set them apart in the sight of searchers of heaven
And tell us the times of our wakings and the turnings of seasons.

The field of heaven was filled with the Father’s works.

He looked on the lights He had made, and loved their goodness.
Evening brought to the earth the end of the day.

 

Day Five

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
God worked His will on the sea and the wind-bearing heaven
As He said, “Let the sea produce a surfeit of life
And wing-bearing creatures wander on the winds above.”
He filled the waters with fish, fin-bearing mammals,
And creatures, encrusted with shells, that crawl on the bottom.
He also filled the air with orders of birds,
Which bear their offspring in eggs that are ordered in nests
And covered with care by their parents till their kindness bears fruit.

The Creator blessed His creatures and ordered them thus:
“Be fruitful and multiply freely as I framed for each kind:
Let the finned ones fill the sea that feeds and upholds them,
And the birds abound in the air that bears them aloft.”

He looked on the lives He had made, and loved their goodness.

Evening brought to the earth the end of the day.

 

Day Six

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
God worked His will on the land and awakened to life
All of the kinds of animals that His insight had chosen.
From dust of the ground, He grew them. He granted them breath
And gave them needed knowledge for their numbers to prosper.
He crafted the scaly creatures that creep on the earth.
He embodied the graceful beasts that bound through the wilds.
He brought to life the livestock that would lighten our work
Of maintaining Eternal’s world with tireless devotion.

The earth had been set in order for its ultimate purpose,
And the heavens and sea had been settled as the Sovereign willed.
The time had come for our King to call us to being
And complete His plan for creation as it pleased Him to do so.

“As the Father, the Son, and the Spirit,” He spoke to this end,
“In creating, We set Our image on an animate form
And bring to life Our likeness in the life of that form—
The life that comes from its Lord, Who loves and sustains it.”
God molded the shape of a man from the mud of the earth,
Breathed into him the breath that brings understanding—
The spirit in him that responds to the speech of God—
And lifted man’s lifeless form as a living creature,
Who could know, and be known by, Him Whose name is Eternal.

Because of this act of creation, to which all owe being,
The One Who fashioned the first of us is the Father of all.
We, by descent in our seed, are the Sovereign’s offspring,
For, in Him, we were made, remain, and move towards judgment.

Our Fashioner further said, to define the man’s duty,
“We give the man We have made dominion on earth
Over all the fish, the fowl, the fur-bearing creatures,
Both the ones that roam in the wilds and the ones that are livestock,
And the creatures that creep on the ground or crawl through the earth.
I choose the humans as herdsmen of the Holy One’s creatures—
As herdsmen to tend and protect them as Eternal’s servants.”
In that time, these all were tame, as Eternal had spoken.
They all obeyed God’s image as creation’s steward,
The one God had made as warden of the works of His hand.
Peace was the portion of all while man’s purpose was met.
In this way, the man gained the wealth of a work and purpose.
He received the garden to serve there as sower of fields,
As vintner, pruning the vines to revive their production,
As harvester, heaping up fruit for hunger’s defeat,
And as herdsman, guarding the health of the Holy One’s creatures.
Thus, the man, though molded from earth, was made in his standing
Just less than the angels of light, for the Lord endowed him
As heir of honor and glory on the earth and in heaven.

The Maker spoke to the man on the matter of food
And the danger he faced if he failed to fulfill one condition.
“You are free to refresh yourself with the fruit of all trees
Except the one I have set here to serve as your test.
The fruit of that tree, which trains one in truth and falsehood,
And gives one guidance to know both good and evil,
Will doom one who eats it to darkness, with death as the outcome.

“Death is return to the dust of a doomed one’s body,
And return to Eternal of spirit for testing and judgment.
Death is the dues paid to sin, the undoing of good,
When desire has led one to leave the love of one’s God
And, breaking faith, to fall from the Father’s will
By performing deeds of defiance that fill Me with grief
And force Me, in righteous fury, to refuse My creation.
Obeying, you live in My light, where My love will sustain you.
Rebelling, you bear your own guilt and are banished from grace.”

The Living One led the beasts of land and of air
To receive from the mouth of the man, their master on earth,
The name by which each would be known and numbered thereafter.
Though each of the animals filled its own design,
None could meet the need in its namer’s heart
For one both like and unlike him to be loved as his friend.

While His image was naming the animals, the Creator thought,
“For the man to live alone, forlorn of his peer,
Falls short of the full perfection that would finish creation.
To save the man from solitude, send him his mate,
And complete My plan for his kind to replenish the earth,
I will work his flesh into one who will wed and sustain him
And be the crown of My creatures, the crest of My works.”

While God made the man to slumber, unmoved by dreams,
God wrested, and rendered anew, a rib from his flesh,
Sealed the wound in his side with a seamless closure,
And worked the rib through His wisdom into woman’s essence.

God made the man awaken from his motionless slumber
And brought his intended bride to her brother and spouse.
Looking on woman’s likeness as the Lord had made it,
The man was stirred to marvel and moved to exclaim,
“Since her bones were brought into being from the bones of her mate,
And her flesh was flawlessly made from flesh of my own,
We’ll know her nature henceforward by the name of ‘woman,’
For she came to light from my limbs to give life to our kind!”

While the marvel was fresh in his mind and made it receptive,
Eternal taught the man his task as husband
And told him the reason for rendering rightful devotion.

“Today, I ordain for your kind a duty and blessing
As I bring you this woman, your wife, to be wed and cherished
In marriage, My foremost model of communion of souls
And of love of your Lord for your children, whose lives He will purchase.
In the future, your sons will follow their father’s example
As one’s love for his wife will lead him to leave his own parents
And combine his walk with his wife’s in oneness of purpose.
Learn my teachings on love and live as I teach you
So that works your sons see may be one with your words of instruction.

“Rejoice in the wife you now join, enjoy your life’s union,
And remain by your sister’s side through all seasons of life.
Never leave her to love another, lest your Lord be grieved,
But regard the woman I give you with a gaze of affection
And treat her, a trust from your Maker, with true compassion.
Because she has come from your side to be called your companion,
You must love her as loving yourself, for her life is your own.”

Having given the man commandments on marital duties,
Eternal turned to the woman and told her her part.
“By accepting your Sovereign’s plan and serving Me well,
Inspire the respect of your husband, respect him in turn,
And remain by his side in all seasons in the seal of marriage.
The love of two lives so joined will bring light to the world
And bear fruit that is free from corruption and fragrant with wholeness.”

In the moment of joy at their meeting and their marriage through God,
The newly joined pair was naked, but knew no shame.
Their hearts having learned no malice, their lips, no falsehood,
They were innocent, guiltless of evil in their Overlord’s sight.

The Creator honored His people with an ultimate blessing.

“May your children, as crowns to your credit, increase in abundance.
May your kind take care of this world for the King Whom they serve
By ruling the fish, the fowl, and the fur-bearing creatures
As stewards who manage all matters for their Master’s glory.
You will bring delight to your Lord and long life to yourselves,
And enjoy this garden’s goodness as My gift through the ages.”

Now that man and woman were made and mated in love,
And creation’s order was finished as its Author had planned it,
He looked on the lives He had made, and loved their goodness.
Evening brought to the earth the end of the day.

 

Day Seven

 

When darkness of night was done, and day had returned,
The Lord, Who alone is God, had alone made the heavens,
Set limits to land and sea, and enlivened all creatures,
Ceased from His labor of love and looked with favor
On a day that dawned in glory undimmed by shadow.
He blessed that season of Sabbath and set it apart
As a time for retelling the story of Eternal’s great work.

 

 

IV. The Fall

 

The highest heavenly creature whom the Holy One fashioned
Was Lucifer, Bearer of Light, the leader of angels.
He was made as the son of the morning, as its messenger star,
Was adorned with beauty of diamonds, endowed with wisdom,
And anointed to go before God as the guardian cherub
Who would ward the way to God’s Presence from unworthy souls.
Blessed with the bloom of perfection and blameless in conduct
In the day when he loved his God’s light, Lucifer walked
Through Eden, the Garden of God, while its gates were open,
And stepped through stones of fire to stand in service
In the heights of the Holy One’s mountain, by His heavenly throne.

When he let his eyes stray from the light to look on himself,
Lucifer turned from the Lord to love his own image.
Because he became beguiled with his cover of beauty,
His wisdom searched for a way to be worshiped as God.
Conceiving the sin of rebellion, he said in his heart,
“I have set my will on ascending to the seat of my Master.
I will throw Him down from His throne and thrust myself on it;
I will sit on high as the sovereign of the servants of fire.”

Lucifer, lusting to reign in the Light-Maker’s place,
Cast off his first perfection and fell into sin.
His will was turned to wickedness and works of violence
With the goal of gaining the glory that is God’s alone.
Urging a third of the angels to aid his rebellion,

The Evil One led his army onward to conflict

And made war in heaven’s heights on the Holy One’s forces,
Those who, loving their Lord, still lived in His strength.

In the end, the faithful angels, aided by God,
Ousted the first of enemies from the aim of his malice.
In the end, the begetter of evil and all who helped him
Were forced to withdraw in defeat from the fire on high.
They lost their place in the light of the Living One’s Presence
And, like lightning, were hurled from the heights to a homeland of exile.

Imprisoned within his own pride, the Prince of Demons,
Though conquered and cast to the earth, could not repent.
Rashly remaining a rebel with rage in his heart,
He vowed to find means of vengeance on the Victor above.
Regarding the life-filled land that the Lord had formed,
And recalling the perfect pair He had put at its heart—
The man and woman He made to manage His garden,
Meet Him in joyful communion, and be married as one—
The Enemy also remembered the Creator’s condition,
The test that the two must pass, lest God take them in death.
The Sinner, deceiving these loved ones, would sadden their King
With loss of love for their Maker and their lives’ extinction.

Taking a serpent’s semblance to deceive their vision
With a mask of outward elegance over inward cunning,
The Prince of Demons approached his prey with his lure,
The prize of promised greatness at the price of rebellion.
To the woman, at work in the garden, away from her mate,
The Serpent sold deception in subtle terms.

“I’ve heard that the Holy One gave you a high position
As wardens who tend this world so well for its Maker.
He kept for Himself, though, kingship, and the kind of knowledge
That makes one equal in insight to creation’s Master.
He’s sealed this secret knowledge into succulent fruit
Of a holy and health-giving tree at the heart of your garden.
He’s thrust you from knowing its thrill with threats of destruction—
Of death, whose prospect daunts you and dooms you to weakness.

“The death you fear, though, is doubtful; your deity, certain.

Everyone eating the fruit of ultimate wisdom
Will become, in strength and cunning, like the King she’s served.
You’ll rise to reign by His side in the realm of perfection!”

The gift of godlike knowledge of good and evil
To be gained by defying the guidance of God’s prohibition—
A gift that would give its receivers a gain that was loss,
Concealed in deceptive assurance of safety from death—
Was the prize the Fallen One promised to the prey he had chosen,
To the one through whose willful destruction he would work his revenge.

Believing, the woman rewarded his work with response.

Trying the fruit of the tree, she betrayed her Creator
And involved her husband in vengeance by inviting him also
To receive the semblance of goodness the Deceiver had promised.

As he watched the dooming deed, the Demon rejoiced,
Delighted to look on the outcome of the lie he had told.
The two, in taking the fruit God had told them to shun,
Received for their sinful action the sentence of death.
When their eyes grew open to wrongness, their innocence ceased,
And their guiltiness built a barrier that barred them from God.

Having reaped a crop of ruin from their rebel’s act,
The Deceiver savored his harvest while the sinners tried
To conceal their sin from each other and from Sovereign God
By binding upon their bodies badges of shame.
The leaves that shielded their loins from unloving eyes
Announced to all that their nakedness was now the symbol,
Not of natural freedom they had known before,
But of shocking shame and weakness to be shielded from view.

They hid in the garden’s heart from the Holy One’s sight,
But concealment failed to save them from the sentence they dreaded.
The Serpent saw his triumph in their sudden confusion
When, pacing the paths of the garden to pay them a visit,
Their Sovereign summoned them forth to say why they shunned Him.

“Why have you sought to conceal yourselves from My Presence
And dressed in clothing that clearly proclaims your fall?
Your need to hide your nakedness comes from knowledge of evil
You could master only by eating the outlawed fruit.”

Caught with inadequate cover for their common shame,
They delighted with lies of their own the Liar who watched them.
They hurled the blame for their harm on him, on each other,
And even on God, their Creator. They aimed to avoid
Touching a personal target with terrible guilt.

The man attempted to mark his mate and his Lord
With the stain of the deed he had done, yet indicted himself.
“The woman, the work of Your hands, she wooed me to sin,
And I, I did as she asked. I ate and am guilty.”

The woman attempted to turn her terrible guilt
From herself to the source of temptation, yet censured herself.
“The Serpent deceived me with tales of unsearchable riches,
And I, I ached for that gain. I ate and am guilty.”

Fired by failure in love in the fallen couple,
The Deceiver was eager to see their sudden destruction.
He was staggered when God instead made him stand in judgment
Ahead of the humans whose deathblows he had hoped to witness.

The Holy One, just in judgment, abjured the false angel.

“Because of your evil counsel, I curse your appearance
To be robbed of its riches of wisdom and ruined in form.
As a beast that crawls on its belly and is barren of reason
It will go from this garden henceforward regarded with fear.
As for you, who hoped to behold the humans’ destruction,
I give you the endless enmity you have earned from the woman.
Although you counsel to kill Him, a King of her line
Will come to redeem His kindred and cast you to prison.”

Cast low by the loss of his status and his looked-for fulfillment,
The Serpent bore his sentence for the sin of temptation
As the beast that had borne his spirit was debased in form.
The Serpent foresaw the rest of the Sovereign’s will,
An age of endless warfare with enemy humans,
For whose souls the Deceiver and God would ceaselessly strive;
And a day of final doom when the Demon would fall
At the hands of a conquering King Who would come from the woman.

Condemned to be feared as the devil, the demon of malice,
And as Satan, our subtle opponent, who seeks to destroy us,
The Serpent, once light-bearing Lucifer, left the garden.
His body went forth on its belly, unburdened of limbs,
But his spirit, still filled with spite, sped on its way
To wage relentless war on the woman’s offspring
And bar, if he could, the birth of his bane, our Redeemer.

 

 

V. The Curse

 

Having sent the Deceiver away from the scene of his shame,
Eternal turned to our parents and told them their fate.
“Because you have listened to lies and lusted for excess
In rejecting this garden’s joy for injurious longings,
Because you have feasted on food that filled you with darkness
When it gave you eyes that see evil, but age that brings death,
And because you have sought to conceal your sinful behavior
Instead of confessing your falsehood and finding My mercy,
You will suffer loss in your labor and live with your grief
In the world, away from this place, where your woe will not blight it.”

He told the two who had fallen their terrible judgments,
The hardships that each would inherit to hasten their deaths:
The bearing in pain of babies as the bane of the woman,
And the fight, with sweat on his forehead, for food by the man.

Before He sent the two forth from His face into exile,
The Creator, to ease them, showed them an image of hope
When He butchered an innocent beast and bore them its hide.
Far more than the mantle of leaves they had made for themselves,
This served as their shame’s concealment, accepted by God.
Setting the pattern for sacrifice as the service He loves—
The service the faithful would celebrate till their Savior came—
The Creator revealed in this act the awesome truth
That untainted blood atones for the tarnish of sin.
A substitute’s, shed for a sinner, saves one from death.

Urged to new hope by this act, which eased his mourning,
The man assigned to his mate, the mother of peoples,
The name by which all would know her from now to the end.
“You’re Eve, the life-giving lady whose labor brings forth
The Seed Who’ll save our children from sin and its judgment.
He’ll guide them to live with our God in this garden forever.”

Having taught the two their condition, told them their hope,
And seen their response of acceptance, a sign of their faith,
God reached the point of departure and put them outside
To make their way in the world and work out their judgments.
He counseled to guard the garden from the guilty on earth
And bar their backward path lest bad come to worst.

“The trail to the tree of life, if they try its fruit,
Will lead them to limitless anguish as their lives would be sealed
To a course of progressive decay that would come to no end.”

The Creator placed at the entrance to the exiles’ birthplace
Angels of Lucifer’s order who honored their Maker
And served Him by wielding the sword of the Sovereign’s fire,
The symbol of certain judgment on sin and its workers.

 

 

VI. The Darkness

 

Cain and Abel

 

Cast from the Garden of God for their guilt and denial,
The two, in their turmoil of grief, turned to each other.
They embraced in the merger of marriage that made them one
As they sought to console their heartbreak through conception and birth.
For their pains, our parents got a pair of brothers:
The first, a sower of seed; the second, a herdsman.
Their emergence gladdened their mother, who was moved to exclaim,

“My Creator has given me offspring to offer me hope:
Although my life has a limit, my line will go on.”

Our parents received new sorrow from the sons they bore.

The elder envied the younger for honor God showed him
In accepting as holy his sacrifice of sincere devotion.
Bringing his brother apart from the breast of his mother,
The stubborn one stippled the earth with the stain of his blood,
Met a murderer’s judgment at his Maker’s hand,
And fled from his father’s face to a foreign country.
“Am I my kinsman’s keeper?” the killer cried out.

He was marred for his malice and bloodshed with a mark from God,
Who said, “The sound of blood —— though silent, it speaks—
Causes me now to curse you and cast you aside
To survive, revealed to all eyes as vile, yet protected.
You will father a fallen line who will follow your teachings.”

Cain, the killer, fled elsewhere and came to build cities
Where God was given no worship, and good was twisted.
His brother, however, named Abel, was honored henceforth
As the first who fell to his death for his faith in God,
But lives, for his excellent offering, through the ages in witness.

Our parents, suffering sorrow, sought through their joining
To replenish a world that was plundered — to replace their lost son.
From their love, they brought to life a light in their darkness,
A son through whose line of descent the Savior would come.
Eve said, “I’ll call your name Seth, the son appointed
To replace the sons of my sorrow and conserve my line’s hope.”

Her family, strengthened in faith, felt renewal
And turned to Eternal, their Maker, to tell Him their praises.

 

Lamech and Enoch

 

One who was watching these actions with wicked intent
Was the Serpent, still burning with bitterness at his binding by God.
The Deceiver, angered by Seth, had conceived new plans
To oppose the Creator’s purpose — to impede His Son’s birth.
Thus, Satan moved the men of the murderer’s line
To multiply wives in marriage and mar its virtue,
To work for an excess of wealth and worship its glamour,
To kill with no care for their victims and call themselves heroes,
And to lure the line of the faithful into love of these evils.

As the lines of our kind enlarged and labored together,
The servants of Satan beguiled the seed of the faithful
Into mingling their children in marriage with monstrous companions.
The world grew covered with wickedness. The worship of God
Was cast aside by His servants, who savored instead
The ruinous race for fulfillment in the rush of the moment.

The leader of those who misled the line of the faithful
Was Lamech, born at length to the line of Cain
As father of founders of music and of forging and herding.
He did to death an assailant for a dearly bought hurt
And boasted of prowess in battle to both of his wives.
“Listen, and learn of the skill your lord has shown
In killing a man in combat at the cost of wounds!
If Cain, who taught men to kill, carried God’s blessing,
Much more so will I, for my murder, be marked with greatness.”

In contrast, the seed of Seth received in Enoch
A figure of faith and service that was favored by God.
He walked by His side and foresaw the sights of the future,
A time of testing and judgment foretelling destruction.
Enoch exclaimed in his anguish at the end he had witnessed,
“Eternal will someday return with his terrible armies
To execute awesome justice on all who defied Him.
Their thoughts, their unworthy words, and their wicked deeds
Will bring on their brazen acts the breath of His wrath.”

The Lord, relieving His prophet of living through judgment,
Took him, untouched by death, to Eternal’s rest.
The world, still heading for woe for its works of rebellion,
Belittled the loss of a teacher of the Living One’s truth.

 

Noah

 

The Creator, grieved by evil His eyes had observed,
And filled with regret at foulness that the fallen had chosen,
Set limits to the length of peace He would let them enjoy.
To further His work to defend the few who still served Him,
He offered to all who would take it an aisle to repentance

He summoned a faithful servant whose descent was untainted,
And whose father had called him a comfort for the curse of his age.
God gave him a two-fold task that told of His counsel:
To proclaim a road of righteousness for a remnant to follow,
And to build that remnant a barge to bear them through judgment.

Because of his faith in the Father and fear of His judgments,
This comfort, whose name was Noah, announced to his kin
Through words of warning he spoke, and through work on the ark,
That a day of judgment in death would undo them all
Unless they repented of lives that were lost in sin.
Because of his faith in following the Father’s will,
Noah, though winning no one but his nearest relations,
Became a column of righteousness that comes through faith,
And saved his wife and sons from decease in the flood.

At the end of the age of mercy the Creator had given,
While the fallen, unheeding, went forward with feasts and weddings,
Noah entered the ark with all of his loved ones
And beasts God had brought to the boat to rebuild creation.
The Sovereign sealed the door to safety and hope.
A flood overflowed the earth and floated the lifeboat.

This went on the waves unharmed by wind or billow,
While the world in its wickedness perished in watery ruin.
The boat kept bearing securely its burden of lives
Until the tumult of waters totally ceased,
And their purpose of woe for the world was worked out fully.
Its Maker remembered His creatures in the midst of the sea,
Willed that a wind should rise and the waters fall,
Led the ark to its landing on a lofty peak,
And unsealed the door for the sailors to proceed onto land.

Grateful for grace from Eternal, Who granted him life,
Noah put up an altar and offered his God
Beasts and birds that were clean and, burning, arose
As a pleasant savor of sacrifice to the Sovereign’s presence.

The Maker made a covenant with the man and his people
That He never again would annihilate nature with water.
He restored to humanity mastery of what moves on the earth
While we value the blood of wronged victims and avenge its shedding.
To serve to our eyes as the sign that seals His agreement,
The Creator fixed in the air the arch of His bow.
Its gleam on the gloom of clouds gladdens our hearts,
Which see that the storm has ceased, and safety has come.

“From this day,” the Sovereign said, “seedtime will follow
The harvest in pleasing harmony while the heavens last.
Fill the land with new life and be led by my will,
And the world will reward your labor with the wealth of its goodness.”

 

The Tower of Babel

 

The people went on to repopulate the purified earth,
But soon fell back into sin to the Sovereign’s grief.
Noah, though knowing the Lord, ignored His will,
Got drunk on drink he had made, and undressed to his shame.
His son, when he saw the scandal, insulted his father,
Bragged of the news to his brothers, and brought down a curse
On his seed as well as himself when his sire recovered.
“This son who saw my shame and served me with laughter
Will receive for the sin of slander a servant’s place.
His firstborn son will serve the sons of his uncles
Until, in a season of sorrow, he descends into darkness.”

By might, though, the mocker’s sons mastered all others.

In zeal to preserve their rule, they presumed in their triumph
To build a tower whose top might touch the heavens,
Bridge the breach between worlds, and bring them together.
The ones who had conquered their kind were called by a dream
Of uniting beneath one yoke the necks of all beings.

Before the hunters of humans, hardened to mercy,
Carried their hateful conflict to the courts of heaven,
The Lord divided their language into limited branches,
Dragged their dream to the ground, and drove them apart.
Along with the Children of Light, whose lives they had burdened,
He sent them to settle all lands as separate peoples.

In years to come, these kindreds, decaying in judgment,
Would forget their knowledge of God and give His glory
To objects that owed their existence to creation by God—
To angels, to astral bodies, to the air in its changes,
To the mighty, begotten by men, who had mastered their brothers,
To creatures like beasts and birds that are born and die,
And even to figures fashioned by fingers of flesh,
But always to Satan himself, concealed or apparent,
Who delights in luring our vision from the light of our Maker.

Having idolized things of creation, our ancestors worsened,
For they silenced the sound of their conscience, which said they were wrong.
They fell into dungeons of darkness too deep to climb out of,
And delighted the Father of Lies with loss of true worship.
He saw in the force of their fall the defeat of God’s plan.

No more than a minuscule remnant amid confusion
Was saved by the Sovereign’s hand to serve Him in truth.
Until the time preselected in Eternal’s counsel,
This remnant was veiled from the view of its vicious Opponent,
Who longed to extinguish the light this line was to bear.

 

 

VII. The Redemption

 

Once the world had begun, God worked out His plan
To redeem from the sentence of death those destined for glory.
He displayed His perfect compassion to the people he loves,
Who, Jews and Gentiles together, can rejoice in His presence.
He appeared in His power as God to the people He chose,
Out of all He made, as His own, Abraham’s children,
To show our fathers in faith His fullness of mercy,
His rich reward for worshippers who wisely revere Him,
His light to lead us on earth, and His life for the ages.

Living through ages of ages in endless glory,
The Creator of all in heaven, on earth, and at sea
Bound His offer with an oath by His own existence
To Abraham, faithful father of future nations.
In the sight of His servant, God showed a sign of this promise
As He passed as fire down a path through the parts of beasts
That served through their death to seal God’s solemn commitment
To remember the oath He had made to make us His heirs.

Believing the Living One’s promise to the line he would found,
Abraham acted with faith in creation’s Master
And was reckoned as righteous by God for his ready trust.
He served in God’s plan as the sire of the Savior’s forebears,
A father whose Son lived before him, yet filled him with hope
To be famed as the father of all whose faith in that Son
Makes us also the heirs of Abraham’s blessings.

When the time that was right had arrived, God raised from his line
That hope in the house of David, the Holy One’s servant,
Whom He called from caring for sheep to be king of His nation,
A shepherd to pasture God’s people in peace and plenty.
From him, the Holy One brought forth a horn of salvation
In a Son Whose willing sacrifice would satisfy justice,
And Whom David was led to call “Lord” by the light of the Spirit
In time, the Lord would be led, a lamb once slain,
But, alive through the strength of God’s striving, the destroyer of death,
To stand, unmatched in majesty, in the midst of heaven,
And receive from all who see him psalms of great praise.

What the Son would suffer on earth and receive in heaven
Was foretold from the time of beginnings by the tongue of prophets,
By Abraham, David, and others who also received
The gift of the Spirit to give us God’s revelation.
Many were made to suffer in a manner like His
For proclaiming the truth of His troubles and triumphs to follow.

The Father brought forth from among us as firstfruits of blessing
His Son, to redeem us from sin — His Son, named Salvation,
To lead His people as Lord and love them as Husband.
He sealed His Son with His Spirit to serve in three roles:
As Prophet, Whose words of God’s wisdom would awaken dead lives;
As Priest, Who would bear His own body to burn on God’s altar
And as King Who would conquer all evil at His coming in glory.

He left His limitless glory to live on the earth,
Was borne to birth by a virgin imbued with the Spirit,
Was tested with sin and its servants, who sought to destroy Him,
Was untainted by sin in the test the Tempter set Him,
Announced the Good News to His people, but knew their rejection,
Was betrayed by one He had trusted, was tried and sentenced,
Died on a cross like a criminal for the crimes of all others,
Was raised from death to redeem those doomed by their sin,
Ascended to sit on His throne, whence He sent us our Helper,
And will come to conquer evil and carry us home.

 

VIII. The Church

 

We have within us the hope of a heavenly calling
Because of the grace of God in granting us life
For love of His Son, Who loves us and lives to redeem us.

We walk in God’s will by hearing the Word of truth,
The Word Who was One with the Father in wisdom and glory,
And the One through Whose word of power the world began.
He is the Way we walk in with wisdom’s guidance;
He is the Truth Who upholds us and heals us from sin;
He is the Life without limit through the love He holds for us.
Hearing His holy commandments, we humbly obey them.

We walk in God’s will by believing His word of Good News:
Because our Savior was sacrificed through His service till death,
Because He was lifted to light with new life from the tomb,
And because, interceding, He sits at the side of His Father,
We are saved from the sentence of death our sin has earned us,
We receive the power to oppose sin’s power in our lives,
And, when, in His time, He returns to take us to heaven,
We will praise Him for prying us free from sin’s presence forever.

We walk in God’s will by turning from the way of our past.

Having believed in our Lord, we live in His hope,
For the Son, to seal His redeemed ones, sent us His Spirit,
The gift of His promise, to guide us and give us comfort.
He serves in our life as the sign that the Son is our Lord,
Keeps us secure in salvation, and carries us home.

Let us live, for love of our God, lives that are holy,
Set apart to the pathway of service, the portion He gave us.
Our thoughts, our words, and our works, when one with His own,
Will prove to the praise of His grace and His promised glory.

 

IX. The Father

 

God the Father begot us again through His Son—
Through His rise from the realm of the dead to reign on His throne,
Whence our Lord now sends us the light of the living hope
Of sharing with Him the happiness of heaven’s communion.

Through salvation, the Father revealed His provision of mercy,
Which lead us believers to offer our lives in His service,
And His power to console those who suffer, receiving His kindness
As His gift, freely granted through grace, and grounded, unchanging,
In His age-long promise and oath, which offer us hope.
He brought us to life through love — through His limitless grace—
And He keeps us, His people, patiently through its power in our lives.
The exceeding, unsearchable riches of our Sovereign’s kindness,
He shows in being forbearing to our burdensome ways
And removing the veil of mystery from His making all peoples
The heavenly King’s inheritance of holy children
Held by Christ in our hearts to the hope of glory.

Our Father has granted this grace, greatly abounding
Through the gift of God become man, Whom He gives to His people
For us to walk in wisdom, and the world to see us
As holy, not as hypocrites, but with hearts filled with mercy,
Peaceful, impartial, and gentle, empowered from above.
If we walk in heavenly wisdom, in works of good fruit,
We’ll put our opponents to shame with power God gives us.

God set us, His people, apart to His pathway of service
As priests who would give in His presence the praise of submission.
Casting all conflict aside, we become, as He purposed,
The assembly of spotless sons in the semblance of His—
Filled, in a fallen world, with unfading light—
For His Son to present in His sight with exceeding joy.

God blessed us with spiritual blessings through the blood of His Son,
Whom He sent to turn us from sin — from the sentence of death—
To the land of light He had made for us — to the Living One’s city,
Jerusalem, homeland of hope — the heavenly Zion.

God made us inherit this home in the heavenly realms—
A home unhurt by decay, unharmed by blemish,
And unfading, a deathless fire, in fullness of flower—
Preserved by His power for His people, whom He puts under guard
To deliver us, firm in our faith, to our future glory.

He keeps us, sealed in His safety, for His season of triumph:
Salvation will be revealed to the view of God’s people.
Aroused from the realm of sleep — from the ruin of death—
We’ll receive in sanctified spirits the seal of our faith.
Reprieved from the presence of sin — from our pride and trials—
We’ll serve Him with wholeness of heart — with unhindered love.

 

X. The Son

 

The Son, as our Savior, gives us safety from foes,
From the power and purpose of those whose passion is hatred
Of God, their rightful ruler, and His righteous standards;
From Satan, the first to defy the Father’s will
By twisting what God had given him from good into evil;
From the sinful nature inside us, received from our parents,
Who were taught through Satan’s tempting to turn to transgression;
From the world that the will of our nature has warped from its goodness
To serve as the center of rebels whose system is lawless—
From evils inside and outside us, the Son has redeemed us!

He sent away from our sight the sins we had done:
Falling aside from His service to serve our own wills,
We had doomed ourselves to death and were dead in His sight.
In Him, we have release from harms we have done,
From the guilt of sin in our souls, which He suffered for us
When He offered His blood for our own on an altar of wood.

He set us free to be servants, who, safe from our foes,
Can fearlessly, filled with His Spirit, follow His teachings
By rendering, holy and reverent, righteous service
Through an earnest and undefiled conscience in awe of the One
To Whose Name, by day and night, we will kneel forever.

 

XI. The Spirit

 

God gave us the gift of His Spirit, our Guide and our Strength,
To lead our lives to His glory as our Lord and Father.
Through the hope produced in our hearts by this Holy Spirit,
We hold our belief in having a heavenly life.
We receive through the Spirit the sufferings that our Savior bore
And also the comfort He entered through the opened tomb.
We receive through the Spirit a sealing to serving our Master

By showing our Savior’s suffering to sinners around us
And coming to comfort others as He cares for His own.

The Spirit comes for our comfort and cares for us always
So that we can console those who suffer, our sisters and brothers,
In hardships that burden our hearts and in harms from our foes
With the care our own Comforter gives us — with the kindness of God.

Our Comforter, called by our Lord to come to our side,
Aids us in every affliction our enemies cause us
And provides us with strength to prevail and to vanquish all foes,
Whether Satan, who led us to sin as the Serpent of Eden,
Or kings who may kill our bodies for our courage in faith,
Or priests who, in pretence of truth, may preach to us lies,
Or masters, lusting for money, who make us their slaves,
Or parents whose lives make a lie of a loving Father,
Or spouses who burden our spirits with spiteful behavior,
Or children whose greed and griping make grief our companion,

Or, saddest, our sinful natures, which send us most pain.

The Spirit acts as the earnest of all we have waiting,
As the Helper Who lives in our hearts to hold us securely
Till we have the eternal inheritance of the holy people —
The kingdom, untouched by decay, of those called as its heirs,
The realm of unfading fire no defilement can touch—
Held for us in the heavens by the Holy One’s purpose.

The seal of the Spirit saves us and sets us apart
Until the Day of Redemption, when, dead or living,
We’ll hear the blast of the horn that heralds the coming
Of the Lord and Husband Who loves us and, leading us home,
Will give us the glow and gladness of our glorified bodies,
The brilliant dress of the Bride He is bringing to heaven.

 

XII. The Wedding

 

Our God has given us knowledge of His goal in creation—
The plan He chose and charted by His changeless will
And concealed from our sight as a mystery while centuries passed.
His Son, who contains the sum of the Sovereign’s wisdom,
Would be born in the bonds of flesh as the Bearer of Sorrows,
Would live without spot in His spirit despite temptations,
Would die, while witnesses wept, on the wood of His altar,
Would be raised in radiant splendor as the Ruler of Heaven,
Would be preached as the promised Redeemer and praised through belief,
And would come at the trumpet’s trill to retrieve His loved ones.
He would bring us, changed by His brilliance, as His Bride to our home.

In this way, when the will of God is worked out fully,
The glory the Son and Savior received from the love
Of His Father before the beginning of the first of ages
Will be praised, by the prize He won, in His promised kingdom.
In that age of endless communion when all is made new,
The Son will receive the praise of assemblies of angels
And of millions He made His own through His martyrdom’s work.

We will hail him as Head of all things in heaven and earth,
As our Maker, Redeemer, and Master, our mighty King,
As our Brother, the Host of our household, our Husband in love—
As the One Who is worthy to rule through the will of His Father.
To Him, He will offer His honor so that all may adore Him,
So that all in all will be His, the only true God’s.

 

 

 

 

THREE GRAVES IN EPHRAIM

(Joshua 24: 29-33)

 

 

Here in the hills of Ephraim, the heartland of Canaan,
We have gathered to give to the earth this godly man,
The last of three leaders who brought us to the land of our Promise
And now lie at rest in that land till their lives are renewed.

The first was Joseph the Just, unjustly enslaved,
Who was raised by his righteous Protector to rule in Egypt
And found his father and brothers a fertile refuge
When they left this land in a drought for a life as strangers.
Foretold by Eternal’s word of our time of bondage,
But, foreseeing the day of redemption that would doom our oppressors,
Joseph called on his kindred to carry his body
From the land of worldly wickedness, through wasteland beyond it,
To our home of hope and blessing in the Holy One’s presence.
Now, by the Holy One’s hand, he has what he wished for,
The fulfillment of faithful longing for a future reward:
We have borne his body hither to be buried in Canaan
Till the Lord of Life shall recall him to the light of God’s day.

The second servant of God to be set in this earth
Was Joshua, joining in battle for the Just One’s cause:
Serving at Moses’ side as he sought our deliverance,
The servant, at Moses’ decease, ascended to judgeship
And conquered this land for his kindred with cunning and faith.
Having won the reward of God’s Promise, the warrior said,
“Others may kneel to idols from Egypt or Canaan,
But I and my family honor our Creator and Lord,
For He has honored his oath to Abraham’s line
To give us this land we live in and to love us forever.”
Thus, he set an example of service, sincere in its faith,
That will lead those who looked on his face to live in his image,
For he, like Joseph, has hope through the Holy One’s Promise
Of seeing our sins atoned for and our service rewarded.

Eleazar, the son of Aaron, honored by God
As the principal priest in His service of praise at His altar,
Is the last of three godly leaders whom we lay now to rest;
He stood before God in our stead to restore us to favor
And gave us teachings from God to guide how we walk.
He received from our Sovereign’s lot the cities of refuge,
Where those guilty of bloodshed may go to be guarded from wrath
Till a day of priestly death shall redeem them to freedom;
And these cities are signs of that day when a Savior shall come
To offer His death as the dues for the debt of our sin.
Eleazar, laid here in earth, has entered God’s presence
And awaits the Redeemer’s work as reward for his faith,
While his sons, who succeed to his office, keep sacrifice burning
Till the One their worship foretells of shall work its fulfillment.

Let us honor through actions of faith those whom earth has covered,
For their souls have ascended to God, the Source of all being,
And their bodies, bound to this world, bid us remember
That all of us owe our Maker an honest account
Of how we have heard and obeyed His holy commandments.
Thus, we, like these worthy leaders, should worship our God
With a servant’s will to work, a warrior’s zeal,
And a priest’s approach to the altar with praise for God’s blessings.

 

 

 

 

A WALL AT RABBAH

(The Song of Uriah the Hittite)

 

 

Crossing the Jordan, I see ahead
The land of Ammon, ravaged by war.
The king of Ammon, too young, perhaps,
To rule his father’s kingdom wisely,
Insulted my king, who wished for peace,
And war broke out, and Ammon suffered.
I served my king as a man of war
When he sent his troops against the foe;
I reached at length the walls of Rabbah,
Ammon’s chief town, and fought in its siege.
The will of my king was done, it’s true,
But he was absent, staying at home,
To which he called me to give him news.

As I head to where the war goes on,
I bear a letter, the king’s decree,
To the one who leads the war for him.
Both letter and king are sealed from me:
The first, I bear because he trusts me;
The second — I wish to know his heart.

When I got the word to come to him,
I thrilled because I’d talk with David,
Chosen by God to lead His people
From depths of darkness to live in truth.
I keep recalling David’s triumphs—
Raising the land from fear and folly,
Taking Zion, and bringing the Ark
To rest amid the service of priests—
And I praise the God Who chose my king.
I heard his songs of worship and came,
A stranger, to serve his cause of hope.
Gladly, I took the name Uriah,
“My light is God,” to honor the king.
He set me among his few and best,
The band of heroes who fear no fight,
And I went to war by him in joy.

It stunned us all when we marched away,
And he was waving good-bye to us.
Going to Ammon, I asked myself,
Just like my brothers, just why he stayed
At home in Zion and left the war
For others to wage. It’s not like him!
The man who leads us, Joab, is good
At killing, it’s true, and wins the day,
But he’s no David to win our love.
“Perhaps an illness,” we said, “has caused
Our king to wait till he’s recovered.”
Joab said nothing. The war went on
Until I got the call to Zion.

Reaching the city of peace, I found
An illness indeed within my king.
He heard my news, but seemed distracted,
His mind on pleasures not part of war.
He threw a banquet enough to feed
His army for days, and spoke of love.
“You have, Uriah, a wife who’s fair.
A soldier on leave from war should be
Just thrilled to have Bathsheba at home.
Go spend the night with her, Uriah!
Loving your wife rewards your service.”

Hardly could I believe what I heard.

The words were David’s, but not the thoughts.
Had he forgotten the law of God?
A man whose hands are defiled with blood
Must wait a week and get a cleansing
With heifer’s ashes before he goes
Back home to take up a life of peace.

“My king,” I said, “how can I go home
As long as your men remain at war?
No leader would ask his men to do
A deed that he won’t attempt himself.
No leader would sleep in bed at home
As long as his men must sleep in tents.”

In my shock, I may have said too much.

The king appeared to me offended,
But let me go off to spend the night
On the floor by guards who kept the watch.
The next day, the king asked me to stay
To share with him another banquet.
Its wine recalled the flood of Noah,
Drowning the king. I, too, got drunk,
But not so much that I lost my wits
When I heard my king repeat his plea
For me to take Bathsheba to bed.

I couldn’t believe the words of David.

Illness or madness, I feared, had claimed
The mind of the man who sang of God.
Maybe, however, I faced a test.
A stranger in town is met with fear.
My neighbors, perhaps, had told the king,
“Uriah is not your man at heart.”
A test made sense, though I’d done no wrong.

Regardless of what the king had planned,
I staggered away to sleep again
At the feet of guards who kept the watch.
I was glad to be sent back at dawn,
This letter in hand, to live in tents.
The war, at least, is work that I know;
The city of peace was worse than war!
Not even the best of men, I’ve found,
Can stay with God on the heights for long.
I prayed for God to rescue David
From what had caused him to act the fool.

Reaching Rabbah, I offer Joab
The letter that bears my king’s commands.
The face of Joab might be a stone
As he breaks a seal, unrolls a scroll,
And reads a plan to seize a city.

Joab, however, turning to me,
Unveils a smile as he says, “Our king
Commands an assault to take the walls.
He wants to give you honor today.
Uriah, you’ll charge against the gates.
Lead well your men, and this war will soon
Be over for you. We’ll all go home.”

Again, the king makes no sense to me.

The city would soon have starved to death;
There’s no need to take the wall by storm.
The king, however, is wise in war;
He must have a plan too deep for me.
A king commands, a soldier must act,
And God alone can see the future.
I don my armor, take up my sword,
And head for the wall to serve my king.

 

 

 

 

WHEN NEITHER SPACE NOR TIME

 

When neither space nor time had come to light,
God spoke the word, and what He’d planned appeared.
Not chance, nor our desires, but He, by sight,

Created all there is, and then He steered
His final working, us, His precious sheep,
To fertile pastures where our hearts were cheered.

Our God is good. His mercy’s well is deep
And cleans us from rebellion’s deadly crime.
He wills to give us blessings we can keep.

The truth of God, unchanging and sublime,
Has shone on every member of our race
And lightened some from every place and time.

The lambs He rescues offer Him the place
Of highest honor in their heart, and praise
The light that saved them from their life’s disgrace.

When time’s fulfilled, He’ll come to judge the ways
Of all who live, or ever have, on earth
With righteousness intended to amaze.

The day He comes with power will bring the birth
Of that true peace for which we’re made alive.
Let all His sheep proclaim their Shepherd’s worth

To all they meet. Let all together strive
To sing of Him to Whom their hearts belong
And serve Him gladly till His day arrive.

Now come into His shrine, a mighty throng,
Bringing your thankful hearts before your King,
And praise the One Who freed you from all wrong.

Give thanks to Him Who gave you tongues to sing
And hope, beyond world’s end, of endless spring!


Temple of the Heart and Other Christian Poems

Here is a collection of poems on faith, hope, and charity -- the virtues that we live out when we're rooted in God. Our Creator's story appears in epics of the Bible and in lyrics of doubt and faith emerging into praise of the One Who is Light and Love. Creation takes place, a man of faith leaves home for an unknown land, a community of slaves becomes a people of the Law, a temple is raised and then destroyed, the Deliverer comes with new life for the world, the world awaits judgment and renewal -- these are accounts that enable us to walk as members of a people of faith and service. When we are gathered together as one before our Sovereign, we form a temple of the heart, greater than any earthly temple, in which God dwells forevermore. May these poems be used from on high to bless you with growth in grace and knowledge of the truth.

  • ISBN: 9781370681075
  • Author: Alfred D. Byrd
  • Published: 2016-08-29 18:05:11
  • Words: 25563
Temple of the Heart and Other Christian Poems Temple of the Heart and Other Christian Poems