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Moses - As Friend Speaks with Friend
by Jim Vasquez
(Note: this is part 3, for part 1, click here or for part 2 click here )
Now he who in the shelter dwells,
Of God above Most High,
Beneath his shadow will find rest,
And harm shall not come nigh.
He will not fear the terror by night,
The arrow sent by day,
While at his side a thousand fall,
Ten thousand by the way.
And when in crimson-tarnished fields,
A multitude there lies,
He'll safely at a distance stand,
Beholding with his eyes.
To guard in all his ways will God,
The angels give command,
To lift him out of danger's way,
And shield within their hand.
His foot no stone shall strike and he,
Shall tread the lion's back,
And crush the serpent's head nor fear,
The cobra's cursed attack.
With these assurances God spoke,
As I with him did meet,
But hopes dissolved when I returned,
And did my people greet.
And straightway Aaron then I called,
To whom I'd given care,
Of all our people's welfare and,
In deep and grave despair,
Demanded that he give account,
Of how things came to be,
That they had turned away from God,
And joined this revelry.
And Aaron's tale was such that I,
Could not contain a laugh,
"We threw our gold into the fire,
And then jumped out this calf!"
Well, of the miracles we'd seen,
The great ones and the small,
No doubt this latest had to be,
The strangest of them all.
And such was my hot anger then,
I smashed into the ground,
The stony tablets etched by God,
Whereon his words were found.
I knew my brother had complied,
With what the people sought,
That he had made the calf of gold,
Not thwarting as he ought.
Yet Aaron did excuse himself,
And place on them the blame,
"Their bent to sinning," he exclaimed,
"They're powerless to tame."
"Make us a god," they importuned,
"As for this Moses, we,
Cannot imagine what he's doing,
Nor know where he could be."
I called the people then, in wrath,
And said, "Those for the Lord,
Stand by my side, prepare yourselves,
Strap to your thigh a sword."
The Levites then, went through the camp,
And slaughtering as they went,
Three thousand souls they killed and thus,
To God's great wrath gave vent.
And to the rest I said, "Your sin,
Is great but now I go,
To see if God will hear my prayer,
And kind forbearance show."
And once again before the Lord,
I told him of this sin,
The faithless idol-worshipping,
Committed by my kin.
"Now please forgive this terrible wrong,
But if you can't," I said,
"Then from the book you've written, Lord,
Please blot me out instead."
"Each name within the book," he said,
"Is there by my command,
And nowhere does a name appear,
Not written by my hand.
"And mercy will I have on those,
On whom my mercy rests,
I grant and withhold mercy as,
My sovereign will attests.
"Who's sinned against me, from the book,
Removal is their fate,
Now Moses go and lead them on,
Their punishments await."
And in those days he'd call me to,
His very dwelling place,
And as a friend speaks with a friend,
He met me face to face.
The tent of meeting, it was called,
And as I entered there,
All Israel stood beside their tents,
Each bowed in reverent prayer.
A cloudy pillar would descend,
And hover o'er the place,
Which signified God had come down,
His people to embrace.
And soon my longing hunger for,
This God I loved so dear,
Compelled I ask he teach me more,
To know him and to fear.
And then this wondrous thing occurred,
When at my urgent plea,
He teach me all his ways that I,
Might in his favor be.
He hid me in a rocky cleft,
And cov'ring with his hand,
Passed by in his magnificence,
So fearsome and so grand.
"I know you by your name," he said,
In thund'rous, echoing voice,
"And mercy show and then deny,
According to my choice."
And thus, in all his glory did,
He pass in front of me,
Allowing only that his back,
But not his face, I see.
And then two tablets made of stone,
I chiseled as before,
That his commandments we would have,
To follow evermore.
And so we wandered forty years,
Within the wilderness,
In times of blessed plenty and,
In times of sore distress.
And it was often needful that,
My people I remind,
We were of God the chosen ones,
By love cleansed and refined.
We journeyed through those desert wastes,
And faithfully he led,
By fire at night and cloud by day,
He ever went ahead.
And on our march as we passed by,
Or though each nation's land,
The fear of God fell strong on them,
And they raised not a hand.
For 'mongst all nations under heav'n,
By his name we were known,
And thus where'er our journey went,
Distress and woe were sown.
And trials of every nature rose,
The water, bread and food,
Displeased my people to no end,
And put them in ill mood.
So one day God sent snakes within,
Our midst to teach us well,
And some were sickened from their bites,
And many others fell.
And when, repenting, they cried out,
For God to make them whole,
He told me that a snake of bronze,
And fitted on a pole,
Would be the remedy they sought,
And while I held it raised,
They'd of their wounds be fully healed,
If on it then they gazed.
We turned from God so many times,
And failed to meet the test,
He swore in wrath that none of us,
Would enter into rest.
But Joshua and Caleb would,
Alone of all their peers,
For bringing us a good report,
And not creating fears.
So Israel in the wilderness,
A vast, unruly band,
Did see his wonders done therein,
But not the promised land.
For Joshua my faithful aide,
Was chosen by the Lord,
To take command when I was called,
To enter my reward.
Now I myself was not to see,
That land but from afar,
For God within me also found,
Cause to my entrance bar.
For once when God had said to me,
"Strike now the rock and see,
The waters that your people crave,
Shall flow abundantly,"
In my great anger I did strike,
The rock not once but twice,
I knew just what he'd said to me,
And knew once would suffice.
And for this disobedience,
God chose that not e'en I,
Would be allowed to enter and,
Without the land should die.
And so my servant Joshua,
Would lead the people there,
A worthy man to take my place,
So brave, so just and fair.
And then atop Mt Pisgah's heights,
I marveled as I scanned,
From Dan to distant Beersheba,
That glorious promised land!
And now upon this mountain top,
I wait alone to die,
The people must not know just where,
My body here shall lie.
For o'er my grave they'd build a shrine,
And worship when I'm dead,
My people are a stiff-necked bunch,
And by their passions led.
I know not if the years we spent,
Throughout our harsh sojourn,
Will be remembered long and well,
And if from them we'll learn.
At times we seemed abandoned there,
Forgotten by our God,
And other times we were by him,
Quite overcome and awed.
But as my days now see their end,
Of this one thing I'm sure,
Our soul was forged by endless trials,
He called us to endure.
Each year we spent, each grief survived,
Each foe so long withstood,
To shape our character was meant,
And for our lasting good.
O Israel, my heart cries out,
God ever is the same,
The God he was in all our past,
Is still known as the Name.
from the May 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine