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"Bright Gibeon's Sun"
by James Vasquez
A wondrous sight my eyes beheld,
As on that early morn,
Our people rose and, staff in hand,
A nation there was born.
In gold and silver were we clothed,
For all that lay ahead,
And well prepared for battle, too,
As God had clearly said.
And from Egyptian masters we,
Were finally taking leave,
Four hundred years we'd served and now,
Our freedom could perceive.
A mighty man had risen and,
Before great Pharoah's throne,
Wrought havoc and destruction as,
The world had never known.
Yes, Moses plainly brought this word,
That Egypt's pain and woe,
Would cease the day the king agreed,
To let his people go.
I saw that day though young was I,
So many years now passed,
And of God's plan for me knew naught,
When finally there at last,
We sought to enter promised land,
For which we'd waited long,
Through forty years of suffering,
And few with feast or song.
Now Moses chose that I should be,
A servant at his side,
And so this honored role I had,
Until the day he died.
It happened thus: a group of us,
As spies were sent ahead,
To know the people and the land,
Through which we would be led.
And much we saw of how they lived,
And cities walled about,
And men of giant stature who,
Inspired fear and doubt.
And then to Moses every man,
Most urgently appealed,
That he forsake the plans he had,
And thus their fear revealed.
But I, (with Caleb, valiant man!),
Was confident that God,
Who'd led us out from slavery,
And mighty Egypt awed,
Would make us victors in the land,
He promised to provide,
If we by trusting him went forth,
And on his strength relied.
Now such was God's displeasure, then,
With those who disbelieved,
He sent a wasting plague on them,
And left their kin bereaved.
And Israel, too, was not without,
Its share of guilt and sin,
For this that promised holy land,
They'd not be found within.
And even Moses disobeyed,
And thus he earned this plight,
For he would only see the land,
From Pisgah's distant height.
And all that generation, then,
Expired in desert sands,
For pleasing not the Lord our God,
Nor keeping his commands.
Now with an army young and bold,
It fell to me one day,
To lead 'cross Jordan's slippery banks,
Our people to the fray.
And from that time we rarely had,
A day of peace or rest,
Round every turn the foe was found,
And promised land possessed.
And Jericho was first to fall,
A place of some renown,
But when we marched around it, lo!
Those walls came tumbling down.
And Ai next, but here defeat,
Awaited us instead,
Their men rose up and routed ours,
And left a number dead.
It served to teach us once again,
Ours was a holy God,
Who never lightly treated sin,
And bore a chast'ning rod.
For in our midst there was a man,
Who booty took and kept,
Our covenant with God he broke,
Transgressing his precept.
And thus his life was forfeited,
Our people stoned him there,
And God's great wrath was turned away,
And we from our despair.
Now when the men of Gibeon,
Then heard of Jericho,
And understood that with God's help,
We vanquished every foe,
They came as if from lands afar,
In tattered clothes, and bread,
So full of mold you thought for sure,
One bite and you'd be dead.
They wished to make a treaty and,
Remain with us at peace,
'Spite all that we had learned we failed,
To sense this false caprice,
For we did not the matter bring,
To God nor thus inquire,
Just who these people were nor why,
Their plea and crude attire.
And I with all the elders then,
An oath most gravely swore,
That we would let them live and not,
Against their men make war.
But shortly after we were told,
Those men were neighbors and,
Made not their homes so distantly,
But in our very land.
We forced them into servitude,
Henceforth they'd carry wood,
And water that would serve our needs,
In every neighborhood.
And had we learned that we on God,
Were so dependent now,
Though oft he seemed so distant and,
Quite out of mind somehow?
Yet he took ample thought for us,
Nor ever was aloof,
And of his mighty hand to save,
He gave us lasting proof,
For soon five kings amassed themselves,
And came to fight as one,
They'd heard how Gibeon made a pact,
And all that they had done,
Now mighty acts I'd often seen,
Wherever I had trod,
But truly there I understood,
The greatness of our God,
For nature's minions there gave ear,
As one his lord obeys,
When I to sun and moon alike,
My voice did loudly raise,
"Sun, stand thou still o'er Gibeon,
Nor haste to bring the night,
And moon o'er Aijalon rush not,
To give thy feeble light."
In truth I say there never was,
A work so great or odd,
As when the sun and moon stood still,
O'er that most hallowed sod.
And by the light of such a day,
A victory we got,
For surely God was in the thing,
And for his people fought!
And north and south we carried on,
Each day we gained in strength,
And largely, then, possessed the land,
Throughout its girth and length.
Then I assigned the tribes their place,
In all the land about,
And every man his portion took,
His legacy throughout.
And old, advanced in years I knew,
The time had come for me,
A final word to Israel,
Some warning or some plea,
To leave that they might ever find,
The path before them clear,
And to the voice of God attend,
With docile, open ear.
"Now fear the Lord and serve him well,
In holiness and awe,
Forgetting not what Moses wrote,
In giving us the Law.
"But if another god you'd have,
Than he who brought you out,
From Egypt and whose chariots,
Did overcome and rout,
"Then this day choose and let it be,
Those gods so ill adored,
But I and all my house shall e'er,
Serve only God the Lord."
My task was done, my work complete,
My mission now fulfilled,
And ever from the heart I'd served,
Just as my God had willed.
It'd been a journey long and hard,
With doubts along the way,
But always with my hand in his,
Surviving well each day.
We met defeat when we ignored,
Our oath so duly sworn,
It served to call us back to God,
And of his anger warn.
But following in his paths we found,
Glad victory and rest,
As Jericho's great walls and then,
Bright Gibeon's sun attest.
from the September 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine