And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it; and let us eat and be merry, for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
This was the last in the series of twenty-two, and I struggled with an idea for a couple of weeks. Then it came to me, that even as young children brought up in the church, as I was, we are taught, “God is love”. Of all the other attributes and subjects on which I wrote, they exist because of the fact that God is love.
The fifteenth chapter of Luke records the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, as well as the lost son. And in each case, there is great rejoicing when the lost has been found.
It's interesting to me that this was written two decades ago, and yet it sounds like it could have been written last week — as I'm using the same structure today (as evidenced by a poem written just last week, Jacob, the Deceiver).
The Loving Father
I am a loving Father —
With children far abroad;
They’ve left me for a distant shore,
To serve a foreign god.
Neglecting My commandments,
Rejecting what is right,
They’re living wise in their own eyes,
Yet cannot see the light.
My arms are always open,
And patiently I wait
To reconcile my long-lost child
Who’s still outside My gate.
I’m merciful and gracious —
When, prodigal, I meet:
I run and choose the softest shoes
To soothe their weary feet.
Upon those aching shoulders
I place a robe to wear,
And then I bring the golden ring
That signifies My heir.
The fatted calf is slaughtered,
And heaven’s hosts resound:
My child was dead — now lives, instead;
Was lost — but now is found!
A couple of things jumped out at me when I read this story. First, was all of the deception going on. Jacob deceiving his brother and father. Laban deceiving Jacob. Laban and Jacob deceiving each other.
The other thing was the favoritism. Rebekah loved Jacob. Isaac loved Esau. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and later on in the story, loved Rachel's children more than his other children.
I started writing the poem about a week ago — even before my last blog was published. I had only written versions of the third and fourth (current) verses and didn't know my next move. The third line of each verse contained an internal rhyme and that was how I thought it was going to be.
I decided that the poem needed a little introduction before jumping into the story portion so I came up with the first two verses. As I proceeded, it got harder and harder to keep the third line of each verse with that internal rhyming scheme.
After working on it all weekend and not nearing the finish line, finally late Sunday night I had the epiphany that I didn't need to keep up with that scheme. How much easier it would be to write something where only the 2nd and 4th lines rhymed! In short order I was able to rewrite much of it, filling in several gaps, and essentially wrapping it up.
But, in the end I still left some of the "3rd line internal rhymes" in there just because I hated to lose them. So, this might be the first poem I've ever written that didn't keep within a fairly-defined structure throughout.
Why was Jacob such a deceiver? Was it just for personal gain? Or, did his mother tell him what God told her concerning his future? I started to wonder if Jacob (as well as Esau) knew of God's covenants with Abraham and Isaac. Was he just trying to move things along — helping God out?
I wonder if Isaac knew about his own miraculous birth and God's promise to his father concerning his descendants being more numerous than the stars. Likewise, would Isaac's children know all of that history plus newer stuff, like the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing their father on an altar?
Jacob, the Deceiver
There's Jacob, son of Isaac,
whose twin is on the run;
his time is spent within the tent
for he's his mother's son.
Yet, Esau is the eldest,
and Isaac loves him so;
he loves to taste the game he's chased
and hunted with his bow.
But, Jacob swindled Esau —
as brothers sometimes do;
a weakened, famished Esau sold
his birthright for some stew.
When Jacob tricked his father —
his mother did the rest:
with hairy arms and Esau's clothes,
the younger son was blessed.
Escaping to his uncle's,
where Laban changed his life:
exchanging Rachel, Jacob's love,
for Leah as his wife.
For years thereafter Jacob
and Laban vied for flocks:
they schemed for goats and sheep with coats
with speckles, streaks and spots.
Once Jacob, son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham,
thought he could help God's covenant
by lending God a hand.
Then Jacob, the Deceiver,
met God, who changed his name:
he strove against both God and men
and Israel overcame.
Then the man said, Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.
So, my journey has brought me to the story of Abraham and Isaac. And, oh, what a story it is!
Concerning stories in the Bible, this is one of the biggies. Most every church-attending kid knows how Abraham took his son up a mountain as an offering but was saved by an angel and a lamb.
And that's just about where I was at. After years attending a Christian school, a lifetime of church, and a few years at Christian college — I had the basics.
That is not a condemnation of my educators, but rather my intake. So, this slower, more intentional walk through the Bible is opening up some interesting things for me.
The story begins with God telling Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah — a name that is only mentioned twice in the entirety of the Bible.
Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
2 Chronicles 3:1
Many commentators say that Isaac was a type of Christ. A type is a symbol of something in the future, as an Old Testament event serving as a prefiguration of a New Testament event.
And then there were the parallels between Isaac and Christ (there are MANY more than are listed here):
I wrote the first verse of this poem and sat on it for a day or so — not knowing where it was going. It was untitled at first and I was really at a loss as to its direction. I sat down at my computer around 10p one night and started banging away until it was essentially done around 1a. (When I tell people that I feel I am using God's gift with my writing, it isn't like I sit down and simply take dictation.)
One of the problems (I thought I had) was Abraham's 3-syllable name. If he had still been named "Abram", then the poem might have taken a totally different direction. I had similar quandaries when writing my poems concerning Sim-e-on and Jon-a-than. A 3-syllabled name just throws my timing off.
Halfway through writing this, I finally realized the title of the poem was right there in verse 14, as well as what I needed for the final stanza. And suddenly, the poem was done. And the way the final line aligns with the first verse makes it seem like the whole thing was planned.
But it wasn't.
At least, not on my part.
The Lord will Provide
Father, tell me, where's the lamb?
The flame and wood have been supplied.
Issac, answered Abraham,
the lamb will God himself provide.
Abba! Father! Take this cup,
I'm begging, as your only son;
but if I must — I lift it up,
not my will but your will be done.
Abraham! an angel called,
Stop, Abraham! Release your knife!
For now I know you fear your God
by sparing not your own son's life.
My God, My God, in grief he cries,
Why have you forsaken me?
It is finished! Jesus dies:
the Lamb of God on Calvary.
Isaac left with Abraham,
returning down the mountainside;
behind them lay the smoking ram
the Lord had chosen to provide.
So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.
From the outset, this may not seem like much for us as Christians. But it really is. The children of Israel could not speak directly to God to have their sins forgiven. Rather, several times every year, they brought their sacrifices and offerings to the high priests for them to be sacrificed. And, even then, their sins were not forgiven. Redemption would only come through Jesus Christ many years later.
With the death and resurrection of Jesus and the introduction of the New Covenant, we have been empowered and have the freedom to do so many more things than did the people living under the Old Covenant of Moses. But do we take full advantage of these things?
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Again, this poem and sermonette were written nearly 20 years ago; it is the 19th in the Yahweh series with just 3 to go. I'm eager to wrap up this series so will be sharing the rest of them fairly quickly. The final one might be the best of the bunch.
Kinda funny that I was "preaching" about the end of the Jewish daily sacrifices two decades ago and I'm still at it — as recent as last year's Christmas poem, Agnus Dei, as well as the one written last Easter, The Final Sacrifice.
God of Freedom
I am the God of freedom —
Abolishing old rules:
No longer must you back your trust
With blood of goats and bulls.
The saving blood of Jesus
Has, once for all, been shed.
One sacrifice that paid the price
For all the sins ahead.
But, offer Me your praises,
Do good things, as you should;
And share, indeed, with those in need —
Such sacrifice is good.
I am the God of freedom —
Where liberty begins;
No longer shall high priests use fowl
And beasts to purge your sins.
Yet, could they ever purge them?
For sin — man can’t erase.
Throughout the year, they met Me here
Within this holy place.
But, you can meet Me daily
As they could not before.
When you confess your sinfulness,
I’ll keep your sin no more.
I'm introducing a new series called, Journey thru the Bible. It will be based on, well, my personal journey through the Bible. I've yet to get through it cover-to-cover without falling by the wayside. So, this is the year! And, this new series will (hopefully) keep me on the straight and narrow.
Going through Genesis (AGAIN!) I was reminded of how action-packed the first few chapters really are. And the poem highlights three of the main stories — as I found them sprinkled with a murder and a bunch of genealogy (more on that later).
As I ride this wave of sudden creativity (this is the fifth new poem from my last six blog posts — before that, I last wrote one in May), I feel more attuned to what I am reading and more open to God's leading.
I'd feel a little embarrassed if this was the only poem I'd ever written. It was written with a very simple structure and seems somewhat child-like. No punctuation. Small words. But this is what popped into my head after reading the first few chapters of Genesis — and I went with it. Most of the first two verses were written in a few minutes.
Along with my Bible reading, I'm also reading another book: Learn the Bible in 24 Hours by Chuck Missler. He talks about the genealogy from Adam to Noah in this way:
Adam had a son named Seth, Seth had a son named Enoch, and so on. The problem with Genesis 5 is that these proper names are not translated for the reader from their Hebrew meanings, so you have to unravel these by digging into the meaning of the Hebrew roots that make up the names.
We now can look at the genealogy with more insight. The sequence—Adam—Seth—Enosh—Kenan—Mahalaleel—Jared—Enoch—Methusaleh—Lamech—Noah—reads, in English, “Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow; [but] the blessed God shall come down teaching [that His] death shall bring [the] despairing rest.”
There are several profound lessons here. First, here is a summary of the New Testament Gospel tucked away in a genealogy in the Torah. This demonstrates something we will encounter throughout all the Scripture: every detail is there by design. It also tells us that God’s plan of redemption was not a knee-jerk reaction to chapter 3. God had ordained it before the foundation of the world.
Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (pp. 24-25). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Emphasis mine.
Well, that was interesting.
Today is Tuesday, and I would normally post something this coming weekend. But, yesterday I made the final changes to the poem and thought, Why wait for the weekend? I've been posting every two weeks for a year on a self-imposed deadline just to keep things fresh, but I'll step back from that and let inspiration determine the schedule for a while.
In the beginning
I am the creator
it is what I do
I made earth and heaven
right out of the blue
the birds and the bees and
the animals too
the fish in the seas then
I finally made you
I am the destroyer
it is what I do
I drowned all the world
except for a few
the birds and the beasts have
been saved two by two
my handful of friends on
a big floating zoo
I am the confuser
it is what I do
confounding your language
to something brand new
your city is finished
your tower is through
now settle the earth like
I've wanted you to