The ninth verse of this poem, the one concerning the Ark of the Covenant, was the first thing I wrote since it was the first thing mentioned while reading Exodus 25. After writing a few more stanzas, I started forming the poem as a series of questions and answers — a complete stranger stumbling upon this large structure in the desert and having a child explaining what it was: We serve God Jehovah who told us to build, etc. After that idea stalled, I decided on a self-guided tour of the Tabernacle.
After the first nine verses were completed, with the first thing I wrote literally being the last thing I wrote, I was wondering how to wrap it all up. I had walked through the entire structure, from the entrance to the east — all the way to the Holy of Holies, and was looking for the exit.
It bothered me that I hadn't described all of the contents within the Ark. As I was contemplating those things and thinking that I was left with some really crappy choices for possible rhymes, like the word staff — suddenly the word half came to mind with the idea of the torn veil. Thank you, Lord, for the save!
They served God Jehovah who told them to build
a place he could dwell and atone for their sin.
He gave them a pattern for space to be filled
with objects of worship he wanted within.
They'd enter the courtyard through gates to the east,
and come to an altar of bronze-covered wood.
The priest laid his hands on their innocent beast,
then killed, disemboweled and burned up where they stood.
Behind this horned altar a washbasin stands;
from bronze, both the basin and stand have been cast.
A place where the priests washed their feet and their hands
before they could enter God's presence, at last.
A couple steps further, within a small tent:
the Holy Place, hidden from everyone's sight.
The priests intercede while the people repent;
replacing the shewbread and feeding the light.
A gold-covered table was set to the north,
its golden utensils and dishes in place;
with bread loaves for God that the Levites put forth,
called bread of the Presence or bread of the Face.
A solid gold lampstand that brilliantly floods
the room with its flickering glorious rays.
A golden menorah with petals and buds;
resplendent, replete with gold snuffers and trays.
An altar for incense, in front of the veil
diffusing sweet fragrance Jehovah desires.
Both morning and evening the priests, without fail,
brought coals from the courtyard's last sacrificed fires.
The Holy of Holies, the innermost room,
the high priest could enter but once every year.
Since unconfessed sin in his heart would bring doom;
he'd enter God's presence with reverent fear.
A chest, or an ark, from acacia was made,
with stones of his law God inscribed in its hold.
Adorned with the wings of two cherubim splayed,
its lid hammered out of solidified gold.
Along with those tablets the ark would contain
a jar filled with manna and Aaron's bloomed staff.
All this was God's Grace until his Lamb was slain,
when God tore the veil to his Mercy in half.
And they are to make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. You must make the tabernacle and design all its furnishings according to the pattern I show you.
This isn't the first time that I've come across this passage of scripture. I'm that person who starts reading the Bible from Genesis in January and finds himself floundering in the wilderness a month or so later, bogged down by rules and regulations concerning sacrifice, divorce, murder and skin sores sprouting white hair. So, yeah — I've read Genesis and Exodus many times. And, in the past, whenever I would come to this song that Moses sings and think that maybe I should write about it, I would think, No, it's too hard.
But, after writing those 40 chapters from the Book of Job last year — with God's help — without skipping any because I thought that they might have been too hard, I've gained a new confidence that makes me think that, with God's help, I'll be able to plow through most anything — much like the picture above.
Song of Deliverance
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord:
I will sing to the LORD, for his triumph's immense;
both the rider and horse he's thrown into the sea.
Oh, the LORD is my strength, he's my song and defense;
for the LORD has become a salvation to me.
He's forever my God that I'll praise and adore;
he's the God of my father that I will acclaim.
Oh, the LORD is a warrior, a real man of war;
I will sing of Jehovah. The LORD is his name.
In the sea has the army of Pharaoh been drowned.
In the Red Sea the best of his captains were thrown.
With their armor and chariots dragging them down;
every one of them sank to the depths like a stone.
LORD, your right hand's majestic in power and might;
LORD, your right hand makes all of your enemies doomed.
Overthrowing your foes who rise up for a fight;
with your fury inflamed, they, like straw, are consumed.
With a blast of your nostrils you breathed on the sea,
and the waters rose up in the air in a heap;
forming walls made of water where fish used to be
as the waters congealed in the heart of the deep.
And the enemy boasted and haughtily said,
I will soon overtake and despoil this hoard!
I will never let up till the desert bleeds red,
but destroy all I can with the blade of my sword!
Then you opened your mouth and you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered all of them over with waves.
Man and horse sank like lead to a horrible death,
now they lay on the bottom in watery graves.
Is there any god like you, LORD? Worthy of praise?
Is there anyone like you, LORD, matching your worth?
So majestic and holy! Such marvelous ways!
By your hand are your foes swallowed up by the earth.
You've redeemed us in mercy and led us to here.
In your strength you will guide us to your sacred home.
And the nations will hear and will tremble in fear;
in Philistia — sorrow and anguish will come.
Now the leaders of Edom are greatly dismayed;
and the Moabites tremble for what lies ahead;
all the Canaanites melt and are deathly afraid;
every one of them feeling the terror and dread.
By your powerful arm, they'll be still as a stone —
they'll be quiet until all your people go past;
LORD, your people — the ones whom you've bought and atoned —
till your once-enslaved people march by them at last.
You will bring in your people, possessing the land,
to your mountain, O LORD, where you've made your domain;
in the dwelling established by your holy hand.
LORD Jehovah, forever and ever will reign.
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.
And Miriam sang this song:
Let us sing to the LORD, who has gloriously
hurled horse and its rider both into the sea.
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD: I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. [ESV]
Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. [KJV]
The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. [NIV]
Your right hand, O LORD, is glorious in power. Your right hand, O LORD, smashes the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty, you overthrow those who rise against you. You unleash your blazing fury; it consumes them like straw.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. [ESV]
The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.' [NIV]
But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? [ESV]
You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies. [NIV]
With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.
The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. [NIV]
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. [ESV]
Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased. [ESV]
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain— the place, O LORD, reserved for your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever!
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.
And Miriam sang this song: Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
Exodus 15:1-21 NLT — unless noted
This poem was written a couple of weeks ago and written in such a way that contained some internal rhyming within each line. But, while writing this blog, upon reflection, I discovered that I wasn't happy with some of the forced lines in order to achieve those extra rhymes. So, I rewrote much of it between yesterday and today. The final verse was left alone from the original, leaving those internal rhymes intact.
I was thinking about Peter having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on the day before Jesus was crucified. After his friend had died, the only things that Peter was left with were his words and actions of that day.
I can't imagine what he was thinking when he ran and saw the empty tomb. But, it is interesting what the angel told the women at the tomb, regarding Peter:
Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.
How wonderful it is to have a chance of redemption!
Peter, Simon Peter — how was Seder with your friend?
I'd heard you promised to protect him to the very end.
Then, when he took a servant's role to wash your feet, you said,
Lord, do not merely wash my feet, but wash my hands and head!
Peter, Simon Peter — it appears you've been asleep.
Did not your friend ask, Watch with me, my soul is crushed with grief?
Again, I saw him wake you so that you could watch and pray;
with tears of blood he bore his pain alone near where you lay.
Peter, Simon Peter — rise! Get up, and grab your sword!
Remember when you said tonight that you'd defend your Lord?
Ignore that you're outnumbered — overmatched with clubs and spears.
Select a target — one that's weak, and aim between the ears!
Peter, Simon Peter — get yourself away from there!
Why, you've denied you ever met your friend — I heard you swear.
You lied again and then once more — then saw your friend and froze.
Tonight, you will deny me thrice before the rooster crows.
Peter, Simon Peter — I can see you're filled with gloom.
I heard you heard the news and ran to find his empty tomb.
Now, more confused than ever, with uncertainty you grope;
your broken heart since Jesus' death just caught a ray of hope.
Peter, Simon Peter — cast your net into the sea;
then bring it up and hold it fast for heavy will it be.
No longer will you troll the deep — your friend is on the shore.
He beckons, Feed my lambs and sheep, and love me evermore.
This poem was written for Easter last year, in 2019. That was the year I furiously wrote forty poems from the book of Job and this was wedged, somewhat lost and overlooked, somewhere in the middle of all of that writing.
I'd come across an Internet article that brought out some really interesting points surrounding Christ's Triumphal Entry. First of all, it happened on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan.
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household . . . . Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Exodus 12:3, 6
The 10th of Nisan floats around on the Jewish calendar. Last year, when I wrote this poem, the 10th of Nisan fell on Wednesday, April 15th. This year, 2020, it was on Saturday (yesterday), April 4th. In the third year of Jesus' ministry, it fell on Sunday — thus, our celebration of Palm Sunday.
Per the above scripture, the Bible mentions the 10th day of Nisan when instituting the laws concerning Passover. The day is also mentioned in Joshua.
The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho.
All of this is brought out in the first half of the poem in order to set up the backdrop of Jesus' entry. If this is new information for you, as it was for me last year, it wasn't news to the Jews. They were well aware of their scriptures and laws and traditions, and of the parallels and imagery of this moment. It wasn't too long before this day that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and his fame was yuge! This was it! This was the big one!
Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout jubilantly, O daughter of Jerusalem! Look—your King is coming; He is righteous and able to save. He comes seated humbly on a donkey, on a colt, a foal of a donkey.
So, in the second half of the poem I wanted to convey the following information taken from the above-mentioned article:
Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem four days before Passover is not a coincidence. The lambs chosen for sacrifice by each family on the 10th of Nisan (the day we call Palm Sunday) must be visible for 4 days before the Passover Feast in order for everyone to observe the selected lamb’s perfection.
During those days of inspection of the lambs, the perfect Lamb of God was present daily at the Temple, where everyone could see Him….. allowing Himself to be inspected by the people.
Jewish historians cite that the lambs during that time all came from Bethlehem and were brought into Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. At that time, only the sheep from Bethlehem, that had been raised especially for this purpose, were allowed to be used for selection.
Jesus entered Jerusalem along with all the Passover lambs through that same Sheep Gate.
The road into Jerusalem was extremely crowded that day. Hundreds of thousands (or according to Josephus, millions) of pilgrims were flocking into the city to begin the celebration of the Passover season.
There are many who differ from this information. They say that Jesus entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, and not the Sheep Gate; that it happened on Saturday or Monday or the entire event even happened in August. For the most part, this poem can accommodate those differences.
For someone thinking this event happened on Monday, then "Monday" could easily be interchanged with "Sunday".
For someone believing this event happened on Saturday, then "Sabbath" could be interchanged with "Sunday" without missing a beat.
For those who say that Jesus entered through the Eastern Gate (also called the Golden Gate, or the Gate of Mercy), then that line could be replaced with: Through the Mercy Gate, Mercy has come.
All joking aside, there may be some merit as to which gate was used. Consider the following:
Ezekiel prophesizes that the Eastern Gate will eventually be sealed shut, because the Lord entered through it. Zechariah describes the messiah as going out through the Eastern Gate to do battle on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives, or Olivet, is just outside the Eastern Gate, and lies on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane. The Gospel of Luke tells us that, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Each day he went on teaching in the temple, and at night he lodged on the mountain which is called Olivet.” (Luke 21:37)
According to Luke’s account, Jesus would have left Jerusalem through the Eastern gate every evening following his triumphal entry to get to the Mount of Olives, and returned again every morning through the Eastern Gate to teach in the Temple. This continued until the evening of the Passover, when, after the Last Supper, he went out through the Eastern Gate for the last time to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he was arrested, and entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate for the last time as a prisoner.
When was the gate closed?
The Eastern Gate was first closed by Muslims in 810 and then reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders. Saladin walled it up again after regaining Jerusalem in 1187. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt it together with the city walls, but walled it up again in 1541, and it has remained walled up ever since.
Thus, was the prophesy of Ezekiel fulfilled. “Shut this gate must ever be, the Lord told me, nor open its doors to give man entrance again, since the Lord, the God of Israel, entered by it.”
And, from another link:
Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple..
Seleiman the Magnificent so strongly believed the prophecy that he sealed up the gate he built only three years earlier to prevent Jesus from coming. The gate has remained sealed ever since.
I tweaked some wording from last year to this year. And, in the future, the line concerning the gate may change as well. But, for now, as it was written last year, I like the imagery of the Shepherd entering through the Sheep Gate on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Lamb Selection Day.
Lamb Selection Day
In the morning that Sunday, he crossed Jordan's River,
to the Jericho-side Jesus came.
Years before, crossed the people God sought to deliver,
on the tenth day of Nisan, the same.
Forty years before that God was building a nation
with a people awaiting I AM;
they were asked to prepare for their coming salvation
with the death of an innocent lamb.
On the tenth day of Nisan, their lamb was selected;
without defect or blemish or scar.
For the next four days this year-old lamb was inspected,
and protected from possible mar.
As the lamb lived among them, was there any grieving
when this lamb, on the fourteenth, was slain?
He'd provide the last meal for its family soon leaving,
and its blood on their door posts would stain.
On this tenth day of Nisan — Jerusalem's thriving,
over-crowded as you walk the streets.
With the lambs born in Bethlehem quickly arriving,
sometimes all you can hear are their bleats.
Here he comes! On a donkey and foal he is seated;
through the Sheep Gate the Shepherd has come.
Cloaks laid down and with palm branches waving he's greeted:
now he'll free them from Rome's heavy thumb.
For another four days he allows their inspection,
cross-examined and grilled to the end.
In the garden, arresting this Lamb of perfection,
he's betrayed with the kiss of a friend.
From that Sunday when crowds — in their wonder — surround him,
till he wrestles alone with the cost;
on the tenth day of Nisan the crowds would have crowned him,
by the fourteenth they scream for the cross.
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