Bible Poetry

The Confrontational Creator {ex14:16-17}

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

The problem with sin is that we
want to have our cake
and eat it too,
just like Pharaoh,
who wanted to have his slaves
and free them too.

But not to decide
is to decide,
and not to give in
is to remain stubborn

and that has an effect.

We all think
/or want to believe/
that no matter
what we choose
we automatically
revert back to
this neutral default place
after each decision,
that our choices
don't have any lasting
consequences.

But that's ridiculous.

If you've lived in darkness
your entire life
and someone suddenly
turns on a light
you are no longer a person
who has only known darkness.

You cannot return
to saying that you do not know
what light looks like.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you know it's not true

and that has an effect.

God is the Light of the World,
that Great Confronter who
scouts out
runs down
and passionately pursues
His darkness-dwelling
children.

He would not dream
of letting you remain
forever in your darkness.
He knows nothing of
live and let live,
has no hands-off policy,
and is generally unaccommodating.

He does not prefer to avoid confrontation.

As surely as He lives,
you live,
and as surely as He lives,
you will experience Him.

And when you do,
you cannot return
to saying that you have never
experienced Him.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you will know it's not true

and that will have an effect.

And if you persist
in ignoring or avoiding reality
for long enough
you may just find yourself
in a chariot
at the edge of the sea,
unable to bat an eyelash
at the rising walls of water,
unable to wonder how or why the briny deep
is drawing back to reveal dry ground,
unable to think twice
before rushing headlong
into the foregone destruction
of a hardened heart.

 

A Rondel on Boys Who Weren't Necessarily Bad {ex12:13}

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For where there was no blood on the post,
the Angel brought heartbreak deep in the night.
Those oldest boys may have been perfectly upright;
no wickedness in them had been diagnosed,

no judgment that they were, to evil, a host,
but doomed even if they were kind and polite.
For where there was no blood on the post,
the Angel brought heartbreak deep in the night.

Even a Hebrew who thought smeared blood the most
distasteful and gruesome of any known sight,
who neglected to paint the jambs crimson-bright
would suddenly find his own firstborn a ghost,
for where there was no blood on the post…

 

Rondel: a French form consisting of 13 lines—two quatrains and a quintet—with a rhyme scheme of ABba abAB abbaA (the capital letters are the refrains, or repeats).

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

Ruined {ex10:7}

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

The question Egypt's officials
put to their king
haunts me

How was he so blind
or so stubborn
or so arrogant
that he didn't see how
everything he loved
was slowly crumbling around him

Or did he see

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he didn't know
but that he did

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he thought he wasn't ruined
but knew he was
and thought there was
still a chance

still a way
he could fix it

One more opportunity
one more try
one more day
to start over
to redouble his efforts
to get it right

Maybe the problem wasn't that Pharaoh
didn't know Egypt was ruined
but that he still believed
he could repair the damage

But there is only
One
who can restore

There is only
One
who can rebuild

There is only
One
who can recover
all that has been lost

and it’s not us—

To be ruined
is not the problem

The problem is
we no more want to obey
than Pharaoh did
those two little words
God spoke:

Let. Go.

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

Blood and Water {ex7:20}

exodus-struggle-blood-and-water-poem.png

I love this river
I have stood on its banks
frolicked in its swell
almost been swept away by its current

But
I won't soon forget
the moment I met You
and I realized
that the mouthful of
—what I thought was—
clear, cold, refreshing water
was nothing more than
coppery, hot, metallic blood

I'd like to say
that since that moment
I've never cupped my hands again
to draw this putrid liquid
up to my mouth
but You know
that personal Niles are hard to abandon

I've been kneeling
at this river
my whole life
and You know just how
deep a canyon
it has carved in my heart

Still You couldn't bear
to leave me here
fervid and thirsty
never having tasted
Water from the Fountain
that will never
run dry

 

Name Game {ex6:3}

Photo © Unsplash/Kyle Glenn

Photo © Unsplash/Kyle Glenn

God revealed himself
to Moses
by a different name
than he had used
with Abraham
and Isaac
and Jacob.

An infinite God
with infinite names,
never failing
to manifest his presence
to the finite—
those who may resonate
for one reason or another
with a particular
moniker.

 

Good Question {ex5:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Ah,
the ineludible question
of every person
wise or foolish

(for the Lord does not refrain
from entering uninvited
the lives of idolaters
to introduce
Himself).

Asking the question
indicates neither
wisdom
nor
folly.

But how one responds
to the answer
reveals
a fool
or
a genius.

Once we know
the sun
the River
the frogs
et al
are frauds,
will we
relent
or
will we
refuse?

Who is the Lord that i should listen to him?
said pharaoh, the little transient ruler of egypt.

I'm so glad you asked
replied Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

 

Consume Me {ex3:2}

exodus-surrender-consume-me-poem.png

The burning bush
was burning
but it was not.

Burning,
but not burning up
or burning down
or burning out.

Just burning.
A vessel
not too imperfect
to hold
Perfection.

Perhaps I could be
such a vessel.
One you burn, but don't burn up.
One you wear, but don't wear out.
One you break, but don't break down.

Consume me.
Engulf me.
Overwhelm me.

Do whatever it takes.
Enshrine your Perfection in me.
Use me
to get the attention
of your prophets
and priests.

I am just a simple shrub
ready to burn.

 

Obscurity {ex1:8}

exodus-remember-obscurity-poem.png

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Generations come and generations go,
but nothing ever changes.
We don't remember what happened in the past,
and in future generations,
no one will remember what we are doing now.
—from Ecclesiastes 1

No wonder the Teacher
took such a dim view
of human accomplishment.

Back-breaking labor.
Hours of study.
/blood/

Tragedy absorbed.
Ingenious invention.
/sweat/

Disaster averted.
Strategy planned.
/tears/

Battles lost and won
and lost again.

If a man can
single-handedly
deliver an entire nation
from destruction
and be forgotten
within a
single
generation,
there is no such thing
as a lasting achievement
among the peers
you try so hard
to impress.

Joseph would have fallen
into eternal obscurity
if his name hadn't been
remembered by
the only One
who doesn't
come and go,
the only One not
under the sun.

 

Learned Graciousness {gn50:14-21}

genesis-gods-graciousness-learned-graciousness-poem.png

At the end
of the genesis
we come to this:

our fears
in the mouths
of the brothers—

will there be a grudge
what if we aren't forgiven
maybe we need to offer
an incentive
in order to be eligible
for grace

and God
in the face
of Joseph—

weeping over the fear
promising provision
assuring that everything
which had been done
for evil has been turned
for good

After all this time
are you still
afraid?
asked Joseph

asks God

It is not possible
that Joseph was more
gracious
than his creator.

 

The Blessed Curse {gn49:7}

genesis-blessings-the-blessed-curse-poem.png

The sobering fact of life is that our
descendants usually bear their share
of our decisions—either good or bad.
Levi couldn't bend his temper to his
will, and his curse was to
be doled out to his children—who would be
scattered, without a land inheritance,
among their relatives. But
the curse turned into a blessing for the entire
nation, as the Levites became the radiated advocates
of God. They inherited the heart-land of
Israel, permanent tillers of her spiritual soil.

 

Underdogs {gn48}

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

Photo © Unsplash/Matthew Henry

The last shall be first,
and the first, last.

If Jesus was praised by any
for uttering such
revolutionary ideas,
they unwittingly
exposed
their own ignorance
of Scripture.

The dance of the
last and the first
didn't begin in the Gospels.
It began in Genesis with
the subtle passing over
of the older for the younger,
the giving way
of the greater to the lesser.

Isaac and Ishmael.
Jacob and Esau.
Joseph and his older brothers.
Ephraim and Manasseh.

God must love
a good heel turn.
Blessed are the underdogs,
for they shall
have the last bark.

 

Subtle Slavery {gn47:25}

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Photo © Unsplash/R. Martinez

Once you’ve traded
freedom
for
security,
it’s nearly impossible
to break out of those
ever-tightening chains.

More and more threats
to your security
are met with
more and more restrictions
on your freedom,
until you’re happy to do
whatever you’re told
whenever you’re told
whatever the cost
as long as
you’re still alive.

That is,
if you can call that
a life.

 

Fear {gn46:3}

genesis-fear-poem.png

Someday we will understand
just how much
we were ruled by fear
in this world,
how we inhaled
and exhaled
fear
when all the time
we thought we were
breathing oxygen.

Fear is our daily diet.
Fear of dying,
fear of living,
fear of being stuck.
Fear for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
and as many snacks as we can
cram in between.
We are so steeped
in fear
that we think
to be human
is to be afraid.
But this was not
the original
design.

Fear is what we ate
at the tree,
fear the disease
that infected
our first parents
and then their children
and their children
and their children's children.

Fear is malware,
implanted by an enemy,
introduced by an interloper
so long ago,
a virus that will
eventually
crash the system
for good
if we don't allow
our manufacturer
to return us to
the factory default.

God is always telling us
to not be afraid.
This is not parental placating.
This is war propaganda.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a rejection of our nature,
but a rejection of the enemy.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a sentimental act,
but a revolutionary one.

 

Radical Religion {gn45:7-8}

Photo © Unsplash/Joshua Earle

Photo © Unsplash/Joshua Earle

this—
this!
is what I
long for:

a faith so strong in God
that I could
dream the dreams
brave the slave auction
endure the dungeon
and not let the
power and
position and
prestige
go to my head

a life so lived for God
that I could
suddenly find him
incarnate in me
when I come face to face
with those who have done me
wrong

a joy so complete in God
that I could revel
in my power to save
the very ones
who had wanted me dead

a heart so close to God
that in every evil act
I could see
only his goodness

only his goodness