Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
The next poem is pretty ambitious, so I’m going to give it to you over two weeks. It’s based on the legal provision of Deut. 19:15: “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Requiring corroboration is the path of intellectual virtue in apologetics as well as in law. We have multiple pairs of witnesses to the truth of the Gospel: Nature and Scripture, the Prophets and the Apostles, etc. But I chose to go with another pair: humankind and angels. What if mankind remembered its collective experience of God’s progressive revelation of himself throughout its history? That is the first witness, which we put on the stand this week:
On the evidence of two or three witnesses every matter shall be confirmed (Deut. 19:15b).
And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).
Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
We sensed that there was something. In the sky
It somehow seemed to be, or in the wind—
A Voice, a subtle message in the dew,
Something in our hearts that would not lie
Quiet when we knew that we had sinned.
(How did we know that it was sin? We knew.)
Something. Power hidden in the earth
To push the blades and buds up in the spring.
At first we gave each face of it a name;
So sky and field and river each gave birth
To its own god, and men began to bring
The blood they shed to cover up their shame.
And they did right, though they did not know why
Until the Voice called out to Abraham
To leave his father for an unknown land.
A cave for burial he had to buy,
A mountain-thicket where he found a ram,
Sore feet, the burning sun, and blowing sand,
More mysteries than answers he could learn,
A son to whom he could bequeath the trial,
An oath, but not one acre he could claim
Were all that wanderer got in return—
Plus one thing more that made it all worthwhile:
He saw through all that flickers to the Flame.
And so his seed would bear the message, “Hear
Oh Israel, the Lord your God is One!”
And camp at Sinai when the Flame came down.
Though all too easily the holy fear
Engendered by the way they had begun
Was lost, at least they got their piece of ground.
And there they stayed, and there they read the Law,
And studied, and debated every word,
And kept alive at least some memory
Of who they were and what their fathers saw.
But what the Flame had shown, the smoke had blurred,
And most of them would finally fail to see
The Thing they’d waited for through all those years,
The Something we had groped for in our fears.
The hopes, the blood, the altars—who’d have guessed
That this would be the answer to our quest?
The smoke of Sinai slowly cleared away
To show a Baby lying in the hay.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Sept. 30, 2016, from Square Halo Books!
Donald T. Williams, PhD