Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)
TITLE: Ezra's Words
By Melanie Kerr
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He comes, this scholar, cradling a scroll, holding it like a precious child in his arms. What have I to do with books and reading? Let the priest tell me what I need to know as we drink together on a warm evening, watching the setting sun blaze in crimson streaks across a darkening sky.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The words I thought so familiar don’t sound the same from his lips. He reads carefully, like a lover wooing each word, coaxing them from the page, cherishing each sound and each inflection. He knows these words, feels the texture of them on his tongue, like I feel the dryness of a seed in the palm of my hand.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
No longer a lover but an executioner, he sharpens his words, grinding each to an arrow point, burnished and polished. He flexes the bow, draws back the string and lets loose his wounding words. My heart is the target. Pain floods through, ripping apart half truths and lies.
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers…to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD.”
Tears flow down my cheeks. Shame blossoms and blushes hot at the knowledge that I have forgotten. Truth has revealed that I did not dig the well, or plant the vineyard and the olive groves. All things were given me. Sickness swirls inside as I am confronted with the knowledge that I have forgotten the Lord, relegated Him to the sidelines of my life.
“Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…”
I can barely hear him over the tumult of crying. These are not quiet tears, no secretive brush of the eyes with the back of a hand. Keening, loud and mournful, fills the courtyard. Soulful, haunting sobs are wrenched from every body. Tear like rain splatter the flagstones, hot and hissing. Subsiding now, grief spent, silence steals its way through the crowd.
Just as I would sow seeds into ploughed soil, he sows his seed into my ploughed heart. Soft now, my heart stirs to grasp the words that he is reading. This is bread to my soul, satisfying and sustaining. My appetite is whetted and my spirit feeds on such a rich fare.
Now I know; now I understand what has been read to me.
Based on Nehemiah 8
Quotations from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 10-12 and 13 New International Version © 1984
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