I awakened in the dark, the last scenes of a strange dream still ebbing through my mind. I was traveling, and at a stopping point had gone to a temple to worship at vespers. I returned to where I had left my belongings. Where were they? Where was my coat, my blanket? Where was my satchel full of tools? The blanket, I found. The jacket and the satchel were gone and the tools scattered all over the room, tiny nails that I used in my work, strewn in their hundreds all over the floor. Who would help me gather them up, and where would I put them, since my bag was gone?
In my room with uncovered windows, not a hint of light—it was still pre-dawn. I lay there as always when He awakens me, and I began to talk to Him, to thank Him for all that He has done for me. I stopped almost before I began. Something was different. The darkness was warm and calm, His presence filled every minute of space and time. I was enfolded, and it was my turn to listen, His to speak. “My will is your certainty. My good will your protection.” Nothing is more certain than the future, nothing more certain than the past. “I was there at your beginning. I am here with you now. I will be there at your end.”
I started again to thank Him and praise Him, but the smoke of His presence filled the temple, and I was driven back. In the silence He spoke what words cannot repeat. I listened while I recalled the days of old. How I wanted to find Him but did not know what He would be for me when I found Him. How I did not find Him, but He found me. How I wanted to choose Him, how I wanted to dedicate my life to Him. How I did not choose Him, but He chose me. How He said to me, “Not this offering,” pointing at my vegetables, “but This,” pointing at His Lamb.
“You were with Me when I laid the earth’s foundations, and you will be with Me when I close the door on this icy age.” Did I do something to deserve this? Was it my choice, my free will that did this? How was it that in the flow of time I appeared and did something that could raise me out of that flow? “You would not have called to Me, if I had not been calling to you. You will never understand this, never grasp this, until you shed the skin from your eye and see Me as I see you. It is enough that your eye should be single and your body full of light.”
I took pause, selah. The darkness surrounded me, and the silence. My thoughts and deeds, apt for their time, my friends and loved ones I will never see again on earth, my current circumstances provided for, what will happen, who will yet come, all unknown to me but as certain, as apt, as providential as the past, as this moment. He set me on my feet and bade me walk in His ways, shielding me from harm, entrusting me to His commandments. Nothing different will ever happen to me, because on me His day has already dawned, the day without end. Rest in that, my soul, selah.
Grave light began to mix with the darkness. I could see my hand before my face. I reached over and took up my psalm book, opened it randomly to the 57th psalm. Lamenatzéach al tashchét, leDavíd mikhtám, kevarchó mipnéy Sha’úl bam‘aráh… “For the Conductor, a plea to be spared from destruction, by David, a Michtam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave…” Chanéyni, Elohím, chanéyni… “Favor me, O God, favor me…” My eyes could barely make out the letters on the page, and they closed by themselves, my spirit contemplating the rest of the psalm without reading it. Then I rested, and fell back to speaking to the Lord.
So it was He that chose me of His free will, just as He chose to ascend the Cross of His free will, for me. So it was He from the beginning who had me in His sights, not I who was looking for Him. So it was He saved me and called me ‘Brother’ before I came to the place of meeting He had arranged for me, to that holy rendezvous.
“I waited until you noticed the signs I had been sending, and then by the signs I sent you, you understood that I was standing behind your wall. I spoke to you when you believed not in Me, but in the signs. When you believed in the signs, you were ready to hear My voice.”
So it was He who kept me from wandering in the past to the lands from which there is no escape. It was He who kept me out of the prison from which there is no release. When I asked Him to keep me from the sin that kills eternally, because in me is no strength to resist it, He had already placed His seal on my heart, on my arm, to prevent me, and I, not noticing, asked Him for what He already bestowed. “Glory to You, O God. Glory to You, O God. Glory to You, O God.” And the hymn of the 1st Tone started up in my mind,
“Though the tomb was sealed by a stone and soldiers guarded Your pure body, You arose, O Savior, on the third day, giving life unto the world…”
The morning is now full. When dawn really came, and the sun rose a little to the southeast of the mountain and started pouring its light into my room, I took up my psalm book, which I had been clasping to my chest, and prayed parts of several psalms, whatever verses my eyes fell on. I was still held in suspense by what I heard in the pre-dawn darkness, even as I am now. So the future is as certain as the past. It is finished. The words I use to say these things, though, I have said, read or heard before, without knowing what they meant.
I bless Yahweh, who is my counselor,
and in the night my inmost self instructs me…
Psalm 16:7 Jerusalem Bible
Psalms for the 3rd Day
15 16 17 18 (English)
18 19 20 21 22 (Hebrew)