Sunday, January 08, 2006

Moses the Man

In honor of yesterday's 90-day-challenge reading:

How do you share your heart with a husband who glows in the dark? The first time Moses came into the tent after encountering the glory of God on the mountain, I quavered in the corner of the tent for the better part of an hour. Even though he wore a covering of lightweight wool over his head and shoulders, a ring of luminescence surrounded him like the glowing circle around the moon.

“Zipporah.” He reached out to me in the darkness. “I have not changed.”

I gritted my teeth in an effort to keep them from chattering.

“Yes, Moses, you have.”

“But I need you. I need someone to talk to.”

“Why would a man who talks to God need a woman? Surely you have no need of any counsel I could give.”

“You underestimate yourself. You always have.” The undertone of melancholy in his voice drew me to his side despite my fears. I lay down next to him, turning to face the inner curtain so I would not have to stare into that unearthly glow, but my heart contracted in pleasure when he wrapped a strong arm around me and drew closer to share my warmth.

When we were snuggled together like young lovers, Moses pulled the veil from his head.

Instantly, our small chamber brightened, and I could see our shadows faintly outlined upon the
woven wall.

“Yhwh knew about the golden calf before I did,” he confided, his breath warming my ear. “His anger was kindled. He said he would destroy the people and make a great nation out of me.”

“Out of you?”

“Out of our children, Zipporah. And I do not doubt he could do it. If he could produce this people out of Abraham and Sarah through Isaac, he could certainly produce a nation out of Gershom and Eliezer.”

I considered this—a holy nation from an Egyptian prince and the daughter of a pagan priest? The idea seemed ludicrous.

“But I soothed Yhwh’s anger,” Moses continued, murmuring drowsily against the back of my neck. “‘For what reason,’ I asked him, ‘would you want the Egyptians to mock us? For they would say Yhwh brought us out into the wilderness to kill us, and the name of Yhwh would be defamed.’ So the Lord let himself relent of the evil he had spoken of doing to his people.”

I remained quiet, listening to the susurrant whisper of the wind against the walls, then murmured, “I am glad.”

“So am I.”

My husband said nothing for a long moment, then his hold on me tightened. “Zipporah—do you remember when we were trying to discover the name of the Israelite God?”

“Of course.”

“There is power, real power, in his name. Yhwh passed before me when I called it out, and his name echoed off the stones of the mountain and echoed in the heavens. His name means showing-mercy, showing-favor, long-suffering in anger, abundant in loyalty and faithfulness, keeping loyalty to the thousandth generation, bearing iniquity, rebellion and sin, yet not clearing the guilty, calling to account the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons and upon sons’ sons to the third and fourth generation . . . and when I had called out his name, Zipporah, I saw him.”

The urgent note in his voice startled me. “But you have already seen him. You and the elders ate a meal with him upon the mountain.”

“That was different, that day we saw God-in-flesh. What I saw upon the mountain was his Spirit essence, God-in-glory. I begged that I might find favor in his eyes and see his face, and he told me no mortal can see his face and live. Yet he put me in a cleft of a rock, and protected me with his hand as his glory passed by. What I saw was only the remnant of his passing glory, but it was enough, Zipporah, to change everything.”

An involuntary shudder raced down my spine. Moses did not need to explain that the glow on his face was merely a shadow of the dazzling glory he had beheld, and the thought of such power was enough to make my mouth go dry. I had seen something of Yhwh’s power, for I had encountered it the night we camped before this mountain on our way to Egypt.

I needed a touch of that power in my own life, but I did not deserve it . . . and I feared it.

“Moses.” I closed my eyes. “I am sick. And I have a favor to ask of you.”

I felt him lift his head as his arm tightened around me. “Sick?”

“Something is growing in my belly and each day it saps my strength. The priests of Midian could not help me, and neither could the midwives. I fear I will not live long enough to enter the land promised to you and your people.”

His hand squeezed my shoulder as his gentle breath blew against the back of my neck. “What would you like me to do? Pray for your healing?”

I smiled at the kindness in his voice. From the day I met him at the well, I had always trusted Moses’ goodness.

“Your god has no reason to heal me. But the woman, Femi—she should have a husband, for her safety’s sake. She is unattached in this camp, and Miriam does not care for her. If you hold any regard for Femi at all, you should make her your wife.”

His hand tightened upon my shoulder. “I will protect and care for her, but I had never thought to take a second wife. You are the only wife I ever wanted.”

I chuckled. “You did not want me. My father tricked you into marriage.”

“Your father is not as clever as you think.”

“He made you jealous! You would not have wanted to marry me if he had not mentioned all those other men—”

“You give me too little credit. Avoiding your father’s eagerness to marry off five other daughters took a fair amount of skill, as I recall.”

I bit my lip as a blush of pleasure warmed my cheeks. “You . . . you really waited for me?”

“Who else among Reuel’s daughters had courage enough to speak her mind? Yes, Zipporah. I waited for you.”

I lay quietly, a kernel of happiness warming the center of my being, then patted his hand. “I will not feel threatened if you take another woman, Moses. Moreover, I am not strong, and Femi will be able to help you if I fall ill. Miriam is . . . busy about other things.”

My husband did not respond at first, then his strong arm turned me to face him. After studying my eyes for a long moment, he drew me into the silvery glow that bathed his features.

“I will consider it.” Warmth and gratitude mingled in his voice. “Thank you, wife, for thinking of her.”

1 comment:

Angela said...

OH, yeah . . . I had a feeling this was the passage you were referring to. I wrote the entire scene out--I think the bottom line was that Moses had refused to circumsize his son out of deference to Zipporah's wishes. But I had to write out the scene, plus I mentioned it in the Q&A in the back of the book.

Bet you've never heard a sermon on that passage!