The first reading from Exodus tells about a time when Moses had spent weeks alone with God on Mt. Sinai. The people Moses had left below made a golden calf, and they were worshipping it. God, after he gave Moses word of the people’s defection, said to Moses, “Let me alone that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.” However, Moses pleaded wit God to spare the people, and God gave in to the pleas of Moses, sparing the people.
The English priest-poet George Herbert mentioned that incident in a poem he wrote four hundred years ago. Herbert, like John Donne, was called a metaphysical poet. They wrote poems using make-believe flights of fashion. Herbert, in “Decay,” the poem where he speaks of, Moses debating with God, made believe that there was a time when God mixed freely with us. .
George Herbert was the very finest of our Christian poets, ad it is a shame that we stay away from him just because poets four hundred years ago spoke differenntly from us.
When Herbert an English priest died at age forty his heirs found a collection of several hundred poems to which Herbert had given the title “The Temple.” Please listen to “Decay,” the poem in which Herbert spoke of Moses pleading with God.
“Sweet were the days when thou didst lodge with Lot,
Struggle with Jacob, sit with Gideon,
Advise with Abraham, when thy power could not
Encounter Moses strong complaint ad moan:
They words were then, “Let me alone.”
One might have sought and found thee presently
At some fair oak or bush, or cave., or well:
“Is my God this way?” No, they would reply
He is to Sinai gone, as we heard tell:
List, ye may hear great Aarons bell.
But now thou dost thy self immure and close
In some one corner of a feeble heart
Where yet both Sinne and Satan, thy old foes
Do pinch and smitten thee, and use much art
To gain thy thirds and little part.
I see the world grows old, where as the heat
Of thy great love, didst spread, now as in an urn
Doth closet up its self, and still retreat
Cold Sinne still forcing it, till it return,And calling “Justice!” all things burn.