When I began my current Bible readthrough a little under a year ago, I invited some friends to join along with me. That group and format has morphed a few times over the last almost-year, but continues with a larger group reading a few chapters out loud every couple of weeks; we’re in the middle of Judges right now, in fact.
Doing the reading aloud was not my idea, but it’s been a fantastic one. You engage the text differently when you read every word. It hasn’t always been interesting—for example, hitting the division of cities and fields for the Levites in Joshua led to the recurring joke of calling our readings “Pasturelands” (“Are we going to Pasturelands tonight?” “Works for me!”). But even in the often-absurd repetition it makes you stop and think: These cities were important! The pasturelands were important! These are the legal and historical records for the people of Israel! This is what God intended for the people and the land! This is how far they got off-track!
At one point, though, the intent was for this to end back in October at Hutchmoot, when we hit the end of the Pentateuch. The night before I left to return to Michigan, five of us sat around a kitchen table and read the last few chapters of Deuteronomy together. And as I read Moses’ last speech out loud, I started crying. Because all of a sudden, it hit. In one very tiny way, a journey of about 5 months was wrapping up the same way Moses ended his journey of 40 years. They had traveled together. Learned the Law together. Eaten manna together. One generation died off and another rose up to take its place.
My own journey through the Bible with those four people didn’t end that night, though I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, in a sense, that was the beginning of the Bible Readaloud’s new form. But Moses’ journey did end that night. So as we read his words together, and as tears streamed down my own face as I thought this portion of the journey was over for me, I had to wonder: did Moses cry too?
The Last Blessing
Originally written October 14, 2018
Did Moses tremble when he stood before
The youthful crowd, awaiting his last word?
So energetic—ready for a war
To claim their promise. Was his frail voice slurred
As he proclaimed a blessing over them
To enter in a land he’d never see?
He’d watched them grow from babies into men;
And guided them in faith so patiently.
He’d given up his life to lead them here,
And mow the time had come for him to die—
So, standing there, the Promised Land so near,
I have to wonder—then—did Moses cry?
To pass a blessing to his precious sons—
And then to hear “Well done, my faithful one”?
Image credit: The Art Institute of Chicago