Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Paragraph 57

Were men to meditate upon the lives of the Prophets of old, so easily would they come to know and understand the ways of these Prophets that they would cease to be veiled by such deeds and words as are contrary to their own worldly desires, and thus consume every intervening veil with the fire burning in the Bush of divine knowledge, and abide secure upon the throne of peace and certitude. For instance, consider Moses, son of Imran, one of the exalted Prophets and Author of a divinely-revealed Book. Whilst passing, one day, through the market, in His early days, ere His ministry was proclaimed, He saw two men engaged in fighting. One of them asked the help of Moses against his opponent. Whereupon, Moses intervened and slew him. To this testifieth the record of the sacred Book. Should the details be cited, they will lengthen and interrupt the course of the argument. The report of this incident spread throughout the city, and Moses was full of fear, as is witnessed by the text of the Book. And when the warning: "O Moses! of a truth, the chiefs take counsel to slay Thee" (Qur'an 26:19) reached His ears, He went forth from the city, and sojourned in Midian in the service of Shoeb. While returning, Moses entered the holy vale, situate in the wilderness of Sinai, and there beheld the vision of the King of glory from the "Tree that belongeth neither to the East nor to the West." (Qur'an 24:35) There He heard the soul-stirring Voice of the Spirit speaking from out of the kindled Fire, bidding Him to shed upon Pharaonic souls the light of divine guidance; so that, liberating them from the shadows of the valley of self and desire, He might enable them to attain the meads of heavenly delight, and delivering them, through the Salsabil of renunciation, from the bewilderment of remoteness, cause them to enter the peaceful city of the divine presence. When Moses came unto Pharaoh and delivered unto him, as bidden by God, the divine Message, Pharaoh spoke insultingly saying: "Art thou not he that committed murder, and became an infidel?" Thus recounted the Lord of majesty as having been said by Pharaoh unto Moses: "What a deed is that which Thou hast done! Thou art one of the ungrateful. He said: 'I did it indeed, and I was one of those who erred. And I fled from you when I feared you, but My Lord hath given Me wisdom, and hath made Me one of His Apostles.'" (Qur'an 28:20)

Ahh yes, here we are again. "Meditate". Were we to meditate upon the lives of the Messengers, then we would easily come to understand Their ways. Doesn't this just seem to bring us all the way back to paragraphs 7 - 17? This time, though, Baha'u'llah doesn't go all the way back to Noah. He begins with the story of Moses, one that we all know very well. But once again, He doesn't tell it in quite the way we tend to think of it. He emphasizes certain points to make it even easier for us to see. And He continues to do this over the next few paragraphs, with Mary and Jesus, too.

But what exactly is it that stands out here? Well, there is the fact that Moses fled from the threat of execution, but then, later, saw the Burning Bush. After that encounter, He came back and confessed to His crime. He had formerly feared Pharaoh, but no longer does. He now relies upon God.

So we presume you are familiar with the story, and you have just read this paragraph, so we don't need to go into any of that. Instead we want to talk a bit about some of the odd phrases that stand out to us.

There seems to be this repetition of movement here, beginning with the veils of desire leading to the fire of divine knowledge, and ending up at the throne. Then we get the main part of the story, and end up with a similar movement afterwards. Moses is in the wilderness, and sees the fire, which He is to use to shed the light of guidance. The people are to move from the shadows of the valley up to the meadows of delight. They are to cross the river Salsabil, sometimes referred to as a fountain, and up to the peaceful city. From the fire to the throne. The peaceful city, by the way, is a literal translation of the name Jerusalem. So, in a sense, this can also be seen as a retelling of the entire story of the Exodus and the Jews. The Jews moved from the Pillar of Fire and across the Red Sea. They were lost in the wilderness for 40 years before crossing the river to the Holy Land, in which we find Jerusalem, the city of peace.

All of this can also be seen as a metaphor for the journey of the soul.

Now, another thing that stands out for us is the very end in which fear and wisdom appear to be contrasted. Moses says he feared Pharaoh, but God gave Him wisdom. He so feared Pharaoh that He ran off at the threat of execution. But later, when He saw the burning Bush, He truly understood fear. I mean, look at this. He freaked out over the thought of Pharaoh, runs to the desert, ends up following this sheep later on, and sees this burning Bush. Wow. He is now so far beyond fear it's ridiculous. "Take off your shoes", says the mighty Voice. "Okay." His shoes are off. "This is holy ground", says this Shrub. "Okay, I'm on my knees." Anything that He feared before this now just pales in comparison. Pharaoh? Pfah. He's just this guy. He ain't got nothing on this shrubbery.

It brings to mind this verse from Words of Wisdom, "The essence of wisdom is the fear of God..." And again He says, "Know ye that true wisdom is to fear God, to know Him, and to recognize His Manifestations." In Proverbs, 9:10, it also says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..."

Now wasn't that easy? All right maybe not. Perhaps Baha'u'llah's definition of what is easy is a bit different from ours. Maybe we just need to meditate a bit more.

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