October 24, 2011

Unto the Hills

Posted in Atonement, David, Holy Week, Moses, Redeemer, Suffering Servant at 10:57 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

I will lift up my hands!
I will lift up my weary hands,
Unto the hills,
The hill of battle.
The hill where Moses lifted up
His weary hands to heaven,
To seek God’s blessing
Upon His army.
The hill where Moses raised his hands
To bring the victory down
Unto God’s people,
The hill that Moses called

I will lift up my eyes!
I will lift up my longing eyes,
Unto the hills,
The hill of Zion.
The hill where David lifted up
His joyful eyes to heaven,
For God will shine forth
From out of Zion,
The hill where David raised his eyes
In prayer and praise to God,
Who blessed His people
On the hill forever called
The City of David.

I will lift up my prayer!
I will lift up my fervent prayer,
Unto the hills,
The Mount of Olives,
From whence Christ Jesus lifted up
His woeful prayer to heaven
To seek His Father’s will,
He prayed in agony;
The hill where He sweat drops of blood,
To wait for Judas’ kiss.
Betrayed, abandoned,
Arrested in the place
They called Gethsemane.

I will lift up my voice!
I will lift up my thankful voice,
Unto the hills,
The Hill of Calvary.
The hill where Jesus lifted up
His life upon a tree.
He took upon himself
The curse of Adam.
The hill where Jesus raised His voice
Declaring, “It is finished!”
For all God’s people.
There on the hill forever called
The Hill Golgotha.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

After realizing that I had written yet another piece that pulls together scenes from the Old and New Testaments (Exodus, Psalms, II Samuel, Matthew, Luke, and John, at the very least), I suddenly realized why my poems sweep across the landscape of the Bible. My favorite liturgies are those that include a series of readings spanning the history of redemption: the Great Vigil of Easter and the service of Lessons and Carols.

Focusing on one aspect of His-story puts us in danger of missing one or more important facets of the jewel of redemption. Would we ignore Moses? He is the greatest prophet who ever lived (Deuteronomy 34:10). Would we ignore David? Jesus is both the Son of David and the One whom David called Lord (Matthew 22:41-46). No, it is infinitely better for us to maintain all of these ideas together so that we can gain the fullest picture of salvation.

Pulling all the threads together also saves us from the worst enemy of good theology: oversimplification, including false dichotomies. For example, the first stanza of the poem ends with a name that identifies the place of victory with the Covenant God, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:14-15). He who is the great “I AM” has as many names as the many ways in which He interacts with His beloved people, and some names for the ways in which He interacts with His (and our) enemies. All of these names are true, and each of them teaches us something vital about His character. He is no simple stock figure in a weekly drama; He is complex enough to be beautiful and dreadful, tender and fierce, and a thousand other ways all at the same time. He is God and there is none else, and when we fear Him, we need fear nothing else, because He fights for us.

This last point is evident in the name that ends the poem. Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, is identified with Goliath according to many scholars, including Bishop Ray Sutton, one of my professors at Cranmer House. Young David did not defeat the giant; God did. Similarly, we have no means in ourselves to defeat the Evil One, but God’s promise that the Seed of the woman would crush the head (skull) of the serpent was fulfilled when the cross of Christ was driven into the Place of the Skull. There is no way for Satan to win, so we lift up our hands, eyes, prayers, and voices to Almighty God who saves us!

Publishing this poem tonight is a great breakthrough for me, as it is the first substantial amount of poetry that I’ve written in several months. The general idea and a few of the lines in the first verse were jotted down on March 10, 2006. Over the past five years, I’ve returned to the draft occasionally, but until tonight I was unable to pull all of the concepts together that I wanted to express. If you were to count the number of lines in each stanza, you might ask the obvious question: Why 13 lines? My answer is that I don’t really know. Perhaps there was a general flow of ideas that naturally ended after 13 lines. I didn’t set out for that number, but it worked.

Over the years I’ve had people tell me that my poetry is too difficult for the average reader, that it is too dense and obtuse to be easily accessible. Though I have not purposely tried to deviate from my usual style, I believe this piece to be much simpler than most, at least on the surface. Though it has no rhyme, I’ve imposed a repeating structure that uses some of the devices of Hebrew poetry. There was no point in re-writing Psalm 121, as David had done a splendid job of that. My goal was to advance the argument from a place in history before David to the place to which his whole life pointed. By no means does my simple piece replace David’s Song of Ascents; it is merely a loving tribute to the Poet King, but mostly to the God whom he served.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Teresa Roberts Johnson:  Unto the Hills […]


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