Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tiled Walkways of Sapphire

Moses and Aron, Nadab and Abiju and the seventy elders went up and
saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a
pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. Exodus 24: 9-11 NIV.

I teach third-year high school Spanish at a Christian school in my area. Every week one of our activities is to read, discuss and ultimately, memorize various scriptures from the Bible in formal Castillian Spanish. When we put the English and Spanish translations together, the verses create a fuller, more vivid picture of that passage in God's Word. I always look forward to our discussions and seeing my students' eyes light up. This week we discussed how God revealed himself to Moses and some seventy odd wise Israeli leaders on Mt. Sinai. God allowed them all to eat and drink in His presence at that time.

In Spanish, "a pavement made of sapphire" is translated as "tiled walkways of sapphire" (some versions say "lapiz lazul"). For me, this depicts a vivid image of the brilliance and beauty under God's feet.
The NIV says that the walkway appeared as "clear as the sky itself" and the Spanish reads it was, "as serene as the heavens." This translation gives the sapphires a transparency and brings in God's absolute serenity. What a magnificent sight that would have been to behold! Whether in English or Spanish, it's as if I've seen these verses for the first time.

After living in the United Arab Emirates for a number of years, I put in a white tiled walkway. How smooth those tiles felt under my feet! The path lent an elegant air to my home and garden that transformed it in my eyes. I've also seen magnificent, glossy painted ceramic tiles from Palestine, Tunisia, and Morocco. How gorgeous these tiles look! Especially when the tiles are placed together to complete a scene. I brought one such picture of the women at the well with Jesus home with me. And how about jewels? I've been to the Taj Mahal in India. I've looked closely at precious stones inlaid in the walls! Being exposed to these experiences gives me a tiny, tiny glimpse of what I imagine that Moses and his entourage viewed that day. I share this with my students in simpler Spanish in hopes that they, too, can begin to envision this verse in concrete images.

In class I begin to realize that our God is a creator of enormous detail and beauty. Though this is not the first time I've thought or felt this, it hits me differently than other times. Perhaps it's the first time I've had concrete images to share when the thought has crossed my mind. I eagerly turn to my students for their input, and reflection.

One student says "In the Wizard of Oz" in the Emerald City, everything looked green and very beautiful." We talk about how Dorothy and her companions get beautied up when they follow the yellow-brick road to Oz in hopes of meeting the Wizard. Do they put on special glasses in which everything appears to be green? I move from these fictitious characters to Moses and his companions.We muse about what the experience must have been like for God to allow them to eat in His presence.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us a snapshot of your great beauty. Show us how to reach out for moments of clear serenity in our busy lives. Let us follow on that bejeweled road. We're headed to a place much more beautiful than Oz.

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