Appendix 2: Poem – “Whom the Lord Loveth”

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by James M S. Tait

Numbers chapter 4

Said a discontented Levite to his brother by the way,
“What a heavy, awkward burden Aaron’s given us today!
With the scorching sun above me, and the path so rough below,
My soul is quite discouraged at the way we have to go.
Why should we Levites only be compelled such loads to bear,
While all the rest around us walk along without a care?
What are we worse than others that such evils we endure?
’Tis a hard, unequal world we exist in, to be sure!”
Then his fellow-bearer answered in a sympathetic tone,
“Yes, I know the load is heavy, and the way is rough, I own,
But do not be impatient, I beseech you, brother dear,
Nor envy those whose different lot much easier may appear.
Did God not choose us out to fill the place of first-born ones,
And shall we murmur if He now deals with us as with sons?
So far from vain repining, I should rather say ‘Rejoice’,
Since the very weight you carry manifests Jehovah’s choice,
Think not that God is cruel to you while kindly to the rest:
He often lays the heaviest load on those he loves the best.
Then mark with what considerate grace has everything been planned!
He knew the burden was too much for one alone to stand;
He hung it therefore on a staff that each an end might bear,
And thus in loving fellowship the other’s burden share.”
“But then”, replied the younger man, “Why all this mystery?
I would not mind so much, perhaps, if only I could see
The why and wherefore of it all, and what is hid within
This ugly outer covering of coarse, dark badger-skin.”
The other gently answered, “No, ’tis not for us to pry
Into God’s mysterious providence with unanointed eye.
Our part is just to shoulder what His wisdom may assign;
Faith neither questions nor resists nor doubts the will Divine.
God often wraps His purpose round that none can comprehend
What the meaning of the burden is until the journey’s end;
But when the staves are then laid down, and dark veils all unfold
The heaviest load has sometimes proved a mass of shining gold.
Then let’s not weary doing well, nor think our portion hard,
But rather have our eye upon the recompense reward,
Content meantime that we should have the evil with the good –
The same decree which fixed our load fixed, too, the Levites’ food;
He who appoints the task provides the strength on which to draw –
Not as when Pharaoh asked for bricks and yet withheld the straw.
Toil on, then, pilgrim Levite, nor despise the honour given,
To bear through dusty paths on earth the priceless gold of Heaven.
Faint not, you wayworn child of God, but as you feel the weight,
Remember the eternal joy, far more exceeding great.”

(From the collection of poems by James M. S. Tait, entitled “Bells and Pomegranates”, published by John Ritchie Ltd., whose permission for the poem to be reproduced in this book is gratefully acknowledged.)