2 Chronicles 5

The dedication of the temple in Jerusalem.

The ark and the other bits and pieces dedicated by king David, who never got to build the temple, are bought in.

The contents of the ark seem a bit vague. Here its the stone tablets given to Moses, with the law carved in them by God hand.

But elsewhere it’s said also to have a jar of mana, the food God caused to appear on the exodus trip, and the staff of Aaron, which showed God’s power to the Pharaoh so he would let the Israelites go.

Anyway, I suppose no one dared look inside to check, it had a habit of killing those who mistreated it.

All the priests are present for the dedication of the temple, they usually served in shifts.

Music, sacrifices, and then at the height of the proceedings a cloud of God appears. He has made the temple his home, he is present.

The cloud is so rich they have to stop and leave. The glory of God filled the house of God.

This account is written for later generations of Jews who were rebuilding the temple after Jerusalem was gutted and it was destroyed. It wasn’t as grand. I should check whether the cloud appeared a second time. ( Ezra 6… No)

It’s struck me as more remote for God than we are used to. We are used to him speaking conversationally with Moses, and directly to David, or to him though prophets.

But this is a big public miracle, a sign for the people. It’s how he appeared in the days of the exodus, the pillar of cloud led them though the wilderness.

God has come home. It’s not all of him, the last thing Solomon said was that he could not be contained in a temple. But he is present.

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2 Chronicles 3

Descriptions of the temple, emphasising its stupendous size, opulence and decoration.

I was touched again by the location of it, so featured in chronicles, on the site of David’s repentance for his error of pride in taking a census of the people.

The two great pillars at the entry are called Jakin and Boaz, names that mean “he establishes” and “in him is strength”.

I read the ultimate sequel to that moment just recently at the end of Jeremiah. It was dispassionately listing the plunder of Jerusalem by Babylon, the destruction of the temple, but got poignant when these two massive bronze pillars were melted down. Gone never to return.

Born of repentance, this glorious edifice existed to witness prophesy replacing monarchy, to point from mans glory to God’s glory, his king, his temple his splendor.

1 Chronicles 25

The musicians for the temple. Reflecting a modern church where the music is as important as the other ministry roles.

Certainly music was made for praising God, reaching for the divine, bonding communities.

They were divided into 24 bands of 12 musicians and played twice during the 48 week yearly cycle, like the other priests.

I wonder what it was like being completely unmusical and being born into the music priestly families. Your calling is determined by clan, not talent. Maybe that’s why the Psalmist wrote ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’

Deuteronomy 26

When the Israelites come to the promised land there is to be a year of tithe. 

The harvest after 3 years is the first fruits, 10% is to be collected before anything else and given to God, recognising that the land, their freedom, came from him. 

Then Moses reminds the people to follow all the rules with all their heart and soul to be blessed in high honour by God.

The have been so many rules over the last 10 or so chapters, some are more beautiful than we can manage today, in terms of the way they would demolish the effects of inequality in society. Others seem completly crazy today.

But this message:  acknowledge God as the source of all we have, love him and receive his love. This lives. 

It feels like the moment for an amen.

Deuteronomy 5

Obedience. Moses recounts the drama of the fire and darkness out of which God spoke and gave the ten commandments, which he quotes in full.

I was struck by the universal, profound nature of them. Not killing, stealing, taking your neighbours property. I mean the are very very ancient rules, we haven’t progressed beyond acknowledging them as true, and regularly breaking them, in 1000s of years. They are still an accurate mirror of our ideals and weakness.

He recounts how right the reaction of the people was. They were overwhelmed at hearing God’s voice, they were afraid to see him. They backed off and let Moses complete the interaction.

He calls them to have this respect again, to the law, to the words of God. He’s reminding them that the law came from the living God who is awesome and that is why it should be obeyed.

Leviticus 23

 

Finally a somewhat more sunny chapter, even if it is still all just legislation, rules rules rules. These are the ones about times. It sets up the sabbath, day of rest, and festivals.

Interestingly some of these are called rules forever… an acknowledgment that many of the specific levitical rules will pass away over time.  I was reminded of this hearing Ivanka Trump’s praise of her adopted practise of sabbath. These are some of the rules that have stayed.

I miss not working on sundays, I must say. It was a thing when I was young, but then theology came through that the day of rest was like heaven or something, not literal.  But I used to like the special day idea. I did get nervous and legalistic about it a bit though, I recall as a child worrying about the limits of what I should do.

I wrote a song about colour, about God making the colours and us losing them.  The creation of special moments in our existence is a very spiritual thing, a very human thing, to be cherished. I think the buzz wordy mindfulness movement is a yearning for this spirituality.

Harvest is a time to remember gods goodness. They are reminded to offer the first to god, and leave some in the field for poor and immigrants.

Festival of reconciliation, sounds like the scapegoat day.  Fasting and prayer and a communal meal.

Festival of booths. Seems to be an end of harvest one week holiday.  The booths are little huts they make and stay in for the duration, to remember the time in the wilderness and delivery from egypt.

Gotta love festivals. I was in a cathedral choir when I was young and we always sang this jolly anthem for harvest… still comes to mind.  You visit the earth and bless it, you crown the year with goodness. Simple moment of gratitude from created to creator.

 

Exodus 35

Most of the remaining chapters of exodus detail the building of the tabernacle. God designed it in detail on the mountain for Moses’ ears, and even choose his supervising craftsmen. Now everyone who remains after the traumatic golden calf affair gets to start again working together on the tent where God will meet with them. It’s like taking Moses’ personal faith and extending it to the whole nation, since he already meets with God in a tent.

There’s an obvious excitement and joy in doing fine work for the lord. Giving and making.

My church is very good in this, a doing church.

Esther 2

The search is on for a beautiful young virgin for the king of Persia. Scene moves to Mordecai’s house, and his notably beautiful cousin Esther. They are both displaced Jews.

Esther is taken into the King’s harem. Turns out she is really good at what you need to learn… She takes the eunuch’s advice as to what to say and how to behave. After a year of beauty school, she is the King’s chosen.

I find this a wonderfully mind blowing story about serving your purpose on earth by doing what you do do well. Esther is a born beauty queen.

Meanwhile Mordecai is all ears, obviously concerned about Esther he becomes a palace obsessive, hanging round and hearing what he can. In addition to scraps of info about Esther, he uncovers a plot to kill the king, which Esther brings to the King. The plot is foiled and Esther’s stakes go sky high.

There is still a sense of “where is god going with this?” It’s in the Bible so you bring to it the expectation that it must be about him. So god is at work in the petty and relatively unholy daily activities of those who never give him a second thought? I love it. Like the old hymn says, god is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.

Ezra 3

Joy and weeping mingled

The religious ceremonies recommence, after a 7 month settling in period. They are wary of what surrounding people will think, but are compelled to carry on anyway. The use an altar similar to the one Moses had.

The foundations of the new temple are laid, with the cry that God is good and his love endures forever, amid joy and weeping. The weeping is from those who remember the old temple. They are mourning what happened, letting God down and bring exiled, or sad because the new one will not be as grand. In the distance the sounds are not distinguishable.

Nothing more to be said about the poignancy of that. God is good, his love does endure, and life, even within his plan for it, is sometimes sucky.

Nehemiah 5

Reeling as we are at the moment with revelations about the betrayal of children by religious leaders, and the ascendency of a brutish egomaniac like Donald Trump, it’s easy to forget what truly inspiring leadership looks like. Unless you read Nehemiah 5. He sets the example. When he eventually made governor, he shares the perks of office liberally with the poor. He shames the business operators who are trying to profit from their community in a way that weakens it. They have nothing to say, they fall into line. And it is all inspired by his personal love of God. Looking at cultivating a sense of mission in life, this is most inspiring.