1 Chronicles 1

A list chapter, I looked at the commentary daring them to find anything to say about it, they found plenty.

One quote compared it to the emotional effect of a walk though a graveyard, a blur of old names, provoking thoughts of your own identity and mortality.

It dates from Ezra’s time, when the exiled Israelites were allowed to return home and set about restoring their broken culture.

So the lineages were very important to remind themselves of their grand history, plus the religion relied on tribal groups, so it’s vital work for that context.

It also emphasises the connectedness of humanity under the hand of God. Their captors, their enemies, their friends brothers and sisters, all branches of the lines of Adam, Abraham, Noah and the patriarchs. God blessed many nations other than theirs, his plans are both broad and specific. He’s always there, working though it all.

So there’s a lot in a list. The names of past forbears tell you where you came from, yet the fact that they are forgotten tells you about where you most likely be going to as well. Their lives meant no more or less than yours.

It gives you perspective. Grounds us in time and God in eternity.

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Jeremiah 42

Right so has Judah learned it’s lesson? Find out in tomorrow’s exciting episode!

Infighting within the depleted remnant of Judah has blown apart the order that the Babylonian conquerors put in place. When you are occupied Poland, you don’t want to make the Nazis angry.

The plan is to run away to Egypt before the Babylonian rulers find out and seek retribution.

They know enough to ask Jeremiah at least. And he says”no”. After 10 days God’s voice comes to him, Egypt will mean death, they must stay and face the music.

Will they? See chapter 43, presumably.

“Everything happens for a reason” people say, but when similar situations come up again, have you learned from life? Does the scar tissue of life teach us to pray or harden us to get deeper into trusting our own judgement as we grow older?

Jeremiah 29

Bit of a jump forward, many people are now in exile in Babylon. Jeremiah writes a letter to them telling them to relax, put down roots, marry, get jobs etc. It’s going to last 70 years. It’s God’s will.

He criticises more bolshe prophets who are saying it’s not God’s will and should be resisted. It might be popular, but they are lying, they haven’t had a word from God on it.

This sets me thinking about politics. I’m more towards the progressive end of things. I often find messages of resistance appealing.

In Australia we get Christians saying “resisting laws about gay marriage is God’s will” which I would regard as a futile and unjust conservative mission. Or “we need to legislate carbon emissions to fit climate change” which I do think is an appropriate thing for Christians to stand for.

Jeremiah didn’t like his message. In my favourite verse in the book so far he said it burned in his bones. I don’t conclude that we need to studiously avoid politics in our faith, but we need to be aware that it is an area for tolerance.

Jeremiah 11

Jeremiah has a pattern of hope to hopelessness. God starts saying how the people could fix their relationship with him, but then says they won’t.

Here its done with the covenant. He reminds them of it, says that they could still obey him, then says they never have and never will. He emphasises how long it’s been since then, and how now they have “more Gods than cities”.

Proceeding further into the heart of darkness, God reveals to Jeremiah in a poetic section a plot to take his life. For speaking God’s word! The chapter ends with dire predictions of what will become of the plotters.

It’s a chapter of God’s speaking to Jeremiah, not him to the people, except the poetic section in his voice.

Judgement isn’t a big part of theology day to day in churches. Sure is a huge theme of the old testament though.

Though it’s more like a sort a tagging of God’s direction. This book is the five minutes to midnight before Babylon takes Jerusalem – it’s tagging Babylon as God’s agents.

When AIDS hit there were Christians who tagged that as God’s judgement. And there is a way that any death can be seen that way. But we don’t get to do the tagging.

And it’s different now anyway that Jesus has come. That was just an exercise in cruelty.

Isaiah 37

King Hezekiah consults Isaiah about the Assyrian threat. Isaiah knows God’s mind, that the Assyrians won’t take Jerusalem. Indeed he knows the specific fate of the Assyrian envoy: he’ll die at his son’s hands.

He also knows a great pruning of Israel is coming from which only a shadow will survive, which he also refers to in his poetic response. And he is aware that even the Assyrians’ victories are God given, for all their arrogance.

We get a great affirmation of Jehovah above idols of wood and stone. There is an image of the people born in other countries being like weak doomed grass that takes root on the roof, which I found very poignant.

The story set me thinking about the relationship between knowing God’s mind and prayer.

The people and the king pray that God will hear the taunts of Assyria and act. Hezekiah is answered in those terms “God has heard your prayer”.  But Isaiah knows God’s mind all along.

People tear their clothes in fear and despair when they hear of the Assyrian threat because they know it might be God’s judgement, or maybe because they don’t believe God is really in control of such a fierce force of evil.  They ask for help, and this time they get it in terms they asked.

When the Babylonians returned less than a generation later, not so much.

God always responds like God. A bit like Jesus’ random encounters during his ministry… A catastrophic tower collapse may be talk of the day, or he may be at a wedding with inadequate catering, see a dead fig tree or meet a sick person.

And he thinks presumably “what would Jesus do”? And his responses fit the moment and the larger plan of salvation, and teach us til today about the nature of God.  And it answers prayers then and now. It doesn’t really make a difference if its random or part of a master plan, because it all sings a consistent tune.

God is the same in the minutiae and in the grandeur, in the fleeting moment and in the millennia.

Because his truth and his character are eternal, unchanging. And he loves our faith, our prayer.

Isaiah 23

Isaiah has a vision of the fate of Tyre. It’s perhaps the ultimate meditation on sheer materialism. They had no great political power, but were the merchant hub of the ancient world. David and Solomon had a fond relationship with them as the source of the timber for the temple. 

But their wealth can’t protect them. It is all God’s.

I live in a society obsessed with wealth, comfortable with social stratification based on wealth more than I can ever recall. 

Earning power is seen as the ultimate moral measure. If you earn more, you deserve for everything to be better. 

I need to inject God’s sensibility into my relations with poor people, giving them dignity and treating them as equals. If I share my relative prosperity, I am not being generous. 

The fact that I’ve been given discretion over the use of the material possessions I have does not imply that they are mine, they are God’s and my influence over anything is an example of God’s mercy.

Pray for wisdom and mindfulness. My money is not mine to waste.

1 Kings 1

Kings starts with lots of politics over the succession to David who is old and weak.

God is only referred to late in the chapter when David finally speaks and names the God who saved him from every adversity as the source of Solomon’s entitlement to be named the true successor.

The old warrior poet hit just the right note to bring authority into the room. That David got to be an old man is a wonder of God’s power.

Then as Solomon is crowned and anointed a servant Benaniah calls down a blessing, that God will make Solomon’s throne greater than David’s.

So Kings starts on a high, with the chosen nation within God’s plan. God’s choice of king, not the oldest which human succession would appoint.

And I start at a point of self exploration. I’ve been re reading a lot of the entries of this blog to do summaries, and wondering at 55 years of age and 2 years into my job what a “next” might be, if there is one, and what are my priorities.

My expections for kings are low. I’ve been putting off reading it. I recall it as a repetitive and sad book. But I had forgotten about Solomon.

Will my spiritual journey and the arbitrary discipline for reading God’s word I have set myself connect?  Find out in the next thrilling episodes!

… And bless this undertaking, father!

Deuteronomy 23

Restrictions on citizenship, rules for cleanliness around camp, treatment of slaves and sharing been Israelites.

God wants Israel distinct, compassionate, generous. Slaves who came to them would be freed. You could eat freely from each others farms, and loans were always to be no interest.

Considering how God treats me, I pray I can be like this too.

Deuteronomy 7

My God can be terrifying God from the perspective of being one of his people. 

Here Moses describes how will root out the stronger people in the land and put in the weaker Israelites, making them strong. But if they don’t obey him, the same fate awaits them.

God is a gardener. We don’t hesitate to pull out annuals that have done flowering. Some plants we feed, others we prune, some we remove. The gardener knows that is best for the garden. The gardener’s plans are for the garden to thrive and survive and for it to be something the current garden can’t imagine being. 

We didn’t actually make the plants in our garden, or the dirt or the sun or the water. Yet we are the masters of its fate. But God made us and our world. 

Contemplating the idea that you are a creation is a shocking idea if you are used to the idea that you are god of yourself. But God has completly the right to act that way.

The process of taking the holy land is often understandably disparaged as racial cleansing. But God makes it clear here that it is not because of racial superiority that he chose the Israelites. It’s because of his plans, not their worth. 

I’m not a Jew, but I believe Jesus, who was, was also God and died for me. This is part of the story of God’s love for all mankind. It’s not racial.

He knew the number of hairs on the head of every one of the “ites” who were already in Canaan. He formed them, knew them and loved them in the womb.  Like plants in a garden, they will all eventually die, but that does not mean they are not known and loved. We love and enjoy our plants, but we didn’t make them. How much more would we if we had.

The people he desired to make way for the Israelites are in his hands. The God I see here, the one I was inspired by the last chapter to love with all my heart, is an all mighty, all powerful God of love and kindness.

Deuteronomy 3

The are lots of events in the narrative of God’s salvation that are unique. Like Jesus for instance: the aren’t lots of messiahs. Or the apostles. There are lots of disciples, followers, but only 12 apostles, just as God’s people are innumerable but the are only 12 tribes of Israel.

And the Israelites’ miraculous military conquest, which Moses tells the start of in this chapter, is in that category, a one off part of the salvation story. God was on their side, they embodied his timing and his judgment, like a natural disaster.  They won every fight that God sanctioned, and left to their own strength, lost every one he didn’t.

My point is we can’t now say in every war “whose side is God on” and we can’t imply it was the winners. These wars were unique, and God actually hates most war.

So Moses witnesses, before he dies, and demonstrates for Joshua the new leader, the power of God that will deliver the holy land to them. But it is for land on the Egypt side of the Jordan. He can’t cross.

So we see God’s relationship with Moses as a powerful leader, but also God’s judgment on Moses flaws and the rebellion of the people because he can only be granted the sight of the promised land from a mountain overlooking it. Others will claim it. 

One of the Bible’s most wistful moments, Moses looking at the promised land. 

He probably revisited as he looked out the day he pretended to be God.  As a prophet he was to speak God’s truth, but he took the opportunity of God giving them water to make it like his agency was part of the miracle, and he gave them a piece of his mind, not God’s.