1 Kings 4

List chapter, all of Solomon’s officials, his daily provisions. The people are indeed as numerous as the sand by the sea… Not quite the choice of words of God’s promise to Abraham that they would be as numerous as the stars.

They eat and drink and have military might that gives them dominion over the entire region. That is pretty much “flowing with milk and honey” as promised, if a little less poetic.

God makes an appearance as the source of Solomon’s wisdom. His fame spreads and he’s recognised as the wisest man “of anyone”. He composes 1000 songs and 3000 proverbs.

God’s wisdom flows to material blessing.

I’m still wondering what we learn from Israel’s golden era. Do things have to go wrong for God to be needed? How do we stay focused on God in the good times? Praying for wisdom is a start.

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1 Kings 2

David dies and Solomon “consolidates his reign” per the heading in my transition… Gets rid of opposition.

David tells him to live for and follow the law, and to be strong and courageous, which is what Moses said to Joshua. 

Solomon acts as a king should, he removes his disloyal brother who is still plotting to be king and clearly won’t stop. And his priest and army captain. This stabilises his reign and guarantees a period of peace. 

The thrust of it is that the right outcome, God’s, has happened. But I know in the background that God never wanted them to have kings, its a second best plan. 

I have a sense of fresh dedication to things. Perhaps it’s spring. I want to wrap up a few messy loose ends that I have allowed to roll on too long. Give me wisdom. May I be strong and courageous.

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 10

The God of second chances.

Moses recounts how God made a second set of tablets for the ten commandments, after the first were smashed by him.

God’s forgiveness and sticking to his promise was for Moses an overwhelming insight into his goodness.  Moses marvels at God’s love for the weak, as they were a band of 70 who went to Egypt, and now as promised, as numerous as the stars.

In response, he tells his listeners to circumcise their hearts. For Moses is not a cultural religion, it’s not about the ritual, it’s about heartfelt gratitude for God’s goodness.

Numbers 31

A few chapters ago God used a plague to bring judgement on the Israelites. But now God uses Israel to destroy the Midianites, maybe so that all the other nations along the path to canaan will know they are chosen and steer clear.

This sad story is a sequel to the scenes in 23-25 of the Moab King and Baalam the diviner/prophet who kept telling the King that God was with the Israelites and he should not try to fight them or it would be their doom.

The king seemed to have deliberately tried – with some success – to break down the Israelite’s religion with their own particular belief system that seemed to involve casual sex with attractive women.

Its hard to contemplate all those ancient lives.  Human souls as precious as anyone. What sort of lives did they have those temple prostitutes?

Were there any among those destroyed who God loved? Balaam was killed. He was a prophet for hire, but he spoke glorious words about God.  Surely there were others who knew at least moments of blessing we didn’t even hear about. That is between god and each person.  But their time on earth was over, and the Israelites dealt the blow.

The habits of war was to take all the women children and treasure as spoils for the victors, which the Israelites did, not focussing on the fact that they were being instruments of god’s judgement, not a conquering army.

They weren’t victors, they were supposed to be more like a destructive force of nature: a plague, flood, earthquake or old age. Literally an act of God. They weren’t to profit from it.

So the rest of the chapter is an awkward and unsatisfactory compromise to return the spoils to God, including the humans, some of whom are even allowed to live a bit longer, in a way that is as fair as can be in the circumstances.  Plan B, second best, God getting into the messiness of disobedience.

 

 

 

Numbers 20

A turning point chapter of generational change. Many years of wandering have passed and the Israelites have made no actual progress to the promised land. They are back where they were in chapter 13.

It’s the place they believed the crushing report from the holy land spies and rejected the promise of it.

It’s a great symbol of a life spent in movement but not progress.

Miriam dies, the prophetess who sang after they crossed the Red sea. Aaron dies, and the priesthood passes seamlessly to his son.

Moses losses patience. We see pride and anger in this most humble of men.

The people grumble about water, and God wants to provide it from a rock, as he did in Exodus when he had Moses strike the rock with his staff. But this time, God wants Moses just to ask the water to come out.

In fact when Moses gathers the people he gives them an earful. God didn’t ask for this. Moses sort of whinges that he and God have to fix the problem yet again. And he strikes the rock twice, when he wasn’t supposed to strike it at all. He was supposed to be involved less this time, but Moses instead does more.

God provides the water because the people need it. But he is disappointed in Moses, acting like he has a part in God’s blessing, and taking a combative tone that was detracting from the generosity of it. He’s trying to take the limelight from God.

The commentator I read pointed out that water from the rock is a powerful picture for Jesus.

Moses flaws are on view here. He’s had a long life with many frustrations. They are understandable. He’s been the leader of a truly boneheaded people. His time is passing. It’s time for the newer generation to start the final journey to the promised land.

But those images from this chapter, of a life of action without spiritual progress, of a frustrated spiritual leader who starts to confuse himself with God, those pictures are keepers.

Keep me humble father, and moving towards you.

Genesis 48

Death of Jacob/Israel. 

I must do a new tag to identify the theme of the “blessed second”. Jacob tricked dying Isaac into blessing himself, the younger, as the older. Now he deliberately and knowingly repeats the scene as he dies with two of Jacob’s sons, giving the blessing of his right hand to the younger, ephraim, not the first born.

God shows his strength by exalting the lesser. Jacob, who had this habit of being in struggling, furious agreement with God, tricked his way into seizing the blessing of the second for himself. The wrong means, when he should have had faith. But the end was a godly insight.

He shares with Joseph the promise God made him if return to Canaan. He can see now, as he reviews his life before death, god’s hand everywhere. Promises kept and promises to come. 

Yesterday I wanted to reclaim god’s plans for me. I can strengthen that by remembering what he’s done for me already.