2 Chronicles 6

Ok I’ve been a bit cynical about the temple as a second best effort, a stage towards God’s full revelation of himself as a god who lives in our hearts, not in buildings.

But Solomon’s dedication prayer here is very impressive. He really gets it.

God is still out there, in the highest heavens, but the cloud of his presence shows that his name is also at the temple.

It’s a place for contact, for asking for forgiveness and mercy. Solomon has built the greatest house for God he can, but he knows it can’t contain him, he’s proud of the building no doubt, but knows it’s a place to be humble before God.

And he’s generous. I criticised him a few chapters ago for using a foreign slave labour force to build it. But he invites all people, all nations to share in God’s blessing, not at all exclusive.

If the Jews ever wanted to keep God to themselves, i think it would be now. They’ve been saved from slavery, given a land, nationhood, a holy city, they are top of the economic heap, wildly prosperous, and now they have a temple for the one true God.

But no, he sees it as a blessing to all nations, God is God of the whole earth.

The theology is very tied to earthly rewards. It’s easy to think that way when you are rich and healthy.

He imagines various scenarios, like famine, war, falling into captivity, sickness. He says that will happen because of sin, and tells them to direct their prayers to the temple, and if God hears he will fix it.

Well as things develop, for the rest of the old testament, this doesn’t work, and the poets, philosophers and prophets are left to develop and write a down an understanding of God that is less neat, that includes delayed reward and God sanctioned hardship.

It’s also deeper, more wonderful, bigger than this.

But Solomon really gets repentance. He gets that it all goes back to the need to acknowledge the evil and rebellion in our own hearts, that everyone is in the same boat before God on that score.

It’s a beautiful dedication prayer. It’s Monday and I’m pumped for the week.

How many more chapters before we start to slide downhill outside the comfort zone, where everything they have believed is challenged and lost?

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1 Chronicles 22

David all but builds the temple. The lavish building materials must have made depressing reading for the post exile Jews. They weren’t in a position to get 4 thousand tons of gold, 40 thousand tons of silver, and unlimited bronze. The bronze is mentioned twice.

Now we get judgement on the killing David did. He fought many many wars which are blandly noted in Samuel and Chronicles. At times he was a mercenary, this poet come killing machine. But here he mentions that it is one of the reasons God didn’t let him build the temple. He was judged after all.

I was also struck by rounding up foreigners and making them work on the temple. The good treatment of foreigners, not oppressing them because of the memory of Israel’s own slavery in Egypt, is mentioned 36 times in the books of the law. I saw it, didn’t David?

Moses didn’t get the promised land, Cain killed Able, Jacob cheated Isaac, Solomon built the temple and john the baptist pointed to Jesus. The constant deferment, moving to the second plan in the Bible. It makes sure it didn’t coalesce until Jesus.

But it’s also the result of sin.

I’m in a funk, poor focus at work. The instability is getting to me. I’ve come into a time of uncertainty, I’m no good at opportunism, I have no taste for it.

Fortunately I’m getting a fellow worker, someone to supervise. That will be an improvement, keep me focused.

I really want to do a good job, and I can imagine what a better job would look like but can’t summon up the energy to do it. I’ve been in this place many times before in my life!

It’s a kind of overthinking, a kind of pride I think. Just do what you can. Be normal. People like normal!

God can redeem the mess made by our sin, build it into his plans. Ask forgivness and move on. Do what can be done today.

1 Chronicles 10

After nine chapters of genaeology, we get to historical narrative.

It’s the story of the death of king Saul, he killed himself when all was lost after his sons were killed in a battle with the Philistines.

No hint as is told in Samuel of what a beautiful soul Jonathon was.

The emphasis here is that his line ended, snuffed out in a single battle. It’s described as God’s punishment for not being faithful to the Lord particularly for looking for guidance from the spirit world.

Definately the headline version, given what a tortured soul he was, and the epic and unusual struggle between him and David.

David’s faithfulness in that story made it spiritual, made it about Saul and God, because David would not fight. He’s a big part of the reason there is no ambiguity about Saul’s sin.

1 Chronicles 9

In answer to the last entry, this now lists the families from Judah and Benjamin who returned to Jerusalem. Levite priests too, plus some details of where people were and what their roles were.

I don’t know what the significance of the post exile Jerusalem was in the greater story. I mean it is part of establishing that Jesus is the longed for Messiah. I suppose none of the prophesy could have been fulfilled but for that…

I remember talks from when I was young that God may have some remaining plan for Jewish people specially, some things Paul says maybe.

Jeremiah 40

Jeremiah is freed.

The Babylonian soldier who frees Jeremiah sees God’s hand in it all, reminds me of the soldier at the cross. The contrast with the people’s refusal of God’s warnings of judgement is pretty stark. The soldier gives him a present and supplies and the choice of where he will go, Babylon or stay.

In a move straight from Machiavelli, the Babylonian king gives fields and properties to some of the poorest locals, and Jeremiah stays among them.

Judeans who have been outcasts in local countries, a bit like David was for a time, or Ruth, come to live around the ruins of Jerusalem, and prosper.

Indeed there has been a consistent strain of social justice through Jeremiah – God’s message is to the common folk, the vulnerable, over the heads of the rulers, telling them not to die for the cause. They are the lightest judged.

Its consistent with the vision God had for the holy land in the Torah, Isiah’s picture or the misfits and outcasts returning and Jesus’ ‘first shall be last’ vision of heaven.

The leader Gedaliah has clearly been listening to Jeremiah because he sends a message telling the exiles to live out their time in exile peacefully and to put down roots. The chapter ends suspensefully with a plot to kill him. The book is not all prophesy, it’s quite a history book at the moment.

It reminds me somewhat of the end of WALL-E when humans return to Earth.

The is a consistent beauty and continuity of the blessed land, producing wine and plenty.

The loop is closed, Joshua pushed out the Canaanites, and now the chosen people are pushed out. God was indeed on neither side, but the land remains his sacred and blessed creation.

Isaiah 21

Here prophesies are called “burdens”, which is evocative. Isiah just wakes up one day and has to unburden himself of all this stuff. It’s hard to follow. Maybe he found it hard to follow too.

At the moment his scenes are all about attacks on neighbouring countries, what are you gonna do? 

These seem to be three “out of the frying pan into the fire” prophesies. 

For Babylon, of whom Isaiah’s country lives in complete terror, he sees the Persians overrunning them. Ok, that’s more “there’s always a bigger fish” maybe.

His chaotic vision for their neighbour Edom seems to be “don’t relax” night will be followed by morning, then night again.

He sees refugees who tried to escape an attack on Arabia in a worse position, starving and dying.

The larger theme of all these burdens seems to be “it was always thus”. The bullies now will later be bullied. It’s a way of softening the blow that Israel will feel God has deserted them. Their status as chosen people meant God literally intervened in the flow of politics and military victors to elevate and protect them. 

But now the prophets are reinterpreting what it means to be his chosen people. They are entering the game of thrones, and will lose for a while.

But such is how God manages the corruption of the human race. No one group has too much power for too long, is too dominant. It’s the judgement of the tower of Babel.

Having a crazy busy week, feeling acutely the sense that I keep letting everything slip through my fingers, especially the family. I feel so ineffectual.

Pauses to pray.

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.

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. ┬áMoses 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.