1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

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1 Chronicles 12

King Saul made David an enemy of Israel, and David refused to fight back. This is the story of how he got support to claim the throne.

Many soldiers joined him, even some who went possibly to spy on him ended up joining him. The story is told of the man who became commander of the elite ’30’, having a prophetic utterance, recognising God is on David’s side.

The structure of the narrative makes it clear he is a unifier: it goes through all the tribes, listing his support, starting with Benjamin, Saul’s tribe.

The momentum builds until he has a huge army, the people gather to him, and the is spontaneous feasting and joy, he’s that kind of guy in that kind of moment.

David followed God, and God’s plan unfolded around him.

I have a small sense of that at work, I get panicky if I try to think of the big picture, but I clearly know what would be the right thing to do moment to moment. David surrendered to God the big picture.

Jeremiah 38

This gives a very vivid picture of life in Jerusalem during the siege, low on food, everyone desperate, ignoble and turning on one another.

The City leaders, who will no doubt be the most likely to be killed by the invaders, want to lead the people down with the ship. Their identity tied up in their status, they will sacrifice every last pleb to protect it.

Jeremiah is telling them to save themselves by surrendering. He knows defeat is inevitable.

The leaders acuse Jeremiah of cowardice and sedition, and decide to let him die by putting him in an empty well.

The king is wonderfully weak. He goes along with the leaders. A brave eunuch says he can’t let Jeremiah die, he goes along with that.  He’s a reed blown in the wind.

The eunuch is the star of the story, we get the details that he takes 30 men to protect the task, and gives Jeremiah rags so he won’t get rope burns as they raise him from the well.

Chapter ends with king and J having a pathetic conversation. King is scared to surrender as he will have to face anger of others who escape.

Jeremiah tries to talk him round by saying how the wrath of his wives will be worse if he doesn’t.

King can’t decide between the most self serving of these two cowardly options and commits Jeremiah to a childish lie so no one will know they’ve been talking!

Though all the madness, Jeremiah sticks to God’s message, even when faced with death, and the only people who cover themselves with glory are those who acknowledge his sincerity.

Don’t let crisis distract you, charge ahead with what is right.

Jeremiah 20

Rock bottom

Jeremiah is put in the stocks and beaten, probably whipped, by one of the priests. His humiliation occurs in one of the most prominent parts of the city, next to the temple.

We see his pubic and private response. In public he is unmoved. He continues preaching it from the moment he is released.

Privately he is devastated. He talks about his deep desire to stop preaching, but complains that when he does the message burns in his bones.

This is my favourite part of the chapter and worth a song “burn in my bones Lord!”

He compares himself to a bride seduced under false pretences into an abusive marriage.

He really hits rock bottom with the final miserable poem about wishing he’d never been born.

The language is so extreme. He curses his father essentially for not aborting him as a fetus because if his mother’s womb had been his grave it would have been forever praised instead of cursed.

That’s someone who really wishes they hadn’t been born.

And that’s where he’s left for today. The are 30 more chapters so I’m guessing he carries on.

But it’s worth considering when you let the promptings of the holy spirit slip by, when you don’t say or do that action that would increase God’s grace in someone’s life. You aren’t the first person to ask “why me”? But the question doesn’t justify letting yourself off the hook. Unfortunately,  most likely, it is you.

Jeremiah 8

Argh, I’ve slowed right down. I’m finding Jeremiah hard work.

I started a new job, as a writer for the salvation army. So now I’m sort of doing this for a living.

On the downside, it’s less pay and only a six month contract. The salvos are restructuring in a major way, so it’s quite likely to be a real six month contract too.

But in the upside it’s work, and good work. I’m enjoying the stimulation of a culture change and writing about things I care about.

Each chapter pushes despair further.

Ever more extreme predictions of disaster… This kicks off with a vision of the bones of ancestors being disinterred and treated as rubbish.

Ever more bleak about the inability of the people to respond. This chapter compares animal’s natural instinct for self preservation to the people self destructive behaviour.

And it ends with Jeremiah’s personal pain. Messenger guilt.

I’m loving the practicality of the salvation armies response. Do what you can, one life at a time.

Jeremiah 7

Jeremiah is to live out the prophet of doom cliche.

God didn’t actually tell him him to wear a sandwich board saying “the end is nigh”. But he does tell him to stand at the gate of the temple announcing judgement on the people as they enter.

The theme again is their religious and moral hypocrisy. The Northern Israel kingdom has already fallen, but the temple in the South is the tangible place of God’s presence, and the people need to know that won’t protect them.

So his message is about Shiloh, the first place of worship in the premises land, where the 12 tribes were divided up. That was in the north and has now fallen and been abandoned by God. Just because somewhere once had God’s presence, doesn’t mean it always will.

The message continues that it is not about the people acknowledging God’s place or rituals. It’s about heartfelt obedience over time: walking in God’s way.

God then tells Jeremiah that he fully expects the people won’t listen to what he is saying, and that he is not to beg for mercy for them. He is to publicly morn them by cutting his hair.

The chapter ends ominously with God saying that the place where worship of the other Gods occurs, including where the child sacrifices are offered, will become known as the valley of slaughter, and there will be no one to bury the bodies piled up there as they are pecked by birds.

God still calls us to a life of sincere and consistent obedience. And we still prefer to rely on tokens of self righteousness rather than our calling: being good parents, working hard, maybe going to church or volunteering.

To make up for worshipping the trappings of success and power, sex or youth, and denying or failings rather than humbly recognising that we need God’s grace and building a life of obedience from there.

Jeremiah message is extreme, and repetitive. But so is our human ability to deny and ignore or creator.

Isaiah 66

Choice of destiny

The end, the very end of the book is a vision of hell for the rebellious. The choice is to be humble, acknowledging God the creator and source of truth. Or not.

Building great edifices to God does not earn his favour…. I’ve already made the heaven and the earth, he says, I don’t need more.

False hypocritical religion generally makes things worse.  It may look like you are serving him with sacrifices and religious obedience, but if it is empty, you bring upon yourself the harshest judgement.

The bulk of the chapter consists of beautiful images of God’s kingdom.

Coming into being like childbirth in eden, easy and fast and without pain.

Where God comforts and jiggles you on his knee and carries you on his hip as only one who gave birth can, like everyone’s first image of God, a mother.

Where peace is like a river, broad, unstoppable and calm, with tributaries of all nations.

But shot through this is the choice – our time on earth has eternal significance. The wicked will suffer judgement. As Wham! would say: choose life.

 

Isaiah 62

Another poem about the blessing of Jerusalem, this one talking about God’s relationship with the city.

It’s been forsaken, it’s been deserted and ruined.

Now God promises to love it enthusiastically, like a husband for a young bride.

There is a little, though not as much as in the last two chapters, of language so over the top that it seems to apply to the new Jerusalem, the new city of God spoken of in revelation, the one that is the end point of history.

This one seems as much literally about Jerusalem, which was of course restored after the exile finished.

But it also seems to apply to the current era, after Jesus but before the end times. There is a reference to other nations doing the chores while God’s people are priests, which at first seems a bit gloating, like the book believers have got their come uppance.

But God’s people are actually serving, as priests, all of us, bringing God to the world.

It is a picture of the people of God, in his kingdom, ministering to the whole earth.

This idea of me sharing Jesus servanthood is one I’ll take richly from Isaiah.

Isaiah 39

The end of the king Hezekiah story and the start of the rest of Isaiah. It’s Isaiah’s sad role to spend half his time prophesying about the Assyrians, who conquered the northern kingdom, and half the Babylonians, who conquered the South. 

What a time to be alive!

Hezekiah is given 15 more years to live and the rare knowledge of the time of his own death, and a sign from God that it is true. 

He is one of the most godly Kings, but he does not do much good with his extra time. 

He has a son who ends to being one of the worst Kings, and he actually invites the Babylonians in and brags about all his treasures to them, giving them all sorts of intelligence about the kingdom.

Worst of all perhaps when Isaiah tells him that the Babylonians will enslave his people, he is simply relieved that it will happen after he is dead. He’s sort of given up, maybe he’s burned out of the responsibility of being king.

In the last chapter he sang “The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.”

He had it right then, living in gratitude enjoying wisely and with pleasure the time you have, that is a good way to live. The number of your years is in God’s hands, your use of the time is your responsibility.

Isaiah 31

Israel is terrorised by powerful kingdoms, Assyria, Babylon, who will engulf them. They are desperately looking for solutions including an alliance with Egypt. So symbolic, the nation who enslaved them, from whom God rescued them.

One verse says it all: the power of their horses is flesh not spirit, Egypt is man not God.

They need to trust God, they need to trust God, they need to trust God.

I need to.

Continue to find what is right and do it. Don’t put my trust in salary or real estate. Spend time with those I am burdened for, my family. Share a spiritual journey with them. It’s so easy to let these other things enslave me.