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.

Advertisements

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.

Isaiah 9

They say it’s important to remember that prophesy is not about predicting the future, it’s about declaring God’s truth. But sometimes, God’s truth is in the future, so they overlap. And it’s pretty mind blowing.

So here is a really obvious prediction of the Messiah, who will be a child born in Galilee. He will be both human (a son, a child) and God – he will be called mighty God, everlasting father, Prince of Peace.

This flows from the prediction of the invasion that will engulf the northern kingdom. You start to wonder “why does the northern kingdom even matter, Jerusalem and the temple is where it is at”. But then the Messiah will come from there and grow up there.

I’d say we are half now in the era described here. The government is still not completely on Jesus’ shoulders, that will wait the end of time. 

But we are now the people who have the joy of knowing the battle is won, and the yoke of the oppressor is gone. That us, our little old congregation in the middle of main Street, meeting on Sundays and singing ” praise him, praise him” then having morning tea. The victors in the ultimate battle against evil.

At the end of the chapter, Isaiah returns to the prediction of invasion, and how they have earned the judgment by their attitude to God. However, that prediction would have been obvious to them, they would have been well aware of the threat of the growing kingdoms around them. 

This word of hope, this prediction of eternal joy and victory, so that all the tools of war can be burned, and everything that was ruined being bought back better than before, that was the surprising bit.

Some who heard presumably believed in their hearts even though the rest of their lives were spent with things going from bad to worse. The truth of God’s victory is eternal.

May I live that joy of salvation, may it shape my decisions and my interactions.

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.

Deuteronomy 30

Choose life. 

Moses’ sermon is reaching a climax and that phrase could be a two word summary of the book. 

I love his description of the law not being hard to reach, it is on their lips, in their hearts and in their choices. For me this describes the experience of positive Christian living, what you say and do reflecting your heart and vice versa.

Their consequences are clear, blessings and curses. They are to choose life. 

I’m going to try it out as a phrase to reach for when I need wisdom or guidance. Choose life.

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 15

There need be no poor/you will always have poor.

The lord loves us and provides enough for mankind. Society will always have inequality, but we are to actively minimise it. 

Here are the rules by which all debts were to be cancelled every 7 years. God wanted all his people to do well, not a stratified society.

Beyond that, they are told to live by the spirit of being an open-handed and generous society. So to exploit the rules by being less generous because you know the 7th year approaches is a sin. 

And servants are to be allowed the choice to be free. They are all descended from slaves, their society cannot support involuntary slavery. Think how that must have affected the life of servants every day, knowing that they could be free after 7 years.

God’s vision of society is just and generous. We were all slaves. All we have comes from him, we aren’t to hoard it or lord it.

Numbers 35

This continues a list of living arrangements for the holy land. It’s a grace filled chapter.

The priests are the chosen of the chosen. They don’t have their own land but are spread out among the people in a way that anticipates modern theology of the priesthood of all believers.

It’s God’s way of influencing: the salt that gives flavour.

And refuge cities are dotted though the land where accidental killers, manslaughterers, may shelter from legalised vengence.

Commentator mentioned how God as refuge is a theme, and how much in common the idea of a refuge City has with Jesus.

God is just there nibbling away at people, being there as part of life, being salt in conversations and somewhere to go for refuge. It’s a good picture of how he wants us to live.

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.

 

 

 

Leviticus 19

Many of these rules are beautiful.

We’ve got equality, fairness, compassion, social welfare, kindness to the disabled, anti-discrimination rules, generally against hate and superstition.

This was radical. We were reminded in the last chapter of the deity Moloch for whom children were apparently sacrificed, this God is not like that. Similarly, it might seem obvious in this chapter to tell parents not to make their daughters prostitutes, but that refers to temple practises of the local religions and was seen as a religious thing to do.  These rules are dramatically different.

Its a picture of a really great society.  Jesus blessed and adopted all this stuff for us when he quoted this chapter and said loving your neighbour one of the two greatest commandments, along with loving god. Love love love, love is all you need. And he told a parable to extend the Israelite concept of neighbour to anyone.

The latter half of the chapter is about not mixing in with the culture, fashion and practices of canaan where they will be settling. This section has the often quoted example of a dumb Leviticus rule, the one about not wearing a shirt with two types of fabric. Those rules seem a lot more arbitrary to us now.  Though the gist of not being a slave to fashion, or taking your cues entirely from the society around you is still relevant to christians.