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.


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.