Deuteronomy 7

My God can be terrifying God from the perspective of being one of his people. 

Here Moses describes how will root out the stronger people in the land and put in the weaker Israelites, making them strong. But if they don’t obey him, the same fate awaits them.

God is a gardener. We don’t hesitate to pull out annuals that have done flowering. Some plants we feed, others we prune, some we remove. The gardener knows that is best for the garden. The gardener’s plans are for the garden to thrive and survive and for it to be something the current garden can’t imagine being. 

We didn’t actually make the plants in our garden, or the dirt or the sun or the water. Yet we are the masters of its fate. But God made us and our world. 

Contemplating the idea that you are a creation is a shocking idea if you are used to the idea that you are god of yourself. But God has completly the right to act that way.

The process of taking the holy land is often understandably disparaged as racial cleansing. But God makes it clear here that it is not because of racial superiority that he chose the Israelites. It’s because of his plans, not their worth. 

I’m not a Jew, but I believe Jesus, who was, was also God and died for me. This is part of the story of God’s love for all mankind. It’s not racial.

He knew the number of hairs on the head of every one of the “ites” who were already in Canaan. He formed them, knew them and loved them in the womb.  Like plants in a garden, they will all eventually die, but that does not mean they are not known and loved. We love and enjoy our plants, but we didn’t make them. How much more would we if we had.

The people he desired to make way for the Israelites are in his hands. The God I see here, the one I was inspired by the last chapter to love with all my heart, is an all mighty, all powerful God of love and kindness.

Numbers 16

This feels like the sequel to chapter 14 where the people reached a low point and wished they never left Egypt.

The leaders of the rebellion are swallowed up by the earth. So there is no doubt that Moses is not lording over them, the lord is. And a plague hits Israel.

Moses leadership is directly challenged and Egypt is called the land of milk and honey… They have lost hope in any future. The selective past is fertile land for populists. It’s #MIGA.. make Israel great again.

A sink hole and an epidemic. These are spiritualised and serve as a reminder that God is in control. I must remember, we all die. All born into sin. It’s about recognising God. Without him, even no disaster is a disaster. With him, no calamity is a calamity.

Leviticus 24

 

Oil lamps and temple bread. Oil burning is like the spirit of God, his presence… a hang over to high anglican churches which often have lamps in the holy end of the church.

The stoning of a blasphemer. Cursing god is still the unforgiveable sin in jesus teaching, but the stoning bit is gone, fortunately.

I suppose its related to how the system, the religion of Israel is a model of god’s perfect system. The wages of sin are death, jesus said.  For adam and eve, that meant leaving the garden, the presence of god. For the Israelites here it means literal ending of life.

A brutal lesson.

1 Samuel 28

The philistines prepare to attack the Israelites, with David, convincingly a traitor, bizarrely as the philistine king’s bodyguard.  Saul facing the enemy encampment is deserted by God and terrified.

He has banned and purged all witches and mediums. But in desperation he consults one anyway.  She summons up the spirit of Samuel.  Its all very dramatic, but spirit Samuel doesn’t say anything at all remarkable or new in this scene: Saul is stuffed. He will die. He confirms Saul’s dread.

The portrait of the witch is sympathetic.  She forces him to take some food despite his refusal, she goes above and beyond in generosity.

God is supernatural after all.  She may have been faking Samuel’s appearance, but it may have been real, doesn’t really matter. As so often the message from the other side is the same as the message on this side.  The wise men found Jesus by astrology. It works, and sometimes its the only religion people know.

I think issue with mediums is not always that they are fake, its that its an unnecessary way to approach the supernatural that avoids god’s spirit.  Like a back door to the spiritual for people avoiding God.  God is in our hearts, just pray! I’m sure the devil is happy to talk with people attracted to him, but his overriding aim is your destruction.

Saul is in denial.  When confronted, we’ve seen him acknowledge David’s state of grace and bless it, but rebellion against God’s choice keeps overwhelming him.

It is tempting to see it as unfair that God deserted him even though he so desperate for spiritual guidance. But I don’t think God deserted him.

He’s literally living the old “two ways to live” pamphlet they used to hand out: he’s clinging to his kingship, and denying God’s. It’s not that he doesn’t know God’s will, he just doesn’t like it. So he keeps asking, like there might be a different answer if he asks a different way.

Its a good idea when tempted to pray “why won’t you answer me God?” to ask yourself if in truth he already has.

Two great sinners, David and Saul.  Only one has truth in his heart.

 

 

Ezra 4

The surrounding nations presumably don’t like the regional power shift of Jerusalem becoming viable again. Their plot to stop it first involves offering to join the efforts, to hopefully make it lose its racial flavor. Then they run interference, bribing officials to frustrate and slow down progress. Finally they write directly to the king.

It is actually not hard to sympathise with the opposition. Their assessment that a strong Jerusalem would be bad for them could be entirely fair. Their letter to the king is effective because it’s not really slanderous, it tells the new king to check out the history of Jerusalem for himself, and he finds a history of trouble and shuts down the work.

The only thing that stops it being an entirely predictable and reasonable power struggle is that it is god’s plan that Jerusalem should be rebuilt. And god is love. It’s god’s long term plan of love for the world that they have inadvertently stumbled upon and blocked.

I think this is a good passage to remember when we find opposition in the world to get confidence to carry on. As the blues brothers said, we’re on a mission from God. Christians today get a seige mentality, and think of opposition as the forces of evil to be destroyed. But they are only behaving as we should expect. Beating them is not the mission directly, our response should be faith based and between us and God. A refocusing on our mission. Like how David, in times of crisis, would go into the presence of God and be restored.

 

Luke 9

The disciples go out in faith – taking nothing for the journey. If they go hungry and without a place to sleep, that is the fault of the town. Their faith makes others also be expected to have faith.

Is time for Jesus to make a big noise… And herod, who we are reminded beheaded John, starts to get reports.

Another big splash, feeding the 5000. The disciples assume it’s a bad thing when the crowds come but Jesus says it’s good. Reminds me of the bridegroom parable… Jesus says his time is party time.

The miracles are all a bit like the first miracle… Making wine from water, Abbott generosity… Feeding and healing. The twist is that it’s designed to get him killed. Jesus is deeply ironic but compassionately so. He wouldn’t make bread for himself while starving when he was tempted, but here he makes baskets left over. Like the first shall be last, listening and not hearing, the bridegroom has to die sacrificially.

Big credential chapter… Who do they/ you say I am? His true identity, messiah, is still a secret for now.

Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) One of my favourite ever verses.

The transfiguration is followed by images of failure and illustrations of the toughness of following Christ. Its hard edged. The disciples deeply don’t get it, and this is not spared. I missed the example of them being rebuked for calling down fire on the village that wouldn’t offer them hospitality. Compare “shake the dust”, the cost response. Move on, don’t get retribution for rejection of the word.