1 Chronicles 3

We get to David’s sons, the princes of Israel.

Then a list of all the kings of his line.

I’ve already seen in a number of places how one of the royal line, Jehoiachin, survived in Babylonian exile after the fall of Jerusalem. This genaeology fills in the post-exile line, up presumably to the time of Ezra when they were rebuilding Jerusalem.

I suppose they could have made another Davidic king, but maybe they had lost the taste for them by then.

So that’s three chapters of lists of names…

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Jeremiah 44

Arguably Jeremiah has had a spectacularly unsuccessful ministry.

The last of the people not killed or taken into exile have run away to Egypt against his word, and they instantly take to idol worship against his word. His whole public teaching has blamed every calamity on idol worship, and yet he they are, idol worship.

His word is that they will die for their disobedience.

He keeps going, saying what God tells him to. Everything he’s said has come to pass. No one listens. He gets no response. It doesn’t stop him.

I think I would have done any number of things differently.

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 22

An extended condemnation of the king who he calls Shallum here.

He was essentially a puppet king for Egypt, and sold out Israel’s wealth to them. He was in the wrong side of history, as the Babylonians defeated Egypt.

Yes, he sold out to losers; wup wah.

He was the third last king before everything was destroyed. The last two were Babylonian puppets.

Personality wise he was a capricious murderer who had multiple incestuous relationships.

So the extreme condemnation from Jeremiah is not surprising.

There is a poignant portrait of what a good king looks like at the start of the chapter:

Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

Care for the vulnerable, righting wrongs, avoiding innocent bloodshed. This is the purpose of power.

With the world in a political cycle that favours demagogues, these words are comfort indeed. As are the ones that follow, promising that the bad stuff will pass.

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.

Isaiah 63

I can get the drift of Isaiah 63.

It starts talking of God’s judgement. Dramatically he appears from Edom, a neighbouring country in clothes red with blood which he compares to trampling the grapes in a wine press.

It’s a grisly image, jarring after 3 glorious chapters about his love and salvation. But it’s making the point that God alone can judge the world.

And it is quick to make the point that there is much more to it than judgement. God reminds us in his self description that he is “mighty to save”. He has a day of vengence but a year of Jubilee.

Then there are passages remembering his mercy and promises in the past, and praying for his forgiveness and salvation now. The author goes so far as to blame God for his sin, wondering why God made us capable of rejecting him.

It’s a huge cry of pain. It’s a message to those of his chosen people either facing ruin, as their enemies grow stronger, or feeling bereft in exile having been defeated. People full of fear and anger.

And it’s urging them, shocking them even, into staying the course with God. Channel your fear into anticipating God’s peace. Channel your betrayal into trusting God’s justice.

To tell the truth I’m feeling a bit of betrayal and fear this week having lost my job. It’s tempting to let gloomy feelings about my situation blur into sadness over my children and aspects of the world in general.

I’m tempted to escape into achievable activities, or laziness, variations of putting my head in the sand. Or full on self pity, that advances my situation not a jot.

I need to trust God and act sensibly to remedy the situation.

Pray I will stay the course with God.

Isaiah 50

God’s extraordinary love for us, and what he wants of us.

Intimate workings of the the messiah’s servanthood.

It starts with the question “does God really care?” A striking divorce and debt metaphor is used by God to say “prove I have abandoned you… Where are the divorce papers, where is the bill of sale?”

We left him, he never left us. Very much to the contrary.

Second question “is God’s still in charge?” Fully. The examples of his might are arguably negative experiences, drying up rivers so that fish die, making the sky black.

The Israelites no doubt felt enveloped by blackness. But the blackness is from God, the problem is that there is no one who will obey him. Enter the servant.

The servant word is not used but the ritual of servanthood, ear piercing, is referred to in verse 5.

Israel’s slaves had a moment after 6 years of service where they could leave or stay. The ear piercing indicated the choice of a life of voluntary servanthood, and such is the messiah’s relationship to God the father.

His duties are to daily learn words that will sustain the weary. He is God’s servant, his duties are for us.

Does God care? He gives his back to be whipped, his beard to be pulled out, suffers utter humiliation and disgrace.

Being God, he could back out at any time. He doesn’t have to suffer! But as a servant he sets his face like flint and bares it, trusting in God’s might through the darkness, knowing God’s is stronger than any evil.

The enemies of God are compared to clothes that will wear out. Empty suits.

So we, the weary, can choose to be sustained by his words though the darkness. Or we can take matters in our own hands which is here described as walking by the light of our own torches. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, using your own judgement, not God’s word to guide your way. But it will only lead to more torment.

God is like a loving parent in the night, coming to you when you fear the dark saying “don’t worry, you’ll get there” and behind it is the knowledge that no one loves you more or would give more for you.

This is a beautiful chapter, hard to follow without explanation. God cares and is strong enough to give himself for you without flinching at the pain of sacrifice.

Isaiah 43

Tough love.

A beautiful description of God’s character. It reaches back to Moses’ burning bush and escape though the sea to talk about God’s protection though trials of fire and flood.

The refrain of “fear not” from the last few chapters is repeated. So are images of the gathering of the nations, being loved and known since birth, the unique omnipotence of the one true God.

The image of a highway in a newly verdant desert comes back, which is described as a new thing God will do.

Then, right at the end we hear God has grown weary of them. The North has ignored him, and the South has kept up an empty religion.

Therefore both will be destroyed and reviled.

Bam. End of chapter. It puts everything in context.

Fear not… Because much to fear is coming.

Remember that God is in charge, fire won’t consume you, water won’t drown you…  because both are coming, etc.

The destruction coming is not only God’s judgement, it’s his love.

And he offers to have it out with them: let’s have witnesses, let’s state our cases.

So much to teach us about difficult times, but the lesson I’m taking is: stay in contact with God, yell at him if you have to. Have it out, he’s saying he can take it.

Numbers 17

A symbol of hope in the midst of a plague. Each of the tribes of Israel are reprsented by a budding staff. Wood that was dead starts to grow afresh.

The aren’t barriers between God’s disasters and natural disasters, God made nature and set it in motion.

The people remain terrified of death, of God, of their predicament, despite the sign of hope. 

I’ve been swamped by a feeling of meaninglessness as I attended an after may when my birthday and that of my oldest son occur. He is a challenging and quietly suffering fellow who drains things of meaning – he can’t help it. 

Open my heart to hope father. Don’t let him, or me, despair.

Malachi 4

Last chapter of the old testament. It’s not completely bleak, more like 85%. But the idea is that the people of God blew it. Adam blew it. They were made great, bought low, pruned and replanted, turned over new leaf after new leaf. Still they do not revere god in the main, just a few do. Their religion is hollow, grudging and insincere. Messiah needed.

It talks again of the day, when the fire will burn, or the sun will shine and heal, depending on your heart.

There is an encouragement again to keep the law. Then the last verses speak of Elijah coming. Presumably is some sort of Messiah prediction, or John the Baptist, who was like an Elijah.

The unsettling gentle / terrible shifts that have characterised this book continue to the last verse. On that day there will be tender healing between parent and child … heavenly or earthly, these are the ones who have kept faithful. For the rest complete destruction.

It’s easy to forget that this is in the teaching if Jesus too. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. It’s good for some, but a terrible downfall for others. He will separate the sheep and the goats.

There is an urgency, a vividness to the message which is also hard to remember as our brief span on earth starts to feel long in the living of it.