Ezekiel 37

“Read the dry bones mum.”

She would read the Bible to me every night when I was a child. And when the notes ran out, she gave me the choice, and I always chose this passage.

I took it as an illustration of the same creative power by which God made the world. Metaphor seems too grand for a kid, it was a vibe. A vibe about what God is like, and what he can do.

Take a bunch of bones and knit them into bodies, take the bodies and breathe life into them. I had no trouble believing God who made everything could orchestrate the vivid scenes that this passage fired up in my mind, kids are like that.

Ezekiel does a stick trick in the second half of the passage that sort of repeats the bones vision, on a national scale. He writes “Israel” on one stick, and “Judah” on another stick, and then holds them together, like they are a single stick, a promise that the divided kingdom of the Jews will be one again.

Mum showed a judicious sense of drama and used to stop reading before she got to that bit. As sheer theatre, it’s somewhat anti-climactic after the bones vision.

It’s messianic, the Messiah is simply called king David. But the ruler of the joined sticks has the characteristics of the eternal kingship of God.

And here I am at 57, days into 2020. Zero honeymoon of new-year optimism as our bushfire season is catastrophically exacerbated by climate change, and the middle East seems destabilised, maybe headed for war.

I have a tiny role in that messianic vision of nations bought together under god’s love and grace, Jesus’ work happening now and promising a grace-filled and blessed destination for eternity.

The bones trick, people having new life, getting beating hearts and the breath of God as he washes away their idols… I see that regularly in the salvation army, and at church too. It’s beautiful.

The stick trick, I do believe, I draw great comfort from it. But it seems like a few steps back more than a few steps forward at the moment. It seems like the more amazing one right now.

Give me, and use me for, peace, life and hope in 2020 lord Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 33

Watchman, prophet, troubadour.

Ezekiel must faithfully pass on the warnings God is sending through him.

Wicked people will ask for mercy and live.

Good people will trust in their own righteousness before God and come up short, their pride in their own goodness misplaced.

To them, Ezekiel is like a troubadour, a singer of love songs that are sweet to hear but not impactful.

In the end, all that Ezekiel speaks of will come true and the people will know that a prophet has been among them.

During the chapter an escapee from Jerusalem arrives and confirms ezekiel’s God-given reports of its fall.

Now feels like a time for truth.

I will remember this summer for a long time, the searing heat, the spooky absence of rain, the fires everywhere. People being cut off in all directions. The pall of smoke, the red sun. Homes, lives lost. The calculations that the exhausted fire service have to make, because they are hopelessly unequal to the size and number of the fires.

It’s doesn’t feel like a time for coal-lobby-inspired talking points minimising climate change.

Or building a new coal mine in virgin habitats that will divert over a billion litres of water from farmers, but that is what is happening.

It’s a sadness that lays over everything, and is an instance and metaphor of our staggering ability to reject truth, which brings a quiet sort of despair to interpersonal relationships as well.

You don’t want to deny it, but there’s no point surrendering to a suffocating sense of doom either. Yet here we are, with literally toxic air.

Ezekiel 26

No patience for “ha-ha”.

God really hates schadenfreude. Malicious glee at the downfall of people or cultures you dislike.

In Ezekiel it’s described as saying “aha!”. So much faster to write especially on a phone.

I get how to read it now: Simpsons to the rescue. It’s to be read like Nelson Muntz, the resident bully in the Simpsons, the way he says “ha-ha”.

Tyre the great ancient city has passed and gone, not a trace remains. And God says here they deserved it for saying “aha” when Jerusalem fell.

Much is made of the sea and deluge.

The odd thing about judgement is that it exists because we care. The dinosaurs, I don’t think, cared that they became extinct. Animals don’t think about future animals or past animals.

Sydney has been virtually uninhabitable for days due to massive fires in deeply tinder-dry bushland. Villages have been lost. There is currently no location in Sydney with safe air, some have 10 times the safe level of toxic particles. Climate change debates have been ignited. It’s been like a preview of the city becoming a desert. Or deluged.

Nature wouldn’t mind, if only the polar regions are habitable. If most of the species, including us, become extinct. It would rebuild, problem solved, no more man made global warming.

Only we mourn deaths beyond those directly next to us, only we care. It’s our torture.

I know I’m sounding very serial killer. Very Harry Lime, Orson Welles’ character in the third man… “What did peace ever get us? The cuckoo clock”

I’ve been waiting for comeuppance impatiently since the election of Donald Trump. But he will never give anyone the satisfaction of “ha-ha”. It’s not in his nature to lose, so he never will characterise himself that way. He, like a plant, is exempt from judgement, because he, publicly at least, lacks the capacity to experience it. Drives me nuts.

The Simpsons did a great sequence with Nelson which was funny but also, to me, about the sad pointlessness of vengeance.

We are here to love, show compassion, fight for justice, be fair and ethical do god’s will and seek it. Not for “ha-ha!”. Or to avenge it.

Job 40

A commenter pointed out that Job basically had a great time with God in the past two chapters.

God continues to ask rhetorical questions the chapter, but he brings the teaching home more specifically to Job. It’s a still gentle, non attacking approach as I read it.

God pretty much asks job if he agrees, after they’ve looked at many wonders of creation and nature together, that they can’t really have the discussion job wants to have, where he lays out his case against God and God defends himself. It’s just not appropriate. God can ask the questions, not Job.

And job agrees. He covers his mouth, he has no answer to the questions God has posed. He’s speaking completely differently now, he understands he’s not as big of a deal as he thought he was, but equally that he is not forgotten. At the centre of this vast evolving tapestry of life and creation, God is patiently guiding him in love.

God says, when job understands and can share the rules of life and death, judgement, the role his wrath plays, then they will be able to discuss his case as equals.

He compares Jobs strength to a hippopotamus (most likely… A bit unclear).

This is a bit like those photos that include something for scale. Hippopotamus included for scale. Job much weaker and smaller, not a chance of controlling it. God much stronger. Made the hippo.

Again, a very clear and non judgemental way of demonstrating to job that they simply can’t have the conversation he wanted to have.

In the era of the tweet, the 42 chapter poem of Job is paced more majestically than I’m used to. But it’s certainly effective, I’ve gone on the journey.

I could see where the friends were coming from, I thought job had a point, but God has effectively shut me up without alienating me. Quite the reverse.

Job 38

The answer is blowing in the wind…

Oh gosh, he’s here. God speaks.

He asks a majestic series of rhetorical questions designed to demonstrate his awesome power and might relative to Job.

The language is stunning, a poetic highlight.

The one I always remember is ‘were you there when I laid the Earth’s foundation?’ But so many vividly expressed images, such as while God lays the cornerstone of creation ‘the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy’.

I also loved ‘Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?’

But all of it was stunning, bang bang bang, and the combined sweep puts you in your place.

It’s like a day in the life of God. You zoom through the vastness and complexity of creation, and being creator. From fine tuning the constellations to teaching ibises; the storehouses of snow, the womb of ice; making sure both Lion cubs and baby Ravens have dinner; irrigating desserts, visiting the springs of the sea, the gates of darkness and death.

I read a great science blog entry about the storehouses of snow, suggesting its referring not only to the amount but the variety – no two snowflakes are alike – literally boundless creativity of pattern and variation.

It’s intended to overwhelm and it does, magnificently for a believer, who has heard that God is love. What it would do to a serious atheist, who’s god is their own understanding, I don’t know. I’d love to ask!

It’s clear creation is not tame. It’s a balancing act. For every light, there is a dark. For every lion fed, there is a creature gone. Evil is part of it, glory, beauty, fear and death.

And loud and clear, God is saying ‘this is not going to make sense to you’. It does actually make sense, to God, but not to me.

And our response? We can’t go and find another God we prefer. God is a monotheist.

The effect of any response other than respect is described in verse one: ‘who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?

Thank you, father for sending your son, the very image of you, to die for us. Die… for us!

Psalm 46

These psalms of the Sons of Korah are a hit parade. This is one of the best known. Almost impossible for Christians of a few generations not to hear Dambusters theme as you read it.

3 stanzas, like Psalm 42 they have the violent water and the calm water. Earth’s overwhelming flood and cataclysmic shifts. Environmentally, and as a parable of life.

Then the calm of heaven, God’s control with a soothing river, unmovable.

Then the chaos of Earth again, but the promise of peace.

There is heaven and earth, calm and chaos.

God is present in each, so here in the chaos, calm down, be still and remember his presence.

All pithily done as a song with a returning chorus. A cheer up ditty to hum though the day and rouse up group optimism when the faithful gather.

So what are my worries?

The news this morning presents urgency over the environmental clock. The world seems incapable of focus.

Politics is sort of in turmoil. The way news is consumed, via algorithms that, in the hunt for clicks, endlessly pander to everyone’s confirmation bias. Perfectly designed to undermine fundamental institutions of tolerance, majority consensus, civility. Polarised ungenerous thinking everywhere you look, into which sweeps opportunists.

Personally, the family seems incurably sad.

I don’t know if it’s daylight saving, but I am overwhelmed, too many balls in the air, ironically sapping my energy.

Prone to blank panic when I get discretionary time. What should I be doing? Why is my head so blank? Should I make a list? Maybe this is what early dementia feels like?

Economic uncertainty going into the end of the year, don’t know if I’ll have a job, we keep spending too much money.

God is with us. The mountains may be plunging into the sea, but he promises wars will cease. He’s bigger than all of it, it makes sense to him. All will be well.

Be still, know he’s there.

He’s present, he’s present, present.

Leviticus 17

This chapter explains a lot, its a bit of a key to the whole book.

First sacrifices were happening anyway. People were sacrificing or dedicating the animals they killed to eat off in the fields and in their far flung homes to goat demons etc.  The superstitions were there.  We saw how easily they fell into worshipping the bull they made. So the temple system viewed in that context centralises and focuses existing practices on the true god, who is present at that location. How often does God revealed 2.0 upgrade the existing spirituality of people?  Christians could learn from this… meet them where they are, channel the shared instincts towards the spiritual.

Second, respect for blood.  Its a form of respecting God’s creation of life. Last chapter I called sacrifice pagan like and ghastly.  But I eat meat, animals die for my plate, and these people faced the reality of killing the animals for their plate in a way I am shielded from.

By respecting the blood, and giving it to God, they are respecting that it is a life a god created life they are taking for their dinner.  Vegetarians can argue whether god intended us to be carnivores, but he did at least make some animals need to eat others.  Its the way of some things.  But within that, there is still a respect for life.  To eat an animal that is not drained of its blood is called bloodshed… it is true killing of the beast.  God wants the blood returned to him, either at the altar or into the dirt.  Modern buzzword would call this mindful meat eating.

Again, it is an upgrade of existing practises, our creator meeting people where they are guiding a people in how to acknowledge him and what is important to him.

I really like the no barriers way of looking at spirituality – christianity is the true path, but God acknowledges the urges in all spirituality.


1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s coronation address. It’s so real, he is very old and makes no bones about having been opposed to having a king. His coronation message: god is king.

He reminds everyone of his record for honesty.

He recites the history of Israel, jumping from Moses to Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and the most recent (last chapter) delivery from the ammonites. This underscores his theme that the peoples faithfullness to God is their salvation, not the status of their leaders.

Then he performs a miracle, calling down thunder and rain at will. It is the harvest season and the weather is clear which makes it a very freakish weather event. He explicitly makes it a demonstration of their sin in wanting a king other than God.

It works and the people ask for his intervention to stop God killing them on the spot.

He says that is not going to happen today, but pleads with them to serve God with all their hearts. Having a king will make no difference to the judgement that will come if they are not faithful. Both they and their king will be swept away.

That’s some coronation speech. 

The kingship winds up having more lows than highs, too. It follows the same depressing trajectory as judges but on a grander scale.

We are all caught in a circle of sin and rebellion. This pattern where we promise to be faithful to God but fail over and over.  God has much more right than us to be cynical of it.

But one response to our own cynicism is to delegate out our responsibility. To trust an earthly king in the form of an ideology, a charismatic leader, a movement. Like Israel’s king, we can have them but they can’t supplant God. They won’t save us. We must be faithful in God as our king.

Genesis 11

The story of the tower of babel is one of my favourites. Genesis reads like my first bible story book, separated by genealogies. Creation, Noah, tower of babel.

It is a tribute to the massive energy of humans that God is impressed, even concerned, by the tower. As high as it is though, he has to come down to see it.

On balance God thinks it’s better to have that energy diluted, so he breaks communication. It is a comment on man’s propensity to sin. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching on earthly authorities, how they are established for our protection, so we don’t kill each other in opportunistic anarchy.

God had to keep reigning in his broken creation to give us space to know him. Left to our own devices, unfettered, in dense concentrations like cities, we achieve marvels, but also have the propensity to destroy each other.

Of course as the modern world has progressed, both the height of buildings and the brokenness of communication is being challenged by our ingenuity again. I am actually incredibly inspired by suggestions that the internet is probably the greatest anti poverty tool ever invented. Google, with hubris, initially called their translation service babelfish, after Douglas Adams (and genesis).

But it’s worth also fearing, the internet hasn’t stopped the world being thrown into the greatest refugee crisis we’ve ever known. The humanist view says better understanding and communication will inevitably improve the world. This story is more cynical. John Lennon wondered if we could imagine no war, just a brotherhood of man. We can’t, it seems.

Father the sadness of the broken world is overwhelming. The reality of how much we need you makes all the silliness of our culture seem all the more shallow. Help me be a burning light for you.

And then we get carefully set out the family line of shem and of terah, all leading to Abram.  Not much to comment here, except that the lifespans are getting shorter the further away from Genesis we get.  We are in an era where they are getting longer. People will routinely start living past 100 again.  Perhaps they will eventually meet up with these biblical figures, which here are around 200.  And of course, we are looking at a family line of Gods interaction with the world.  The family line tht will see the Israelite nation founded and chosen by God, and eventually bring forth the messiah.

Genesis 1

First chapter of Genesis. A great place to start the bible. There is nothing no definition. Just water.

It’s very womb like, it takes us to the mystery of how every life starts. Why do cells start to think?

We are being imprinted like an empty brain getting is first impressions.

Light comes first, out of the darkness, which is monumental, but also indistinct.

And God is there, the hovering spirit, the creator. God made it, God did it, it’s God made life.

Prayer/Meditation break: God was there before I knew what light was. He is in control. I’m not foolish to trust him, even though there is no pattern or poetry discernable at the moment. I seen the light!

Its a song with a refrain: God made it, and it was good.

Emphasis on WAS good, as our globe becomes exposed to higher and higher temperatures, and the activities of humankind generally seem to do as much bad as good.

I started reading Genesis as a new start book, looking for optimism.  I intend to read John’s gospel as well, both of them start with the light.  The creation story told twice.  But the arc of Genesis is not optimisitc, it is tragic.  If I remember rightly it ends with a story of numbing brutality and nastiness, the story of sodom and gomorrah.  But John’s is the messiah story, so perhaps both together will chart a path of saftety through a cruel world.

Its not the best idea to read the bible as a book to fill your needs, like a therapy book, but I think I do need that at the moment.

The vault to separate the waters, which is called sky, and comes after light but before land is hard to understand.  It is the sky as roof to the world, but how it separates the waters is difficult to conceptualise.  It seems like an understanding of the sky pre-solar system, pre knowing the earth is a ball.  Worth remembering when considering the people for whom this story is literal science rather than poetry.

The third day, land and vegetation, brings the refrain that “it was good”.


It is the natural human state to believe in God. Every culture has independently stumbled across the idea of God and made it central to their community.   I imagine this story being told to children from the moment they could understand language to explain how the world came to be.  It still is for many children, and other cultures have variations.

I love the way the elements are introduced like a newborn would get the patterns of life.  Children would still be in this process, assimilating the patterns of life, when they heard this story, so it would make perfect sense to them, it is at their experience level.

Reading the story again takes me back to my own uncomplex state, my own creation.

Dividing the creative act into days, and definng the initial elements by simple binaries or separations: darkness, light. Water, sky. Water, land, Day, night.  It is making patterns, bringing meaning into focus: light, then types of light.  The types of light then define time: moon and stars by night, sun by day.  The patterns of binaries stack onto each other and create layered meaning.

The creation of life brings objects into focus.  They are staged in a crescendo of complexity: vegetation.  Seeds and fruit, it is good.  It conjurs up a lush visual and also a practical connection to food.  It all comes from God, it is good, we are loved and cared for by a divine being, there is meaning beyond ourselves.

Fifth day brings fish and birds.  And God didn’t just make them, he made them to make themselves so the sea would be teeming with them and the sky filled with them: abundance.  This is a blessing, goodness from God.  What a huge theme, the theme of God’s overflowing abundant blessing. It is central to his nature as a creator, he creates things that create, resources are beyond our needs.

Then animals.  The order does seems to reflect meaning for people: the crawly things, wild animals then livestock. Multiple subdivisions… each “according to their kinds”, and it is all by God and all good.

And at the apex, men and women, the ones in the image of God. The image of God is male, the image of God is female. Equality is asserted!  They rule the other animals and subdue them.  It is given to us, it exists for us. Seeds and fruit for food, green plants to feed the animals.

It is all very good, seventh day he rests.  New pattern: the week.  The seven day pattern has stuck, its really quite mind blowing.  This pattern here in this ancient text is still a pattern by which our lives are divided.  People mock creationism, saying how ridiculous it sounds to make the whole of it in 7 days, without questioning where the idea of 7 days even came from in the first place.

I noticed that when adolescents rebel against their parents there is an irony – they become more like them the more they try to make their own way.  Because the very structure of their thought processes, their language, their understanding of meaning is so strongly influenced by their parents, the way they process these new found emotions and desires is reflective of the parents they are hating on.  Likewise I think humankind can’t escape their createdness in the image of God through the very act of denying him.

This passage is a huge reason for my belief in God. It makes sense in ways I can’t bring into my conscious state, it makes sense of the natural inclination of people to believe there must be a God. How did patterns come out of chaos?  Why do we gain endless comfort from finding patterns? Why do we have a concept of good?  How are things different (why is dark not light and light not dark?)  It is all given a context and an explanation: God made it.

Prayer/Meditation: Praise God! Praise God praise God!  Have confidence in the purpose of my existence. Have confidence to present God as an answer to people who are struggling.  Its actually almost impossible not to believe in God, atheisim is a complex artifice of a mind in denial.

Return to the start, remember your creation.  I’ve written a lyric for maybe a song about the creation story being everyone’s experience.  When it says male and woman are the image of God, it strikes me that parents are the first god to a baby.

just one cell, floating in a watery night
grew my brain, grew my eyes, one day saw light

one tiny baby, waters all gave way
the sky is up, earth is down, night follows day

create me, make me
Mother god
wrapped in your succour and love endlessly

teeming through infinity, teach me, help me grow
flowers and trees, birds and bees,
teach me to know

Two sleepy people play with me at dawn,
again again, again again, a new day is born,

create me, make me
stroke my busy head to peace, sing rest to me