1 Chronicles 11

David becomes king after Saul. There is little moment-to-moment spiritual content in this narrative – now it has finally started, though there is a spiritual meta story of God’s people.

And we do get the contrast of the new king with the old. Saul lost God, but David gets stronger and stronger because God is with him.

The guts of the chapter is devoted to bravery and warfare. It lists David’s best soldiers, the ’30’ who helped him fight the Philistines. Also the ‘3’, the creme of the creme. A story is told of them breaking enemy lines to get David a drink of water from a spring he is fond of. Rather than drink it he pours it out as an offering to their bravery.

It tells about the conquest of Jebus aka Jerusalem. It’s christened the City of David.

I was shocked at morning tea yesterday how much I’ve got used to the brutality of the Old testament when our friends, quite fairly, echoed their distaste for it.

Kelly has a great way of describing how she understands it, if you view it at a distance, holding it out so its a bit blurry, you can see the pattern, there is a plan and action of God. But close up, in focus, it’s awful.

I’ve explained it a lot in these entries, but those same rationalisations sounded lame when I tried to say them out loud. The conversation has echoed around in my head and I haven’t processed it yet. No doubt I’ll have time, launching into yet another long and bloody old testament book.

Still very stressed as the uncertainty of work and my own frustrating nature cause me anxiety. I’m being prompted to make things better I think.

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Isaiah 56

Made it to the last 10 chapters of Isaiah.  It would be nice to say that blogging the bible is never a hard slog.  Isaiah has been wonderful, but its very long, and not that structured. The themes dance around poetically.  Its a world unto itself that reading in chunks day by day doesn’t really do justice to.

The last 10 chapters are apparently, according to the youtube overview symmetrical.  I don’t know what that really adds, but it means the theme first up, of all nations being acceptable to god, will repeat at the very end… the second theme will be second last, the third will be third last etc.  I think the messiah is at the centrepoint, as you would expect.

The nations being acceptable to god is great news for australians!

But more specifically, it says eunuch’s are acceptable – outsiders – queer – gender fluid? This is a clear evolution from Leviticus where they were specifically excluded, along with anyone with any mark, from being in the temple. You don’t surgery your way from god’s grace, and the culture around it shifts towards acceptance the more the bible reveals the size of god’s love.

God’s house is a house of prayer for all peoples, a gathering of all outcasts.  Its generous, its broad.

There is a sting in the tail of the chapter for the chosen people, the leaders of Israel who are spoken of very unflatteringly as lazy, corrupt, etc.

In terms of how my project to trust God in doing what is right at work – which I mentioned in the last post – there has been a pretty big paradigm shift since then. They made me redundant that very day.  It was pretty brutal… if only they’d given me a bit of time to apply for other jobs while in the job, but it was “don’t come back tomorrow morning”.  Whoah!

I’ve started processing it and certainly remain trusting that it is part of a larger plan.  I love being a communicator, perhaps this is a chance to start communicating something I care about more deeply?

I don’t feel I can afford to be too ideological however, we have 5 mouths to feed – my wife is one year into a 3 year degree, my youngest son has at least 3 years of high school to complete.  My #1 way to reflect God’s love is to provide, for now, and I’m happy to do it.  The redundancy is a good chance to remind my older children – 24 and 26 – that I won’t be around forever though.

Job applications to follow.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Isaiah 55

Isaiah urging the listeners/readers to honour and trust God with a series of beautiful pictures of God’s love.

It’s permanence is a big theme.

He compares it to the temporary things we pour our effort and money into. This is truly nourishing food, permanently satisfying, free of charge. It feeds our soul.

He talks about the steadfastness of God’s love for David – presumably both him and his line which would lead to Jesus. He talks about other nations recognising God.

Other themes are God’s compassion and effectiveness, which are both more than they can imagine.  They are to use the opportunity of their life to understand – seek – God. It is about individual grace and God’s larger scale plan of love.

There is a great image of God’s word being like rain or snow to water the earth and bring life. It’s not just sound, it’s sustaining and active.

They are full of fear, doubt and rebellion, but the peace God will bring is cosmic, the whole of creation will celebrate – mountains sing, trees clap.

Second day back at work. Full of sadness at my bind of needing to work, and fear I am too old and weak for it.

Irrational I’m sure. I made a few mistakes that are gnawing at me, I need to ‘fess up, fix them up and move on.

It’s resonating with me the bit about God’s thoughts being way more complex than I can understand… The bit about recognising I am dumb matches my current mood. God’s character is love, wisdom and steadfastness.

That’s why I’m safest to just do what is right by his lights in faith, when everything in me feels like lying, laziness or quitting would deliver more calm and happiness.

I’ll tell you how it goes!

 

Isaiah 51

A chapter of comfort. God’s voice.

He refers to his strength, his history, describes himself as the rock from which they are hewn. And promises comfort.

There is a section on listening, because God is acting, making things right and saving them.

Listen to him above all else because he will outlast the other voices … It returns to the “worn out clothes” metaphor from the last chapter. There is a repeated refrain that his salvation lasts forever.

Then a section with a repeated call to wake up, to respond with faith in the permanent, saving God who brings comfort; rather than with fear of the oppressors, who will pass away.

God’s promises, his strength, his salvation, our response of faith. All of that should give us a long term perspective on our present situation.

The Israelites had aggressive invaders at the gates. I’m waking up on new year’s Day, on holiday during a long lazy summer.

I’m marking the years, feeling optimism, wariness and a sense of life passing. The “wake up and listen” bits of the message are certainly resonating. I’m currently pretty comfortable!

The distractions will start up again soon. May I remember that whatever the year holds, it will pass. I will be here again, between the hours, remembering that God’s salvation is eternal, and I pray, having lived the intervening days from that perspective.

Isaiah 33

I suppose this was a word of comfort to the people in terror of gathering powerful kingdoms that would overtake Jerusalem.

Like the African slaves in the confederate South, they dream of a role reversal.

When the destroyer is destroyed, and the betrayer is betrayed.

There follows a grand vision of the city as God’s City, it seems to be compared to a great ship with the wind, the breadth of God, at its sails, compared to the other nations which have run out of puff.

It’s about justice, that fly in the ointment which means God can’t just forgive everything and love everything, regardless.

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.

2 Kings 21

Perhaps the fatalism of the godly king Hezekiah in the last chapter was because he already knew his son would be a disaster. 

Manasseh became king at a young age and re established the pantheon of folk Gods, sacrificed his son to Moloch, set up Ashera actually in the temple, consulted wizards and mediums and shed much innocent blood to boot.

There is argument over whether these gods are Canaanite or folk Gods of Israel itself. I guess the calf at least, which they worshipped in the desert came from some folk tradition. Abraham came from a household with Gods. 

The sacrificial system is just an adaptation of the religion that was already there to monotheistic worship of jahweh. God is about substance and we’ve seen faith in him come in many forms. He meets our understanding where it is.

His son rules 2 years and is much the same.

Bad Kings are accompanied by more and more pointed prophetic reaction, this time God says he will wipe Jerusalem clean.

2 Kings 13

Read the chapter, read the commentary. Don’t really understand, don’t really want to. 

We are looking at Kings of the northern kingdom. They all start with J. One is the father one is the son, one has the same name as the southern kingdom’s king and seems to be used interchangeably with the son. 

In the middle Elisha dies. It’s fairly low key, he is old and gets ill, unlike Elijah before him who went up to heaven in a chariot.

The king(s) semi respect him. They see him as a man of God, but they don’t stop worshipping God the wrong way. 

This half hearted faith shows in a story about lacking boldness, where dying Elisha gets the king to symbolically claim future victories by banging arrows on the ground. The king doesn’t really get it, and doesn’t get the blessing of victory he could have got. 

Fits with the theme of Kings which is how half hearted compromised lives of faith mean richness of God’s blessing forfeited.

Good wants bold faith. The kind that says “the odds may be impossible, but God’s message is clear so I’m going ahead anyway”. 

2 Kings 3

Obedience for blessing – with panache

An interesting event from the next king’s reign. Jeroham another of Ahab’s sons, wasn’t as bad as him.  He stopped worshipping Baal, which seems to have ended the active persecution and killing of Jehovah’s prophets.  But he still worshipped the calf that had been established in largely political defiance of the temple in the kingdom of Judah after the civil war. The offical state religion was a false, cynical one.

The two kingdoms, Israel and Judah unite with Edom to bring Moab to heel, which is in rebellion against taxes levied by the kingdom of Israel. They take a way of attack through the desert and the troops are literally dying of thirst – very Exodus.

The godly king of Judah, Jehosophat, finds out Elisha is with them and consults him. He  has very sharp words for Jeroham, but helps them for Jehosophat’s sake.

First, strikingly, Elisha has a musician play to calm him down to a spiritual zone – maybe he was stressed after openly confronting and criticising the ungodly King.  A dangerous pastime.

God intervenes in the story at this point.  He helps the present situation, but so much more. It is a lesson, clearly for the godless king, it requires obedience and delivers in abundance – in one elegant move.

Elisha tells them to dig ditches in the dry river bed to contain the water God is sending them. That would have required very faithful leadership and quite some obedience from the exhausted men.  Jeroham would have witnessed first hand the absolute kingly faith and trust of Jehosophat to get the parched men to do the seemingly meaningless task.

A flash flood then comes down the river bed and collects in the ditches they have dug – the rest of the water passes through.  So the amount of water provided is in proportion to the extent of their obedience.  The more ditches they dug, the more of the water God provided they are blessed with. Very elegant.

Even more elegant, the Moabites mistake the distant ditches of water for blood and assume that the alliance hasn’t held and the kings have attacked each other.  They swoop in but are utterly routed.  The Moab king is so desperate with the loss he sacrifices his own son by burning him alive. The combined kings are so disgusted at the human sacrifice, they leave him at that point.

Jeroham and Jehsophat asked for water.  They got it …AND VICTORY! But without obedience, the blessing would have passed them by. Really reminds me of the lesson of Exodus, choosing God is choosing to participate in his blessing.  But his will will be done whether you choose him or not, and he wants so much more for us than we know to ask. Such a great lesson.

How did the king manage to remain an unbeliever after that experience!

Numbers 11

The negativity returns in complaints about how boring the manna is. They don’t like God’s catering. By the end of the chapter they will attribute a plague illness to God’s judgement on this attitude.

But before that God says “you want meat, I’ll give you meat” and more quails than they know what to do with arrive. The complainers barely start to consume the quail before the plague hits and their time has come.

One of those harsh things. Their discontent has built from a rosy and selective memory of their slavery “back in Egypt we had corn and leeks etc”

The transaction is a fascinating picture of Moses’ relationship with God. He feels the burden of representing them to god and god to them.  He’s exhausted, and god gives him a break.  He appoints 70 elders to temporarily give one off prophesy to the people… prophesy being telling the truth to the people, presumably about how ungrateful and unfaithful their attitude is being.

2 of the elders are not there at the commissioning and prophesy anyway, which seems to give the impression that they have a special blessing not being surrogates for Moses.  He dismisses concern for that.  He’s just happy that God’s truth is told, and not concerned for his own credit or glory.

They said he was a very humble man.  Remember, he had trouble speaking to the Pharaoh.  He also eschewed the wealth he was adopted into in solidarity with the people.  Not greedy, not lauding over them.

This chapter is a story of small minded self absorbed faithlessness and humble, god focussed faithfulness. In the concrete and literal manner of the old testament, one is rewarded and one punished by god.