Psalm 127

“If the building is not of the Lord, there’s no use in starting the building”.

Verse one was used for an old chorus I recall singing. It had an odd melody that started solemn and then went cutesy and light. The two halves of the phrase were disconnected.

Similarly, the two halves of this 4 verse psalm challenged my brain to see the connection.

The start of the psalm, talks about building houses and guarding the city, and doing it in the Lord’s name or there is no point. And the second half talks about the benefits of having a quiver full of straight arrow children.

Unfortunately, the only way I can connect them makes me a little sad because it’s praising, I think, some of the very things I’m worst at in life.

It’s for people that want legacy.

We have various ways of reconciling our eternal and temporal natures. The grass is always there because it is replenished.Each blade has a life cycle, a circle of life.

But we are more complex than grass. We start to mourn the individual blades, and get invested in whether the blade has a long or short life. Because God had given us the desire to mean something.

And an answer, this psalm says, I reckon, is to invest in your legacy of offspring. Work, build houses, guard your stuff, for them. Have lots of kids.

But do it in the Lord. The commentators made the comment that an arrow isn’t just any old stick. It’s honed, worked, made perfectly straight and for purpose.

As if! I dream of that sort of influence.

That’s where I feel vulnerable. My kids aren’t exactly a quiver of straight arrows. Love ’em, recognise me in ’em. But the closest I get to fine is accepting that they will be what they will be. Particularly the older ones… 26 and 25.  I have a little fading influence over Ren, 15.  But he is such a typical teen – carving out his own identity.

I feel vulnerable, so for me I suppose this psalm is an encouragement.  I need to work at my relationships with the kids, but its in the Lord’s hands. And I could do a lot of stuff: financial support, coaching, moulding, pushing, bullying, encouraging, and it could come to nothing.  I’ll try to remember to pray, turns out that might be the best legacy.

I’ll cling to that!

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Psalm 85

God and people, up and down. God above, people below.

The first half talks to God, remembering blessings past and asking for restoration again. Specifically for God’s anger to pass, for him to show his unfailing love, revive and save the people.

It was clearly written during a time of distress.

Second half talks about our part in it. The author promises to listen to God, to fear him and not be foolish.

Then you have these lovely pictures of God’s grace and our response kissing. Godly people being the meeting place of God’s righteousness and the faithful responses on earth.

It may have been a prayer for an actual drought, or a metaphor, but you have God’s blessing coming down and the fruitfulness of the fields reaching up.

The sense of mutuality, of my part to play, is a great way to launch into a new week. I’ll give it my all!

Since we’re doing so much music of late, here chance the rapper’s blessings song, which this psalm bought to mind.

Psalm 53

Almost identical to psalm 14. It’s an adaptable song a bit like happy birthday, except you substitute a reference to your current problem at the end instead of a person’s name.

Last time I wrote a lot about atheism. This time I got distracted at how the goal posts keep shifting on who’s ‘good’/believers and who’s ‘bad’/unbelievers.

It seems clear when it talks about the ‘fool who says in his heart there is no God’. Atheists, or in their day practical atheists who follow religion as a custom but don’t believe it in their heart.

But its less clear when it goes on to say everyone is corrupt, emphatically: no one does good, and no one seeks God.

And indeed, ‘believers’ continue to sin. We are scarcely seeking God when we are lying, cheating, lusting, resenting, being cowards for God, are we?

Then the goal posts seem to move again and it talks about the ‘evildoers’, who are attacking them, who will be beaten by fear.

We’ve seen again and again God’s favourite and most convenient shortcut to a military victory is to fill the enemy with unfounded fear, so they retire in confusion, or worse, destroy each other.

I like how David doesn’t really argue for God. He is confident that unbelief is a self deception, which will run aground on facts.

But that response to attack requires the most faith. The Israelites had to literally do nothing but trust God. Which can be terrifying. Fear and fools on their side too.

So you have a scenario of an impending attack on Israel, and David is saying: none of us are good, none of us deserve to win. We can be fools like our attackers and not trust God, or call on him.

You may call yourself a ‘believer’, but we are basically all the same evil hearted beings. Calling on God to overcome fear, trusting him for the crisis, is the thing.

David was clearly longing for Jesus, the one uncorrupt man. We know him, but the psalm still rings true. So many Christians prefer to trust politics for the crisis, for instance.

And I’m worried about my future, and my family. Let’s see how I go.

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.

Numbers 23

Ok you see here how gutsy Balaam was required to be to tell the truth to the Moab king.

He’s expected to sign off on God’s being on Moab’s side in the war. And then he can have lots of treasure.

Three times he sacrifices 7 X2 animals in seven altars. Then asks the lord for guidance, then gives the moab king beautiful extravagent poetry about how futile it is to come up against the God of the Israelites.

The Moabites king asks him why he didn’t just shut up. Why say anything? Balaam is apologetic, but has to tell the truth…

It’s really a heroic example of faith. I should bear it in mind next time I’m tempted to pull my punches talking about God.

1 Samuel 13

Going though the motions. Over and over in these old testament stories it’s about how quickly religion becomes a talisman, a superstition. 

The Israelites obviously feel unguided in their role as chosen people, but god wants their hearts to be their guide, to improvise life on the theme of loving God. 

Saul is preparing for battle here and Samuel, who must be really old by now, is late to do a sacrifice before. So Saul does it. 

It’s a false move, the sacrifice is not the point the point is obedience and trust. The chapter includes Samuel’s rebuke of Saul and ends in a cliffhanger with the enemy philistines starting the attack.

Obedience sometimes requires sitting on your hands. Trust requires admitting you aren’t able to fix a problem. Doing this consistently is hard for human nature. 

But there’s no other way…