Ezekiel 31

We’ve had a tired Christmas, not much energy as a family. Our only decoration a sheet printed with a picture of a tree. One church service, to which my children came. I was grateful. Forget turkey: yum cha for lunch. Very low key, but some warmth, happiness and respect. I’m just so tired. Afternoon sleeps and pointless TV.

Today a simple but poignant message to Egypt, not burning with rage at its wickedness and corruption, but steeped in regret at beauty to be lost, achievement wasted. In comparing a culture to a tree, God takes delight in human magnificence, diversity and splendour. He loves his creation’s creativity.

But we are locked into time, it symbolises God’s judgement on the rebellion in our hearts. Our shining moment must pass, and we can’t cling to it or protract it. Hopefully we use that realisation to contemplate eternity, and throw ourselves onto God for mercy and love.

My lack of energy prepares me to receive this message. I increasingly won’t have the wherewithall to push back chaos and carve out my own imprint on the world. I’m just one tree in the forest which will continue on after I’m gone. Lose the pride, enjoy the sun and rain while it’s there.

…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel sees visions of idolatry in the temple. It’s a condemnation of fake religion, hypocrisy. It’s when your symbols and structures of faith have no actual faith happening in them.

You expect the idolatry to be outside the church, oppositional to it, not in the centre, where God should be.

I came to it off reading an article which linked the current generational distaste for churches with trumpian evangelical politics, drawing parallels to the Protestant revolution and the French revolution.

Why People Hate Religion https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/opinion/trump-religion.html.

It’s way easy, of course, to blend into the mix of everything wrong with Christians everything that you don’t personally like God saying to you.

And politics is an overly simple lens – Christians are more nuanced than progressive-always-good, conservative-always-bad.

I get tired of the attitude from non Christian friends of being able to barely tolerate us feeding some poor people, as long as we never ever say anything gody. It’s about Jesus,ok?

But too many people, for too many reasons, look at the church and see a vision like Ezekiel saw in this chapter. Worshipping lies, money, sex and power.

2 Chronicles 25

Love God you win disobey God you lose. It’s a story like that. This king is Amaziah.

He wins a victory trusting in the Lord. On a prophets advice he sends home a mercenary force he’s already paid for… Pale shades of Gideon who reduced his army dramatically in size to show how strong God was.

But Amaziah made lots of other mistakes and defied God in almost every other decision. He was not a good king and left Judah weakened militarily and spiritually.

The key word was ‘wholeheartedly’. This king loved God in one part of his heart but, it says, not all of it. So it’s a lesson about ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart’

I enter a time of trusting God because I have only 2 months and a week left in my contract at work. There will be some jobs I can apply for, but not sure if they’ll be filled before then or if I’ll get them. Do I look for other options? I feel god wants me to be at Salvos. I also, just personally, want to be at Salvos.

I test it out and see.

2 Chronicles 21

Jehoram a truly terrible king. The oldest son, he kills 7 other brothers. Makes no attempt to follow Jehovah, marries into the northern kingdom.

He only reigns 8 years, suffering military and health setbacks which are attributed to God’s punishment.

His death of a sort of prolapsed bowel disease is horrible sounding, and they note his unceremonious burial which no one regretted.

In a history designed to highlight leadership examples from Judah’s glory days, there’s nothing more than a warning here.

The offence to God is rejecting him. Jehoram commits various evil acts, but at the core is what Jesus called the unforgivable sin of rejecting the holy spirit.

Jeremiah 9

Starts with a lament of the staggering falsehood of the people. He says their tongues are like arrows they shoot at each other. No one can trust each other.

God asks rhetorical questions about whether he has any choice but to judge them. He says he’ll soon be lamenting empty mountains and fields, because the people will be gone.

But the extreme message is not about rubbing in how bad it will be, there is still the hope of repentance. He calls upon professional mourner women to reflect on earth the tears in heaven.

He calls on the people to love justice as God does.to boast of knowing God, not earthly riches wisdom etc. To love with their heart, not though external shows. Their hearts are just as uncircumcised as any of the surrounding nations, the denial of their special chosen status.

The lifetime patterns of working with a degree of cynicism, of playing the game, are hard to break. I mean, my Christian work place is still full of sinful people, tis the nature of mankind.

But I’ve been taking a somewhat uncircumcised heart to work, I pray that I will boast in understanding the god of steadfast righteousness, love and justice.

Isaiah 1

I’ve come to this after the terse prose of Kings, which compresses decades long reigns into a few short sentences with no commentary.

Comparatively this is over sharing. We’re entering the world of poetry, visions and prophetic diatribes.

This is a poetic declaration of Judah’s unfaithfulness and evil. The land is corrupt, the city of Jerusalem is a whore. He sees it burning and being punished. He sees repentance, if they will have it.

I’m feeling somewhat ashamed of myself this morning as it happens, but it seems to mean I connect less with the text, not more. Am I smug in my grace? What is the point of reading this from the perspective of grace? Is it merely a footnote of historical interest?

I don’t intend answering any of these questions, they are just here to add impetus.

Time will tell if I connect! See you again tomorrow!

2 Kings 24

Judah is the last tribe standing in the promised land, clinging to Jerusalem. 

Now the Babylonians, king Nebuchadnezzar, take over everything. All the able Israelite people are taken away to Babylon, A puppet king is installed who none the less runs a pathetic rebellion, and the last vestiges of self rule is overrun.

The point is the sin, its all clearly tied to judgement. Manassehs name is mentioned, he was a king particularly keen on occult and bloodshed. 

It’s been a simple loop really. In judges, God said the people shouldn’t have a king. But they were completly corrupt without one. And with one, it turns out. 

I live in a state of grace. Our new rector at church said he learned that sin is not like breaking the law. Its wrong if I speed in the car, but it’s not a personal attack on anyone.

Sin an affront to God. A personal affront. . That is how it is treated here. We are not forgiven lightly.

2 Kings 17

12 tribes in the promised land are whittled down to one.

King Hoshea presides ineffectually over the end of the northern kingdom – all of Israel except Judah.

First he becomes a puppet king under the Assyrians, who are the Empire builders of the era, then he makes a feeble attempt to betray them with an alliance with Egypt. He is imprisoned and the people are exiled.

The writer retells all the ways in which the people have earned their fate since the time of exodus. They have at best treated Jehovah as one of many gods. Worst, and often, they have openly rejected him. He’s sent many prophets but it’s made no difference.

The Assyrians send various people to occupy the land and eventually send back an Israelite priest because lion attacks are viewed as a sign of Jehovah’s displeasure. The priest teaches the new residents of Israel the way of the lord as much as he can.

I don’t have a lot to say. The story has been heading here since, well since the people first left Egypt in a way, but definately since the kingdom split.

I have Christian friends on Facebook who almost daily link to what I think of as Christian apocalypse items…. About how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But I think it’s important to remember that God remains sovereign and his salvation is eternal.

This is one of those moments, like how the disciples must have felt after Jesus was crucified, when you wonder if God’s plans will ever work out. Yet, here we are.

There is reason to be passionate, but not to despair, to be busy but not overwhelmed.

Help me be functional father… I’m feeling  like I have more in than I can handle, but at the same time I’m aware that a have it very easy, and feeling a bit guilty too.

2 Kings 15

A short chapter about 7 Kings.

This is how I remembered Kings. Nothing much more than footnotes about ancient Kings’ reigns that teach us not a lot. It’s actually been much more of a blessing than I expected so far.

2 Kings of Judah. They do right by God, but very little noted about their reigns other than some of the rebuilding they did and the fact that the father, Azariah, who is confusingly called Uzziah later in the chapter, had leprosy.

5 Kings of Israel. They make the point that the royal lines keep getting usurped in the north. No house lasts longer than a few generations, unlike Judah which is the smaller kingdom, but the house of  David survives though thick and thin.

One of the Israel Kings only lasts one month before being toppled.

The cruel violence of another against pregnant women is noted.

It’s just a matter of time before strengthening neighbours like Assyria annex Judah. One king buys them off with gold and silver for a while. The last surrenders lots of land to them.

The question becomes “what next?”

There seems to be no replacement for the prophet Elisha.

Most Kings are bad and even the godly ones are ineffectual.

We’re holding out for a hero, God! Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places.

2 Kings 7

Elisha tells the king, who came to kill him, the famine and seige of the capital will be over by morning. God scares away the army who are laying seige with a convincing soundtrack of an attacking army.  The people plunder their supplies. Boom, so easy for God.

The King planning to kill Elisha out of frustration has a sort of sneaking respect for God. But he’s too proud to repent. The guard who came with the king to kill Elisha is a more straightforward unbeliever who just thinks Elisha’s prediction that the problem will be solved in a day is ridiculous. 

Elisha also sees judgment for the guard, which the text notes came to pass. God did magic away the practical problem, but the larger problems of pride and disbelief are resistant. Ironically, though he died, it seems more likely to me that the guard found faith. 

I can’t understand the hardness of the kings heart in the context of this sightly fable-like telling of history. But I see it all the time around me still.

Praying for the world in the sadness that follows natural disasters and evil acts.