Isaiah 6

There is something about the vision in this chapter that is super real to me like my soul has always known it.

There are key life moments when I have gone into an almost dissociative state, like when I got married or when the babies were born, or when my parents died.

Even sometimes when I just look at my kids and see something of my own face, or Kelly’s and realise how they are part of our love, and how much I love them and wish no pain for them, and my heart does flip flops.

I almost step out of myself and feel the moment in a timeless way, at the same time being a bit intellectually distant, realising this is one of those life defining moments. Feeling and thinking it’s profundity all in a rush.

For some reason this vision is chillingly real to me like those moments.

I’m taken back to a childhood memory of singing a similar vision in the cathedral choir, to beautiful classical music, which I rate among my most spiritual moments (Maybe it was the controlled breathing!)

It is good and terrible, full of promise, excitement pain and fear.  Those life/death moments share their intensity, are linked yet different.

I think it’s when the seraphim pronounces forgiveness by kissing Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal that it hits me the strongest. The searing pain of sin and the freedom from it in one intimate sensual image.

Also, leading up to that moment, the prophet’s response to the extravagant vision of God’s glory, a growing awareness that he doesn’t belong there.

It takes me back to some of my earliest childhood fears and dreams about God. The fear of inadequacy.

After the vision, the talk again turns to the specifics of Jerusalem’s judgement and destruction,  the remnant, the holy seed, salvation hanging on through fire.

It will end, whether the end of the world or our death comes first, and as I stand before God it will feel like that vision, as I become aware of how little I deserve God’s love, as I get the burning kiss.

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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.

Leviticus 8

Aaron and his sons go through the ordination offering ritual. The cleansing is elaborate, but the forgives is profound. 

The last time we heard from Aaron was in exodus when he made the gold calf, introducing a false religion and letting the people run amok. He then made a very lame and unconvincing excuse for it all to Moses. Yet he he is, redeemed and Israel’s spiritual leader. 

1 Samuel 29

Holiday in Philistia. 

David, sick of being hunted by mad jealous Saul, has been hiding out in the enemy country. The narrative is disturbingly lacking in editorial comment. I don’t know what it really means. But he seems to be on holiday from God, and from the expectations of being god’s anointed.

The inevitable comes and he’s called upon to fight his own people. Will he? He says so. He and the philistine king exchange all sorts of statements of trust and affection. 

We know from the last chapter though, that he has been lying to the king about how much of a traitor to Israel he’s really been. The philistines generals don’t buy it for a second. Slaughter requires quite some commitment, their instincts are good I think.. He is sent home.

The narrative doesn’t say it’s divine intervention, but I reckon it is. He must have been relieved to avoid that dilemma. The former shepherd seems like a lost sheep. God’s plan has come to a stand still. 

I love that my new church is a doing church. After the service on Sunday, we wrapped parcels for the homeless and poor people they regularly minister to . They preached on the great commission, Jesus last words to his disciples. After all they’ve been through, Jesus says “therefore, go…” …and do something. 

What should I do? I feel a bit like I’m living out my life in enemy territory, not really god’s, not really not god’s? Lying a bit to both.

1 Samuel 21

David is sort of like Jesus and not. It’s important to notice his flaws, the narrative doesn’t always flag them.

This chapter here tells two lies. He’s hiding out with some men and they need food so he gets some dedicated temple bread from the priest. 

The priest is suspicious, David is alone and somewhat desperate. But he gives him the bread when he says he is on a secret mission from the king. I don’t know how much the priest bought the lie, he needed a plausible level of deniability for supporting a person the king would view as treasonous.

David also fudges the answers about whether the men are holy enough for the bread. Have they kept themselves from women for 3 days? Probably, he essentially says. Besides the bread isn’t that holy, he spins…

Then he runs to a neighbouring country and avoids being drawn into an alliance with the king, who knows his reputation as a great warrior, by feigning madness. 

David is a true believer in Jehovah, motivated by a deep contemplation of God, but he is not perfect.

It’s good to remember that christian leaders are not flawless but neither are they invalidated by their flaws. They need to be admired for what there is of God in them, not made into God.

Amos 6

I watched bits of the movie “this is 40” a thinly veiled semi autobiographical Judd Apatow story about the horrors of middle age, and was struck by some lines from Albert Brooks about being Jewish. Describing his son to his (gentile) daughter in law: “now he doesn’t seem very Jewish, but believe me one day you will wake up with a rabbi”. An inescapable cultural identity.

The perennial Jewish stereotype, which Brooks and, say, Woody Allen are adept at expressing, is uncomfortable, an outsider, the other, feisty, endlessly questioning how you fit in, which then becomes an often humourous commentary on society’s paradigms. All of that familiar schtick.

To an extent it’s still the role God created for the Jewish race by choosing them, and by extension for all believers.

In Amos they have grown way too comfortable. Here the prophet/God takes them astral travelling to look at the neighbouring lands and sees no distinction, no difference. Lolling about, plenty of wine, plenty of food, singing idle songs, living a life of ease. They are insiders, there’s no questioning, the mainstream owns them.

To me the phrase it all seemed to hang off, and about the only direct criticism (there is plenty implied) is that they are “not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”.

Joseph, chosen by God, who was left to die in a hole by his brothers out of resentment. Became a prince in a foreign land but never lost his identity, reviled by his own, by whom grace was poured out and the whole race was saved. A prototype of the Messiah, who would also be despised.

This is the identity God has for us.

Another memory, John White, the great christian psychologist and teacher was asked to give a talk on dealing with stress as a Christian, and he said that if you are doing it right you should expect more stress, not less.

So let me astral travel in prayer to the world around me and let me look for opportunities for difference.

Malachi 2

This chapter is primarily addressed to corrupt priests. In christian theology everyone is a priest, so this should be a way of learning what God values – and despises – in us.

A priest is a bridge to god, proclaiming his blessings.  We are our own bridge to god, and we are his voice here is this world.  God says that if its not real, if we don’t sincerely recognise him, the blessings we claim and proclaim are like shit, literally, referring to the least pleasant part of the animal sacrifice, which was never supposed to make it to his presence. In the sacrificial system it was burned off prior to coming to the holiest place.

Turning to a more positive model, God holds up the ideal of the priesthood, the covenant of levi, the patriarch of the priestly tribe.  In life he was upright, with integrity. His words were full of instruction and knowledge.  His fruit were people turned from evil.  In contrast the corrupt priests show partiality in instruction, their own agendas.

The corrupt priests’ relationship to god is compared to faithlessness in marriage.  I’m not sure if Gods complaint was literal faithlessness, jewish priests trading in their wives for younger, less jewish models; or its an analogy, or a bit of both. He shows you how cynical he feels about insincere prayers “why have you abandoned me” and “where is God’s justice” when we have abandoned and betrayed him. What justice does the author of life deserve?

Its a mirror with an ugly sight in it. In the era of grace we can forget that we are offending and betraying God if we lie to ourselves about his lordship, don’t live it or speak to truth of it to others. God has not given us grace for this.

Help me stay focussed on you father, and not yield to the temptation to betray you.

 

 

Zechariah 8

God’s favor.

This a chapter is about the magnitude of God’s blessing. This 70 year process by which the Jews are knocked out of Jerusalem and it is destroyed, and then put back into it and Jerusalem rebuilt shows how much god is in control of history.

It’s a series of statements each with the refrain that it is a word from God, about blessing. The place will be a thriving metropolis again. Crops will grow abundantly, fasts will become times of celebration.

It climaxes with the last verse: 10 people at once will try to grab onto the hem of a Jew’s coat and want to hang with them because they’ve heard God is with them. They’ll be hot stuff, the ants pants, the bees knees.

We have this favor, we are blessed. We are the luckiest people on earth. But Christians are falling into something of a seige mentality as society changes around them. We are not the dominant unchallenged majority and it’s tempting to feel defensive, under attack.

We need to forget about all that and remember how great Christianity is. We’re saved. We know love. Our faith should not be a walled city at war with the world or hiding away from it, an enclave of a threatened culture.  It is a light on the hill, a beacon, an incredibly attractive advertisement for the love of God.

Father, never catch me apologising for being a Christian.

Nehemiah 9

The celebrations of the return to Jerusalem of exiles continues with a vast confession prayer. Part of it is remembering god’s goodness, and many significant moments in Israel’s history are recited. Then the related failure of the people to obey God, and his constant mercy.

They are aware that God has blessed them even in exile, and are clear that they are to blame for it by ignoring and killing the prophets. They do bring the fact that the city is still under foreign rule to him, and set the stage for a deal, a promise that will be made in chapter 10.

The history of Israel is one of God’s mercy and their failure.

I am feeling depressed at the moment, a bit stuck on the treadmill, sad about church because I am disappointed with our minister at the moment. Not really connecting with this right now, but I shall carry on in faith and pray for mercy.