1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

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1 Chronicles 22

David all but builds the temple. The lavish building materials must have made depressing reading for the post exile Jews. They weren’t in a position to get 4 thousand tons of gold, 40 thousand tons of silver, and unlimited bronze. The bronze is mentioned twice.

Now we get judgement on the killing David did. He fought many many wars which are blandly noted in Samuel and Chronicles. At times he was a mercenary, this poet come killing machine. But here he mentions that it is one of the reasons God didn’t let him build the temple. He was judged after all.

I was also struck by rounding up foreigners and making them work on the temple. The good treatment of foreigners, not oppressing them because of the memory of Israel’s own slavery in Egypt, is mentioned 36 times in the books of the law. I saw it, didn’t David?

Moses didn’t get the promised land, Cain killed Able, Jacob cheated Isaac, Solomon built the temple and john the baptist pointed to Jesus. The constant deferment, moving to the second plan in the Bible. It makes sure it didn’t coalesce until Jesus.

But it’s also the result of sin.

I’m in a funk, poor focus at work. The instability is getting to me. I’ve come into a time of uncertainty, I’m no good at opportunism, I have no taste for it.

Fortunately I’m getting a fellow worker, someone to supervise. That will be an improvement, keep me focused.

I really want to do a good job, and I can imagine what a better job would look like but can’t summon up the energy to do it. I’ve been in this place many times before in my life!

It’s a kind of overthinking, a kind of pride I think. Just do what you can. Be normal. People like normal!

God can redeem the mess made by our sin, build it into his plans. Ask forgivness and move on. Do what can be done today.

Jeremiah 20

Rock bottom

Jeremiah is put in the stocks and beaten, probably whipped, by one of the priests. His humiliation occurs in one of the most prominent parts of the city, next to the temple.

We see his pubic and private response. In public he is unmoved. He continues preaching it from the moment he is released.

Privately he is devastated. He talks about his deep desire to stop preaching, but complains that when he does the message burns in his bones.

This is my favourite part of the chapter and worth a song “burn in my bones Lord!”

He compares himself to a bride seduced under false pretences into an abusive marriage.

He really hits rock bottom with the final miserable poem about wishing he’d never been born.

The language is so extreme. He curses his father essentially for not aborting him as a fetus because if his mother’s womb had been his grave it would have been forever praised instead of cursed.

That’s someone who really wishes they hadn’t been born.

And that’s where he’s left for today. The are 30 more chapters so I’m guessing he carries on.

But it’s worth considering when you let the promptings of the holy spirit slip by, when you don’t say or do that action that would increase God’s grace in someone’s life. You aren’t the first person to ask “why me”? But the question doesn’t justify letting yourself off the hook. Unfortunately,  most likely, it is you.

Jeremiah 15

God makes it abundantly clear to Jeremiah that there is no way he will forgive Israel. It’s not that Jeremiah isn’t good enough, even Moses and Samuel could not persuade him to relent.

Jeremiah’s misery over his mission reaches fever pitch. He starts to sound like Job, wishing he had never been born and cataloguing all the good he has done in his life to ask what he’s done to deserve such punishment.

God promises to be kind to him eventually, but for now he must be strong like a wall. He must absorb their rejection of the message, he must absorb their attacks on him.

You know that Jeremiah will be brave, he’s in the Bible. You know how it ends. But for us it often doesn’t end that way.

We wimp out. We change the message to fit the people. Or we divorce the message from the people, from any relationship or care. How much does Jeremiah grieve for them!

Jeremiah 12

Sucks to be God’s messenger. Last chapter Jeremiah discovered there was a plot to kill him for speaking God’s word.

This chapter he argues with God’s over the fairness of his message. He asks why God people have to suffer. He’s the meat in the sandwich, but such is his calling I suppose.

God’s answer is a) there are a lot less good people than you think, and b) there will be a restoration and compassion after the invasion.

I’m now being paid to write about God’s work and his nature, it’s an extraordinary privilege for a believer. May I remain faithful and true like Jeremiah.

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.

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.