1 Chronicles 29

The book ends with the handover from David to Solomon. Solomon asks for wisdom, in terms that acknowledge that God has made a great nation, remembering his love for David. This pleases God. He grants Solomon wisdom and he also promises great wealth.

They go to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices. I got mixed up earlier, there are two tents. This one Moses made in the wilderness, and another in Jerusalem that David made for the ark of the covenant.

The book concludes with a description of how wealthy and powerful Israel became during Solomon’s reign.

It’s a sweet fulfillment of God’s promises.

It’s such a brief period, is like the flowering of the American prosperity theology. God blesses them with wealth.

Indeed, he doesn’t only use poverty or suffering. I’ve mentioned before the English band the Housemartins who famously said they would be Christians only when they had nothing in their bank accounts, but that is not the only way.

Here is a period when good and silver were as common as stone. However God also doesn’t only use wealth and success.

It’s tempting to think that this is where it was done right, where God is in control and his will is being done fully as he intended. But it isn’t.

He told them back in Samuel that even having kings in the first place was second best, plan B.

The bad Kings that would come, and the split, decline and fall of Israel, result in the soaring visions of the prophets, the wisdom literature, global redemption, the God who lives in hearts, not buildings.

It’s one of the few books about the Jewish nation’s history with a happy ending, until you read that the only reason it ends here is that the scrolls it was written on weren’t long enough to hold the whole story. It ends here for technological, not literary, reasons.

So I’ll enjoy the good things without guilt, and pray that I can accept the bad. Neither condition demonstrates or questions God’s existence, his favour, or his will.

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1 Chronicles 15

Ark done right. Listening to God, David had learned his lesson and consulted God about how to carry the ark, after the attempt in chapter 13 resulted in death from God’s anger.

It’s carried on the shoulders of Levite priests on poles. Pretty nervous priests I’m guessing, but it doesn’t go wrong again

But the message is clear, consult God, follow his word.

I wondered if we’d get the detail that Saul’s daughter disapproved of Davids joyous dancing. We did.

Palace disloyalty, and his lusts will prove his weakness.

But this day is one of his best, a day of huge significance, joy and celebration.

David has established Jerusalem, God’s capital of his promised land, and bought into it the ark that they carried through the wilderness, the artifact of their epic journey from slavery.

I’m not doing it justice. Bit of a chemical sleepiness this morning, took a drowsy headache pill. At least the sadness from earlier in the week has largely passed.

But I need to get onto some things, I motivate myself with how good it will feel. I need to be light. It feels like a step in my journey I need to take. My life has come down to battles of fear vs bravery at the moment.

Jeremiah 24

Bad figs and good figs.

A new section where exile has started under some of the last Kings, and essentially a Babylonian puppet king is on the throne of Judah (replacing the Egyptian puppet king…)

The people remaining in Jerusalem are represented by a bowl of bad figs in Jeremiah’s God given vision for this chapter.

Those sent away are the good figs.

The exiles. The ones who seem abandoned.

We need to remember what a topsy turvy effect sin has. The great bought low, all our efforts in vain, the place where the action is actually the place of corruption and futility, the humble lifted up.

The Lord of the rings is a powerful parable for that. The off-stage, marginal, nature of how God’s power acts on earth.

Isaiah 61

It’s the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue when he staked his claim to be Messiah. The sermon got a definite reaction. They didn’t fall asleep, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

It’s a great promise that the Lord’s timing is on a cycle, it is a season, a year of favour. It ends with the blessing compared to blossoms pushing forth from mud.

It’s also political, or quasi so. Justice, release for the captives, Good news for the poor. A revolution in the sense of an upsetting of the existing order.

A theme here repeated from the last few chapters is the rebuilding of ancient ruins. That literally came true when the exiled Israelites returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls and temple.

NT Wright blew my mind a little this year when he described heaven as being still on earth, this earth, but remade to be perfect as it was in the time of Eden. Why not?

Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, for the former had passed away.

I really don’t know, they are all pictures. The promise is of truth and justice and love reigning eternally, as god intended creation to work.

It’s the evolution of the idea of Jubilee from the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The idea that regularly, seasonally, all debts are cancelled, and justice, equality is bought about. Very anti-capitalist!

God’s eternal kingdom is the permanent year of Jubilee, the coming of Jesus was the arrival of the season. He is the means by which creation is fixed.

All so mind blowing, is a huge promise, one that is wonderful but also hard to envisage what will actually be like to experience.

God says “trust me”. Who else have I to trust?

Isaiah 35

The good stuff. The redeemed, a picture of the ones God loves.

There is a highway in the desert – similar images described John the Baptist who paved the way for Jesus. It leads joyful people to Zion.

They don’t have to be strong, clever or powerful. It says fools could and will follow this highway. There are blind, deaf and lame people, seeing, hearing, leaping, praising.

The desert has become lush, blooming with crocuses.

And God says to them, his rag tag redeemed, one of my all time favourite spiritual messages in the Bible:

“Fear not”

Isaiah 27

The third chapter teasing out the promise of restoration for the Jewish nation, and extending the blessing to all nations. This is the tenderest.

It moves from a city image in the last chapter to a vineyard, watered and cared for every day, and a God who prefers peace.

The nation is called Judah to remind them of the covenant promise, and the punishment like his wrestling with God made them stronger, their fruit filling the whole world.

So we have simultaneously a personal metaphor (Judah) and an agricultural one of abundant blessing, it keeps leading us to a Messiah figure.

The chapter ends with a promise of atonement, making right with God, so the foreign idols are crumbled like chalk, and all the faithful who were exiled are called home.

Isaiah 18

Oracle about Cush.

People agree this is about Ethiopia. It was at that time the major regional power in Africa along with Egypt. The battle for dominance of the middle East was lining up to be between two heavy weights, Assyria vs Egypt for all the other land, and in that battle Israel may have had the offer to join an alliance with the two nations.

All of which might explain the reference to “ambassadors by sea” at the start.

The chapter seems to then talk about reverse ambassadors. There is no judgement of Cush mentioned here, is more like it tells them to look and listen to what happens to Israel, to learn about God’s might, and that the example of Israel will be a message to all nations. 

Cush will eventually bring tribute to Israel. Some suggest that the Queen of Sheba may have been a queen of Ethiopia. Which means there may have already been a tradition of respect for Israel.

It’s a fairly obscure prophesy, but in the near sense it seems to be about the judgement of Israel being inevitable, and local politicking making no difference. 

In the far meaning, it seems to be about Ethiopia becoming a centre for the church in Africa, which it did. It is certainly a useful passage to look at when ideology comes up about racial inferiority. God judges his own people to bless Africa. 

We are all equal before God, and all have access to grace.

2 Kings 4

A series of miraculous events from Elisha’s life that show God’s abundant blessings.  It reads like a page from the gospels.

A widow has a jar of oil that keeps producing oil enough to pay all her debts, and save her sons being sold into slavery.

Another woman who helped Elisha has a pregnancy at an old age, and then Elisha restores the child to life after he dies, two astounding miracles.

Good food produced from bitter gourds in famine, ending with a very familiar story of one loaf feeding a multitude.

The consistency of God’s character as revealed through Elisha and Jesus is abundance, life, plenty, fruitfulness. I claw my way through on a good salary with no mortgage, but only seem to achieve adequacy – I watch all my friends get better stuff and go on holidays on facebook. I am finding in my relationships and the ministries in church an abundance.  We have a new minister who is brimming with keen-ness and preached a beautiful first sermon on Sunday.  I’d feel pretty satisfied if these stories weren’t telling me God wants to give me more than I could dare expect.

Maybe I should pray to God to show me the nature of the abundance he wants me to have.

 

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!

1 Kings 10

A chapter devoted to the glory of king Solomon’s reign. The Queen of Sheba visits. His fleet, with help from king Hiram, brings wealth from all around. 

They seem to become a trade hub, particularly for horses, and Solomon’s wisdom – which the passage says God put in his mind – is sought by many foreign rulers. 

Israel becomes incredibly wealthy. Forget milk and honey, try good and silver flowing throughout the land.

The Queen of Sheba recognises and praises God and Solomon’s accomplishments as the source of his greatness.

The success and influence fulfill Deuteronomy, where it says Israel will become an example to the nations of God’s blessing. 

There are also notes of disobedience to the law. The amassing of wealth and horses was particularly prohibited of Israel’s king.  He wasn’t to personaly hold onto God’s blessing, it was for the nation as a whole.

A commentator noted that Solomon was paid 666 talents of gold per year, the only other time the number appears other than as “of the beast” in revelation, perhaps a warning about another person who will start good but ultimately become corrupt.