Job 15

Eliphaz speaks a second time to Job and is more aggressive than the first.

I’m guessing he took offence at Job saying he was not inferior to his friends, because he doubles down on attacking Job for a mixture of arrogance and corruption.

I’ll talk through the flow of his argument, because I’m struggling to follow a bit at this point.

First he says that wise people don’t do what he does: speak empty words that drag other people down. We are being shown that Eliphaz finds Job’s questioning an offence and a threat.

He claims the elders. He says they are on his side … So where could have Job’s attitude have come from? He’s marginalising him.

He gets theological, but unfairly so by saying only God can be righteous and pure, when Job has already agreed he’s not perfect.

To this theological point he adds the elder’s traditional teaching that bad people get bad things..

If evil people seem to be thriving, it’s an illusion. It will all fall apart, they’ll get theirs.

He doesn’t once refer to the Job’s suffering personally or directly. Job has made a very emotional appeal. Eliphaz’s response is impersonal.

Empathy is a luxury for the unthreatened. Because simply acknowledging the seeming injustice Job is suffering would threaten his world view, he can’t. He throws up religion, tradition and majority consensus to justify switching off from job.

It is so still thus. Very easy to view this as an indigenous story. And to relate it to the demonization of refugees and immigrants, or the ‘other’ whatever form that may take. Eliphaz started out sounding more sympathetic, but underneath was this resistant hardness.

Suffering a touch of Monday-itis. What will the week bring? Have a fun trip to wyong to look forward to on Wednesday, and a few other nice things. And Kelly will finish all her assessments.

Speaking to me from the passage is the need to respond to the things in front of you. What you encounter. The good you can do now, like Jesus did. Don’t close yourself to the moment.

Rattling round in my head is a Christian thinker who claimed in a video last week that all human creativity and achievement is social, relational. I’m feeling like I’m too much of an island.

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Job 11

Job’s friends are commenting on his misfortunes. Today we heard from the third, Zohar. And he is the most plausible.

They’ve done the ol’ literary 1-2-3. Like the beds in little red riding hood, Eliphaz was too soft, Bildad was too hard, Zophar is closest to fine.

And Job hasn’t been all oppositional… He’s agreed with some points, objected to others and made a few of his own. There is a sense of zeroing in on the nature of God.

The voices are like – indeed they are probably literally – different aspects of one internal monologue inside the mind of the author of the book, as ideas are considered and tested.

His first point is that Job’s claim of innocence has to be baloney. This is what I actually believe, the doctrine of original sin.

People decide they are innocent with so little prompting. I remember visiting jails when I studied criminology, and the prisoners never related their punishment to their crime, to them their incarceration was always unjustified. They’d forgotten the crime, all they could see was the punishment.

But rather than attempt to join the dots between a sin and Job’s suffering in a simplistic cause-and-effect way as the first two friends did, Zohar echoes Job’s sense that there must be more. Some missing bits to our understanding of God.

He says that of course job has sinned, God’s already forgotten more of Job’s sins than he could ever confess. But sin isn’t the point. Understanding God, becoming wise, is.

And that has to come from God. He memorably says the chance of us coming up with an understanding of God without His help is about the same as a donkey having a human baby.

It ends with perhaps the most significant turn around of the book. He says that if he humbles himself before God he will receive hope, love, and a satisfied mind free from fear… Rather than stuff. The others just spoke of a return to prosperity and respectability.

So we’ve tested the conventional wisdom, it’s fallen short and we need new paradigms on sin and blessing that are aligned to the revealed nature of God.

Sin is useful as a contrast, shows us how we are not God. Makes us desire not only his mercy but wisdom, insight, understanding of how things were designed to be, how things could be better.

Similarly, blessing is about His kingdom coming, not ours. Earth as per heaven.

And as far as human philosophy and effort can take us, in terms of really understanding the universe, it’s like expecting a donkey to give birth to a human.

Or a human to give birth to God. Just a minute!

2 Chronicles 7

Continuing with the dedication of the temple. After Solomon prays, God acts, sending cloud and fire to burn the sacrifice.

The celebrations go for 3 weeks, involved crazy number of animals being sacrificed. Foreign leaders were there. After it all everyone goes home happy.

Then God speaks to Solomon and accepts the temple. He says his name, his heart and his ears will be there forever, and he will hear prayers offered there.

He offers two ways it can go from here, 2 ways to live if you will. Following other Gods, or him.

Spoiler alert, pay attention to the option where they don’t stick to it and the temple ends up rubble.

This all seems very remote from me today. Of course I can still worship other Gods. If I am now the temple of God, I suppose he’s saying I have the choice to have it rejected by God and his presence withdrawn.

I’m praying for family as ever, for financial self discipline and responsibility.

1 Chronicles 20

A couple of military victories.

David sits out the first battle, which is an oblique reference to David’s biggest sin, when he murdered out of lust for Bathsheba. This narrative is very focused on nation building and the temple, it’s not a complete history.

They also kill Giants, mirroring the story of when David was a boy and slew Goliath. Three different giant slayers are identified, but at the end the credit is given to ‘David and his men’.

There is no editorialising here, but the choices of details have narrative significance.

It’s primarily setting up the most secure and prosperous era of the Israelites, which was quite short lived.

Ok, methodically reading a randomly divided chapter of scriptures every day in sequence doesn’t deliver a neat message you can take with you every time. It’s a discipline as well as an inspiration.

1 Chronicles 14

Life done right. Descriptions of King David’s early days ooze his godliness.

He doesn’t realise really that God plans him to be king until other Kings send gifts and trade missions. He’s the king described in the law, back in Deuteronomy. Humble.

Philistines attack. He asks God what to do… He doesn’t tell God to give him victory because God is on his side. He prays to know God’s wisdom, his will.

2 decisive victories, and the nations fear them, God has won them some peace and prosperity. No sense of entitlement though, just gratitude.

Classic example of putting God before all. To David the role of king is an outcome of God’s will, not of his own talent or ambition. Because God is his king.

This chapter should be read by every believer starting a new phase of life. You haven’t made it, you aren’t there to use the opportunity to do God’s will. God made you, you are there to discover what God’s will is.

Jeremiah 37

In a non chronological way we are now getting episodes in the siege that Jeremiah spent the first 30 chapters warning of.

King Zedekiah is a very mediocre monarch. Even though he was sponsored by the Babylonians, he makes an alliance with Egypt to protect Jerusalem.

The Babylonians leave mid siege to go and annihialate the Egyptians.

The pause in the siege is pathetically celebrated by the Jews as a premature “mission accomplished”.

It is when they “unfree” their slaves, renegging on a vow to God. It was discussed a few chapters ago.¬† Israelites with no empathy for slaves have totally lost their identity.

Of course it will prove politically disastrous after the Babylonians come back.

Meanwhile Jeremiah is beaten and thrown into a dire dungeon on a trumped up charge by angry officials, visited by the king who doesn’t know what to do and delivers his consistent message that they are doomed.

The King continues to detain him, but in a better prison at the kings palace, so at least he won’t die. It was there that Jeremiah wrote the hopeful prophesies about the Messiah and the return from exile.

So we see responses to God’s word. Zedekiahs’s officials do a simple “shoot the messenger”.

Zedekiahs’s is more nuanced. He blocks and contains it. He also make sure he knows what it is, occasionally consulting Jeremiah. Then he ignores it.

But part of him respects/fears it enough to hedge his bets and not outright kill Jeremiah.

It’s is sort of like the difference between an atheist and an agnostic.

The point being that none of the politics or conniving make a fig of difference.

Jeremiah 36

The word of God

For work I have to write a short script for a video on the word of God.

At God’s urging Jeremiah has a scribe write words from God the king didn’t want the people to hear on a scroll. Jeremiah is banned from the temple, so he has the scribe Baruch, read it.

It’s taken to the king who has it read and cuts off every few paragraphs as they are read and throws them into the fire.

He orders retribution against Jeremiah, who God protects. Jeremiah writes the scroll again, this time with more words…

The King is offended when it says Babylon will triumph and he will die. Or is he offended that it asks him to repent?

By burning it, the king also burned hope.

The funny thing about the word of God, by refusing to participate in it you, don’t gain more control over your life.

The word is unstoppable because it is truth, and it is right: fair just, it is God’s love. You become an actor in your life more by acknowledging it.

Jeremiah 34

A prophesy during the siege of Judah. There are only a couple of fortified towns left and Jerusalem was attacked, but the Babylonian king has withdrawn for now.

Jeremiah is here to tell them it means nothing, the city will be destroyed.

The King is told he’ll die in Babylon, deposed but not a violent death.

The King has made a last minute effort to please God by setting all the Israelite slaves free. It’s a key part of the justice teaching in the Torah, exodus and all that, that they are not to enslave each other.

But the people don’t stick with the kings decree, they set the slaves free then take them back again. Poor slaves, how disappointed they must have been. That they do this while under attack shows how far from God’s law they really are.

Sword, pestilence and famine are the only law they will listen to.

Thinking about tough love, on myself and my family. Such a drag to be the Jeremiah in people’s lives.

Jeremiah 14

This chapter is a dialogue of struggle between Jeremiah and God. They are talking about Israel, but to each other.

Jeremiah’s bleak message for the people rips him apart. His epic struggle to obey God is a key theme of the book, and an ironic one.

His love for the people makes it so painful for him to obey God and prophesy doom and gloom for them. Yet that obedience also contrasts so extremely with their disobedience that it helps make the case for the message.

God and Jeremiah are a bit like parents of a wayward child. They are so frustrated that they can’t reach the child, they start to turn on each other.

Here Jeremiah paints to God a vivid picture of how a series of droughts are affecting not just his people but his creatures and creation. There is a strong emotional plea, manipulation even, in it.

He doesn’t promise their repentance as such, he can’t, but he goads God to act because of his character. “Are you a stranger?” he asks, “a visitor, a confused old man? Aren’t you supposed to be a mighty warrior who loves his people?” It’s quite a way to speak to God!

“Nup, not happening” God essentially replies in quite blunt terms. “And stop praying for them.”

Jeremiah tries a different tack, arguing they have been misled by false prophets. He’s implying that it’s not their fault.

God promises the false prophets and the people will perish, and gives Jeremiah a true word to take to them, of them shattered; dead and unburied in the fields of battle, starving and sick in the cities.

Despite God’s prohibition, Jeremiah prays beautifully again for them to close the chapter.

We have a message for our world, the western part of which is experimenting with all sorts of affront to God. That includes some of the “chosen”, evangelical Christians, in my view. We can pray for them all we like, but at some point God wants us to act.

1 Kings 22

Inconvenient truths.

Ahab makes a treaty with Jehoshaphat, the southern king of Judah, to attack the enemy he let go – king Aman, who has only got stronger and now threatens his territory.

At Jehoshaphat’s request they¬†consult prophets, the are now 400 of them (I can only guess that Elijah’s victory in the battle of the gods must have turned around the policy of exterminating them).

All predict victory, except one who after initially agreeing with the majority tells them of a vision from God that He put a lying spirit in their mouths.

The king has a recognisably Trumpian approach to truth. He didn’t even want to consult the last prophet because he often says bad things will happen.

Ahab obviously knows Aman will be gunning for him so he battles in disguise and is killed anyway. The blood from his wounds on his chariot are washed in public and dogs do lick it up, as was prophesied.

Judah meanwhile gets the second godly king in a row, Jehoshaphat after asa. But the text makes clear that they are weak…. They get rid of some of the false religious practises but not all.

1 Kings ends.

I’m getting the message that God is in charge, his truth will out.

But the meta story, the sad fate of the chosen people, seems to be the reason for the book to be in the Bible. It sets the backdrop for the prophets, who will redefine God’s saving mission.