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.

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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.

1 Kings 19

Elijah left the last chapter on a high, having destroyed the false prophets, running to reach and influence the king. But he seems to lose the political advantage and is again hunted as public enemy number one by Queen Jezebel.  He loses all hope.

Tired, hungry, he staggers one day into the desert and gives up. He tells God to just let him die. And if the lack of food doesn’t get him the Queen surely will.

God gives him food for strength enough to hide properly. Then 3 displays of his power, earthquake wind and Fire. Then silence out of which he listens to Elijah’s utter loneliness and hopelessness and then promises help and victory over Ahab and Jezebel.

The help comes first. Elijah shares his mantle with Elisha, who like Jesus’ disciples unhesitatingly leaves a busy and prosperous life to follow.

It’s a passage that should restore the hope of everyone who reads it. It details how caring God is.

First he attends to the immediate physical needs, the good Shepherd, food and shelter.

Then the reminder of his power, after which the intimate solace. God listens, promises.

And the help. Is there anything more encouraging than other believers who share your sense of God’s mission?

That’s our God! I pray that me and mine may know that God. If you are desperate, it’s worth crying to him.

1 Kings 16

A series of Israel, northern, kings. They seem to go faster and faster, a series of military coups. Basically none of the kings of Israel acknowledge the true God. Again a prophet has the voice of God calling out the evil and the judgement.

We’ve had the era of judges, the era of kings, both of which became corrupt after some periods of godly glory. Now we are entering the period of prophets, lone voices speaking truth to power.

The fourth dynasty starts with Omri, who is the most evil yet. He builds the capital of Israel in Samaria. Then his son Ahab, is more evil again. He marries Jezebel, and together they adopt the worship of Baal. 

They rebuild Jericho, the walls of which God bought down. The word of the lord is chillingly recalled as the the person in charge of the building loses his firstborn then his youngest son according to the curse uttered by Joshua on anyone who attempted to rebuild after God’s mighty victory.

Ahab is showing utter contempt for God. But the true God’s word and strength stay forever, that is the constant message.

1 Samuel 3

God speaks … In a temple no less! 

God does the old 1 2 3.. when people aren’t ready to hear him, we so often see this repetition. Like the calling of Gideon, the plagues in Egypt, or when Christ takes several stages to heal a blind person.

And now Samuel, as a boy living in the temple, hearts good call him 3 times, thinking it’s the chief priest eli, before he is told it is God’s voice.

And this is a temple, why would anyone expect to hear him there? This is the story of Samuel being chosen to be a vehicle, a prophet. 

But the emotional centre of the story goes to eli, the chief priest, who has seen his sons betray and pervert the faith. He knows the word of the lord has left his line, he expects the word to Samuel to reflect badly on him. And he accepts it with graceful resignation. One can only imagine how his sleep went the rest of the night once he realised the lord was calling Samuel.

May I gracefully accept your judgement lord, and your challenges.