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.

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1 Kings 12

So here’s how the kingdom falls apart. 

Wise, experienced advisors tell Solomon’s son Rehoboam, to be a compassionate, generous leader.  His crew of dude bros’ tell him to be a nastier badass than his dad. He goes with the latter, causing all of Israel to leave except Judah, his own tribe, and the tribe of Benjamin. 

God appears, to avert civil war. He speaks through a man of God. And they listen.
The rest of the tribes follow jeroboam, who emerges from Egypt ready to lead the secession. They have no access to the temple at Jerusalem, and jeroboam sets up a version of the golden calf religion from exodus, with priests not from the levites tribe. He sets up two locations where they sacrifice to golden calves, which jeroboam describes as the Gods who bought them out of Egypt. 

In exodus, Moses had to bring God’s judgement to many followers of the calf. Now, God’s will is to let it go, at least, his judgement will not come via a civil war for now.

Kings is history, there is very little theological commentary as it goes through. I’m just describing the sweep of it for now.  The lessons are sad, and not in chapter sized chunks.

Needless to say the massive step backwards in obedience to Jehovah of the bulk of the people to the low point of the exodus story is the end of the idea that the chosen people’s society would be the model of God’s salvation. 

1 Kings 11

There is a lot of Bible left, and the dream kingdom of Solomon had to end sometime.

This chapter details Solomon’s faults, punishment and death.

His fault was marrying too many wives, 700 and 300 concubines to boot. Most were foreign and as he aged they turned him onto their own Gods. This was despite Jehovah having appeared to him twice.

God spoke to a rebel, jeroboam, through a prophet with the punishment that after Solomon’s death the kingdom would be split, with Solomon’s part being just 2 tribes. He ran to hide in Egypt until Solomon’s death, which came after 40 years.

Additionally, some of the neighbouring countries that Solomon near annihilated started to get strong again.

So Solomon dies with the kingdom set up to fall apart. The mercy God shows, keeping a remnant of the davidic kingdom is on behalf of David. We know that this is part of the meta plan of salvation, the line of David, a failure by earthly terms, but hanging on by a thread for God’s purpose.

Solomons kingdom saw the fullest flowering of the promised land promise they would ever know. It really was a blessed land flowing with abundance, admired by other nations. But they blew it by not staying faithful to Jehovah. We, humans, unaided, always will.

Exodus 14

The stunning victories of God over the Egyptians. God hardens their hearts and they pursue the Israelites despite all the clear messages of the power of God above their gods.

God makes it dark, he jams the wheels of their chariots. He leads the chase a though a sea which is a wall of water for the Israelites’ and downs the Egyptians.

They are told to stop running, virtually baiting the Egyptians to come and try to get them back. But the plagues haven’t convinced the Israelites of god’s power. Keith green seized on this as a metaphor. They wanna go back to slavery, to Egypt. They are terrified when the Egyptians pursue them.

It’s worth remembering when i lose yet another argument with an atheist. You would think the Israelites would be the strongest believers ever, but they constantly question Gods power.

Exodus 4

Don’t want to be chosen.

I remember C S Lewis’ autobiography talking about being dragged “kicking and screaming” into the kingdom.

It’s hard to demand your people’s freedom from the ruler who came up with the male infanticide policy, and threaten to kill his first born. Moses has run away from a life of unique privilege because he fears he may be killed for his rash murder of an abusive Egyptian he came upon.

He’s given magical signs to show he is speaking with power. But he still doesnt want to speak to the Pharaoh.

God says memorably “who gave human beings Thier mouths” and burns with anger at his chosen.

And puts in place a plan B, to use his brother Aaron as mouthpiece.

On the journey back to Egypt, God seems to test the family is loyal to him, even though zipporah, Moses’ wife, is not an Israelite. She gets the gist the way women seem to and circumscises her first baby son.

The people, when he arrives, worship God for sending a solution, albeit a flawed one, to their slavery and persecution.

Genesis 46

The Israelites all come. It’s a list chapter. Heartfelt moment when Joseph hugs his father. 

God speaks to Jacob/Israel and promises good when they get to Egypt, and to bring them back.

It starts with a plan to keep them separate, which seems like a diplomatic win win for both peoples. The Israelites will be shepherds in goshen. It is a verdant bit of rural land near the nile Delta, it will mean geographic and cultural separation. 

They will be nomadic shepherds, something very unattractive to the urbanised Egyptians, self supporting, so no economic or social threat.

Should work out, shouldn’t it?

Anyway, sometimes it is god’s will to go to Egypt.

Genesis 42

Egypt is rich in a time of famine, under Joseph (and god’s) stewardship. The brother’s come, and so starts a multi chapter lesson in grace.

Joseph is almost toying with them. There is no question of him forgiving them. He has seen god’s plan in all of it. 

But they don’t recognise him so he sets tasks of faith for them, they must trust his words, and he engineers grace. He gives them more than they asked for, and their guilty consciences keep them in a fine state of panic the more good things happen.

They desperately need to be schooled in faith, goodness and grace. We’ve seen into some of their lives. 

This is god’s transformation of the whole family into the nation of Israel, his people.

Oh that I could be this influence.  In my family, in my world. 

I love the non preachy nature of it. Joseph is where he is by acts of grace and faith. And he demonstrates rather than speaks it to his brothers. 

Genesis 41

The epitome of the “old testament story”. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and goes from jail to 2ic in charge of all of Egypt.

One mention of God: as the source of the dream and the interpretation. But he is directing everything.

Everyone in my immediate family is in some kind of pain. And some kind of rebellion against God. Reverse it father, reverse it!

Genesis 37

Now the story of Joseph, one of the greatest. 

It puts the brother’s behaviour in perspective knowing what a cruel bunch his brothers are, after the incident with Dinah a few chapters ago. 

Though that involved them killing a whole village from is a misguided sense of loyalty, and this involved extreme sibling rivalry.

So much comes back to Jacob’s character flaws. The brother’s are sneaky and heartless. It took Reuben, who we last saw committing quasi incest, to talk them out of actually killing him.

Joseph is comfortable at 17 bragging about being the preferred younger son. Jacob’s history repeats there.

Of course it was more than just jealousy, the family wealth was at stake. Joseph in telling his dreams about the brother’s bowing down to him was intentionally or not rubbing his brothers noses in his favoured state with their father.

It’s hard to know what to deduce about Joseph’s character from this. He’s telling the truth about his dreams about god’s future blessing on him. Was he bragging or merely honest. 

We have blessing, we aren’t to let shame about our unearned salvation mean we avoid telling others they need it. But we do. Damnation is an awkward subject with non-Christian friends. 

Was he foolish to speak of his blessedness, given his brothers history of violent greed, or simply faithful, knowing that if God has plans for him nothing they will do will forfeit them?

Joseph’s character is not clear yet. But god’s blessing is.