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.

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1 Chronicles 13

Presumption.

Usually a presumptuous person gets a verbal dressing down but the person who presumes to catch the ark of the covenant from falling gets death.

It’s shocking, having been trained all my life as an evangelical Christian not to give objects power, to avoid the popish veneration of statues and so forth. Yet this covenant box, as it’s called here, has that power.

We’re also entering the repeat zone. Chronicles and Kings follow each other quite closely at times. I could just copy over my comments from before, maybe, or do the fun game where you mine the slight differences in the texts for deeper meaning.

I suppose we get the life of Jesus 4 times. The story of exodus goes in circles like the trip, over four books. It’s just how it is. The histories of the kings of Israel don’t seem as important now as they must have back then, but as we are to learn, obedience to God’s perspective is. So I’ll go through again, and have many similar thoughts again, with humility.

The issue with the ark is not the object but obedience. They’d been told how to carry it in Numbers, but they consulted each other rather than God’s word and came up with a special cart. Then, in the moment it threatened to fall from the cart, Uzziah thought better of the rule about not touching it, but he was wrong.

As I commented last time, it’s God’s right as creator to appoint the day of our death. This was his day, and if Israel had listened to the message, they may not have been destroyed. If David had listened, he may not have had murder in his biography.

Entering into the period of the kings they get a sharp message about the issue that would end the period of the kings, reverence for God’s word.

We don’t think of Fred hollows life as wasted, but there is still needless blindness caused by poverty in the world. Nor mother Theresa’s, but there are still slums in India, So who’s to say what a valuable life looks like?

I’m very sad today, I’m haunted by my failings, my procrastination, my inability to cope with things. I’m closed off, trying to live a good life, but Paul’s way. Paul’s special cart. I need to share, to offer to God my desire to cope better under my own steam.

Kelly can never understand why I try to solve everything myself, why I don’t read instruction manuals or ask for help. She’s right.

And OK, so maybe reading some of these stories again does make sense.

Jeremiah 45

Sucks to be Jeremiah’s scribe

What a gem of a chapter, I love this. Baruch wrote down and assembled the book.

He gets his own words of God addressing his complaints. And wonderfully honest and human complaints they are. He’s generally miserable, and he thought he was destined for greater things.

We know how much it sucked to be Jeremiah. His complaints were far grander. He wished he hadn’t been born. A lot of society’s condemnation may have rubbed off on Baruch as well.

His word from God is a bit like a patient parent explaining to a child that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  He says he’s giving him the prize of his life when everything else is  destroyed.

My birthday is next week. Not happy about being older, variations on thinking I was destined for greater things. Message here to count my blessings, timely.

“Do you seek great things for yourself, seek them not” great verse, straight to the pool room.

 

 

Jeremiah 43

Last chapter was a cliff hanger. Has Judah learned nothing, will they ignore Jeremiah and make the mistake of going to Egypt?

Yes. They accuse Jetemiah of trying to trap them. Off to Egypt.

When you are God, Deus ex machina plot twists are too easy.

Once the poor ragtag remnant of the chosen people have willingly returned to Egypt, symbol of Israel’s slavery before Gods salvation, Jeremiah reveals it.

He hides stones in the entrance to the royal Egyptian palace and says that they will one day be part of the Babylonian Empire. Yes it’s a Jonah style escape, no escape at all.

Babylon will follow them, Egypt offers no protection, in fact they will be worse off as absconders.

I’m trying, very unsuccessfully, to write a song about weakness, about being weak enough to trust God. The Cross is an image of weakness.

Make me weak Lord! The thing is that trusting our own strength rather than God’s is cowardly. Weakness requires courage. The judeans simply werent brave enough to stay in Judah. They had God’s word but the strength of their own judgement overrode it.

Struggling with self discipline at the moment. As Keith green said, I wanna go back to Egypt.

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 32

Long term investment.

Jumping back to the seize of Jerusalem, Jeremiah is being held in the kings palace because of his negative talk. The King asks him why, why does he keep saying they will lose?

God has prepared him for this moment by getting him to do a sign showing his long term investment, literally, in the promised land. He’s got him to buy a field during the siege. He’s hidden the deed away, because God has promised one day it will mean something.

The King probably knew they would most likely be defeated. But he just didn’t want to hear it. Jeremiah became an external thing to focus his own fear on.

God and by extension Jeremiah are putting their money on Jerusalem in a tangible way that sort of turns the table on who is the fear monger and who is not.

But it also demonstrates the inequality of power, the king is losing his grip on his, but God never will. Why do we always fall for the earthly power?

Jeremiah is a book about listening to God. He often says the last thing you want to hear.

Jeremiah 28

Last chapters talked about the populist prophets, who told the people a prediction of Jewish victory against Babylon. Jeremiah in contrast had a physical teaching aid, a wooden yoke he wore to teach that Babylon was being given victory over Israel as a judgment.

This is a close up view of that conflict.

Hanaiah speaks the false prophesy in the company of Jeremiah in public. He grabs and snaps Jeremiah’s symbolic yoke.

Jeremiah responds with wistfulness more than anything else. He wishes it were true.

Later God gives him a portent of Hanaiah’s death and Jeremiah goes to him to tell him the damage the false hope does for the people. He says by breaking the wood yoke, he’s made one of iron for them.

This is the problem with populism, false hope leading to bad decision making.

Around the world, false prophets have been denying climate change, holding back decisions to do something about it. However I read a report last week that the US military are tacitly confirming it by relocating bases that will soon be subject to flooding.

Denial often makes problems worse. Ditto soft selling the gospel, how is that a favour to people?

Jeremiah 21

Undaunted by beating and humiliation, Jeremiah’s message is the same.

The priest and the king send for a word of encouragement in the face of attack by king Nebuchadnezzar. He says not to fear the king, because God will be attacking, fear him.

He suggests the best strategy will be surrender, because then your life may be spared. Every other response will lead to defeat and death.

And he has a special word for the king, the house of David. You’d better let go anyone you have unjustly imprisoned. Because you are being judged for your deeds.

You may be putting up a brave front saying you’ll take on any attacker, but God is against you, you are going to lose.

Pray that God does not judge me for my deeds. He doesn’t play favorites. Fortunately that applies to grace as well as judgement.

It’s a chilling chapter.

Isaiah 48

The themes swirl around again.

Judah and Israel are hard and deceitful, despite holy words.

The punishment, the exile, is God’s judgement

The return from exile will be God’s blessing. It’s a refining process.

He was before all the idols, and he is doing a new thing that will surpass them.

Again we get a hint, which will be fleshed out in further chapters, of the still mysterious third person of God “from the time it came to be I have been there. And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit…”

He calls Israel to listen. The chapter concludes with a reminder of the extravagant blessing in the wilderness, streams of water gushing from rock.

The last words are an encouragement or a warning “there is no peace for the wicked”.

Is it directed to the Israelites or the conquering armies?

Generally this section has made the case for God against the doubts and fears of the Israelites.

It is not a narrow question or a passive one. The case for God requires a response from us all.

Writing this on Christmas Day 2017, looking at the global phenomenon of Santa. Baby Jesus is still a more uncomfortable Christmas image, one that demands things of people that they aren’t sure they want to give.