Job 24

Oh no, bad night’s sleep, very difficult chapter. Eyes keep closing.

Job seems to argue that justice should be seen to be done as well as be done.

This is possibly a way of reconciling his belief in God and the arguments of his friends.

He’s sort of saying it all comes down to timing. If God could relieve the suffering of the vulnerable during their lives, and bring about the downfall of the wicked exploiters by means other than the termination of their years on earth, then he would accept the words of his friends.

The argument has been heading this direction for a few chapters. It’s like they are reaching a consensus on God’s cosmic and eternal justice. Job’s refusal to deny God includes an underlying belief in his justice.

But he doesn’t understand why he can’t be seen to be just. Try as they might, the others can’t spin the experience of life here on earth as reflecting God’s justice, particularly to one who has lost everything to a series of misfortunes as job has.

Between Christians today, the struggle continues between those who put their hope in heaven after we die, and those who emphasise ‘thy will be done on earth’.

Christianity almost has too many ideas. It almost works as a gospel of earthly ethics, with no supernatural, afterlife element needed. And it almost works completely as a system of eternal reward, with the corporeal virtually disposable except as an opportunity to hear and accept the word about God’s eternal plan.

The most unsettling teaching I’ve heard in recent years was from N T Wright, partly because as an Anglican Bishop respected by serious types in my circles, I was conditioned to exist he was ‘safe’and mainstream and not likely to be a whacky heretic.

But he teaches we wont go to heaven, heaven will be a fixed up version of where we are now, earth. Literally, I think. For example, his book on the environment is called ‘God is coming, plant a tree! That idea has never crossed my mind. We’re staying here? This is it?

Whether metaphorical or not, thinking of it that way gives a whole extra impetus to that line I’ve said all my life ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

Eternity is inherently a present tense and past as well as a future concept. But so often we talk about it as something confined to the future.

However, as they say, ‘we should start as we mean to carry on.’ Slavery can console itself with visions of bands of angels coming to carry them home, but also should be abolished. Both.

So in my job interview yesterday when I said I got it, this Salvos idea of holistic mission, practical and spiritual Christianity, it wasn’t just so they’d give me a job!

Perhaps it’s time for all of Job’s friends to stop talking. I mean come on guys 24 chapters, what is this, a theological college?

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Psalm 48

The city, the temple, the Lord. All to be greatly praised.

If I can stay awake.

I’ve been getting the flu, I see now, since daylight saving came in on the weekend. My body clock is all over the place. Wasn’t ready for the alarm this morning. Having second thoughts about not having a second day off work.

All three are intertwined, God, his City, his temple, all sorts of positive connotations are piled on all three: beautiful, strong, loving, astounding.

This could well be talking about the event in chronicles where the sons of Korah, writers of the psalm, are mentioned.

Local countries teamed up to destroy Israel in a weak moment, but they became overwhelmed with confusion and fought each other, annihilated each other.

King Jehoshaphat of Israel showed tremendous trust in God. Faith in him was his military strategy: ‘we look to you’.

The singing of songs praising the splendour of God’s holiness was an integral part of the victory. It bought a generation of peace.

This is exactly the song for that moment.

But being the Bible, the truth about God’s home has larger eternal meanings, after Jesus’ words about destroying and rebuilding the temple in his death and resurrection, and the vision of the new Jerusalem in Revelation.

We sing the psalm today and it still makes perfect sense. It reflects our own salvation, the God we know and love. I’m a temple, I live in the holy city, among God’s chosen. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, in me he sees God. I am beautiful, strong, astounding. I am channel of his love through the whole earth. With him my soul finds an eternal dwelling.

1 Chronicles 16

The second half of the celebration of the ark of the covenant coming to Jerusalem, this box they’ve carried through the wilderness with the 10 commandments written by God the food God provided, and Moses’ staff, which turned into a snake before Pharaoh.

They appoint priests to run worship at the place it is and make music. Singing and music are key to uniting the people under Jehovah.

Then we get a big bold song about God being over all and his love being eternal. And they feed everyone, roast meat, bread and raisins.

It is a sensational day, the making of a people, a godly people, their destiny, a golden freeze frame moment.

The last verse says then they all went home, and David spent time with his family.

Isaiah 65

The wicked and the new Jerusalem.

We are back to God’s voice after the last two prayers.

First is a fierce rejection of the wicked, people who refuse to acknowledge God, repeatedly rubbing his nose in their worship of their own Gods.

Then a promise not to judge them all, and the promise of a new Jerusalem, where pain is gone, aging is gone. It is his holy mountain. (there is so much mountain imagery in the Bible!) God delights in it.

So for me that is a bit now, because Jesus said the kingdom of God was at hand, and a bit at the end times.

I can revel in the promise of the new earth of God’s presence, but I should also sense the urgency of telling people about God’s judgement. I’m terrible at this. All I can do is blog!

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 60

Future’s so bright I gotta wear shades

I looked at the YouTube summary of Isaiah again, and I see that the symmetry thing is a bit of a distraction.

It’s more that this end to Isaiah pretty much takes all the themes of the Bible so far and and arranges them as Christian theology.

It all there.

Our current situation, waiting for the kingdom. Telling the good news to the wicked. Living lives of love for our fellow mankind.

The promise of a new creation.

Everything except the specific person of Jesus, who is the servant/king/redeemer.

It a terrific advancement in the progressive revelation of God’s plans and character, and very exciting to believers, because of the promise of a new creation and the triumph of the little guy (or gal).

This chapter is about the future glory of Israel, with a predominance of poetic references to brightness and light.

It commences “Arise, shine, your light has come, the glory of the lord has risen”, which sets the tone.

The coming of the lord bring the gathering of people, Jewish family reunions and non Jewish too. And the gathering of wealth and abundance.

It will be an end to violence and want, it will surpass the sun in is glory and it will last forever.

Heaven, new creation.

This is the promise of Isaiah to a people weak, exiled, being conquered, divided and failing.

Sometimes I think of the new creation as a “nice to have” – I want my rewards for being a Christian to be here now in terms of praying for a better life and more satisfying outcomes in this world.

Plus heaven too, almost as an afterthought.

The new creation is kind of the point. It’s not just a philosophy of good living.

I’m worried that I have stated to treat redundancy as a holiday. I need to stay focused on the hard work of putting myself out there on the job market.

Isaiah 26

Woah, a chapter that goes some unexpected places.

A description of God’s City, walls made of salvation, the strongest stuff there is. Gates town open to all nations. To the dead.

A height metaphor is used to talk about the proud and pompous being made low and the humble lifted up, but not reversed, made straight, made even.

Isaiah is always this two edged sword, can’t damn without hope, no hope without contrasting fate of those who do not listen. It’s always a plea.

The contrast here is with the outcome of people’s trust in their own strength, which looks like it’s going to deliver but ultimately can’t. Amusingly it is compared to a woman writhing with birth pains who ultimately delivers a fart. What a great way to think about so much of the Ted talks etc, humanism has great goals, but only humans to execute them.

The birth metaphor extends to God raising the dead in him for his City, the ground giving them up. The City of Salvation is not tied to earthly life spans, its eternal forwards and backwards.

God is solid, God is real, God produces children for his labours, true justice, true rescue, lasting comfort.

In the meantime this promise “God will keep you in perfect peace if your mind is set on him”

Isaiah 25

A description of heaven. It is a picture of abundance, of justice, of comfort, where God dries every tear. 

The ruined cities are contrasted to God’s feast on a mountain. 

Death is swallowed up, absorbed, forever. So it is also a vision of the moment of victory on Calvary. 

I really love my church. It is a similar vision of feasting, justice and comfort.

I’ve been getting lousy about parish council, but it has clicked here.

Deuteronomy 17

Another warning against other Gods, this time nature worship, the sun and moon.

And another layer of the legal system. Impossible cases can go to the levites, the priests. Strangely enough our legal system still has a vestige of that, a branch of the law, equity, is based on the church courts in England where people could go to relieve the hardship of the civil courts.

Two capital offences, for worshipping other Gods and not accepting the Law.

Then a passage on how an Israelite king should be, one of the people, not amassing great wealth and many wives. I didn’t even think God wanted them to have a king… They went through the period of judge/leaders and kings were given to them as a second best. But here as they are about to enter the promised land is assumed they will have a king. .

Maybe it was like the walk to the promised land, they had to drift for a while with no king because they ignored God’s word.

It’s a picture of a society with God over all that doesn’t place is trust in great men. It’s a society with lots of capital offences, yes, which is troubling. But within that, it’s one of equality, justice, rights and humility. It’s strikingly different even in our world, let alone the ancient.

Numbers 2

Gives us a picture of how the nation camped. In a big wheel around the tabernacle. The levites were in the middle, around the holy tent, the 11 tribes were in blobs around that, always in the same order.  God’s presence at the centre, like heaven.

Family is all. Within the tribes, you camp in your clan and in your family.

And when they moved on, they left in the same order each time, and set up camp the same as before.