Hosea 11

It’s just how things are. God is truth. Truth gives things an inherent nature. The truth will out, it cannot be denied. Well not forever.

God made us capable of rebellion. In this chapter there are sweet images of God leading Israel with chords of love. Bonds of kindness. The gentlest control imaginable, purely motivated by our best interests.

Easy to refuse. Israel want to go back to Egypt; they can. The Assyrians what to conquer Israel. They can. Neither is good for Israel, neither is God’s ideal. Israel won’t acknowledge their creator. And God is torn at the fair outcome of rebellion: destruction.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?

    How can I hand you over, Israel?

…My heart is changed within me;

    all my compassion is aroused.”

Verse 8

God will call them back from Egypt. Call them back from Assyria. His son will come out of Egypt, as Jesus did.

Because of Jesus we understand that God suffers pain. We see how Christ’s incarnation is like the image of a parent with a small child given here, stooping down to lift us up, and hold us to his cheek. The immortal author of light and love experiences pain and death. It was always going to be part of God’s story.

Why a pandemic? It’s just how things are. The Governor of Florida and the premier of Brazil, a few politicians have tried the King Canute approach of denying realty.

But they face the inevitable, soaring mortality rates, regardless. And across the world, we value human life. We try to reduce the death rates, his instinctual.

It talks here about the people not being aware of all that God does for them in love. But the potential is there,because they have a moral dimension. Maybe he wrote rebellion in our hearts, and sadness into our minds, so we could know what love is.

God wrote pain into his own story and ours, death into his own story and ours, because we are a creation in his image. It is the nature of things, it is truth.

Hosea 10

A chapter promising, warning, Israel of coming destruction. Their particular combination of idols, political alliances and a hollow show of ritual, the deception of it, makes God angry.

It’s anything but God. They won’t accept that their prosperity comes from God. They look anywhere else to trust for their success. It’s pride I suppose.

The only way God can show he is God is to take it away.

A had a nice exchange with Mark our pastor, who is clearly going a bit stir crazy not being able to minister to as many people as he was, because of the virus lockdown. He’d put a post on Facebook denying that the pandemic is a direct punishment from God for specific sin. It doesn’t work any more like it does in the old testament.

So I shared with him some of the blankness I have been feeling here. If you can’t draw lines to punishment, where can you draw them? Does it all mean nothing? He teased that a sermon is in the works.

Certainly the “anything but God” pride is still evident all round the place. That hasn’t changed one bit.

I’m in a quiet place emotionally. I’m pessimistic about continuing when my three month contract is up in early June. I’m one of 7 very capable “content specialists” in my team. Not very special, not much for me to do as far as I can tell.

I’m still furious with my boss Rod for making me redundant. He did it so that the events team could have extra resources because they were so busy. All the events are now cancelled. I’m way less likely to get a job with the state of the economy. He couldn’t have known how the virus situation would develop, but he could have been more kind, well before I was made redundant. Roles switched, I would not have done it to him.

But enough venting. I will await my rector’s online sermon with interest.

Ezekiel 22

This is an early exile group in Babylon, and Ezekiel is a source of God-given news about Jerusalem. It’s all bad.

This chapter has a brutal picture of a corrupt society. The powerful are depicted as a savage bunch of wild animals that tear people and social order apart to satisfy their appetites.

The priesthood is painted as whitewashing the greed and self dealing of the powerful for the own advantage, with no care for the average people.

The test of a society is it’s treatment of the vulnerable: poor, needy and foreigners. Jerusalem’s are robbed, extorted and denied justice.

We have these things called lobbyists. Persuading the government who are supposed to represent us to instead serve the interests of the coal lobby, or the stock market. Inequality is tangibly rising in so many Western democracies. More and more people are locked out of home ownership. The picture of Jerusalem might be worse in some ways, but we have some pretty big ills.

There’s a messianic word at the end about someone who could stand in the gap between Jerusalem and God’s wrath.

So we get away with it? Now Jesus is here? What is the accountability? This question fuels my addiction to U.S. politics. How long, lord, how long?

Matthew 1

T’was grace that bought us safe thus far…

I’m having a break from reading Ezekiel to read a bit of Matthew. The first time I have ventured into the new testament for years.

Chapter one, first chapter of the new testament. What a moment!!! Sound the trumpets, prepare the feast. The story is not over, its coming to it’s climax! Yes?

Well it is, but the transition is not as dramatic as that, in fact quite the opposite, it’s much more about establishing continuity with the old testament.

I mean, way to start with a genealogy! We’ve already had so many. I’ve found it boring in the past, but after so much reading of the OT I actually found it comforting and rich. So much more so would the original jewish readers.

3 times 14 generations between the pillars of the narrative thus far: Abraham to David, David to exile, exile to Messiah. The only thing I’m missing is a link to exodus… Maybe that will come later.

I remember in genesis saying how the narrative of god’s intervention was the slenderest thread running though so much compromise, murk and cruelty.

Yes! It’s not a story of glorious bloodlines, it’s a story of grace.

You can’t help but notice a few women singled out in the chain of father to father. And what a crew.

Tamah, widowed, rejected and forgotten, had to pose as a prostitute to have a son with her own faithless substitute husband.

Rahab, actually was a prostitute, of Jericho. Chosen by faithful response, not race. That’s a tangential, ironic even, link to exodus!

Ruth, the Moabite, widow, the least likely but faithful responder to grace. Again contradicting a racial interpretation of the chosen people. The outsider, preparing all of us for acceptance into the family of Judah.

Bathsheba, not mentioned by name but singled out to remind us that the noblest part of Jesus’ line, David and Solomon, is mired in a nasty story murder, lust and sin.

So much seeming contradiction. The ultimate perhaps is that the chapter goes on to detail that the last link in the chain, Joseph, is not Jesus’ biological father, the holy spirit is.

The least, the rejected, the weak, the humble, outsiders, sinners, the failures of the powerful. These are God’s power players and power moves in saving the world.

An inheritance of promises and mercy. Of grace.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy Name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.

Thank you!

Psalm 142

Never alone. This is why it’s great to be connected to God.

Key moments out of 6 verses to me were: 2, ‘I pour out before him my complaint’ and 5 ‘you are my portion in the land of the living’. As in, I am in dire straights, I have no one. But: you are all I need.

I’m not, as David, in some miserable cave, public enemy number one, knowing everyone wants me dead. But I’m feeling kind of sorry for myself, stuck.

I should be planning retirement, looking forward to the rest of my life, but I can’t see past the older two children who show no sign of ever leaving. I’m not exaggerating, that’s literally the case.

And it’s a tension and a strain, obviously on me and Kelly. The drumbeat of questions about the future isn’t quite deafening, yet. I’m 57, but sometime in the next 3-8… 13? years, I’ll like to retire if I can.

I’ve have had an interrupted career, not a lot of Super. We won’t be well off, but I can do poor. However, I can’t imagine the future, and that’s a big problem, blocking me from moving ahead on all sorts of things.

For me, part of the Lord being my portion means stepping up to these issues.

Proverbs 25

This collection of proverbs profiles the Christian character I recognise well from childhood. I drank it in.

Unpretentious. Not brash or self promoting. Under promising and over delivering.

I’m still there pretty much, bit I have vacilated a few times during my life. I felt cheated at times because even among Christians there seems to be a recognition that being like this often doesn’t actually work.


Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.

So you wait watching nincompoops succeed through sycophancy and lies, while you, an unsung hero of substance wait for the king to say “come up here”. Others seeing your ability actively undermine you, it’s the only option they have.

To live by this proverb is to let go of the idea that the king might ever say “come up here”.

St Paul had a better take on wisdom in that extended passage where he talks about becoming fools in the world’s eyes.

And that message is here too. Because nothing is connected, you have to draw it out of the themes that repeat.

The strands lie alongside each other: a dose of quite cynical pragmatism, then an idealistic call to do what is right regardless of the consequences.

A promise of earthly prosperity followed by a gods eye perspective of eternal justice, where earthy wealth is of no substance, like dust blowing away in the wind.

These lie alongside each other in the faith based organisation I work for, it’s a daily tension. And in my family, and in my church.

Wisdom means many things in the book of proverbs. Maybe Solomon didn’t ask for quite the right thing.

Proverbs 20

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare

Got me there!

There is a recurring theme of real politic… About pleasing or displeasing the king. It’s quite crawly, but true in an observational way.

A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives.

Most chapters have a few of these, and I tend to skip them. Obviously God encouraged the prophets to ignore this. They were sometimes public enemy number one and had generally terrible relations with the kings.

And I think I rebel generally against the wisdom that is in the “you-may-not-like-it-but-that’s-the-way-it-is” category. What does that teach us of God? Choose your battles? Be practical?

It lets in a bunch of competing priorities. You have Joshua saying “choose today who you will serve” and then proverbs saying “and keep one eye on the king”.

Though I suppose you could argue it is saying to be aware of the consequences. Accidentally or needlessly provoking the king is just foolish.

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.

Ha, can’t deny that one, I was moaning about it only yesterday.

This chapter actually upped the tempo on insightful spiritual sayings, addressing the spirit, love, guidance, being pure of heart. It places great value on reflection as the truest part of life.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?

The ultimate wisdom is God, always:

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord, How then can anyone understand their own way?


Proverbs 14

‘Glitched back from truth’. Don’t know what that means, I’m tired this morning and dreamed that title! It looked like a newspaper headline.

There are proverbs about deceit/ wickedness and about dumbness. These are a drum beat though the book, evil and weak-mindedness become interchangeable.

Some poignant, very nuanced observations about the human condition, our pain, are thrown in here:

Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.

And as with other chapters, more theological concepts as the chapter progresses:

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.’

… So that’s where Jesus got the ‘whatever you do for the least of them…’ idea from.

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
and for their children it will be a refuge.

God as our refuge is mentioned a few times, like a response to the ‘joy and sadness’ observations from earlier in the chapter.

There is a deep vein of grace here at work, as well as good housekeeping tips.

At church last week they read Solomon’s prayer for the opening of the temple. He prays over the splendor of it, the blessing of the Jews.

But then he expands God beyond the temple and beyond one race. He knows his temple, his life’s work, can’t contain the true God.

There’s that ability to see multi-dimensionally, the Spirit-given leaps of insight coming out here too.

I’m coming face to face with what a deeply disorganised and flaky individual I am.

A good frank talk with my youngest, Ren, on the weekend.

If I could ever get it all together, I reckon I’d be such a great dad, church member, partner, worker…. But I’m a bit ‘all hat and no cattle’, as they say… And I feel stuck there.

Full of motivation however, up for fresh ideas, now my employment situation is receding from critical. Plus I’m daily barraged with advice about how to live a wise life…

When I make it through a two week pay period with some money saved and no need to dip into savings, I’ll know the book is starting to work.

Job 25

Bildad speaks again. Always the most direct of the friends, he concisely discusses the awesome glory of God. He has complete dominion, and he sets everything in order.

Job is low, very low, a worm. How dare he have the arrogance to claim righteousness before God.

He understands the power but not the love of God. Job has already said his righteousness comes from God, his redeemer.

Sure if God hadn’t said he knows and cares how many hairs are on our head, if he hadn’t died for us in the person of Christ… It would be as ridiculous as Bildad says.

Bildad expresses our human love of patterns, which is a way of finding God. Science is about discovering the brilliant order in creation. But God also makes the first last and the last first.

I go to Melbourne today for a big salvation army weekend. Wondering if I’m in or out, in the middle of a tribal gathering. It’s an oddly intense time. Am I loved or a worm?

I should be carrying on with other job applications, but even looking at the list of jobs is somewhat stressful, and so many distractions to think about.

King Hezekiah tunnelled half a mile through stone to protect Jerusalem, and also had the faith to rely on God when attacked ‘we don’t know what to do, we turn out eyes to you’. Wholehearted focus.

Keep at it, don’t pine for the job I’ve interviewed in, don’t let stress allow you to doubt God’s plans or stop you doing the obvious practical things. Not a worm.

I turn my eyes on you in confidence of your amazing love father. Help me be calm because of that confidence and deal sensibly with the things before me.

Pray for my family, and Christmas.

Job 5

Very conventional wisdom. Eliphaz continues his advice to Job, and it is so familiar. He has this oblique, passive aggressive way of not directly accusing Job of being more of a sinner than he will admit, but just leaving it hanging there.

You know: God’s punishment doesn’t come from nowhere… He is a God of justice… Don’t despise God’s punishment… We should accept God’s discipline and learn from it…

I’ll be interested to see how Job defends himself, because this sort of attack is so slippery. It’s comes from a strong assumption of who Job is, but if Job says ‘what are you saying I’ve done wrong?’ Eliphaz could easily say ‘nothing!’ grrr!

Reminds me of my aunty Joan, bless her, gone now and basically a wonderful person and loads of fun.

But she did have this thing of stopping to deliver little sermons. I’d just switch off as soon as it started, refusing to hear it almost on principle, and just nod and hope it would finish soon, so things could get back to being normal.

Happens with my kids too, sometimes when I try to inject Christianity into the mix. I know it’s clumsy, like a lead balloon as soon as I start talking.

It’s to do with a lack of shared experience. Failure to judge the moment, not salt in season. Just putting Christian platitudes into a random conversation, no matter how accurate and correct, in the absence of a genuine relationship, is empty.

St Paul would say love is the missing element here, Eliphaz has become a banging gong.

I think Eliphaz’s argument is ultimately self protecting too. It so tempting to divide ourselves into victims and comforters, vulnerable and strong. If we can be the advisor, the helper the fixer, the preacher, it protects us from the role of weakling, out of control, broken, foolish.

Jesus became all those things even less deservedly than Job, for us. He was deep down in the weeds, with us, alongside us, sharing it. That’s the example.