Ezekiel 21

This chapter has one big terrifying idea. Babylon is the sword of God drawn and unleashed against Israel. The thing most terrible, seemingly most unlike God, is part of his plan.

The doctrine of original sin makes god’s accommodation of evil and chaos inevitable.

Humanity has this spiritual and emotional overlay on top of natural functions.

Animals and plants reproduce. Humans fall in love, have lust and desire. We build a million things of beauty and ugliness on top of mere reproduction.

Likewise, nature replenishes. Things die, things are born. Things eat and get eaten.

With eternity in our hearts, we imagine our ancestors and our future generations. Our imagination fuels empires, noble and cruel. More than simply surviving, we have lives of generosity and greed driving us though our life span.

Made in god’s image, we think individuals matter. But we rise up and are cut down like grass.

Jesus lived in our perpetually unresolved state, eternal and mortal. God knows all about it.

Yet still it shocks. I recoil from god’s sword of judgement. It’s supposed to terrify me, and it does.

Psalm 2

God laughs at nations who conspire against him. Certainly numerous regimes have declared Christianity dead down the years, and yet it’s still roughly one third of humanity.

I looked at the most Christian countries by percentage. Greece, Romania, Venezuela, Ecuador, East Timor. They don’t have much in common – its a cross cultural religion for sure.

We discussed the kingdom of God at our homegroup the other day. It is invisible. It’s organic, modeled on the endless replenishment of nature… Seeds fall randomly, many of them fail, but many grow while no one is looking, and any small seed can become a mighty tree.

To people who find it, it is of inestimable value – a pearl of great price, a stash worth buying a whole field for.

It is now. In parallel to the ambitious earthly kingdoms, claiming people in every nation. It is in our hearts, and growing as we tell and live Jesus’ love.

And it will be in the future. When only the eternal part of us remains, and the universe reverts to unalloyed splendor, as all the tears are wiped away.

It doesn’t say who wrote the psalm. Back in the day, it was as if it was about Israel’s power. But if so it turned out somewhat overstated, compared to how Israel fared.

Hebrews would explicitly identify Jesus as the son of God referred to, which is unsettling, as the son speaks in the first person here. The psalm is, in a way, by Jesus.

Sharing a joke with the father about the various earthly kingdoms plotting and planning their glory. It tells them how to be wise.

Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.

Ends with the first reference of so many in psalms to God being a blessed refuge.

This is how I think it is. This is why I don’t go crazy with fear. This refuge is my calm.

Psalm 98

This starts and ends a lot like Psalm 96. Ironic considering they both open with “sing a new song”. Well, I suppose every different song is a little bit new. But this is the good news, jubilation – both are new hope for a tired, tatty world.

It’s another vision of the grand kingly rule of God. Here the new song is sung in widening circles of response: Israel, all nations, all creation…

Which is also where 96 ended. Here are the seas, rivers and mountains celebrating the day of the judge who is right and fair – all the inanimate objects clapping, singing and resounding like an old merry melodies cartoon. You can almost hear the harp, trumpet and ram’s horn. And the singing, shouting for joy.

I plunged down into sadness again briefly yesterday, but wake up feeling buoyed by this joyous psalm. Plus it’s Saturday. Though I feel quite energised for next week at work too. Such a yo-yo at the moment!

My boss is going for 3 weeks leave traveling to see his daughter who is in Edinburgh. I’ll most likely never travel, which made me sad, even though it’s not ever been my ambition particularly. It would be nice, just with Kelly, some time before we die…

I suppose the weirdness of our family, still all living together with my oldest son now 26 and not close to independent fills me with frustration, self doubt, and a bit of dread for the future.

I don’t encourage people to be strong, somehow. I get fear that I somehow undermine people’s confidence. I’m passive and shy, and I feel I make people close to me that way. Not a born leader, you may say.

But those feelings have lessened again today, it all feels do-able again. And then you read this simple delight of God in control, his reign.

Clap your hands! Got a new song to sing!

Keen to spend an hour now getting on with my song about Job. It’s very unformed and risky, I’m deliberately keeping it abstract for a long time, just throwing out lots of unconnected musical and lyrical ideas. It will either be special or a mess!

Proverbs 28

We’re back to a lot of advice for Kings and rulers and some more explicitly spiritual proverbs.

I love this metaphor, and the value it gives the poor:

A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

I have to write an article at work for an internal publication about the Salvation Army’s attitude to the upcoming federal election, … Maybe I could give this one a Guernsey.

So there, the wisdom for rulers isn’t wasted in a democracy devoted to free speech. The citizens can throw them back at them!

There is a lot about the poor, the general theme being not to underestimate them, that exploiting them is to risk losing your own wealth and status.

If it was Solomon writing, he was foretelling the issue that led to the dividing and fatal weakening of the kingdom after his death.

The godly characteristics being taught here include: right living, seeking the Lord, confessing and renouncing sin, humility and integrity.

It’s interesting that there is reference to a goodness at work in society.

I suppose St Paul referred to it when he said to respect authorities because God gives that order to us to prevent chaos.

If you belive in original sin, you would expect society to be evil. But this sort of thing comes back a few times:

When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

There is a rump of goodness that can only be temporarily subdued. Society won’t permanently career towards evil.

The universe is on the side of truth and love, so tyrants are ill informed and on the wrong side of history:

The rich are wise in their own eyes;
one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.

And of course we are all rulers of our own little patch, no matter how small.

But also, lots of interesting fodder for my article!

Psalm 72

The king is dead, king live the king!

A psalm about king Solomon, but more about the ideal, the role of kingship than any human could achieve. Setting out God’s ideal of kingship, it naturally anticipates and describes the Messiah.

They don’t know if David wrote it about his son, or Solomon himself did. David ‘son of Jesse’ scores a mention at the end, to wrap up book two, which is described as a collection of his prayers. Strikingly in a psalm all about kingship, he’s not called ‘king David’ the prayers haven’t been about his glory, but Gods.

So what is the ideal king like? He has the justice and righteousness of God, his government is dependable and for the benefit of the people.

He defends the poor and afflicted. Care for the weak is a thread everywhere in the Bible, is just so pervasive. I keep getting jolted every time Donald Trump treats aid as a transaction or a bargaining chip. If he doesn’t think it’s buying any benefit for the US, he cuts it: it’s never motivated by the need of the recipients.

There is breadth, length of rule and abundance of prosperity beyond what any earthly king could dream.

I loved the evocative description of soft rain falling on fields of mown grass to describe abundance and blessing. I associate the psalm with that smell memory now.

Then it runs though the same qualities again, but turned up further:

The king treats as precious every drop of blood of the poor, needy and afflicted.

He’ll be in glorious reign for ever, rule every nation.

Crops will be so abundant they sway on tops of every mountain as well as in the fields .

Then it ends with a burst of praise to God directly.

Then the bit about it being the conclusion of the prayers of David.

Well Solomon did achieve a wealth and peace and power David never knew. But David’s prayers, his rule, his life has been all about the glory and eternal saving power of God.

Both their roles as king ended and had flaws, but this model of what a king should be, that they could imagine and evoke in part, but not sustain, outlasted their kingdoms, fulfilled in Jesus.

I’m obsessing on the US mid term elections, now 3 days away. I’m dying to know the result, maybe to have president Trump called to account by resurgent democrats.

It’s my vice. I trawl my phone last thing at night, first thing in the morning and at lunchtime for developments, and try to stop myself at other times. It’s quite compulsive!

I can’t stand to see power used so crassly. The rule of unapologetic lying and selfishness. It’s just such a gross example. I long to see right triumph, the weak get their due.

I need to keep talking about it to myself as a stupid obsession, because it is. All earthly kingdoms are corrupt. My energies are given me to seek first the kingdom of God.

Earthly power can be a means to that end I suppose, a bit, sometimes. But for most of us practically, it a hobby, a time waster, not the real game. Seeking the kingdom in my own little sphere means seeing the preciousness of the weak and vulnerable, living generously, modelling abundance, living out and talking the eternal power realities, the rule of Christ. The kingdom is forever AND NOW.

2 Chronicles 12

Solomon’s son king Rehoboam tries out not believing in God.

It is punished in literal terms, Egypt attacks and carries off most of Solomon’s treasure like his gold shields. It is punishment and lesson. The prophet comes and interprets the theological meaning.

Rehoboam repents before Jerusalem is taken, which saves the city. But God allows the Egyptian king to occupy them in some way, to teach them what the kingship of others is like.

So the treasure goes, and Rehoboam needs protection just to walk the streets.

The story of Israel’s Kings is quite simply the story of kingship in many ways. It applies to the choices we make as to who is king of our life.

Almost no one consistently surrenders their crown to God. Why do we find obedience to God so hard?

I also ask myself, reading this in a week where another massive report of church abuse of children has been released, ‘is the church’s decline a literal punishment for all is sexual sin?’

I mean, it’s a consequence of loss of trust even without divine intervention. So it’s a question of the theological overlay we place on events.

I suppose we’re constantly tempted to think ‘shit happens’, there is not a God who claims kingship of your life.

2 Chronicles 3

Descriptions of the temple, emphasising its stupendous size, opulence and decoration.

I was touched again by the location of it, so featured in chronicles, on the site of David’s repentance for his error of pride in taking a census of the people.

The two great pillars at the entry are called Jakin and Boaz, names that mean “he establishes” and “in him is strength”.

I read the ultimate sequel to that moment just recently at the end of Jeremiah. It was dispassionately listing the plunder of Jerusalem by Babylon, the destruction of the temple, but got poignant when these two massive bronze pillars were melted down. Gone never to return.

Born of repentance, this glorious edifice existed to witness prophesy replacing monarchy, to point from mans glory to God’s glory, his king, his temple his splendor.

2 Chronicles 1

Solomon asks for wisdom. He is promised it, and also unprecedented wealth and success.

They start to describe it.. gold and silver everywhere, the expensive horses and chariots.

I was struck by the things God listed that could have been the hearts desire of the new king… Wealth, possessions, honour, death to his enemies, a long life. God praised Solomon for not asking for these.

It’s pretty much the lyrics of “God save The Queen”. God knows us, and through the millennia we stay very predictable.

I’ve felt on the brink of something new of late. Makes me wonder if I am, or if it’s just a feeling. Is it my wisdom request, a la Solomon, or my request for a long life, a la any king.

All of our lives are battles for kingship, us vs God.

I suppose the test is ‘does it tend to make me live a life more for others or more for me?’

1 Chronicles 15

Ark done right. Listening to God, David had learned his lesson and consulted God about how to carry the ark, after the attempt in chapter 13 resulted in death from God’s anger.

It’s carried on the shoulders of Levite priests on poles. Pretty nervous priests I’m guessing, but it doesn’t go wrong again

But the message is clear, consult God, follow his word.

I wondered if we’d get the detail that Saul’s daughter disapproved of Davids joyous dancing. We did.

Palace disloyalty, and his lusts will prove his weakness.

But this day is one of his best, a day of huge significance, joy and celebration.

David has established Jerusalem, God’s capital of his promised land, and bought into it the ark that they carried through the wilderness, the artifact of their epic journey from slavery.

I’m not doing it justice. Bit of a chemical sleepiness this morning, took a drowsy headache pill. At least the sadness from earlier in the week has largely passed.

But I need to get onto some things, I motivate myself with how good it will feel. I need to be light. It feels like a step in my journey I need to take. My life has come down to battles of fear vs bravery at the moment.

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.