2 Chronicles 29

King Hezekiah. He is a believer. First order of business is re-establishing worship in the temple, laid out in glorious detail here, no doubt of great interest to the people who first read chronicles in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time.

I found myself slightly impatient with the animal sacrifice system, now it has been revealed that our bodies are the temple of God, and Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all.

It’s clunky, very messy, and complicated. But it was the only way they were given to seek God’s grace, to connect. So it’s also a beautiful thing.

Yesterday I was imagining the greatest theologians of the Bible. The Moore College of Hezekiah’s time. Or David’s, or Moses. They never would have come up with Jesus.

They came up with the Messiah, eventually. But didn’t recognise him in Jesus, not easily.

We still only know in part. There is a bunch of subjects: the afterlife, heaven, the second coming. Salvation, really, God’s grace, about which no doubt we are as close to understanding the specifics as the old testament theologians.

Yet it is by faith, by Jesus’ blood, that they were saved, even though they could not imagine him in their wildest dreams. Well, except Isaiah perhaps.

I was discussing N.T. Wright with my brother yesterday. A much respected theologian, so it’s an unsettling feeling when his view of heaven was vastly different from the heaven I had imagined for the previous 50 or so years of my existence.

But I listen to and focus on the truth and wisdom in what he is saying, and hold it in parallel with all the other possible heavens, and contemplate that we’re really just guessing at the specifics of heaven.

Our faith is called a faith because it requires faith. Have so much more than the ancients, yes, but like them we only have an inkling.

Like Hezekiah, we respond to what we know, it makes sense, it strikes us as truth, it opens our heart to the spirit of the living God. The rest we take in faith.

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2 Chronicles 18

God’s word vs ours. We adopt the approach of simply not listening to anything he says.

It’s an alliance of both kingdoms to go battle, God tells them they will lose and the northern king will die.

He dresses like a standard solider so as not to be a target, but a stray arrow gets him anyway. The last sight he sees is the defeated army.

Don’t feel too sad for him, he was a terrible king. But listen to God!

1 Chronicles 18

David’s victories. I turned to the commentaries because there is a lot of casual cruelty in this chapter, quite confronting.

They emphasised that the wars were an existential requirement for Israel, like Europe defeating Hitler. They bought more peace than they sacrificed.

The writer is leaving out lots of detail from the earlier accounts in Samuel and Kings to emphasise the temple. Last chapter God told David he couldn’t build it.

But this chapter scans a lifetime of his victories in fast forward to show how his reign laid the ground work for it, by bringing tremendous peace and prosperity.

Chronicles, as I mentioned earlier, is written to accompany the rebuilding of the temple hundreds of years later, after Israel’s been defeated and Jerusalem sacked.

It doesn’t tell us that much about God. David is godly, but like a godly general in world war Two, he organises killing people. His victories are strategic and security oriented, he’s not needlessly greedy for Empire. But he does it.

God does have better plans, but they are slow. It’s slow not because he is weak, but because he loves the baddies.

The direction of the Bible is to use David’s line to bless all nations, and promise a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more war, crying or pain.

And so we have this pep talk about the glory days, to encourage the defeated remnant of them to keep the thread going long enough until the birth of Jesus.

The temples gone again now he’s come. When he died, the curtain around the place where God was, ripped.

And we still aren’t there, at the new earth, yet. It’s complicated.

1 Chronicles 11

David becomes king after Saul. There is little moment-to-moment spiritual content in this narrative – now it has finally started, though there is a spiritual meta story of God’s people.

And we do get the contrast of the new king with the old. Saul lost God, but David gets stronger and stronger because God is with him.

The guts of the chapter is devoted to bravery and warfare. It lists David’s best soldiers, the ’30’ who helped him fight the Philistines. Also the ‘3’, the creme of the creme. A story is told of them breaking enemy lines to get David a drink of water from a spring he is fond of. Rather than drink it he pours it out as an offering to their bravery.

It tells about the conquest of Jebus aka Jerusalem. It’s christened the City of David.

I was shocked at morning tea yesterday how much I’ve got used to the brutality of the Old testament when our friends, quite fairly, echoed their distaste for it.

Kelly has a great way of describing how she understands it, if you view it at a distance, holding it out so its a bit blurry, you can see the pattern, there is a plan and action of God. But close up, in focus, it’s awful.

I’ve explained it a lot in these entries, but those same rationalisations sounded lame when I tried to say them out loud. The conversation has echoed around in my head and I haven’t processed it yet. No doubt I’ll have time, launching into yet another long and bloody old testament book.

Still very stressed as the uncertainty of work and my own frustrating nature cause me anxiety. I’m being prompted to make things better I think.

Jeremiah 49

Ok, Babylon will conquer all the neighbouring kingdoms. 5 prophesies in one chapter.

None are told to repent, it’s just going to happen, there’s nothing they can do.

Two will be inhabited again, the other three it seems to say will never regain their glory.

Often there are intimate pictures of suffering. The palace women running to and fro among the hedges after the king and priests have fled and deserted them. Men paralysed by fear as their camels are led away, their last nomadic security.

Some god loves, such as Damascus. Some like Edom, he talks to in terms of justice… How could you get off lightly when other far more worthy are being destroyed.

The relationship of God and Babylon is hard to understand. Impossible even. Why did he not stop them? Why describe evil as your sword of judgement?

I’ve got to this point many times before in my reading of the Bible.

Someone once described it as trying to understand a tapestry by looking at all the threads in the wrong side… Cross over to the heavenly perspective and you see a beautiful picture.

Non Christians, (those who even bother any more) mock the equation “I don’t know, I just believe”. But that’s pretty much it.

Isaiah 39

The end of the king Hezekiah story and the start of the rest of Isaiah. It’s Isaiah’s sad role to spend half his time prophesying about the Assyrians, who conquered the northern kingdom, and half the Babylonians, who conquered the South. 

What a time to be alive!

Hezekiah is given 15 more years to live and the rare knowledge of the time of his own death, and a sign from God that it is true. 

He is one of the most godly Kings, but he does not do much good with his extra time. 

He has a son who ends to being one of the worst Kings, and he actually invites the Babylonians in and brags about all his treasures to them, giving them all sorts of intelligence about the kingdom.

Worst of all perhaps when Isaiah tells him that the Babylonians will enslave his people, he is simply relieved that it will happen after he is dead. He’s sort of given up, maybe he’s burned out of the responsibility of being king.

In the last chapter he sang “The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.”

He had it right then, living in gratitude enjoying wisely and with pleasure the time you have, that is a good way to live. The number of your years is in God’s hands, your use of the time is your responsibility.

2 Kings 24

Judah is the last tribe standing in the promised land, clinging to Jerusalem. 

Now the Babylonians, king Nebuchadnezzar, take over everything. All the able Israelite people are taken away to Babylon, A puppet king is installed who none the less runs a pathetic rebellion, and the last vestiges of self rule is overrun.

The point is the sin, its all clearly tied to judgement. Manassehs name is mentioned, he was a king particularly keen on occult and bloodshed. 

It’s been a simple loop really. In judges, God said the people shouldn’t have a king. But they were completly corrupt without one. And with one, it turns out. 

I live in a state of grace. Our new rector at church said he learned that sin is not like breaking the law. Its wrong if I speed in the car, but it’s not a personal attack on anyone.

Sin an affront to God. A personal affront. . That is how it is treated here. We are not forgiven lightly.

1 Kings 7

A detailed description of King Solomon’s palaces, which took 13 years compared to 7 for the temple.  It wound up looking something like this:

king-solomon

Very impressive!  It mentions that he also did all the required temple basins and stuff in gold, and carefully stored all the ritual items he inherited from David.

Its one of those bits  of the bible that don’t really talk about morality or spirituality or God. Its just a description. Of a rich guys house. Like the show Cribs, or Grand Designs, Ancient World edition.

But of course, in Deuteronomy it said the King should be one of the people, not grand. And last chapter, when God did speak, he said obedience to his law was the more important thing…

Saturday, a day requiring grace because I chafe at balancing my obligations with the tantalising prospect of unstructured free time.  But it usually works out OK.

Deuteronomy 25

Law, marriage, commerce, punishment.

Limits on the number of lashes a judge can impose mean punishment is to be hard, but not destructive.

The marriage laws we’ve seen again and again, and it’s hard to relate to. This telling is illustrated with a dramatic ritual shaming of a brother who will not take on a widowed sister in law. 

The commerce laws are simple rules against cheating.

Then there is a reminder to absolutely mete out God’s judgement and destroy a local nation. As you do.

In the middle is a strikingly weird verse about cutting off the hand of a woman who intervenes in a fight between men by gabbing balls. Commentators are beside themselves to argue that is not literal and all sorts of meanings for it. I’ll wait for heaven to understand that one.

God’s people are fair, punishment fits crimes. There is moderation in the rules between Israelites. But God judgment is absolute.

Numbers 30

Numbers has got very like Leviticus at the moment. This is rules about a woman’s vow. Men may veto them – the father of a girl, and later the husband of a wife. The assumption seems to be that women will make rash promises.

It seems terribly sexist. But no doubt in other societies women’s word meant even less. The rules here are that a husband or dad is bound by the vow by passive assent… If they do nothing after they hear about it, it stands.  So the vow of a woman becomes the vow of their protector man… not challenging their patricarchal society, but there is a small means by which women may have a voice in it.

I’d look it up but so tired this morning!

I know I don’t seem very interested in the text this morning, but I’m very aware of God’s presence in my life as I go back to work this morning. I have some clarity over some things I should do.