Isaiah 54

Big rap for Israel and/or God’s people generally. He’s speaking of their abandonment by God, their time of exile, how it will be temporary. 

Like a husband who is briefly angry with his wife, the larger, stronger relationship will prevail.

He talks of loving and teaching the children/generations. There are descriptions of architecture built with precious stones that sound a bit like the holy city in revelation. 

There is talk of safety and military protection, something that would have been top of mind to those in Isaiah’s time.

It’s a pile on of God’s care for and love for his people. 

I start back in the full swing of work today after leave, my time of complete leisure and liberty at an end. I’ve got a big year helping church to move and much complexity at work to stay on top of.

I love my family and I want good things for all of them. I can only face it by relying on God’s promise of love and compassion for his people.

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Isaiah 7

A story of the options of trusting or not trusting God when you are scared, and how many steps ahead God really is.

Isaiah lived in the smaller Southern Israelite kingdom of Judah. They faced an attack by an alliance of the Northern kingdom, Israel, and Syria. The king and the general population were in mortal terror.

Isaiah meets the king, Ahaz, and through Isaiah God says he’s got it sorted.

The threat is all smoke and no fire. Ahaz is given a promise… The child of a woman who conceives and gives and gives birth will not be yet eating solid food before the threat is disposed of. Max 2 years, problem solved.

But the king does not trust God. In the end he makes an alliance with Assyria, giving them most of the kingdom’s treasure for protection.

They prove to be an unreliable partner, and eventually Judah is attacked by both them and Egypt at the same time, a far worse result than the original attack the alliance was designed to avoid.

The simple lesson is “trust God”.

You can sometimes still get good stuff by trusting yourself, like love, wealth, good times.

But God is mightier, stronger, more able to bless, and ultimately loves you more than you could love yourself, so you are better off trusting him.

The twist is that Isaiah knew the king would not trust God. To his meeting he bought his son, whose name “a remnant will survive” pointed to the outcome, and the ultimate fate of Judah.

Furthermore, remember the sign about God saving them by the time a child was eating solid food? It has a familiar cadence that jumps out at you in the text “a virgin will give birth to a son, and he shall be called ‘Immanuel'” ( God with us)…

That prophesy had a near and far meaning, being quoted when Jesus was born.

Because God is always several jumps ahead of our fear and our plans. And his salvation is eternal.

1 Kings 6

The finished temple is glorious. It’s a labour of love and devotion for God, as good as they can make it.

It’s that awkward place where you are doing great work “for God”, and you get a certain pride in it, and you start to wonder if it’s for your own glory quite a bit too. My hobby is writing Christian songs, and it’s there all the time.

But endlessly wondering about motives is also a waste of time. St Paul said as long as Christ is proclaimed, yeah?

When God finally speaks mid chapter I think he’s thinking along similar lines. He says “about this house you are building…” And goes on to say that if they follow the law he will keep his promise and dwell among his people. How is that about the house? House not strictly needed.

For the rest of the chapter the “he” is disconcertingly Solomon, as in “he covered this in pure gold” or “he covered that in finest cedar”.

God doesn’t need their devotion to be expressed though architecture or expensive finishes, he needs it in their heart.

May the use of my time be an overflow of what is in my heart. I’ve been feeling a bit resentful about the time given to silly things at church but that is a good spirit to bring to it

Song: “Bigger than Hillsong”

1 Kings 1

Kings starts with lots of politics over the succession to David who is old and weak.

God is only referred to late in the chapter when David finally speaks and names the God who saved him from every adversity as the source of Solomon’s entitlement to be named the true successor.

The old warrior poet hit just the right note to bring authority into the room. That David got to be an old man is a wonder of God’s power.

Then as Solomon is crowned and anointed a servant Benaniah calls down a blessing, that God will make Solomon’s throne greater than David’s.

So Kings starts on a high, with the chosen nation within God’s plan. God’s choice of king, not the oldest which human succession would appoint.

And I start at a point of self exploration. I’ve been re reading a lot of the entries of this blog to do summaries, and wondering at 55 years of age and 2 years into my job what a “next” might be, if there is one, and what are my priorities.

My expections for kings are low. I’ve been putting off reading it. I recall it as a repetitive and sad book. But I had forgotten about Solomon.

Will my spiritual journey and the arbitrary discipline for reading God’s word I have set myself connect?  Find out in the next thrilling episodes!

… And bless this undertaking, father!

Deuteronomy 28

Blessings and curses. If the Israelites stay true to God, they will prosper, and if they don’t they will be cursed.

The nation would know both, they prospered under kings David and Solomon. But they abandoned God every which way, and knew all the curses as well, even the degradation of canabalism, which must have seemed like an absurdly theoretical curse as they came into the promised land, came true during a seize of Jerusalem in kings 2.

In their poetry and philosophy they would increasingly question the connection between blessing and behaviour. A regular refrain in the psalms is “hey God, why are the evil people prospering?”

By the time Jesus pronounces blessings and curses he talks about hypocrisy and arrogance versus sincere and humble seeking of God.

Turns out the rules were never about being good enough to earn God’s favour, they were about understanding God and the nature of his love, and our need for it.

Showing people God’s love at some point means them understanding their need for it.

Deuteronomy 26

When the Israelites come to the promised land there is to be a year of tithe. 

The harvest after 3 years is the first fruits, 10% is to be collected before anything else and given to God, recognising that the land, their freedom, came from him. 

Then Moses reminds the people to follow all the rules with all their heart and soul to be blessed in high honour by God.

The have been so many rules over the last 10 or so chapters, some are more beautiful than we can manage today, in terms of the way they would demolish the effects of inequality in society. Others seem completly crazy today.

But this message:  acknowledge God as the source of all we have, love him and receive his love. This lives. 

It feels like the moment for an amen.

Deuteronomy 10

The God of second chances.

Moses recounts how God made a second set of tablets for the ten commandments, after the first were smashed by him.

God’s forgiveness and sticking to his promise was for Moses an overwhelming insight into his goodness. ┬áMoses marvels at God’s love for the weak, as they were a band of 70 who went to Egypt, and now as promised, as numerous as the stars.

In response, he tells his listeners to circumcise their hearts. For Moses is not a cultural religion, it’s not about the ritual, it’s about heartfelt gratitude for God’s goodness.

Exodus 31

So here are the people who will actually make all this stuff. It’s a celebration of artisanship, the spirit of God is on them. Their ability is god given. 

Then the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest that still defines our week. The seven day week appears to have been simultaneously adopted by Jews Babylonians and Greeks, and spread very early to Asia. It is a promise, a sign, of god’s attachment to the people, but harsh too… Pain of death if you don’t rest.  Jesus said the law brings death. 

Then the tablets of stone written by god’s finger. There is something about the theatrical smallness of that, from the creator of the world, I find extraordinary. I shouldn’t be surprised of course, he made butterflies as well as volcanos and planets. 

And he invented tickling. He’s the master of context. He made our sense of delight and awe. He could have turned us into robot slaves, or destroyed us of course. He went with props. 

He gave the law written in stone to show us it was important. Like giving children ice-cream with a cherry on top.

2 Samuel 7

Who’s building who’s house?

David feels bad for how he’s treating God. David lives in a fine house, the King’s palace, and God’s place is a tent, the tabernacle the Israelites carried out of Egypt across the desert. He starts to plan to build a temple.

But God, through Nathan the prophet and though directly speaking to David says, ever so gently, “you don’t build God a house, god builds you a house”.

And he promises that David’s house will continue forever. We know this refers to Jesus, who was of David’s line. It also kind of refers to Solomon, since those two kings in a row were the most blessed period Israel ever had.

David spends the rest is the chapter saying “thanks” … For everything. Contemplating how far god has bought him and how much god has blessed him. 

David has a wonderfully bold way of talking to God. He doesn’t waste a lot of time in “I’m so unworthy” more “you love me, praise you for loving me!”

Feeling unworthy today. This is encouraging. “I will dwell in the house of the lord forever”

2 Samuel 5

David is made king. He takes and establishes Jerusalem as the capital. He pushes back the philistines in two big defeats, asking God each time if it is the right thing to do, and god gives him detailed strategy which he follows. 

He is at one with God, in synch. A godly king.

But I think it’s important to remember we’ve been clearly told kingship, earthly king, is second best, not god’s plan. He takes lots more wives and concubines, has lots of offspring. But that is not god’s reward, women are his weakness, a chink in his armour.

The most sinful of us can, any time, be godly. The most godly of us must always be aware that they are sinners. 

We can be living how god wants us to live even though the whole context of our situation is not remotely ideal to God. We can be ticking all the god boxes in our situation and wrong headed as hell.

Last week they preached on mission. They said our mission is love. No matter where you find yourself, no matter how much you fail, or feel successful, love. I pray that simplifies things.