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”

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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.

1 Samuel 7

Samuel leads the people in a new nationalism and reverence. The lord confuses the philistines and they reclaim the land they took. 

He establishes the rock Ebenezer a symbol of the help of God. is like a tangible version of the old hymn “oh god our help in ages past, our hope for years to come”.

We’re changing church at the moment and generally depressed as a family. It’s wonderful today to think about the solidity of God and trust in his forgiveness and protection. I see how people compare Jesus to Ebenezer, planted there in history solid and immovable, our help.

Judges 6

Israel is so weak. The sermon on Sunday was from Jonah and in the set up Tom who was preaching compared Israel to a show home, an example of god’s blessing. So they had no natural ability at all to be warlike, to dominate the land. God’s outrageous blessing to them meant they triumphed, nothing else, and this would show people how powerful God is. In their weakness is he made strong.

And Gideon is a one person microcosm of that principle.

In his own estimation he’s the least son of the least house of the least tribe. He’s not only unwilling, he’s completely unbelieving that God really does want him to lead the renaissance in belief.

The people are being comprehensively dominated by the ex-locals. The midianites are deliberately destroying their crops to stave them and break their economy, they are hiding out in caves.

Spiritually it seems to be a chicken and egg situation. a prophet tells them they are being punished by God for unfaithfulness. Yet their response to the attacks seems to be to assimilate more and more with the midianites religion of worshipping baal. Which seems like a pragmatic response to the attacks as much as a cause of them.

God gets timid Gideon to do an act of protest vandalism against Baal, which he does under cover is darkness because he is so scared.

And not without cause, when they discover their altar has been destroyed and the best bull offered to one built to Yahweh they want to kill gideon. His father saves him with impeccable logic: let Baal kill him if he’s God. He lives.

But his action unleashes a surge in support for God, and by next chapter he will have collected 20 000 men.

His story reminds me a little of Jesus, the people around Jesus were always coming up with plans to start a nationalist movement, but he stuck with his 12 and witnessed to God.

Gideon will lead Israel back in a series of stunning reversals for the invaders, however the force of the story is that it’s all about God. The victories are his.

Gideon proves God really wants him, even after the altar event, by tricks with a fleece to show supernatural intervention. God goes along. It is a hobbit story: the weakest most unlikely person being used for the most important task, to show the victory of goodness.

I spent the weekend with random parents of my son’s school friends. Among them there was so much latent, quietly dying, Christian belief. I am timid like Gideon.

I pray that i will use my time, perhaps my music, to bring people towards God. I feel that there are so many people like the Israelites who probably just need a little shove from a timid person to rekindle some love of God in them.

I feel increasingly convicted about this.