1 Chronicles 29

The book ends with the handover from David to Solomon. Solomon asks for wisdom, in terms that acknowledge that God has made a great nation, remembering his love for David. This pleases God. He grants Solomon wisdom and he also promises great wealth.

They go to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices. I got mixed up earlier, there are two tents. This one Moses made in the wilderness, and another in Jerusalem that David made for the ark of the covenant.

The book concludes with a description of how wealthy and powerful Israel became during Solomon’s reign.

It’s a sweet fulfillment of God’s promises.

It’s such a brief period, is like the flowering of the American prosperity theology. God blesses them with wealth.

Indeed, he doesn’t only use poverty or suffering. I’ve mentioned before the English band the Housemartins who famously said they would be Christians only when they had nothing in their bank accounts, but that is not the only way.

Here is a period when gold and silver were as common as stone. However God also doesn’t only use wealth and success.

It’s tempting to think that this is where it was done right, where God is in control and his will is being done fully as he intended. But it isn’t.

He told them back in Samuel that even having kings in the first place was second best, plan B.

The bad Kings that would come, and the split, decline and fall of Israel, result in the soaring visions of the prophets, the wisdom literature, global redemption, the God who lives in hearts, not buildings.

It’s one of the few books about the Jewish nation’s history with a happy ending, until you read that the only reason it ends here is that the scrolls it was written on weren’t long enough to hold the whole story. It ends here for technological, not literary, reasons.

So I’ll enjoy the good things without guilt, and pray that I can accept the bad. Neither condition demonstrates or questions God’s existence, his favour, or his will.

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1 Chronicles 7

Another list, will it never end!

This goes though the other tribes, having devoted a chapter to Levi, listing all their descendents with occasional biographical notes.

The numbers of fighting men they were able to provide is noted, I suppose to just give a sense of the relative size of the tribes as much as anything.

These are male blood lines, there are others that trace the female lines, which is more relevant to Jesus who had a human mother only. But I can see how in a patriarchy, the male lines were important for restarting society.

I had the thing happen where a day ago I was full of stress, vulnerability and pain, and Kelly alerted me yesterday that it’s the 3rd anniversary of my father’s death.

So you know, family, bloodlines, mean things to us, affect us in ways we don’t always understand.

2 Samuel 23

Davids last words express his confidence in God, his satisfaction that his house is right, referring perhaps to his confidence in the afterlife, as in Psalm 23, he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

He also compares righteousness to bright morning sun, to light, brightness after rain, which brings new growth. Ever the shepherd, eh. I was instantly reminded of one of my favourite passages in Judges, Deborah’s song “…may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength” There is a clarity to David, he sinned, but it was bought out into the light. He remained a strangely uncomplicated, poetic soul. 

The reference to daylight also recalled the discovery of his sin back in chapter 12, when Nathan the prophet compared David’s secret sin to the public judgement, bringing it out into daylight.

Then a list of all the mighty men he knew, who fought with and for him. Lastly Uzziah, who he had killed.  A credit roll on an amazing life.

 

Jeremiah 17

Heart of darkness, never at rest.

Starts by describing the unstoppable, indelible nature of sin. It’s carved deep with sharp diamond, defacing our holiness.

Certainly we’ve spent the whole Bible, since the garden, with a relentless beat of rebellion under all the stories of the great moments and inspired leaders.

The folk religion, the idols, never stop. It’s fruit is human sacrifice, sexual exploitation. Can’t clean that stain alone.

Jeremiah writes the anti Psalm 1. Blessed is the man whose delight is in God. And cursed is the man whose trust is in men, they will wither.

Trust in idols is really trust in men for people who have had the true God revealed. If they choose another ‘god’ they are choosing their own rebellious heart.

Despair comes into Jeremiah’s awareness of the sickness and deceitfulness of his own heart, he asks God to search it. He makes an intensely felt plea for his own mercy and forgiveness. When he asks God for refuge, you sense again how hard he finds his life.

A similar point is made with treasure metaphors, heavenly treasure is like the highest throne, a kingdom of peace that lasts forever.

Those who love earthly treasure are compared the Partridge, which had the reputation of sitting on other birds eggs. Earthly wealth flys away.

Jeremiah is sent to the streets to do the crazy-prophet-with-the-sandwich-board thing again. This time he is to call them to one of the 10 commandments, the Sabbath.

Why that? Hebrews expands the concept, it is God’s rest. Israel’s observing of the Sabbath is a symbol of their rest in God, the end of rebellion, the end of fighting.

There are 3 positive images in this chapter of God’s world: a beautiful tree planted by a river, a kingdom of peace above all others and rest, sweet safe rest.

But always in Jeremiah the bleak conclusion that the people won’t choose life, the message will go unheeded.

Isaiah 56

Made it to the last 10 chapters of Isaiah.  It would be nice to say that blogging the bible is never a hard slog.  Isaiah has been wonderful, but its very long, and not that structured. The themes dance around poetically.  Its a world unto itself that reading in chunks day by day doesn’t really do justice to.

The last 10 chapters are apparently, according to the youtube overview symmetrical.  I don’t know what that really adds, but it means the theme first up, of all nations being acceptable to god, will repeat at the very end… the second theme will be second last, the third will be third last etc.  I think the messiah is at the centrepoint, as you would expect.

The nations being acceptable to god is great news for australians!

But more specifically, it says eunuch’s are acceptable – outsiders – queer – gender fluid? This is a clear evolution from Leviticus where they were specifically excluded, along with anyone with any mark, from being in the temple. You don’t surgery your way from god’s grace, and the culture around it shifts towards acceptance the more the bible reveals the size of god’s love.

God’s house is a house of prayer for all peoples, a gathering of all outcasts.  Its generous, its broad.

There is a sting in the tail of the chapter for the chosen people, the leaders of Israel who are spoken of very unflatteringly as lazy, corrupt, etc.

In terms of how my project to trust God in doing what is right at work – which I mentioned in the last post – there has been a pretty big paradigm shift since then. They made me redundant that very day.  It was pretty brutal… if only they’d given me a bit of time to apply for other jobs while in the job, but it was “don’t come back tomorrow morning”.  Whoah!

I’ve started processing it and certainly remain trusting that it is part of a larger plan.  I love being a communicator, perhaps this is a chance to start communicating something I care about more deeply?

I don’t feel I can afford to be too ideological however, we have 5 mouths to feed – my wife is one year into a 3 year degree, my youngest son has at least 3 years of high school to complete.  My #1 way to reflect God’s love is to provide, for now, and I’m happy to do it.  The redundancy is a good chance to remind my older children – 24 and 26 – that I won’t be around forever though.

Job applications to follow.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

2 Kings 4

A series of miraculous events from Elisha’s life that show God’s abundant blessings.  It reads like a page from the gospels.

A widow has a jar of oil that keeps producing oil enough to pay all her debts, and save her sons being sold into slavery.

Another woman who helped Elisha has a pregnancy at an old age, and then Elisha restores the child to life after he dies, two astounding miracles.

Good food produced from bitter gourds in famine, ending with a very familiar story of one loaf feeding a multitude.

The consistency of God’s character as revealed through Elisha and Jesus is abundance, life, plenty, fruitfulness. I claw my way through on a good salary with no mortgage, but only seem to achieve adequacy – I watch all my friends get better stuff and go on holidays on facebook. I am finding in my relationships and the ministries in church an abundance.  We have a new minister who is brimming with keen-ness and preached a beautiful first sermon on Sunday.  I’d feel pretty satisfied if these stories weren’t telling me God wants to give me more than I could dare expect.

Maybe I should pray to God to show me the nature of the abundance he wants me to have.

 

1 Kings 17

We are introduced to the prophet Elijah. He comes to tell the king Ahab that a drought they are having is God’s will. I was struck by his opening words to the king “as the God of Israel lives…” 

Israel has a God, one God, and he is alive. Sometimes for me thinking about God is literally soothing, and reading this gave me that feeling, like cool water in a desert. 

All the other Gods -possessions, success, wealth etc are dead things. They come and go. God is mine, and after I get myself in a pickle and make other things more important, I step back from the mess of it all and behind it, he’s simply there.

Elijah has to hide then. Everything that happens affirms God’s qualities of life giving, provision and abundance. And Elijah’s status as a spokesperson for him.

God feeds Elijah in a desert, but the land continues to dry up.  He comes to town, God magically extends the last provisions of a kind widow so her family and Elijah can eat abundantly as he stays with them. Finally, his pleas bring her son back to life from death. 

God is taking hold of the failed kingdom’s narrative, and it’s all about life coming to barrenness.

Leviticus 23

 

Finally a somewhat more sunny chapter, even if it is still all just legislation, rules rules rules. These are the ones about times. It sets up the sabbath, day of rest, and festivals.

Interestingly some of these are called rules forever… an acknowledgment that many of the specific levitical rules will pass away over time.  I was reminded of this hearing Ivanka Trump’s praise of her adopted practise of sabbath. These are some of the rules that have stayed.

I miss not working on sundays, I must say. It was a thing when I was young, but then theology came through that the day of rest was like heaven or something, not literal.  But I used to like the special day idea. I did get nervous and legalistic about it a bit though, I recall as a child worrying about the limits of what I should do.

I wrote a song about colour, about God making the colours and us losing them.  The creation of special moments in our existence is a very spiritual thing, a very human thing, to be cherished. I think the buzz wordy mindfulness movement is a yearning for this spirituality.

Harvest is a time to remember gods goodness. They are reminded to offer the first to god, and leave some in the field for poor and immigrants.

Festival of reconciliation, sounds like the scapegoat day.  Fasting and prayer and a communal meal.

Festival of booths. Seems to be an end of harvest one week holiday.  The booths are little huts they make and stay in for the duration, to remember the time in the wilderness and delivery from egypt.

Gotta love festivals. I was in a cathedral choir when I was young and we always sang this jolly anthem for harvest… still comes to mind.  You visit the earth and bless it, you crown the year with goodness. Simple moment of gratitude from created to creator.

 

Leviticus 13

Lots of reasonably modern sounding public health rules about infectious skin diseases.

Commentators made a point of how leprosy spreads bodily corruption can be used as a metaphor for sin.  But the passage doesn’t seem to do that.

There is no blame attached to it here, though by Jesus’ day there seemed to be strong assumption that lepers deserved or earned their fate.  And of course Jesus turned this upside down by having more to do with lepers than the cleanest religious leaders.

But here it is a real honest to goodness diagnosis guide… I loved the bit about how a bald man is just bald and a man with receding hair just has receding hair.

The diet was a mix of symbolism and a reasonable nutritional and safety element, this seems primarily practical.

Judges 12

Jephthah really is an interesting and sad leader. This is the story of him killing thousands of his fellow Israelites, after they threatened to destroy him. How the nation has disintegrated. God is still acting though Jephthah, but he is a sinful man in a sinful time. Of course good always acts though sinful people, into sinful situations. 

The way they tell members of the tribe of ephraim to know if they should kill them is to get them to say “shiboleth” which they pronounce wrong. It’s like a Monty python skit, but deadly.

The dream of Israel, 12 tribes united as a people of God, is at a low point. This is the drift of the whole old testament, bright momentary bursts of flame in a dying fire.

He leads another 6 years, the rest of his life tossed off without comment under the 42000 countrymen dead, and after the barbaric sacrifice of guys own daughter. 

Then three more judges. Just leaders, barely of interest, just footnotes to the meta narrative of god’s grace. 

Reading though the sweep of the Bible has given me a feeling of its priorities. An awful lot of stuff is not important. Life is about the one lost sheep, not the 99 safe ones.