Numbers 9

The first month of the second year out from Egypt the Israelites celebrate Passover, still done and transformed to the Lord’s supper for Christians.

It’s an extraordinarily long tradition. I think it should give pause to those who say the whole thing never happened.

The fate of the Egyptians is the fate of us all. There but for the grace of God. The passover is framed as what God didn’t do to the Isralites – and they symbolically gave their first born to his service in return.

Then the story tells of how life continued at the call of God. The cloud of his presence would stay over the tabernacle until it was time to move on. Could be a day, could be a year. Talk about being aware of his presence and guidance.

A number of my peers, in their 50s and early 60s are positioning themselves for retirement, changing jobs moving on. It’s quite an age for a shake up.

The Christians among us have usually lost a lot of the drive of ambition at our age, and I do believe some of them are being directed more by a desire to serve God than earlier in life. I ache to do more music. Is that a call to service? Or a phantom unfulfilled earthly ambition that I should let go? I thought of that as I accepted to be a warden at my church last week. The cloud moved and settled on warden. It’s not mine to direct.

The Israelites would wander 40 years in the desert. Exodus had a one year timeline, Leviticus was a month or so. Numbers spans something resembling life.

They start by being ready for the battle, military preparation to take the holy land. Then, guided by God, life.

Exodus 37

Here they make the ark, the lampstand and the insence altar (different from the one where animals would be sacrificed). Again, detailed loving descriptions that show how closely they followed god’s design. 

Looking at pictures of Jewish menorah, I wonder if God didn’t have something more organic in mind. They make much of the curve of the branches in concentric “U” shapes, and i imagined the branches more naturalistic. But whatever. 

They don’t have idols like the pagan religions, but they have symbolic artefacts that enable worship of God or say something about his character without themselves being God. And those are made with deep deep love, a bit like all the gorgeous pointy churches that litter our towns. And the lord’s supper is a symbolic ritual requiring some artefacts, a table a plate, a cup. 

Evangelicals are good about music but suspicious of artisanship. God is comfortable with it, and seems to understand the value of work done with a pure sense of dedication to his glory.

Genesis 40

Joseph interprets other people’s dreams. It sets up his release from jail next chapter.

Again he is a truth teller, as he was with his own dreams. He accurately tells the cup bearer he will be freed and forgiven and; no fear or favour, tells the baker he will die.

These dreams are messages from God. It’s a mercy that these are other people’s dreams. It didn’t play so well when he told his brothers “I had a dream I was more important than all of you!” But these are real to the people who had them, troubling, and they want to know what they mean.

I need to be a truth teller. He had dreams, I have god’s word. Joseph would have had good reason to doubt that truth telling was a good policy. It landed him in jail in a foreign country. 

Even when his prediction came true, the cup bearer forgot him. He languishes in jail another 2 years, which must have seemed very long and would have tempted most people to doubt the life of faith had rewards.

I must speak the truth, particularly “in season” which I take as like other people’s dreams: speaking about people’s own issues when they are ready to hear. Stay faithful. 

I have an acquaintance who is dying. I am fearful of speaking the truth to her. Also I have things I want to say to my children. 

2 Samuel 9

David finds and honours mephisbosheth, who is Jonathan’s son, grandson of Saul. He returns to him much of Saul’s property and treats him as a son, having him dine at his table from then on. 

We last saw mephisbosheth in the narrative when he was fleeing the royal palace as a child, his nurse dropped him and he became lame in both feet.

This kindness is unusual and unnecessary behaviour for a king, and it shows again his respect for the lord’s anointed, Saul, his love of jonathan, and of course it springs from the sincere love of God that both men had. 

It’s a powerful thing when Christians act, do. When we behave with generosity contrary to the normal self serving dictates of a position, against our own best interests, it makes our love of God real.

Pray that god gives me way to behave counter intuitively.

Judges 3

The judges are coming now, thick and fast, chapter 3 had 3 judges.

The introductory section makes for strange reading directly after Joshua. In Joshua, God delivered the land to them and drove out the foreigners, and chastised them for not finishing the job. Here it says that God left foreigners as a test, to make them have to choose him.

I don’t think this is contradiction but the mind warp of predestination. God’s plan for the Israelites, his law, was that they would stay faithful. But, being born unto sin, they weren’t going to and didn’t. And in the bigger picture it would all lead to the Messiah.

The same will happen with kings. He says they don’t need kings, it is his will that they don’t have kings, but they want kings, they get kings and it becomes god’s plan to bless them through kings like David.

God is very good at plan B. Or was it plan A?

So anyway the cycle of faithlessness starts up and spins fast. Three judges lead them from captivity because of three instances of straying.

The three of them kill oppressor Kings that subjugate the people. Its clear that God allows the subjugation because of their faithlessness. Othniel and Shamgar are warriors. Ehud is an assassin who dispatches the oppressor king in a thriller like plot.  But they also keep the people faithful until their death.  Their violence against the oppressors is borne of passion for gods people, they aren’t thugs but zealous champions of the faith.

Esther 10

A three verse wrap up of the career of Mordecai. He stayed in his position, was the premier Jew and greatly respected as number two to the king. Presumably he had less ego than Haman.

He and Esther are both great examples of serving God in your life, knowing your opportunities.

I’m feeling miserable before God today, like a fraud and a sinner. I need to humbly claim his forgiveness yet again and seek to live a useful self disciplined but effective life for him.

Esther 6

An interesting turn, Esther has no influence in this chapter, god works through the insomnia of the King who has his chronicles read to him when he can’t sleep and independently comes up with a plan to honor Mordecai for foiling the assassination plot.

Far from impaling Mordecai, the plot has Haman planning his day of honor, in the assumption that it is his own. So we have the hilarious reversal of Haman leading the man he most hates through the streets on a horse in a fine robe shouting about how honoured he is.

Apoplectic with rage later in the evening, Haman’s family identify the Jewish God as behind the events and freak out – Haman’s offended a God of power. Before he can think what to do he’s spirited off to Esther’s second feast.

It’s amazing what a large and obvious role good has without being identified. It’s just referred to as a power in the ethnicity “because he is Jewish…”

This chapter reinforces the warning Mordecai said to Esther, that help for the Jews could come anyway even if she was silent. How easy it was for God to engineer the reversal of fortunes.

This book is read during the Jewish feast of Purim, a holiday to celebrate these events and it’s easy to see why. The messages about faithfulness to your people and to God are woven in so strongly.

God, father, resistance is futile. You have shown me your truth though your grace, use me, left me grab the opportunities you offer.

 

Haggai 1

Its time!

The remains of the Israelites have been allowed to return to Jerusalem and started to do OK, but Haggai the prophet is stirred up to speak out about the temple.

You’ve made sure you have nice houses, he says, what about god’s?

I love his picture of wages going into a purse with a hole in it, suggesting that they will never feel like they have enough money to build the temple. Some things never change!

And the people respond. We’re in for a temple building! Its a good chapter about listening to the things that stir you up when you are complacent. You should not ignore that voice.

I’m in a sweeter spot than I was a year ago. What does god want of me?

 

 

 

Luke 11

I’m grateful that one of three main elements of the lords prayer is the constant battle with sin, and that the father’s forgiveness is so closely aligned with forgiving others. There is honouring God and seeking his kingdom, our daily needs and forgiving, being forgiven and avoiding temptation. Jesus expects us to be coming to the father every day with a story of failure, we are sinful creatures.

Adventure time!

And coming off the expectation of daily needing forgiveness, Jesus also recommends “shameless audacity”. I love the sense of adventures with God, not necessarily the ones he had planned. There are all sorts of things to be found, doors to be opened, good things waiting to be asked for. The indwelling spirit means makes prayer this sort of shared, collaborative creative endeavour.

These knock/seek/find phrases are often used for finding christianity in the first place. And that’s OK, but this analogy is for regulars in the fathers neighbourhood, asking seeking and knocking all their lives. At midnight, for a loaf of bread, because someone just turned up, and the shops are closed. He seems to be saying be spontaneous, have moonshots, fly kites, be creative. I gave you autonomy and free will, use it and I will run with you. There are a whole bunch of spirit inspired experiences waiting to happen. This is a more exciting gospel than the one which leads to finding it, and just stays there.

Be bold!

Devil

The parable is how a pseudo religious person is worse than one with no religion, I think. Because the person is a house, Jesus kicks the devil out of the house and it is clean, but it’s unoccupied, which means Jesus is not living there… And the devil then comes back stronger than before.

The sign of Jonah seems to be about peoples capacity for unbelief… They have God with them in human form and it is still not enough. The sign of Jonah is the condemnation of the people who believed on much less proof.

Another quite hard parable, the lamp. It is easiest understood as an attack on the Pharisees. Jesus is the lamp… God’s salvation in full view. The Pharisees are seeing the lamp with bad eyes… Those who look and look but do not see. So they are full of dark. There is a lamp on the table shining brightly, but there is not a light in their hearts.. The spirit or lack of it, that is dark

Woe to you!

So then come the list of open bads… Saying how the Pharisees and teachers are bad in various ways.

“But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you”. Jesus had no illusion that religious leaders can be motivated by greed. God made the inside of the cup as well as the outside. Don’t just clean the outside… Great analogy.
You can’t fool God.

They tithe down to the herbs. But what do they neglect? Justice and love.

I can really see the love of the good seats in the synagogue and the respectful greetings in the marketplace… The cosines, the goodness. These are good people!

They will be held responsible for the killing is all gods previous messengers, from Abel to zechariah.

So insulting. When Jesus says they are like an unmarked grave, he means you get decided by talking to them like coming close to routing human flesh even though they look normal to the naked eye.

They object to how insulting it is and Jesus just goes further. The essence of religious hypocrisy is that they not only don’t enter the kingdom themselves but hinder others from entering.