1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

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1 Chronicles 12

King Saul made David an enemy of Israel, and David refused to fight back. This is the story of how he got support to claim the throne.

Many soldiers joined him, even some who went possibly to spy on him ended up joining him. The story is told of the man who became commander of the elite ’30’, having a prophetic utterance, recognising God is on David’s side.

The structure of the narrative makes it clear he is a unifier: it goes through all the tribes, listing his support, starting with Benjamin, Saul’s tribe.

The momentum builds until he has a huge army, the people gather to him, and the is spontaneous feasting and joy, he’s that kind of guy in that kind of moment.

David followed God, and God’s plan unfolded around him.

I have a small sense of that at work, I get panicky if I try to think of the big picture, but I clearly know what would be the right thing to do moment to moment. David surrendered to God the big picture.

Jeremiah 3

An extension of the whore metaphor from the last chapter.

I mean it’s not entirely metaphorical because their religion involved sex practices under trees and on mountains. So it’s also a convenient literal shorthand for their faithlessness.

What’s worse than cheating? Cheating and lying about it.

In this respect Judah, the kingdom that has moments of faithfulness, is worse than Israel, which was blatantly unfaithful from day one. Judah which included Jerusalem, and at least kept up a show of the temple worship of Jehovah, was more hypocritical than Judah.

God’s truth confronts your failure to convey God’s hope.

So Jeremiah calls on Israel to return to God. He promises them shepherds to teach and guide them. They are so lost!

The ark of the covenant will become redundant – God will keep his promises. He will reunify Israel and bring all to Jerusalem, his throne, with all nations.

But the first step, the one they can never take, is to lie down in their shame. Acknowledge it, own it.

I’m struck how God despairs less easily than me. Increasingly people can grow up in Australia with no contact with religion hardly at all. It hard not to imagine they will never get it, to just live and let live. But God has hope for all, he never gives up.

I would love to do something to cast the net out to the people who know nothing of God. I’m a way too private Christian.

2 Kings 13

Read the chapter, read the commentary. Don’t really understand, don’t really want to. 

We are looking at Kings of the northern kingdom. They all start with J. One is the father one is the son, one has the same name as the southern kingdom’s king and seems to be used interchangeably with the son. 

In the middle Elisha dies. It’s fairly low key, he is old and gets ill, unlike Elijah before him who went up to heaven in a chariot.

The king(s) semi respect him. They see him as a man of God, but they don’t stop worshipping God the wrong way. 

This half hearted faith shows in a story about lacking boldness, where dying Elisha gets the king to symbolically claim future victories by banging arrows on the ground. The king doesn’t really get it, and doesn’t get the blessing of victory he could have got. 

Fits with the theme of Kings which is how half hearted compromised lives of faith mean richness of God’s blessing forfeited.

Good wants bold faith. The kind that says “the odds may be impossible, but God’s message is clear so I’m going ahead anyway”. 

Deuteronomy 12

This is a new section. The “lessons from the wilderness” reached a climax in the last two chapters. We had the reveal of the command to love God with all your heart, and a massive answer to the question “why”: because of his goodness in saving them from Egypt.

Now we start a section that looks forward more exclusively at how they will love God.  This chapter is about the places, the temple, where they must go to offer sacrifices. Also the rules about meat, not eating the blood of the animals out of respect for their God given life. 

I like how is a very practical approach to the command to love God. Canaan is literally full of other Gods. Loving God remains a series of moment to moment choices.

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. ┬áBut they also keep the people faithful until their death. ┬áTheir violence against the oppressors is borne of passion for gods people, they aren’t thugs but zealous champions of the faith.