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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?