Psalm 83

A frustration-with-enemies Psalm.

The enemies of Israel grow stronger, and this is a plea for God to stop being silent and let them know who is Lord.

He had a different plan. We know he is Lord not because he has stricken all the enemies of Israel, but because from Israel came a global saviour, Jesus.

But there are still enemies, grumbling and conspiring. How much should I hate them?

My favourite metaphor in the psalm is the anticipation of Israel’s enemies losing their power, and being like tumbleweed, life chaff. So insubstantial that the wind blows them away.

When I look at the list of enemies in the alliance plotting against Israel, they have proved thus. None are still world powers, most are footnotes of history.

We pray for God’s will to be done on earth, which is not so very different from this psalm.

I actually work at not feeling too culturally threatened by God’s enemies.

The assurance that God is in control controls a xenophobic reaction to how comfortable people are with openly mocking God these days.

These palms should be read as Psalms reaching for faith and confidence, not fear and revenge.

Their ‘downfall’ could be coming to know God’s grace. That would be my preferred method of their destruction as enemies.

We all come to terms with passing time.. their downfall might be after my time on earth is done.

I feel at work for the salvation army and at church in glebe, we are battling a tide of indifference and growing malice towards Christianity. It’s not global, mainly western countries.

I’m going to brainstorm the sign for our church next week. How to approach a message to my suburb. It’s been populist comfort, it’s said ‘lay down your burdens’. But what next ‘destruction is nigh’?

Psalm 61

David returning to some of the themes that come back again and again. His need for salvation, his agony, his tears.

Asking How long? How long?

His turmoil goes all night.. both the bed and the couch are soaked with tears, nice detail.

Calling on God’s loving, saving, nature, rather than David’s deservedness. Calling on God’s pragmatism – ‘I’m no use to you dead am I?

Starting with his anguish, ending anticipating his enemy’s anguish: going full circle, but also taking us on a journey. Honest and artful at the same time. Well, he did have all night to work on the song…

I’m oddly troubled too, can’t get into gear at work. I should just do the job applications and get them out of the way, they are distracting me.

One job is more demanding, a management position of a national team, another is unclear a project coordination job. Maybe less my bag, but I have to go for it. It would be ironic if I was a chaser upper, a deadlines guy…

Confusing mixture of wanting, needing, not sure about. It would be a much higher level of commitment, though I’m one of those people that never feel like a hot shot, so I’m always insecure about these things until I do them. Argh!

Pray that I can be calm and sensible, not over think things, trust God.

I was so restless that I kept being annoyed yesterday if I could only find written articles, not videos, about things I was researching, because I couldn’t settle to read. Needed to be hypnotised by sight and sound or my brain wouldn’t stop jumping around.

Sounds like David and I are both stuck in loops. I’d still rather be me from the sound of it.

And oh the infinite patience required to be God. Hearing the same prayers day in day out, the same repentances, the same errors, the same lacks of self insight. Dear oh dear! Well I’ll try and sort my little emotional eddy, I can do it.

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.


Jeremiah 15

God makes it abundantly clear to Jeremiah that there is no way he will forgive Israel. It’s not that Jeremiah isn’t good enough, even Moses and Samuel could not persuade him to relent.

Jeremiah’s misery over his mission reaches fever pitch. He starts to sound like Job, wishing he had never been born and cataloguing all the good he has done in his life to ask what he’s done to deserve such punishment.

God promises to be kind to him eventually, but for now he must be strong like a wall. He must absorb their rejection of the message, he must absorb their attacks on him.

You know that Jeremiah will be brave, he’s in the Bible. You know how it ends. But for us it often doesn’t end that way.

We wimp out. We change the message to fit the people. Or we divorce the message from the people, from any relationship or care. How much does Jeremiah grieve for them!

1 Samuel 29

Holiday in Philistia. 

David, sick of being hunted by mad jealous Saul, has been hiding out in the enemy country. The narrative is disturbingly lacking in editorial comment. I don’t know what it really means. But he seems to be on holiday from God, and from the expectations of being god’s anointed.

The inevitable comes and he’s called upon to fight his own people. Will he? He says so. He and the philistine king exchange all sorts of statements of trust and affection. 

We know from the last chapter though, that he has been lying to the king about how much of a traitor to Israel he’s really been. The philistines generals don’t buy it for a second. Slaughter requires quite some commitment, their instincts are good I think.. He is sent home.

The narrative doesn’t say it’s divine intervention, but I reckon it is. He must have been relieved to avoid that dilemma. The former shepherd seems like a lost sheep. God’s plan has come to a stand still. 

I love that my new church is a doing church. After the service on Sunday, we wrapped parcels for the homeless and poor people they regularly minister to . They preached on the great commission, Jesus last words to his disciples. After all they’ve been through, Jesus says “therefore, go…” …and do something. 

What should I do? I feel a bit like I’m living out my life in enemy territory, not really god’s, not really not god’s? Lying a bit to both.

Joshua 4

God instructs the Israelites to build a cairn of stones, 12, one for each tribe. So 12 men take a stone each from the middle of the riverbed. Joshua also makes a second cairn right in the middle of the Jordan to commemorate the crossing.

They cross armed, and camp at the edge of Jericho. The act seals Joshua’s leadership, the people venerate him as the new Moses. They arrive at the promised land ready for a fight.

Starting a new week, thinking about the things I have to do, praying for my children and the strains in my life. Behind is an undercurrent of sadness this week over the huge massacre in the gay nightclub in the U.S.

Remembering what God has done for me, that I am blessed, and aware in this world that we must be prepared for battle.

Pray for the families and friends of those who were killed, and for wisdom in the world’s response.

Ezra 8

Ezra lists the people who came with him. Then there is a description of the sacrificial system being re-established.

When he first assembled the people, there are no temple priests or attendants, so he puts out the call and gets about 40 of the priestly clan and 220 attendants. It takes a lot of people to run the temple. But it’s essentially a slaughter house, quite a bit of work I suppose.

He sees gods hand in bringing the people to him. Rather wonderfully they fast and ask God for protection on the journey, because in Ezra’s enthusiasm to depict to the king that it is a blessed project, he said he would not need protection of a horse guard, because God would be his protection. It’s rather sweet that he confesses to momentary second thoughts… he was ashamed to ask for it after that. God indeed protects them. I like that sort of “fake it till you make” it trust thing.

He trusts 12 leading priests with the gold articles to guard. I see it is a journey of some considerable danger from bandits, given the treasure they are carrying. They make it, after 3 days rest a sacrifice is given and the letters of kingly protection go out to the region.

It is a chapter full of grace and blessing, human fear and faith, and godly guidance.

May I trust you day by day father.

I met with the minister of our church to voice my concerns about things yesterday. It was good and made me feel heard. I don’t think he is a person who changes quickly, but it started a conversation, as they say.  Will it work out? Fake it til I make it, eh?

Ezra 4

The surrounding nations presumably don’t like the regional power shift of Jerusalem becoming viable again. Their plot to stop it first involves offering to join the efforts, to hopefully make it lose its racial flavor. Then they run interference, bribing officials to frustrate and slow down progress. Finally they write directly to the king.

It is actually not hard to sympathise with the opposition. Their assessment that a strong Jerusalem would be bad for them could be entirely fair. Their letter to the king is effective because it’s not really slanderous, it tells the new king to check out the history of Jerusalem for himself, and he finds a history of trouble and shuts down the work.

The only thing that stops it being an entirely predictable and reasonable power struggle is that it is god’s plan that Jerusalem should be rebuilt. And god is love. It’s god’s long term plan of love for the world that they have inadvertently stumbled upon and blocked.

I think this is a good passage to remember when we find opposition in the world to get confidence to carry on. As the blues brothers said, we’re on a mission from God. Christians today get a seige mentality, and think of opposition as the forces of evil to be destroyed. But they are only behaving as we should expect. Beating them is not the mission directly, our response should be faith based and between us and God. A refocusing on our mission. Like how David, in times of crisis, would go into the presence of God and be restored.


Nehemiah 5

Reeling as we are at the moment with revelations about the betrayal of children by religious leaders, and the ascendency of a brutish egomaniac like Donald Trump, it’s easy to forget what truly inspiring leadership looks like. Unless you read Nehemiah 5. He sets the example. When he eventually made governor, he shares the perks of office liberally with the poor. He shames the business operators who are trying to profit from their community in a way that weakens it. They have nothing to say, they fall into line. And it is all inspired by his personal love of God. Looking at cultivating a sense of mission in life, this is most inspiring.