Psalm 92

How long can this go on?  Psalms 90-92 now form a trilogy of comfort, what a happy part of the book.

We’re on the lyre, singing, of God’s love in the fresh bright morning and his faithfulness as night falls.

His great deeds, his profound thoughts.

Thinking about grass vs. trees.  The evildoers do all look like they are winning… look at that crop of grass, what happened to the cedar and palm tree seeds we planted?  The righteous? Where are they? Fast forward a decade or two… they say there used to be grass in the shade of these mighty trees – hard to imagine now!

Conclusion: the Lord is my rock and there is no wickedness in him: reliable and reliably good.

Can I translate this through my day?  I was down and unproductive yesterday.  A day in the life of a tree, worrying about the thriving grass. A grassy soul.

Begone! Hold boldly onto this positive boost to focus and give of your best. I pray it!

 

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Psalm 81

I’m at a depressing phase of new years: knuckling back down to work, family bored and restless in the hot, wet weather, facing the bills and bank balances I ignored over the break.

But here is a festival Psalm. Sing joyfully to God because it’s new moon, and because God says to. Just because God, really.

The festival was the day of atonement, closest thing they had to Easter I suppose.

This was followed by the festival of the booths, like a two week picnic with tents.

And it comes with a plea to the people to listen to God. If only they would do that, it would unlock so much blessing.

Well day two back at work.

I have some goals… Two enjoyable pieces of work I want drafted by the end of the week.

I got a good night’s sleep having adjusted my clock backwards a few hours.

Sing joyfully, I can do this!

I loved singing this setting of the first 4 verses as a child. All the joyous lines pile on top of each other so you can’t even make out the words for all the sweet weaving notes.. 2 minutes of bliss!

Lyre,timbrel, viol, trumpet!

Psalm 57

This one takes flight. It’s from a moment when David has some quiet contemplation time during his fugitive period, hiding in a cave. His confidence that he has backed the right horse, God, is already strong at the start, fear is not urgent.

Poetry thrives on contrast, and from his dark lonely cave we get an increasingly exultant series of them.

And here, now, it’s spring. After weeks of rain, flu, a winter that won’t let go, all that cleared yesterday, for Friday and the weekend. I felt like singing myself as I had coffee in the park with a colleague, drinks and dinner with friends in the time-shifted sunshine after work.

The scriptures and my life don’t need to match up, but now I feel they have! It’s fresh and bright and new after weeks of gloom.

David compares the safety of the cave, as he hears lions outside, to feeling like a chick under the wing of God, safe and warm and loved.

Morning comes, he compares it to music, contrasting the dark silence of the cave to the rich breadth of the dawn, the awakening day awakens the sound of lute and lyre in his memory. After getting safe, he gets happy

You can picture him at the mouth of his tiny cave, so small his life has become, comparing the vastness of the lightening heavens to the greatness of God, the God of all nations who is above the highest he can see, feeling at one with that God.

He mentions the enemies, he compares them to the lions outside the cave. He is aware of their viciousness, like the lions teeth, and their plotting like the prowling, but he visualises them falling into a pit of their own making. Swallowed up by their own wrong choices. Shoulda trusted God.

So: Saturday, blue skies above, what an upbeat way to start a new day. May I be open to blessing, alert to possibilities. Did trust God!

1 Chronicles 25

The musicians for the temple. Reflecting a modern church where the music is as important as the other ministry roles.

Certainly music was made for praising God, reaching for the divine, bonding communities.

They were divided into 24 bands of 12 musicians and played twice during the 48 week yearly cycle, like the other priests.

I wonder what it was like being completely unmusical and being born into the music priestly families. Your calling is determined by clan, not talent. Maybe that’s why the Psalmist wrote ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’

1 Chronicles 16

The second half of the celebration of the ark of the covenant coming to Jerusalem, this box they’ve carried through the wilderness with the 10 commandments written by God the food God provided, and Moses’ staff, which turned into a snake before Pharaoh.

They appoint priests to run worship at the place it is and make music. Singing and music are key to uniting the people under Jehovah.

Then we get a big bold song about God being over all and his love being eternal. And they feed everyone, roast meat, bread and raisins.

It is a sensational day, the making of a people, a godly people, their destiny, a golden freeze frame moment.

The last verse says then they all went home, and David spent time with his family.

1 Chronicles 6

The priests and musicians, what they did, where they lived, who they were.

They are the most complicated tribe, Levi, the priest tribe didn’t have a section of Israel but were scattered through.

It’s obviously very useful to have a record of this for reestablishing the temple and religious practice in Israel, which they were doing at the time this record was compiled.

A trend in the church has been to have full time music ministry people, it’s clearly not new.

I wondered what the local priests did. There wasn’t a network of temples, the was just the one. By Jesus time there was synagogues. It’s a whole history I just don’t know.

Isaiah 26

Woah, a chapter that goes some unexpected places.

A description of God’s City, walls made of salvation, the strongest stuff there is. Gates town open to all nations. To the dead.

A height metaphor is used to talk about the proud and pompous being made low and the humble lifted up, but not reversed, made straight, made even.

Isaiah is always this two edged sword, can’t damn without hope, no hope without contrasting fate of those who do not listen. It’s always a plea.

The contrast here is with the outcome of people’s trust in their own strength, which looks like it’s going to deliver but ultimately can’t. Amusingly it is compared to a woman writhing with birth pains who ultimately delivers a fart. What a great way to think about so much of the Ted talks etc, humanism has great goals, but only humans to execute them.

The birth metaphor extends to God raising the dead in him for his City, the ground giving them up. The City of Salvation is not tied to earthly life spans, its eternal forwards and backwards.

God is solid, God is real, God produces children for his labours, true justice, true rescue, lasting comfort.

In the meantime this promise “God will keep you in perfect peace if your mind is set on him”

2 Kings 3

Obedience for blessing – with panache

An interesting event from the next king’s reign. Jeroham another of Ahab’s sons, wasn’t as bad as him.  He stopped worshipping Baal, which seems to have ended the active persecution and killing of Jehovah’s prophets.  But he still worshipped the calf that had been established in largely political defiance of the temple in the kingdom of Judah after the civil war. The offical state religion was a false, cynical one.

The two kingdoms, Israel and Judah unite with Edom to bring Moab to heel, which is in rebellion against taxes levied by the kingdom of Israel. They take a way of attack through the desert and the troops are literally dying of thirst – very Exodus.

The godly king of Judah, Jehosophat, finds out Elisha is with them and consults him. He  has very sharp words for Jeroham, but helps them for Jehosophat’s sake.

First, strikingly, Elisha has a musician play to calm him down to a spiritual zone – maybe he was stressed after openly confronting and criticising the ungodly King.  A dangerous pastime.

God intervenes in the story at this point.  He helps the present situation, but so much more. It is a lesson, clearly for the godless king, it requires obedience and delivers in abundance – in one elegant move.

Elisha tells them to dig ditches in the dry river bed to contain the water God is sending them. That would have required very faithful leadership and quite some obedience from the exhausted men.  Jeroham would have witnessed first hand the absolute kingly faith and trust of Jehosophat to get the parched men to do the seemingly meaningless task.

A flash flood then comes down the river bed and collects in the ditches they have dug – the rest of the water passes through.  So the amount of water provided is in proportion to the extent of their obedience.  The more ditches they dug, the more of the water God provided they are blessed with. Very elegant.

Even more elegant, the Moabites mistake the distant ditches of water for blood and assume that the alliance hasn’t held and the kings have attacked each other.  They swoop in but are utterly routed.  The Moab king is so desperate with the loss he sacrifices his own son by burning him alive. The combined kings are so disgusted at the human sacrifice, they leave him at that point.

Jeroham and Jehsophat asked for water.  They got it …AND VICTORY! But without obedience, the blessing would have passed them by. Really reminds me of the lesson of Exodus, choosing God is choosing to participate in his blessing.  But his will will be done whether you choose him or not, and he wants so much more for us than we know to ask. Such a great lesson.

How did the king manage to remain an unbeliever after that experience!

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.

 

1 Samuel 16

Choosing king David.

The least is again chosen by God. 6 older sons are presented and rejected. David’s father didn’t even bother calling the youngest boy, left it in the fields trending the sheep.

When Samuel anoints him, god’s spirit comes to him and departs Saul. It never left David again.

Thank you for choosing me to recieve the spirit father.

David sings for Saul having been fetched for his musical skill because Saul has a troubled spirit.