2 Kings 21

Perhaps the fatalism of the godly king Hezekiah in the last chapter was because he already knew his son would be a disaster. 

Manasseh became king at a young age and re established the pantheon of folk Gods, sacrificed his son to Moloch, set up Ashera actually in the temple, consulted wizards and mediums and shed much innocent blood to boot.

There is argument over whether these gods are Canaanite or folk Gods of Israel itself. I guess the calf at least, which they worshipped in the desert came from some folk tradition. Abraham came from a household with Gods. 

The sacrificial system is just an adaptation of the religion that was already there to monotheistic worship of jahweh. God is about substance and we’ve seen faith in him come in many forms. He meets our understanding where it is.

His son rules 2 years and is much the same.

Bad Kings are accompanied by more and more pointed prophetic reaction, this time God says he will wipe Jerusalem clean.

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2 Kings 20

Borrowed time.

I don’t know how to take Hezekiah. 

He’s a good, relatively godly king at a time when the kingship is doomed.

This tells the notable spiritual events of his reign, and it’s a strange story of the interaction of God and man, and we aren’t given neat moralising. It is what it is.

He gets sick, is told by God/Isaiah its his time. It is before he has defeated the Assyrians. He prays for more life and is given 15 years. He gets a very appropriate sign from God that the promise is real, the sun goes backwards on the sun dial for a day!

He uses the time to deal with the Assyrians – that was in the last chapter I think?

Next we have the story of him welcoming a Babylonian envoy, which was probably a political move to find alliances.

Hezekiah doesn’t seem that interested in politics but really enjoys showing them all his wealth, he’s got prosperous also in his extra time. He is a minor king, it feels lame, like he’s big noting himself when flattered that his loyalty would matter to Babylon.

Isaiah rebukes his pride with a stark prophesy that Babylon will obliterate the kingdom. His children will be enunchs in the Babylonian court. He simply reacts with relief that it will happen after his time.

Knowing the date of his death and knowing that God has ordained that the Empire will fall has made him fatalistic, predictably. It’s made him an island who takes his comfort from the present. Maybe that is why God doesn’t often tell us the date of our deaths.

I had a friend who spent a year or so on borrowed time knowing she would die from cancer. She got very good at accepting love from her friends, and letting them give her treats. 

She got good at not thinking about the inconvenience when she didn’t die on cue and their life was made messy, because she didn’t have the time to worry about it. It was a gift she gave them which they have many years to treasure. The last year or so of her life was a very beautiful thing.

The biographical note about king Hezekiah mentions that he did engineer an clever water supply that made Jerusalem virtually seige proof, so it’s not like he completly ignored the future. 

The commentary I read judged him for his pride, the bragging, which I understand. But I see a certain humility there too, because he accepted God’s judgment, he didn’t try to change it. He asked for and got a temporary stay of the judgement, and enjoyed it for what it was. 

God gave him it because he was faithful, it was an answer to a godly prayer. But the prayer didn’t alter God’s uber plan to cut down the kingdom as a part of the slow revelation of the true Messiah.

It’s both a mercy and a curse to be given the date of your death. I sort of pray that for me God will come like a theif in the night.  

I don’t know what to learn from this! It’s very interesting though, and it says something subtle about God, and our dialogue with him.

It reminds me of Jesus’ impractical compassionate healings – he would have a chance encounter with someone like the woman who was bleeding, and cure her on to the way to somewhere else, and then have to ban anyone from taking about it because he wasn’t ready to die yet. God can seemingly be distracted by his own compassion, and by our faithful prayers.

2 Kings 5

When Elisha asked for double the spirit Elijah had, God really answered.

This part of Kings is absolute gold for finding out the character of God.

Here, God cures a leper. The mode of cure is washing, the water of the Jordan washes away the corruption of the flesh, a physical metaphor for sin being washed away.

The recipient is a military commander from a neighbouring country. He heard of Elisha because his wife was a captive from Israel taken in battle.

God’s healing is for all the world, for enemies.

Elisha refuses payment. Namaan who was cured knows the event is theological and recognises that he has found the one true God, who he promises to worship the rest of his life. God is above all other Gods and more valuable than any wealth.

He is very candid and asks forgiveness for times he anticipates helping his king in religious rituals for another God, and Elisha accepts it. It’s about what is in the heart.

This candor is contrasted with the dishonesty of Elisha’s servant who tells a lie to in fact get some payment from Namaan, and gets leprosy. A life devoted to materialism above God will corrupt your soul and destroy you, and you can’t lie to God about it.

Worst mass shooting ever in the US today.

Minds become unhinged, and this shooter had a cultural response to becoming possessed by evil that is all too familiar in the US.

As society grapples with this reality, layers of more complex evil, hypocrisy motivated by greed and power will interpret the event various ways. Fingers will be pointed, self serving spin will be exaggerated.

Here I read of the powerful simplicity of that washing in the river, the sure love of God that pares away all the dishonest layers. Glad I’ve found the true God today, its all we have.

1 Kings 22

Inconvenient truths.

Ahab makes a treaty with Jehoshaphat, the southern king of Judah, to attack the enemy he let go – king Aman, who has only got stronger and now threatens his territory.

At Jehoshaphat’s request they consult prophets, the are now 400 of them (I can only guess that Elijah’s victory in the battle of the gods must have turned around the policy of exterminating them).

All predict victory, except one who after initially agreeing with the majority tells them of a vision from God that He put a lying spirit in their mouths.

The king has a recognisably Trumpian approach to truth. He didn’t even want to consult the last prophet because he often says bad things will happen.

Ahab obviously knows Aman will be gunning for him so he battles in disguise and is killed anyway. The blood from his wounds on his chariot are washed in public and dogs do lick it up, as was prophesied.

Judah meanwhile gets the second godly king in a row, Jehoshaphat after asa. But the text makes clear that they are weak…. They get rid of some of the false religious practises but not all.

1 Kings ends.

I’m getting the message that God is in charge, his truth will out.

But the meta story, the sad fate of the chosen people, seems to be the reason for the book to be in the Bible. It sets the backdrop for the prophets, who will redefine God’s saving mission.

Deuteronomy 13

Woah, more extreme rules… I’m having Leviticus flashbacks. Any worship of other Gods in Canaan is to be punished by stoning, burning, complete erasure from existence.

We find it extreme today, they found it extreme then. Israel did worship other Gods, they never did love the lord with all their heart.  They never stoned people for it as far as I know, or at least they very often didn’t.

Jesus put it this way: the wages of sin is death.

So after the shock of the violence, there is also the sadness that of course it didn’t work, it exists to show us it didn’t work, it still doesn’t. We fail and fail to love our creator.

Deuteronomy 9

It’s hard to find a theme here. It’s the gospel according to Moses, and he does bring a perspective of the mind of God to his recap of the events of his life. 

The theme might be what the events of the exodus have shown us about God and how that will be useful in the promised land.

Moses describes a purposeful God who will carry out his plans despite us. 

The Israelites let God down irredeemably in the desert when they made the golden calf to worship, and they should gave been destroyed there. They have no greater claim to the land though their worth than the people already there. 

Those people have earned their destruction by their wickedness in their own right, is nothing to do with the holiness of the Israelites. The Israelites get their inheritance because God keeps his promises, not because they have earned it.

So don’t fear Muslims or atheists. Also don’t fear or expect that much more of Christians, who today as ever seem to do as much or more to undermine God’s kingdom. 

As Bob Dylan once sang about God, he has plans of his own to set up his throne.

Deuteronomy 7

My God can be terrifying God from the perspective of being one of his people. 

Here Moses describes how will root out the stronger people in the land and put in the weaker Israelites, making them strong. But if they don’t obey him, the same fate awaits them.

God is a gardener. We don’t hesitate to pull out annuals that have done flowering. Some plants we feed, others we prune, some we remove. The gardener knows that is best for the garden. The gardener’s plans are for the garden to thrive and survive and for it to be something the current garden can’t imagine being. 

We didn’t actually make the plants in our garden, or the dirt or the sun or the water. Yet we are the masters of its fate. But God made us and our world. 

Contemplating the idea that you are a creation is a shocking idea if you are used to the idea that you are god of yourself. But God has completly the right to act that way.

The process of taking the holy land is often understandably disparaged as racial cleansing. But God makes it clear here that it is not because of racial superiority that he chose the Israelites. It’s because of his plans, not their worth. 

I’m not a Jew, but I believe Jesus, who was, was also God and died for me. This is part of the story of God’s love for all mankind. It’s not racial.

He knew the number of hairs on the head of every one of the “ites” who were already in Canaan. He formed them, knew them and loved them in the womb.  Like plants in a garden, they will all eventually die, but that does not mean they are not known and loved. We love and enjoy our plants, but we didn’t make them. How much more would we if we had.

The people he desired to make way for the Israelites are in his hands. The God I see here, the one I was inspired by the last chapter to love with all my heart, is an all mighty, all powerful God of love and kindness.

Deuteronomy 6

Moses gives and elaborates on the commandment that Jesus would say is the greatest and contains all the law, love the lord your God with all your heart. 

He elaborates on it in a way that does not read like a sermon, but rather a heartfelt plea. His fear is the same as previous chapters, that they will forget because they will be so prosperous and comfortable. 

The irony that God’s grace and provision will be the cause of them forgetting is not lost on him, as they occupy large flourishing cities they did not build.

He pleads with them to remember the slavery that God rescued them from, and going forward to only love that God. 

Picking though all the rules, some of which are ridiculously culturally specific, this one has a giant arrow pointing to a huge red flag as a keeper.

Daily, please father let my heart overflow with love for you, remember your goodness, from every cup of coffee to every sunset and keep you as the only lord of my life.

Deuteronomy 4

Spoiler alert for the rest of the Old testament.

Moses continues his final words before they all go to the promised land without him.

He focuses on the ban against idols. He wants them not to forget about it after a few generations or they will be overrun and exiled. He says that even if that happens God’s mercy will mean they are eventually returned.  As I said, spoiler alert.

The overall message is that there is one true God who deserves obedience. It serves as an introduction to a dissertation of the law.

One true God. If he is forgotten and other gods take over, it is a disaster, but his abiding character is mercy, and he will bring us back.

Praise him!

Leviticus 21

I have advice for young christians.  Don’t ever read Leviticus.  Just don’t bother.

Its not that I don’t get it on some level, this chapter is about priests super duper perfection rules.  Its an attempt to create eden, the pre-fall world, in the fallen world.

So it reads like outrageous discrimination against disabilities, no imperfections in priests – it literally is against short people.

So it reads callous: they are to not show mourning or have anything to do with the dead (some exceptions for family).

But it’s meaning the priests to be like adam, not knowing death, not knowing the curse of creation broken.

Its impossible. Why bother? is the question clamouring at me.  OK, its teaching us that we are fallen, that god is holy.  But why a system designed to fail?

The old testament is profoundly depressing.  It is impossible to read it and not conclude you are less holy than god, indeed you are not holy at all.  The story of it is told repeatedly in excruciating detail.

Humanity is corrupt.  We fail corporately, born into sin, its really not our fault, we don’t stand a chance.

Also, each individual is damned without grace. We personally fall short of God’s plan for us and deserve his wrath.  Sinners, all, through and through, every which way.