Jeremiah 12

Sucks to be God’s messenger. Last chapter Jeremiah discovered there was a plot to kill him for speaking God’s word.

This chapter he argues with God’s over the fairness of his message. He asks why God people have to suffer. He’s the meat in the sandwich, but such is his calling I suppose.

God’s answer is a) there are a lot less good people than you think, and b) there will be a restoration and compassion after the invasion.

I’m now being paid to write about God’s work and his nature, it’s an extraordinary privilege for a believer. May I remain faithful and true like Jeremiah.


Numbers 21

Now the Israelites are heading towards the holy land in earnest, Moses’ adventures remind me of Joshua (I peaked ahead and read that one already).

You have the confronting military aspect of God saying “go destroy this or that city, I’ve given them to you”. But god is acting in a sinful world.  The reaction of nations they pass through is to destroy them.

This is the chapter where the old fashioned doctor logo comes from, the snake on a stick. The people grumble, poisonous snakes start killing them. They put a snake in a stick and look at it for God’s protection.

God is so kind with signs. I mean the air we breathe, agriculture, hugs, I mean everything comes from God, the whole background. When we take all that for granted he gives us communion, the cross, Jesus, churches. Physical symbols to remind us of his existence and protection.

Grief is natural, revulsion of violence is natural. To say “why God why?” when either happens, is only natural. But really he is the only hope for life and the only source of peace.

Numbers 11

The negativity returns in complaints about how boring the manna is. They don’t like God’s catering. By the end of the chapter they will attribute a plague illness to God’s judgement on this attitude.

But before that God says “you want meat, I’ll give you meat” and more quails than they know what to do with arrive. The complainers barely start to consume the quail before the plague hits and their time has come.

One of those harsh things. Their discontent has built from a rosy and selective memory of their slavery “back in Egypt we had corn and leeks etc”

The transaction is a fascinating picture of Moses’ relationship with God. He feels the burden of representing them to god and god to them.  He’s exhausted, and god gives him a break.  He appoints 70 elders to temporarily give one off prophesy to the people… prophesy being telling the truth to the people, presumably about how ungrateful and unfaithful their attitude is being.

2 of the elders are not there at the commissioning and prophesy anyway, which seems to give the impression that they have a special blessing not being surrogates for Moses.  He dismisses concern for that.  He’s just happy that God’s truth is told, and not concerned for his own credit or glory.

They said he was a very humble man.  Remember, he had trouble speaking to the Pharaoh.  He also eschewed the wealth he was adopted into in solidarity with the people.  Not greedy, not lauding over them.

This chapter is a story of small minded self absorbed faithlessness and humble, god focussed faithfulness. In the concrete and literal manner of the old testament, one is rewarded and one punished by god.

Exodus 8

Plagues are in full swing now. 

Frogs. To demonstrate the lord’s power Moses accurately commands them to die first in the houses, then in the river. But the magicians can copy and pharaoh isn’t impressed.

Gnats. The magicians can’t copy that one and say it is the “finger of God”. Pharaoh doesn’t listen.

Flies. They cover everywhere except where the Israelites are. Pharaoh finally relents… A little… Offers a compromise deal: they’ve been asking for 3 days worship time in the desert. He offers it locally. Moses sticks to the request. They do a deal. He calls off the flies. Pharaoh renigs.

It’s not just Pharaoh who is learning about God here, his power his persistence, its Moses. He must be getting much better at taking to Pharaoh. He’s learning that God never gives up.

2 Samuel 19

Private grief, public face.

David’s grief over his usurper son Absalom is overwhelming him. David escaped his rebellion to a foreign land, he’s “won”, but because victory meant the loss of his son, David is in a massive depression. 

It’s created a power vacuum. New king dead, Old king AWOL. David’s general Joab, who I sort of love, gives him a general-Patton-like reality slap and pep talk.

It’s all very well to love your enemies, but they’ve just saved many lives, all of those of David’s friends and supporters – David should spare a bit of love for the living and loyal!  For the good of the nation he has to get out there and be king! 

If not there will probably be another civil war. There is simmering tension between Judah and Israel always. David was Judah’s king before the civil war united the nation, so that is his base.

David man’s up. He channels his grief into mercy. This is the most beautiful thing in the chapter. We get a series of anecdotes of David letting bygones be bygones with enemies because he doesn’t want more death. 

Shimei, who was hilariously belligerent, now asks and receives mercy; Saul’s lame grandson Mesthispotheth gives a feeble explanation for why he ran off to the usurpers side, no worries. Another 80 year old leader is torn because not coming on the victory march with David will cause offence, but he’s old and tired. Take it easy, David says. 

David does two returns, the symbolic crossing the Jordan into Judah, echoing the people coming to the promised land, and then the journey to Jerusalem, entering Israel, foreshadowing Jesus’ journey to Calvary. 

The Judeans and Israelites both love him again, but like squabbling siblings, get a bit fierce about who loves him more. Seeds of future struggle there. 

David is fulfilling the role of king out of duty, but in his heart, god is king and he is clearly full of regret and grief. He doesn’t seem to have an ounce of pride. From all that flows a river of mercy.

Help me to make you king and swallow my pride, father.

2 Samuel 11

If you could do a perfect murder and it just improved everyone’s life, how is it wrong?

David and Bathsheba is a classic Bible story, this is the chapter.

He lusts after Bathsheba the girl next door, has an affair and she’s pregnant. Her husband uzziah is a soldier on active duty. David organises some R’nR hoping to give some plausible deniability to the babies fatherhood.

Uzziah is so damn noble he won’t sleep with his wife knowing his brother soldiers are dying in the field.  David tries again, this time with alcohol, but even drunk Uzziah has too much self discipline to disguise David’s lack of it. 

So, shockingly, David organises Uzziah’s death under cover of the battlefield. 

It’s so neat, Bathsheba mourns then becomes his wife. Within their culture it has the appearance of David actually honouring uzziah by providing for his widow. The perfect murder

It’s not quite perfect though because the general, Joab has been corrupted by being involved in the scheme. He wasn’t told why he should organise a particularly dangerous mission for uzziah, but surely he would have figured it out in about 9 months… 

The narrative quite cuttingly includes the cold way the death is handled in the reports from the battlefront – David has this horrible false reasonableness when he forgives the incompetent strategy that meant men, including Uzziah, were lost.

Likewise you wonder if Bathsheba surely would have suspected the neatness of it all.
But the man thing is, it displeases the lord.

Death comes to all of us. God is in charge of that. David the warrior king was the agent of so much death, but God remained king. King David was God’s servant.

But this death was different, David intended it for his own gain. Ironically, the only time David truly was Uzziah’s king was when he had him killed.

David cried to God in the song about his sin “against you only have I sinned”.

I still struggle with the fairness of this way of viewing it: I mean he’s also sinned against the guy whose wife he stole then killed, right?

It’s about being ethical. You can get away with things but you lose yourself if you can’t be honest to god. It’s not to disregard Uzziah’s injustice to say it’s a sin against God, it’s to magnify it. 

Jesus says you are a murderer if you think of murdering. by the time it becomes action your heart has already become corrupt against God.

I’m in a funk, end of year burnt out ready to go on holidays before I can. My concentration is shot. In a funk is easy to give myself permission to be selfish and unloving. 

I’m gonna work on staying fair even when there is not fair weather.

2 Samuel 2

David is talking to God again. David is a man of war and of action. But he is also deeply godly, though he has been though a time of personal spiritual rebellion living almost as a philistine.

It’s been years since he was anointed king. He will not seize it. He waits for God. When he becomes king it will be gods doing, not his. 

It can be tempting, if you feel you know god’s will, to push him along a bit. But you risk losing sight of where god’s will ends and your own ambition starts. Not so David!

A weak king, representing the Saul power base is given the larger part of Israel. David reminds them of the respect he always gave Saul, and tells them not to do it.

There is a long civil war, hideous, literally brother against brother, as the Saul base try to take all of the country and only becomes weaker and weaker.

David’s patience is a terrific example. To him the end does not justify the means, he stays true to his principle though it all.

David is talking to God again…

Judges 2

Gives us an overview of what is happening. Joshua is in his last days as the book starts. The people of his generation remain faithful and grateful for what God has done for them. He dies having achieved all he was promised to.

But they did not pull down the false idols. Joshua’s generation were only faithful because of a visitation by an angel and a promise before they went and claimed their lands. The root cause was still there, and its effect was insidious.

In one generation, just the children of those who fought with Joshua, they had largely rejected God and followed the local religion.

The judges are leaders, probably tribal chieftains who God blesses. Their earthly power is legal, not inherited like monarchs. They bring the people back to God. But then the people are faithless again, over and over.

God is angry with the people and leaves the foreigners there as a test and a curse. God the holy, dealing with unholy humans, often does his work though a second-best plan. This pattern of the second is throughout the bible.

I think about my own children, especially my oldest, with pain. He is so struggling with life. I’ll pray for him now.

Joshua 16

This is the fourth chapter in a row telling how the promised land was divided up among the people. Why didn’t they just make it one long chapter? The divisions are odd.

Again the detail noted about an intermingled group of ethic inhabitants. It seems I’m not the only one who struggled with the absolute nature of god’s command to destroy the inhabitants. And it’s true that Israel never would live up to the image of a faithful nation.

It’s a bit like god’s command for us to destroy sin in our lives. To be sanctified. We never quite do. We leave sin living there in our hearts and habits.

And often it is as comfortable to us as just getting on with the locals would have seemed to the Israelites. Here in my demographic Christians have always been the comfortable ones, middle class, dominant, fitting right in.

Teach me to be hard edged with evil lord. To live your holiness, love what is right.

Joshua 14

The rest of the land division, for the lands conquered by Joshua west of the Jordan.

Here too as in the last chapter, some land remains unconquered. And there is comprise.

I don’t think God is against multiculturalism generally. The salvation plan is for the whole world. But the plan requires this race to be pure and separate, for them racism is functional.

But they let some of the foreigners live among them.

But it ends on a high, the sweetest promise fulfillment of all, the spy Caleb, the one who did not get freaked out by the fact that the promised land was already occupied by fortified cities, inherits the land he saw, the mountains. After 45 years.

He believed God could do it, and God did.

Happy this week, some small answered prayers. My eldest son, who suffers a kind of debilitating depression, has chosen to go to counselling voluntarily. This is a big step for him.

Persevere. God can do it.