1 Chronicles 23

A chapter about what the priest tribe, the levites, would do. Their role changes a bit with David because the tabernacle has entered rest, ie: come to Jerusalem and will stay forever.

Entering his rest is a big biblical theme, justifies a new tag I think.

A whole bunch of them prepare food and shout praises to God every morning, evening, and extra for the new moon and feasts. Must have actually been a pretty good life in a way.

All this info would have been fascinating to the original readers, who had to set it all up again.

They say in the rest section that the temple will be in Jerusalem forever. But the new testament teaches that our bodies are the temple now, God dwells in us. So they were wrong in the physical sense. Revelation announces a new Jerusalem, which presumably doesn’t have a temple, just us.

It’s Saturday morning. It’s been a long week. Much illness and difficulty. I’m a bit numb, glad to have a day off. Happy to shout praises though.

Praise God for Saturday mornings, coffee and toast. Praise him for anti depressants. Praise him for love and promises, even though so much shows little promise. Thank him for showing me that love is something you just do anyway.

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1 Chronicles 21

The story of the census David took of the people and the punishment that came of it.

I remember the story from Samuel. It happens when David is very old. They have left out not only the Bathsheba/lust/murder incident, but many messy family dramas and a whole civil war, it’s really a ‘glory days’ book.

But this incident is a tragedy none the less.

In this telling, David’s urge to count the people is attributed to Satan. Clearly it’s meant to be seen as evil, but I still have to visit the commentary to understand why it is bad.

Counting implied ownership in the ancient world. It’s like David is saying they are his people, not God’s. And I get that.

David is about to die, and thinking about legacy, he wants to die knowing how big and powerful Israel has become, what a great king he’s been.

At the start of his reign, it was very much God is king, David the servant. It might seem like a subtle sin, but it is pride, the start of so much evil.

His sin is inevitable, his response is rare, and shows his godliness.

David’s pride evaporates when the prophet condemns him, he is repentant.

There is a basis in the old law for this being a sin that by justice should be punished with death. In Exodus, the counting of the people was accompanied by payment to God of a ransom for their life, acknowledging this idea that they are God’s to number. David hasn’t done that, and its a law he should know.

He gets from God a choice of punishment and to his credit he chooses the one which is most random, disease. His other two options, war and famine, disproportionately hit the poor and shield the rich. It’s the option most likely to hit him personally.

God loves those who die of the disease, I think he’s showing David they are his people. We believe death has no sting, that we go to a new more perfect earth. But pain is left behind.

Jesus told the parable of the rich fool who spends what turns out to be his last day on earth counting his wealth. His death is random, he’s not struck down because he counted his money. However, the fact that he could be struck at any time, the fact of death, whether today, tomorrow, or many years later, makes counting your wealth, indulging in greed and pride, a meaningless pastime, a wasted life.

What is the point of feeling like the great successful king and treating the people as your people, God is saying. None of it is actually in your control, you are not king.

David has the double pain not only of losing people to a plague, but of knowing that their years being cut short is highlighting the foolishness of his pride.

The place of his repentance and offering of a sacrifice to God to prevent further destruction is majorly significant.  God tells him to offer a sacrifice at this threshing floor, like a mill.  Its a place of transformation, crushing the wheat, throwing away what is not needed, producing flour for bread.

The commentary says its the first time God has named a geographical place for sacrifices.  Up til now, its been in the tabernacle, of no fixed address.  This location becomes the site of the temple, and also the site of Calvary.  The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon goes mental about it.

As an origin story for post-exile Jews, re-establishing the temple – the target market for chronicles – it is a key part of the book.

I love that each person’s story of God is linked to a time and a place. I think its increasingly important to view the church as an Australian church, Australia as a spiritual place, and within that, our localities as spiritual places. The different churches should unite in that, letting the ties to other countries, histories and traditions, which can divide the church, fade.

But also in this story, God’s love and justice are mysteriously on display. David’s weakness is a vehicle for God’s love and transformation beyond what even the original readers of Chronicles could imagine.

 

1 Chronicles 9

In answer to the last entry, this now lists the families from Judah and Benjamin who returned to Jerusalem. Levite priests too, plus some details of where people were and what their roles were.

I don’t know what the significance of the post exile Jerusalem was in the greater story. I mean it is part of establishing that Jesus is the longed for Messiah. I suppose none of the prophesy could have been fulfilled but for that…

I remember talks from when I was young that God may have some remaining plan for Jewish people specially, some things Paul says maybe.

Jeremiah 41

A chapter that gives a documentary view of how lawless Judah was after the conquest. The Judean governor set up by Babylon gets murdered by a distant relative of David’s line.

Any doubts about his nastiness is removed when he also murders a bunch of innocent pilgrims who want to pay respects to the site of the ruined temple.

He’s despatched by someone else, who then has go hide in Egypt because there will be reprisals when the Babylonians find out.

They could have lived in peace, but they can’t manage it. Everything that Jeremiah said came true, yet still they fight destiny and the better instincts of divine grace.

A stark inability to learn.

 

Jeremiah 33

Poor Jeremiah, he’s locked up in the guard area of the king’s palace, and then after a lifetime of dire visions, he starts to get messages about the restoration and blessing to Israel that will come after the exile.

The visions here are sort of bipolar…in fact he describes them as night and day.  One minute bodies are being piled up, the next the same streets echo with the laughter of a joyous wedding, etc. The rapid pace of the competing strains of his visions must have been quite discombobulating.

There is a quote “the throne of David will never fail” – bought back memories of my crazy year 7 teacher, who believed and taught the british israel theory, that the UK throne was the Davidic throne, after the “lost” tribe of Israel wandered across europe and settled in the UK.  The bizarre evidence for this, that the Danube is named for the tribe of Dan etc. has been profoundly disputed. At least my teacher was of Jewish origin, the theory became in parts of america a vehicle for antisemitism, I now discover.

Of course a more mainstream christian view of that promise is that the throne of David was led to the Messianic kingship, of Jesus, and the talk of all nations reflected Jesus’ inclusivity.

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah 31

At last, God’s love is affirmed. He has been like the father who knows that punishment is right so has withheld his true love for them. This chapter is full of generous imagery of joy, dancing, justice for the vulnerable.

The spontenaity is because the law is in their hearts not in written form. It’s a prediction of a native outpouring of the spirit.

God is almost like a nervous host, making sure his guests, the his people returning from judgement to his place of love, are looked after in every detail – putting up a signpost to Zion, making a level path to walk on, etc.

The bit that stood out for me was the strength and obviousness of God’s steadfast love. He goes big, talks about the heavens and creation, and only when they can be cut down to size will the size of his love for his people be known.

We must not underrate evil and sin, but neither must we underrate the stronger, endless vastness of God’s love.

Isaiah 64

This chapter and the previous have an interesting change of voice. Most of Isaiah has been him speaking God’s word, but these are both passionate prayers. Somewhat flawed human words to God, like the Psalms.

63 seemed to be from the point of view of someone who was in Jerusalem when it was about to be conquered, and this one is from exile, longing to return.

They are like a response to the promised salvation of the previous 3 chapters in a way. “You’ve promised mighty salvation, do it already!”

They share a strong confidence in God’s forgiveness, or at least a demand that he keep his promises, that is even a bit manipulative. Like arguing in 63 that their sin was sort God’s fault for creating them capable of it.

This one is quite humble, and very aware that their long term refusal to acknowledge God has carried them away like dead leaves on the wind.

It does sound a bit critical of God’s timing however. They sound kind of frustrated with him for shaking mountains back in exodus when they didn’t really want it, but not doing it now they are in exile when it would be really helpful.

There is a nice turn of image when they say their evil has melted them, then say they are clay in the hands of the potter, God.

“We don’t deserve it, but save us anyway…” Calling on his creative nature by characterising him as a potter.

It ends with a rhetorical plea – can God really stand to leave Jerusalem in ruins? Zion a wilderness? The temple burned?

“We aren’t worthy to ask for our homeland back for ourselves, we’re in no position do that! We’re simply reminding you that you might want to restore the promised land for your own glory…”

This sort of bargaining with God is what happens when you are really honest with him, show him your feelings. Like one of those moments when you say “I know that you know what I’m thinking, so let’s cut the crap”.

They want really badly not to be in exile. They know God’s promise that there is more of the story of the chosen people to come, but they know by now that they can’t promise to be perfect. So they are finding other reasons to plea with him to act: his own nature, his own glory.

I agree that some of my calm about losing my job, despite being quite depressed about it, comes from expecting God’s plan to be in character with his love and abundance, even though I really don’t deserve it.

Isaiah 54

Big rap for Israel and/or God’s people generally. He’s speaking of their abandonment by God, their time of exile, how it will be temporary. 

Like a husband who is briefly angry with his wife, the larger, stronger relationship will prevail.

He talks of loving and teaching the children/generations. There are descriptions of architecture built with precious stones that sound a bit like the holy city in revelation. 

There is talk of safety and military protection, something that would have been top of mind to those in Isaiah’s time.

It’s a pile on of God’s care for and love for his people. 

I start back in the full swing of work today after leave, my time of complete leisure and liberty at an end. I’ve got a big year helping church to move and much complexity at work to stay on top of.

I love my family and I want good things for all of them. I can only face it by relying on God’s promise of love and compassion for his people.

1 Kings 2

David dies and Solomon “consolidates his reign” per the heading in my transition… Gets rid of opposition.

David tells him to live for and follow the law, and to be strong and courageous, which is what Moses said to Joshua. 

Solomon acts as a king should, he removes his disloyal brother who is still plotting to be king and clearly won’t stop. And his priest and army captain. This stabilises his reign and guarantees a period of peace. 

The thrust of it is that the right outcome, God’s, has happened. But I know in the background that God never wanted them to have kings, its a second best plan. 

I have a sense of fresh dedication to things. Perhaps it’s spring. I want to wrap up a few messy loose ends that I have allowed to roll on too long. Give me wisdom. May I be strong and courageous.

Deuteronomy 29

The responsibility of knowledge. As Jesus died in the cross he said of three Roman soldiers who carried out the execution ” forgive them father they don’t know what they are doing”.

Israel has been given God’s mind and his blessing. They know what he is doing. 

This chapter is about the covenant, the deal between God and his people.  It means so much more if they turn their back on God.

And I, I know so much more again. I have the spirit in me. Jesus said there is only one unforgivable sin, denying the holy spirit. I’ve always understood that as him as saying the unforgivable sin is refusing to be forgiven. 

Or as spiderman night put it, with great knowledge comes great responsibility. I can only pray for wisdom and courage.