Isaiah 38

King Hezekiah has his life extended. Isaiah announces it during a sickness. He won’t die, he’ll get an extra 15 years.

It’s matched with a promise that the Assyrians won’t attack during that time.

The King writes a poem talking about his bitter dread of death, and his praise of God for extending his life.

The theology of afterlife wasn’t as set in the old testament as the new. They had Sheol, this sort of grey neverland, not hell but not heaven either. 

David wrote that he would dwell in the house of the lord forever, feasting. He seems to have had a sense of eternal blessing, but the full notion of heaven didn’t come till Jesus.

I’ve probably got about 35 years unless I go early. I already think about whether I’ll be able to finish a song for every book in the Bible. If I push it too far, they may be very poor songs, you know if I’m 90 and have altziemers.

And I pray that I will say everything I want to to my kids, and that Kelly and I will have more time together to enjoy each other, not always harried.

This is a good reminder about getting your house in order.

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Isaiah 20

About Egypt and Cush. A very short little announcement that they will eventually be taken captive and their young men will be led away naked. Isaiah has a major commitment to making this message, spending 3 years himself naked as a sign. I’ll have to look at the commentary again. These passages are hard!

Ok. First he wasn’t actually nude, he was humiliated in underwear. And it may not have even been all day, it was a thing he did, regularly for three years. 

The idea was Israel sees Assyria advancing, their neighbour falls. Like Britain in world war 2, watching France, they think “were next!”.

And it’s God’s judgement so they will turn to him. Isaiah is saying forcefully “don’t turn to Egypt!”.

There is no escape. So I turn to family, work, hobbies, money, my own strength to avoid God, avoid truth. 

I’m avoiding lots of complex responsibilities for the people around me, my family at the moment. I’m burnt out, it’s all too hard. But there is no escape, I will have to just do it. It is my lot!

1 Kings 3

Solomon meets god, asks for wisdom, and displays it.

We are entering the most successful period of Israel’s history.

Moses was unable to enter the promised land.  David was unable to build the temple.

Solomon will usher in the most full realisation of all the law and descriptions in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy of life in the promised land. But already the worship of other Gods is prevalent, even young king solomon doesn’t know better.

God speaks to him, and he asks for wisdom. God is pleased and promises him earthly triumph as well.

The famous example of him judging a dispute between 2 women for 1 live baby gives credence to his great wisdom.  I hadn’t got the idea that they were prostitutes before – when we did it at sunday school.  Which puts a strange twist on the story.

Reading back through my blog entries, I realise I often ask God for wisdom.  I have a vague memory that God eventually tells Solomon he asked for the wrong thing, but there is no hint of that here, maybe I remembered wrong.

In any event, off to a strong start…

Numbers 32

The land they have just conquered is great for livestock… Reuben and Gad are vast herdsmen tribes and they want it, not to go into the promised land over the jordan.

Moses does a deal where they can have it if they join the fight for Canaan, but if not they will be given land within Canaan.  Either way, their lot is with the Israelites, fighting for Canaan.

He compared it to the weakness of the generation who lost their will to go to the promised land after the spies report.  Its easy to see a lesson about settling for instant gratification and not pursuing God’s plan.

As you will see from my reading of Joshua, the promised land project for me, and for many I’m sure, keeps being tainted with sentiment for the occupants of the land… its not empty. So I have a mixed reaction to the chapter.

But certainly you have this sense that God’s people are bound up with each other, the mission of one group is the mission of all, and they must not be distracted by the dazzling opportunities along the way to obeying God’s will.

Leviticus 24

 

Oil lamps and temple bread. Oil burning is like the spirit of God, his presence… a hang over to high anglican churches which often have lamps in the holy end of the church.

The stoning of a blasphemer. Cursing god is still the unforgiveable sin in jesus teaching, but the stoning bit is gone, fortunately.

I suppose its related to how the system, the religion of Israel is a model of god’s perfect system. The wages of sin are death, jesus said.  For adam and eve, that meant leaving the garden, the presence of god. For the Israelites here it means literal ending of life.

A brutal lesson.

Exodus 36

The construction work of god’s super fancy tent is described in living detail, every measurement, every material every design feature.

Plus the adorable story that they had to command the people to stop bringing materials for the project, there was an over abundance of generosity and enthusiasm for the project. It’s a community job of pure joy.

How well god knew the human psychology when he gave them this task.

Exodus 28

The priestly garments. Emphasise quality: gold, linen, rich colours. Evokes the holiness of God. 

Also representative. The names of the 12 tribes are engraved in precious stones attached on a breast plate. The chosenness of the people.

And wisdom. The garments and paraphernalia have symbolic help with decision making built in. The sense of guidance and of truth.

 

2 Samuel 20

Another rebellion.  David slowly losing grip.

The Israelite grumbling is exploited into another rebellion by a guy called Sheba, which is quelled in this chapter.

The rebellion is quelled, but there are some long story threads woven in here.

We learn the fate of the 10 concubines who David inherited from Saul, and who were palace administrators, almost like the white house staff, and passed to Absalom when he was king – a sign the people were intended to take as that David was not coming back politically “dead”.

But he did come back, and ironically treated them as if Absalom was alive for the rest of their lives, ie: cared for them as widows, did not take them back again as his concubines.

This is all a feminist disaster, viewed through the standards women have now achieved, but of course by the standards of the time they faired better than many. They  were probably quite noble women, daughters of local kings or land owners. Their passing from man to man was probably 90% like having a new boss as much as a new sexual partner. Such was their lot, they led lives of relative safety and ease though never escaped being political pawns and their formal personal lives were prescribed.

Joab is a great general who has won many battles but he is ambitious, and he sees the political more than the spiritual perspective. He killed a brother earlier, and David and he have the dark bond that he helped David kill Uzziah – Bathsheba’s husband.

Joab has been demoted because he killed Absalom. David seems to have been worn out by Absalom’s rebellion, and part of him no longer cares if he is King.  He put Absalom’s general Amasa in charge of hunting Sheba… and Amasa took longer than needed to gather the troops.

Is Amasa disloyal?  I mean, politically putting the last rebel’s general in charge of hunting the next rebel… it makes no sense.  It was done because of grief, David for his son.

Joab takes matters into his own hand and kills Amasa, as he did his brother and Absalom. He is politically effective, ambitious, typical of a person in his position.

The rebellion is resolved without too much bloodshed because a wise woman in the town where Shea is hiding out bargains… save the town we’ll give you sheba.  Women so often have the practical, sensible role to play in this book!

Anyway, its business as usual, David stays being king but his affairs are a mess.  And its a business chapter, from a spiritual perspective, its just a working out of the human-ness and decline that Nathan the prophet declared would be David’s lot for his sin.

Maybe I’m viewing it through the lens of tiredness. Its the end of the year, the weather is hot, unpleasantly so, I just want to be on holidays.

2 Samuel 18

OK its all about how David reacts.

There is a battle, David wants to ride with them, but the grizzled, wiley general Joab says no, and strategically he has to agree, he’s too valuable a chess piece. But he asks them to be merciful to Absalom, his usurper son

The battle is in a forest, unfocussed, dangerous – 20,000 men die, “more claimed by the forest than the sword.”

And it works out that Absalom could easily have been spared, Joab had a clear choice.  But like a proper military man, he finishes him, finishes the bloodshed and the battle.  I think I know why he didn’t want David on the battlefield.

They run with news to David.  Joab carefully picks who will take the news.  We wince.

2 Samuel has hung off three decisive battles, the defeat of Saul, the end of the civil war that unified Israel, and now the defeat of the impatient heir.  The last two times, David loved his enemies so much that he killed the jubilant messenger in a rage.  Now his son is dead, Joab knows it, we know it.

The running of men to tell David is played out with considerable suspense.  But its a misdirect. David doesn’t kill anyone this time – he simply cries, he wails for his son.

The useless son who turned the people against him, who wasted his leadership skills and charisma undermining David and now contributing to the slaughter of many countrymen.

“If only I could have died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!”

Love.

I pray for my family every day. They aren’t as bad as Absalom, but they aren’t always that great either.  My parents loved me too despite many faults, til the day they died.  This is a picture of the love of God, which David has learned at such a deep level. Crying over the one sheep who is lost.

David is a great leader, he’s been a relentless and mighty warrior, his battle will seemingly never end, as the prophet declared, for his sin. He’s the classic bold leader who always seems to win because he’s never afraid of losing. But inside he’s still that boy tending sheep, singing.  Whatever in him that ever cared about the politics is gone. The lord is his shepherd.

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.