Psalm 42

I love this, I have a long history of singing it.

I was a cathedral chorister, and we did a gorgeous lush version I’ll link below. I also wrote a pop song version.

The psalmist is in exile and miserable. Longing for God. I remember I wrote my song version at a time when we weren’t happy in our church and we weren’t going much. I really felt the words, played it over and over on piano.

He expresses the longing as a thirst, like a deer desiring a brook. I love that because it’s both necessary and beautiful, the image of serene sensory comfort and deep sustenance.

It has a water theme. Instead of a brook his only sustenance is his own tears.

Then he describes his life events like being plunged beneath a waterfall or a wave breaking over him. Violent water, not sweet sustaining water.

Part of the violence is mockery over being deserted by God and he says ‘deep calls to deep’ which is rich and a bit mysterious.

For me it evokes that Jonah feeling of being plunged beneath the waves and, when all else is stripped away, even hope of survival, the depth of God’s love being there still with you during the moments you think you might drown.

He fondly remembers going to the temple, he would have been bereft to be cut off from it.

The sons of korah, author of the psalm, were temple musicians who memorably sang confusion on their enemies in a great military victory of faith during the reign of Jehoshaphat in chronicles.

But he’s aware it’s the living God, not religion, who quenches spiritual thirst. Still so true, still the one unique thing church can offer – comfortable seating, aircon, live music and friends can be got many places.

The commentator mentioned the contradiction of calling God your rock and saying he’s forgotten you in the one line. That’s the psalm right there, not so much a psalm of doubt so much as how you continue to relate to God out of deep deep misery. It aches with longing and sadness.

Feeling adrift, buffeted, abandoned and drowned by life, deep calls to deep, both anguished questioning and poignant cherishing of God.

Sigh!

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Isaiah 16

A frustrated pronouncement against Moab. It’s a small county, proud, lots of connection to Israel. He can see it being swallowed up by the big empires, he compares it to a baby bird thrown out of its nest, confused.

He pleads for it to restore it’s relationship with Israel, but knows it probably won’t. He tells the Israelites to shelter and comfort any Moabites who escape.

The church should still comfort the weak and downtrodden, even if they are philosophically opposed.

Their sin is pride, Isaiah’s sadness is being able to see how weak they are when they can’t or won’t themselves.

This quote in the commentary I read summed up the dilemma “Whenever pride is not broken by humility, it will have to be broken by justice.”

You sense that same dilemma in Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem, just before the people called for him to be crucified. It is the motivating sadness of Christianity.


2 Kings 15

A short chapter about 7 Kings.

This is how I remembered Kings. Nothing much more than footnotes about ancient Kings’ reigns that teach us not a lot. It’s actually been much more of a blessing than I expected so far.

2 Kings of Judah. They do right by God, but very little noted about their reigns other than some of the rebuilding they did and the fact that the father, Azariah, who is confusingly called Uzziah later in the chapter, had leprosy.

5 Kings of Israel. They make the point that the royal lines keep getting usurped in the north. No house lasts longer than a few generations, unlike Judah which is the smaller kingdom, but the house of  David survives though thick and thin.

One of the Israel Kings only lasts one month before being toppled.

The cruel violence of another against pregnant women is noted.

It’s just a matter of time before strengthening neighbours like Assyria annex Judah. One king buys them off with gold and silver for a while. The last surrenders lots of land to them.

The question becomes “what next?”

There seems to be no replacement for the prophet Elisha.

Most Kings are bad and even the godly ones are ineffectual.

We’re holding out for a hero, God! Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places.

2 Kings 8

We’re shown that the King knows all about some of Elisha’s miracles and believes them.

Elisha knows the truth about everything but cannot affect everything.  He cries when he meets a foreigner named Hazeal because he knows he will become a King who will visit much suffering on Israel.

He’s watching God’s judgment and the evil of men.

The godly King in the southern Kingdom, Judah is succeeded by a King married to one of Ahab’s daughters.  He allows Ahab’s calf worship – his reign is summarised by weakening of the empire, lands are lost to rebellion, and a repeat of the promise that God preserves a “lamp” – the line of David will not be allowed to fail.

The chapter ends with the reign of the next Judah King, who we are told only lasts a year. He isn’t dead yet, but wounded by the very foreigner, now King, mentioned above who Elisha wept when he saw.

Jesus, like Elisha, could sometimes only weep.

 

Numbers 29

More rules about what gets sacrifices at feast sacrifices.

Festival of trumpets and tabernacles. Tabernacles goes on for days, and most of the chapter is devoted to the several animals each day..

Going back to work after a week of leave. Not too thrilled, but it’ll be ok.

Numbers 17

A symbol of hope in the midst of a plague. Each of the tribes of Israel are reprsented by a budding staff. Wood that was dead starts to grow afresh.

The aren’t barriers between God’s disasters and natural disasters, God made nature and set it in motion.

The people remain terrified of death, of God, of their predicament, despite the sign of hope. 

I’ve been swamped by a feeling of meaninglessness as I attended an after may when my birthday and that of my oldest son occur. He is a challenging and quietly suffering fellow who drains things of meaning – he can’t help it. 

Open my heart to hope father. Don’t let him, or me, despair.

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.

Judges 20

Civil war follows the humiliation and death of the Levites wife in the last chapter. The tribes meet and unite against Benjamin. They refuse to disavow the act. Many thousands of Israelites die.

They consult God as to how to run the attack. I think we’re are arriving at the end of judges. God has barely appeared for a while now.