2 Kings 12

The reign of Kings Jehoash – raised in the temple, king for 40 years from the age of 7. He didn’t remove the cancer of worshipping other gods – the high shrines, but he rebuilt the temple.

Its a delicate story, only very sketched in.  He was raised by priests, and he gave them the job of rebuilding the temple but after 23 years, nothing had been done.  The passage details how he overcame their mismanagement without seemingly judging them.

Ironically the mismanagement of the building program for a period of decades may have contributed to the treasury of the temple being well stocked with gold which, he uses to buy the safety of Jerusalem when it is later attacked. But that is not viewed as god’s provision, and the writer then flatly notes that he was assassinated.  I’m sure there is quite a story there, but the writer of Kings is not interested.

The narrator is looking for God’s intervention, and seems to find none in Jehoash’s story other than the way he became king.

Its like a sense of despair has settled over the kingship.  They were excited about God’s hand in making sure the line of David didn’t actually die out, but there is no general hope for the people coming from this story of the long reign of even a quite godly king.

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2 Kings 11

The lamp becomes a flicker

One theme that runs though the of testament is the live of David, Jesus’ line. In kings it is called the lamp of Judah.

It’s a very slow and often frail salvation plan, and here it comes down to just one hidden boy.

Last chapter king Jehu of Israel – not a godly man, but the means of judgment – aggressively usurped and stamped out evil king Ahab’s line. He missed his daughter who was mother in law of the king of Judah. When her son the king is killed she rules herself for a number of years and keeps power by mercilessly killing the heirs of David, some of her own grandchildren.

One boy is hidden in the temple by a wise and bold woman Jehosheba the wife of the priest . It’s sort of a tale of two women. 

After 7 years the priest and other godly people run a coup that installs the boy as king. It’s a great story.

The lamp flickers but doesn’t go out. A new leaf is turned over.

When Jesus talks about faith the size of a grain of mustard I think of this woman’s act. Grace pops out all over in these stories – when the kings are worst, the most blessed prophets arise.  In a forest of evil, a good person plants one seed of salvation against all odds. Never give up hope on what is right, never.

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 15

4 kings, 2 southern, of Judah, 2 northern, of Israel.  The first and foremost fact we must know about each is whether they were lovers of Jehovah, or doers of evil in God’s eyes.

Only one, Asa the second King in Judah is faithful to Jehovah and takes action to stamp out the worship of foreign Gods.

God’s hand is behind their rise and fall.  The line of the Kings of Judah (South) is protected by God because as we now know, it was important that David’s line continue, it was the line of the Messiah. So he does not judge the first, faithless King of Judah, Abijam as harshly as the Northern kings, of Israel.

The first Norther, Israel King mentioned, Nadab, is the heir of Jeroboam, who’s line was doomed in the last chapter by a prophet.  And indeed the next King Baasha is not related and destroys all of Jeroboam’s line.  ….And does evil in God’s eyes anyway.  All those Kings are judged not only for the sin they commit, but what they lead the people into.

Asa the God fearing King enters an alliance that strengthens the smaller Judah kingdom against a near decisive blow by Baasha in the civil war from the kingdom of Israel, thereby preserving – barely – the “Lamp of David” as the Judah royal line is called, in the South.

Asa has to sell the rest of the family gold and silver to do it.  In Deuteronomy it warned the King of the chosen people against amassing wealth, now 2 kings later, all the wealth of Solomon is gone.

Judgment in the north, salvation slowly being worked out in the south.

I’ve had this feeling before. You wonder if things that happen in your life are just you being superstitious, or spiritualising events.  God knew us intimately before we were even born.  His hand is everywhere.

 

Exodus 5

Sometimes you have to admit you are in slavery.  

We are told to turn the other cheek, to cope. 

But if the truth is that your situation is a disaster that will destroy you, coping is dishonest, enabling a lie.

Moses makes everything much worse by confronting Pharaoh. He digs his heels in and makes life far worse, impossible, for the people. 

They hate Moses, he’s disillusioned by God. We understand why he was so unwilling to obey God’s command to speak for them.

But it’s only making real what was already there. The Israelites are in a dead end death trap. Appeasing their masters will just keep them there. 

This had to happen. In life things often have to get worse so they can get better.

It’s called faith. And praise be, God doesn’t really need it to save us. 

Genesis 44

Joseph continues to seriously punk his brothers, engineering a false accusation of theft to justify demanding that Benjamin, his only full brother, stay in Egypt as his slave and not return to his homeland and father.

Enough already, this has been going on for chapters. What is going on? 

Judah’s response answers, I think. He offers and impassioned and brave defense talking about how loved the youngest brother is, how it would break their fathers heart… He even mentions the other brother who “died” IE: Joseph.

He offers himself in substitute as slave.

Back in chapter 38, the brothers as a group came up with the plan to kill Joseph. 

Reuben softened the plan by suggesting they put him down a well (the word used in my translation was”cistern”. I hope it was a well). 

It was Judah who came up with the suggestion of selling him into slavery. He said at the time it would prevent his blood being on their shoulders.

The summary of Joseph’s fate is”he died” however. And now Judah is offering to sell himself into slavery to avoid that fate for another younger, loved, brother.

He lived though the silent shame of their father’s grief over Joseph. 

He came face to face with his own callousness and hypocrisy over the birth of his own son to Tamar, who had to trick him by posing as a prostitute to conceive the heir.

He made a solemn vow to his father to protect Benjamin on the journey to Egypt to get food.

This is a man with a lot of bad mistakes behind him, repentant, pleading to offer his liberty for anothers.

That’s what Joseph is about. That’s what he has drawn out. Time for the reveal, I think.

Genesis 40

Joseph interprets other people’s dreams. It sets up his release from jail next chapter.

Again he is a truth teller, as he was with his own dreams. He accurately tells the cup bearer he will be freed and forgiven and; no fear or favour, tells the baker he will die.

These dreams are messages from God. It’s a mercy that these are other people’s dreams. It didn’t play so well when he told his brothers “I had a dream I was more important than all of you!” But these are real to the people who had them, troubling, and they want to know what they mean.

I need to be a truth teller. He had dreams, I have god’s word. Joseph would have had good reason to doubt that truth telling was a good policy. It landed him in jail in a foreign country. 

Even when his prediction came true, the cup bearer forgot him. He languishes in jail another 2 years, which must have seemed very long and would have tempted most people to doubt the life of faith had rewards.

I must speak the truth, particularly “in season” which I take as like other people’s dreams: speaking about people’s own issues when they are ready to hear. Stay faithful. 

I have an acquaintance who is dying. I am fearful of speaking the truth to her. Also I have things I want to say to my children. 

Ruth 4

Right, there is a commercial element to the custom that a widow like Naomi would be married of to the nearest relative. Her son or husband, not sure, had a small patch of land, so the benefit of marrying her would be getting the land which the relative would buy from her as a kind of dowry.

Boaz meets with the closest relative who is initially keen to get the land. But when he realises marrying Ruth might be in the bargain, he relinquishes his claim.

This seems to be from the risk of watering down his estate.The relative already has a wife and children it seems. So Ruth would be a polygamy of convenience. But If Ruth had children, they would battle his existing children from his first marriage for his estate, and he didn’t want that. So he’s happy to relinquish the land to avoid that mess.

Cue romantic ending! And now the reveal. Why is this charming and heartwarming story in the Bible? How does it advance god’s master plan for the salvation of mankind?

From the disaster period of the judges, where the covenant and blessings of God were squandered over and over by the increasingly nasty and corrupt Israelites, this beautiful seed was planted.

Ruth is the grandmother of king David. She has a son,  Obed who has a son, blah blah.

David is probably the means by which this story made it in. It contains a key fact that he, the line that would lead to Christ, is part gentile. In harry potter terms, he’s a mudblood. So this story of faith, kindness, loyalty and virtue set the stage for Israel’s greatest, most Christ like king, and starts a theme of salvation for all.

Ruth encountered the true God and that was it. She is perhaps the grandmother of us all, a believer, a child of grace.

Is this a prettied up version of grandma’s romance viewed though rose coloured glasses? Maybe, a bit, but considering the squalor that surrounds it in the last chapters of judges, it’s not like the Bible can’t face the ugly stuff. The fact remains that David’s grandmother was a widow from Moab, and there is an inherent story of tolerance and acceptance in that fact which supports a story like this.

Praise God for love, praise God for mercy to refugees from other countries, respect and dignity. Praise God for simple, absolute faith. That gives god material he can work with in ways we can’t imagine

Judges 19

I remember this chapter from reading it as a teenager. One of the most truly shocking chapters in the Bible. 

This time i see the pattern more. The decline that led here. Samson was the most faithless judge, ironically a man god made strong defined by his weaknesses.

Then the story of Dan, showing how deeply the Israelites had forgotten their nationhood and their religion.

This is rock bottom. The ultimate failure of the nation to live as god’s promised people.

A Levite travelling with his son and his sons wife/concubine chooses to push on and stay in an Israelites town in hope of hospitality. He gets none until another person originally from his region finds him. Tribal affiliation gone. 

At nightfall men in the town want to gay gang rape the son. To avoid that his host offers his virgin daughter and the concubine. They take the concubine who they rape and abuse til death. 

The sons behaviour, surrendering his partner to them, is as ignoble as the mob.

In death she is dismembered into 12 and distributed to each of the tribes to say “what have we become?”

Israel’s decline is completely and unsparingly told to us. There is no sugar coating in the “good book”. Left to our own devices our race is capable of the most horrific evil. Atheists will say religion is to blame, but I think that’s wishful thinking. Israel shows us how religion can’t fix the darkness in our hearts, but I don’t think it’s the source of it.

We need a saviour, imho.

Just read the most fantastic discussion of this chapter here: http://www.womeninthescriptures.com/2010/09/concubine-in-judges-19.html?m=1

She reminded me that genesis ends with a similarly shocking story, but there there is some divine intervention. The woman here is left with no protection. 

Judges 14

What a disappointment.

Yesterday I was all “Samson is a Christ figure/messianic”. How could I have forgotten the story. He is deeply sinful.

Set apart with vows from birth: a nazarene, he was supposed to be teetotal, and not touch dead things, not to cut his hair. God made him strong, a traditional Greek style hero. 

Instead of being a moral super example to his people, he marries a Philistine. He holds a drunken bachelor feast. Attacked by a lion he wins the fight bare handed in a show of God given power, but returns to the carcass in defilement of his vow. He takes honey from the carcass, and gives it to his parents, hiding from them that he’s made them ritually unclean.

He murders 30 of the philistines as part of a bet.

All we see this chapter is a man who abuses god given grace and talent. 

The morality of the age is “whatever”. The Bible describes it “men did as they saw fit”. Samson is living that way in extreme. 

So often it seems harsh that God brings judgement. This chapter is one where you are left asking why he doesn’t judge, why he won’t intervene in Samson’s free will. 

That god acts in a sinful world, loves a sinner like me is a complex miracle. Grace seems impractical, plain wrong.

The hard verse is 4, where it is clear that god is allowing his folly, to be part of the plan to free the Israelites from oppression. God can bring good from bad. It’s hard to understand, easy to mock. 

The life of Samson has diverged so far from where God designed it to be, yet still he works with it. Plan B, C, D, E, F, G and beyond.