Judges 17

I know nothing of Micah, the judge not the prophet. I don’t know where the story is going but it starts with the same mixed up spirituality that seems to define Israel in this wayward time, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”.

So he finds some money his mother thought she’d lost and they make an idol for they home shrine. He’s well off and has religious urges and knows something of Jehovah. He fashions an ephod, a priestly garment which seems to have become a worship object. We saw that practise negatively noted in Gideon’s story.

He makes one of his sons a priest and then a real Levite (the priest tribe) passes by, so he engages him to be a live in priest.

So far so weird. We learn nothing much about God. Indeed as the book has gone on, god’s presence seems more and more remote. They all seem so lost.

Our culture is in a strangely similar place… Losing its religion. Judges feels oddly familiar, despite its savagery at places. Of course, the savagery is still with us too. 

God gave us an easy way to know him in Jesus. The Israelites’ Jehovah is not how humans like to think of their Gods. Not concrete, not in a box. We have less excuse.

Haggai 2

So the temple is a ruin and they have started building, long path ahead. Will the glory days ever be back? Do our tiny steps to climb an impossibly huge mountain make a difference to God?

Yes, they do!

It makes all the difference in the world. The Israelites have gone from being cursed and defiled to world shakers. Putting a few stones on each other towards the new temple has unleashed god’s plan of love and grace that will embrace all mankind.

God doesn’t need our strength or our achievements, he wants us to seek him. Turn to him. Acknowledge him. This is what the Israelites have done by responding to the call to build the temple, and it makes all the difference in the world.

It’s a hugely encouraging chapter. Do what you can, where you are. Trust and obey, as the song says, god will do the rest.

Lord I thank you for the simplicity of the Christian life, its a great thing knowing someone else is in charge of the big picture.

Ezra 6

The decree of Cyrus authorising the temple building is produced, Darius doubles up on the support that the previous king gave to the project, authorising supplies be given that show a nuanced understanding of the Israelites religious practices. It’s a major win.

The local governors obey. The temple is done and Passover is celebrated to dedicate it. The faithful include the returned exiles and the local Israelites who seek God by separating themselves from the gentile practices.

I do believe this attitude of seeking is more important than the specific obedience involved.

The chapter ends with scenes of huge joy and celebration.

Father may I seek you regardless. And may I know and enjoy blessing when I see it.

Nehemiah 10

The people, priests, leaders, make a promise to follow the law. High in the list is racial purity, they won’t let their children marry outside the race. Also tything and the year of jubilee, cancellation of debt every 7 years.

Turning over a new leaf, new year’s resolutions. In middle age is tempting to be cynical about the prospect of change, because you have done it and failed so often by then.

I’m fairly deep in cynicism this week because I am facing up to disappointment in the direction the new minister is taking our church, and our domestic arrangements feel stuck on the tread mill.

There are lots of things we need to change but reasons why so many cannot. Frustration everywhere. And the daily grind turns unyieldingly on.

Nehemiah is a depressing book if you are feeling like that because you know it doesn’t work. They don’t keep the law, Jerusalem falls again.

But what they are doing is pleasing to God. I’m working on a song based on Psalm 24, which talks at one stage about the high standards required for meeting God: clean hands, pure heart, no idols. But then it switches and says God blesses those who seek him.

That’s what the Israelites are doing here, seeking God. Responding. That makes it about the moments, the journey, not the destination. Seek.