2 Kings 21

Perhaps the fatalism of the godly king Hezekiah in the last chapter was because he already knew his son would be a disaster. 

Manasseh became king at a young age and re established the pantheon of folk Gods, sacrificed his son to Moloch, set up Ashera actually in the temple, consulted wizards and mediums and shed much innocent blood to boot.

There is argument over whether these gods are Canaanite or folk Gods of Israel itself. I guess the calf at least, which they worshipped in the desert came from some folk tradition. Abraham came from a household with Gods. 

The sacrificial system is just an adaptation of the religion that was already there to monotheistic worship of jahweh. God is about substance and we’ve seen faith in him come in many forms. He meets our understanding where it is.

His son rules 2 years and is much the same.

Bad Kings are accompanied by more and more pointed prophetic reaction, this time God says he will wipe Jerusalem clean.

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2 Kings 14

The Lord doesn’t let the culture and the land completely die, but by now Israel and Judah are hopelessly weak and average kingdoms.

They break the pattern of obedient Kings being blessed and evil Kings failing and having shorter reigns.

Amaziah is king in Judah, and he loves Jehovah. But, the writer sadly notes, not like David. He doesn’t move decisively against other religions. He has a bit of a victory, but then launches into a failure civil war and his successor has to rebuild.

The king of Israel is not a follower of Jehovah but wins the civil war and God is merciful to his son, restoring some of their prosperity and land.

The theological signficance of the kingship seems to be slipping away, and we are just getting reports of the waxing and waning of ordinary politics.

It’s depressing. You forget how much God can do with even a tiny amount of faith, you start to crave a tiny bit of faith.

Give me the faith to respond in unpredictable ways to the promptings your word and spirit father, and not live a life of transparently ordinary motivations.

2 Kings 6

2 instances of help and one of no help.

Elisha is presented as being able to call on God for wonders and miracles. When they drop an axe head in the river, he calls on God to make the iron float and they find it.

A neighbouring king comes to kill him because his prophesy is like having a spy reporting his every move. Elisha calls blindness on the troops and they give up.

Yet when the capital is under siege so extreme that parents resort to eating their children, he does nothing. At the end of the chapter the king confronts him.

It raises the question of God’s intervention in human affairs. Why doesn’t he fix everything?

Signs and wonders are pointers not problem solvers. If God magiked all the practical problems away, we would still not have found truth, which is the most important problem.

I think the one he does solve, the hardness of our hearts, he is saying is the only really important one. Which is a hard, hard teaching when you are faced with canabalism and similar.

Leviticus 17

This chapter explains a lot, its a bit of a key to the whole book.

First sacrifices were happening anyway. People were sacrificing or dedicating the animals they killed to eat off in the fields and in their far flung homes to goat demons etc.  The superstitions were there.  We saw how easily they fell into worshipping the bull they made. So the temple system viewed in that context centralises and focuses existing practices on the true god, who is present at that location. How often does God revealed 2.0 upgrade the existing spirituality of people?  Christians could learn from this… meet them where they are, channel the shared instincts towards the spiritual.

Second, respect for blood.  Its a form of respecting God’s creation of life. Last chapter I called sacrifice pagan like and ghastly.  But I eat meat, animals die for my plate, and these people faced the reality of killing the animals for their plate in a way I am shielded from.

By respecting the blood, and giving it to God, they are respecting that it is a life a god created life they are taking for their dinner.  Vegetarians can argue whether god intended us to be carnivores, but he did at least make some animals need to eat others.  Its the way of some things.  But within that, there is still a respect for life.  To eat an animal that is not drained of its blood is called bloodshed… it is true killing of the beast.  God wants the blood returned to him, either at the altar or into the dirt.  Modern buzzword would call this mindful meat eating.

Again, it is an upgrade of existing practises, our creator meeting people where they are guiding a people in how to acknowledge him and what is important to him.

I really like the no barriers way of looking at spirituality – christianity is the true path, but God acknowledges the urges in all spirituality.

 

Leviticus 7

I think we may have reached the end of the offerings. I started to think I was going batty, because it seemed to be saying the same thing over and over, but it’s actually outlined six different offerings: burnt, grain, sin, guilt, fellowship, and ordination. 

Burnt is where the whole thing is burned up, nothing left to eat. Chillingly it is the origin of the word “holocaust”. 

Sin is for Israel’s corporate sin, 

guilt for specific individual crimes, 

grain is non meat, and was a gift, a freewill offering to God (if you were well off… It was also an option for other purposes of you were poor) 

fellowship is for celebrating good things that happen, to acknowledge that God provides, 

ordination is dedication of new priests.

All have different rules about the animal, the nature of the royal etc. 

I was struck by the metaphor of cleaning. There is a lot of ritual cleansing and rules about unclean things contaminating the clean. It actually has a reasondable amount of practical science behind it, but it is a powerful metaphor for god’s holiness, one that is hard to reconcile with how loved and close to God Christians are promised to be.

Strange that the no blood thing carries on as kosher rules for Jewish people, though the sacrificial system has passed on. 

Exodus 30

The altar of insence and the lamps, including the washing that priests must do, and the offertory that pays for the upkeep of the system.

Holiness, things we can do for God.

We have burning, of fragrant insence and lamps. Pleasing God, obedience, good works

Anointing, oil is seen as cleansing and literally would have replaced bad smells with good ones. Accepting god’s cleansing, letting grace make your life smell better.

Washing. Cleaning away dirt in recognition of god’s purity and holiness. Showing god reverence, it’s respect and in a larger sense it’s seeking God, wanting a relationship.

Giving money and time, supporting dedicated workers for god’s service.

We get the formulas for the oil and insence… They are copyright God, and anyone else making that material is in grave trouble.

When the wise men bought God, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, it was very much an offering identifying him with God. Gold is over the altar, myrrh in the oil and frankincence in the incense.

Exodus 29

“death where is your sting?” It says in Corinthians. Here as god elaborates on the priesthood, the sting of death is central.

We are in rebellion, we deserve to die. We are broken. An animal must die every evening and every morning for the Sins of Israel – I think this is just during the conscration of the priests, not sure.

The consecration of the priests segments the animals in a way people understand… the good bits burn deliciously for God to smell, the prime cuts are waved at God. They show love, and that he deserves the best, I suppose. The intestines are taken out of the camp and burned for sin.

It’s a vegetarian nightmare, but it’s supposed to be ghastly, sin is ghastly.

Also, they are herders, animals are to an extent their currency. On a simple level, if they are going to give back to express their understanding of and appreciation for god’s love and forgiveness, it’s going to be animals and grain.

The consecration of the priests is so fandangled. Humans are rarely so engaged in survival that have no energy for spiritual work. We do art, we entertain ourselves, we laugh, we put seemingly pointless effort into stuff that scratches our need for meaning.

God gives them the means of expressing their relationship with God.

Exodus 27

The altar and the courtyard for the tabernacle. Comments ditto the last two chapters… God is a theatrical and detailed designer. This is a tent for his presence, a theology he blew alert when Jesus died and the curtain of the temple was turn in two from top to bottom. Now I am a tent for his presence.

It’s strange to contemplate a religion of Jehovah that did not have a theology of the spirit. Of course the Israelites would also have the cloud guiding them by day and the flame by night. But but indwelling. 

Our church architecture today keeps some notion of being a holy place, quite misleading, but shows how resonant the concept is.

1 Samuel 28

The philistines prepare to attack the Israelites, with David, convincingly a traitor, bizarrely as the philistine king’s bodyguard.  Saul facing the enemy encampment is deserted by God and terrified.

He has banned and purged all witches and mediums. But in desperation he consults one anyway.  She summons up the spirit of Samuel.  Its all very dramatic, but spirit Samuel doesn’t say anything at all remarkable or new in this scene: Saul is stuffed. He will die. He confirms Saul’s dread.

The portrait of the witch is sympathetic.  She forces him to take some food despite his refusal, she goes above and beyond in generosity.

God is supernatural after all.  She may have been faking Samuel’s appearance, but it may have been real, doesn’t really matter. As so often the message from the other side is the same as the message on this side.  The wise men found Jesus by astrology. It works, and sometimes its the only religion people know.

I think issue with mediums is not always that they are fake, its that its an unnecessary way to approach the supernatural that avoids god’s spirit.  Like a back door to the spiritual for people avoiding God.  God is in our hearts, just pray! I’m sure the devil is happy to talk with people attracted to him, but his overriding aim is your destruction.

Saul is in denial.  When confronted, we’ve seen him acknowledge David’s state of grace and bless it, but rebellion against God’s choice keeps overwhelming him.

It is tempting to see it as unfair that God deserted him even though he so desperate for spiritual guidance. But I don’t think God deserted him.

He’s literally living the old “two ways to live” pamphlet they used to hand out: he’s clinging to his kingship, and denying God’s. It’s not that he doesn’t know God’s will, he just doesn’t like it. So he keeps asking, like there might be a different answer if he asks a different way.

Its a good idea when tempted to pray “why won’t you answer me God?” to ask yourself if in truth he already has.

Two great sinners, David and Saul.  Only one has truth in his heart.

 

 

1 Samuel 26

I wonder if Saul will be in heaven? Even yahoo answers does not know. I know it is for god to judge not me, but it’s interesting to think about his relationship with God. 

His dance with his demons is a lot like the cycle of failure and forgiveness we are all in. David treats him with grace the way God treats us.

In this chapter David continues to be pursued like a criminal by Saul with murderous intent.

God is on David’s side, and he once again is given the opportunity to kill Saul or show mercy, chooses mercy, and Saul breaks down and begs forgiveness for foolishly and needlessly pursuing David.

He realises he is a sinner, is humble and asks forgiveness. But then he seems to wake up with hatred of David in his heart. Such a tortured guy.

But aren’t we all when it comes to sin.