2 Kings 20

Borrowed time.

I don’t know how to take Hezekiah. 

He’s a good, relatively godly king at a time when the kingship is doomed.

This tells the notable spiritual events of his reign, and it’s a strange story of the interaction of God and man, and we aren’t given neat moralising. It is what it is.

He gets sick, is told by God/Isaiah its his time. It is before he has defeated the Assyrians. He prays for more life and is given 15 years. He gets a very appropriate sign from God that the promise is real, the sun goes backwards on the sun dial for a day!

He uses the time to deal with the Assyrians – that was in the last chapter I think?

Next we have the story of him welcoming a Babylonian envoy, which was probably a political move to find alliances.

Hezekiah doesn’t seem that interested in politics but really enjoys showing them all his wealth, he’s got prosperous also in his extra time. He is a minor king, it feels lame, like he’s big noting himself when flattered that his loyalty would matter to Babylon.

Isaiah rebukes his pride with a stark prophesy that Babylon will obliterate the kingdom. His children will be enunchs in the Babylonian court. He simply reacts with relief that it will happen after his time.

Knowing the date of his death and knowing that God has ordained that the Empire will fall has made him fatalistic, predictably. It’s made him an island who takes his comfort from the present. Maybe that is why God doesn’t often tell us the date of our deaths.

I had a friend who spent a year or so on borrowed time knowing she would die from cancer. She got very good at accepting love from her friends, and letting them give her treats. 

She got good at not thinking about the inconvenience when she didn’t die on cue and their life was made messy, because she didn’t have the time to worry about it. It was a gift she gave them which they have many years to treasure. The last year or so of her life was a very beautiful thing.

The biographical note about king Hezekiah mentions that he did engineer an clever water supply that made Jerusalem virtually seige proof, so it’s not like he completly ignored the future. 

The commentary I read judged him for his pride, the bragging, which I understand. But I see a certain humility there too, because he accepted God’s judgment, he didn’t try to change it. He asked for and got a temporary stay of the judgement, and enjoyed it for what it was. 

God gave him it because he was faithful, it was an answer to a godly prayer. But the prayer didn’t alter God’s uber plan to cut down the kingdom as a part of the slow revelation of the true Messiah.

It’s both a mercy and a curse to be given the date of your death. I sort of pray that for me God will come like a theif in the night.  

I don’t know what to learn from this! It’s very interesting though, and it says something subtle about God, and our dialogue with him.

It reminds me of Jesus’ impractical compassionate healings – he would have a chance encounter with someone like the woman who was bleeding, and cure her on to the way to somewhere else, and then have to ban anyone from taking about it because he wasn’t ready to die yet. God can seemingly be distracted by his own compassion, and by our faithful prayers.

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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.

1 Kings 6

The finished temple is glorious. It’s a labour of love and devotion for God, as good as they can make it.

It’s that awkward place where you are doing great work “for God”, and you get a certain pride in it, and you start to wonder if it’s for your own glory quite a bit too. My hobby is writing Christian songs, and it’s there all the time.

But endlessly wondering about motives is also a waste of time. St Paul said as long as Christ is proclaimed, yeah?

When God finally speaks mid chapter I think he’s thinking along similar lines. He says “about this house you are building…” And goes on to say that if they follow the law he will keep his promise and dwell among his people. How is that about the house? House not strictly needed.

For the rest of the chapter the “he” is disconcertingly Solomon, as in “he covered this in pure gold” or “he covered that in finest cedar”.

God doesn’t need their devotion to be expressed though architecture or expensive finishes, he needs it in their heart.

May the use of my time be an overflow of what is in my heart. I’ve been feeling a bit resentful about the time given to silly things at church but that is a good spirit to bring to it

Song: “Bigger than Hillsong”

1 Kings 5

Solomon starts his great task of building the temple. The general theme is of great quality, spare no expense materials and excellent organisation. 

The relationship with the neighbours to the north who supply the timbers is striking. Their ruler Hiram is a friend of David’s. He rejoices that they are building the temple and puts it in a godly context. David’s influence on this gentile leader is evident.

Compared to the building of the tabernacle however, I’m missing God. Moses talked to God so intimately. So far this seems like a well oiled, professional show, but a step removed from God.

The manpower required is impressive, you can see why they didn’t do it when at war.  They use conscripted workers. One of the commentators suggested they were enslaved Canaanites, or perhaps they were Israelites I don’t know. But it feels slavey. 

Doesn’t feel like the egalitarian society sketched out in the Torah. As king, Solomon is supposed to have the law next to him at all times, and be one of the people. Deuteronomy 17 again.  They came from slaves, and now they are making slaves, it feels a bit off.

It all feels a bit too glam for Israel.  

I’ve had a burst of energy, perhaps it’s spring despite struggling with a cold. Feeling upbeat at work. Trying to remember to pray as well as do these readings. I pray a lot for the family.

Deuteronomy 1

The Torah… These multiple books about the law and the journey to Egypt… are a bit like watching CNN cover a big story. Not enough happens for 24 hour news coverage, but they can’t talk about anything else, so they get repetitious.

This book is named for the “words of Moses”. And sure enough in this chapter, he is speaking, telling the same events from his perspective. We are still in the desert, wandering, as we were in exodus, Leviticus and numbers. 

But I need to be Zen about it, if that is not heretical. 

Moses talked conversationally with God. He is a leader of great humility and clarity. His words will reveal God’s mind, as he tells his perspective of the events. 

I must not be impatient, a 21st century man surfing all the world’s knowledge on multiple screens, restlessly bored with a nano second attention span, disappointed that none of the “child celebrities – where are they now” went anywhere interesting.

God is unchanging, he is the creator, he is love, this is his mind. His mind.

So Moses fairly dispassionately talks though the flight from Egypt, the way God led them and how the people lost trust in God and wanted to be back in slavery. 

I hadn’t had the sense so much in the previous telling that they tried to regain the mission after God said only their children would see the promised land. They tried to take the land by military force without God’s help and were defeated. Stuck with the thing they wished for.

Jonah’s futility, you can’t escape God. 

So bless me father as I read this. It’s not a duty, it’s a joy to have your word. Give me the right mind to hear it, like Moses. 

Exodus 39

The priestly garments. Yes, they are just like God specified on the mountain. The fringe of alternating pomegranate tassels and bells is a great detail.

Moses inspects everything, this amazing collection of items lovingly made to god’s specification from freely offered materials, and blesses it. The climax of almost 10 chapters describing their effort.

Live by his word and be blessed, eh?

Genesis 45

Joseph reveals himself. He’s full of praise for God, his planning, so there are no recriminations directed at his brothers. Though as he sends them off to fetch their father and households, he tells them not to argue on the way. 

Such a happy ending. Though in the back of my mind I’m remembering that the next book is exodus, where the nation of Israel are shaves in Egypt trying desperately to leave. There has already been mention of how the Egyptians detest the Israelites. 

We still have a long long path until the Messiah comes. 

Still, this is a great lesson in how, as the old hymn says “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year”.

I’m 54. Lots of years left, most likely. What has God for in store for me?

1 Samuel 31

The tragic end of Saul and his family. Jonathan too! That hurts.

It’s been gonna happen since Samuel predicted it in chapter 15. Saul has been raging, fighting fate, and terrified of it. 

They lose to the philistines attack. His sons killed in the battle, Saul takes his life. Several Judean towns flee and the philistines take the territory. 

So ends a book that has been an amazing political and human narrative.

What does this say about God? It’s classical, you can’t run from God. Can’t fight him. 

The words of one of Bob Dylan’s christian songs spring to mind “surrender your crown on this blood stained ground, take off your mask”

Joshua 5

Wow, Joshua is so easy to read after the minor prophets!  This chapter is about preparations to claim the promised land.

The men of generation who were in Egypt would not see the promised land because of their repeated unfaithfulness. Only their children, born in the 40 years wandering would claim it. It was easy to tell… no circumcisions had been done in the road. They do catch-up and thankfully rest for a few days to heal.

It says something about their life spans that 40 years would do it.

Manna, the magical travelling food from heaven, stops, and they eat passover from the land for the first time since leaving. How significant that would be.

There is a calm safety because the local kings heard the story of the blessed crossing of Jordan. They realise opposition is futile.

Then at the end of the chapter Joshua encounters a person who turns out to be a military angel, the “commander of the lords army”.

I keep remembering how the u.s. slaves sang about crossing the Jordan, reaching the promised land. How vivid that longing must have been to the people who sailed over the sea and arrived at that America.

All of this is about the lords plan, the lords protection, the lords time. It is our only safety.