1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

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Jeremiah 1

A one man City.

Jeremiah lives and speaks God’s word during the actual fall of Jerusalem.

It’s an extraordinary calling story. Jeremiah as destined to be a powerful prophet before he was born, before he was conceived even.

God touches his lips, like Isaiah.

His first vision is an almond branch, symbol that God is watching over, guarding, his word. It will seem like god has left the scene, but Jeremiah will be the living proof that God still cares as Jerusalem is destroyed.

And everyone will hate him. He will announce judgement in the form of conquest from the north. He will have to be strong like a city against attacks from the kings, the religious leaders and the people. Lonely and tough.

I’m certainly feeling stressed and freaked out having lost my job. Opportunities abound to use my time for God.

Help me focus on my true purpose. Supporting my family is part of it, but I should not be selfish with an abundance of time.

Isaiah 58

A life of service is a life of joy, of rich blessing.

The chapter takes fasting, a religious discipline, and looks at what God’s actually likes about it.

Merely abstaining from food if you remain quarrelsome and greedy in life means nothing.

But further, merely being humble, telling God you realise how unworthy you are, that is not what he is after, self denial as an expression of being aware of your weakness, not enough!

He wants it to signify a determination to live a life of servanthood. Of inviting the poor into your home, of pouring yourself out for the needy.

I’m stating all this very baldly. In Isaiah it is wrapped up in poetic expression. God doesn’t just like this attitude. You will be riding high in the heavens, your bones strengthened, ruins rebuilt, gloom turned to a rising light, you’ll be an unfailing stream of water, quenching the desert.

We’ve had the servant, the contrary means by which God’s victory will be won.

Now we have the life of servanthood for all believers. The discipline and self denial by which our lives will be made rich and our world will be renewed.

At a crossroads in my life, it is an important message.

Isaiah 52

We’re entering the most detailed servant/Messiah chapters. It’s the “new thing” the book has been building to with its layers of imagery.

It is double prophetic from Isaiah’s time. He’s writing (if it is him, which some doubt) before the people have been conquered and sent into exile, about the time when they shall be returned from exile.

But then it’s also triple prophetic, because it’s about so much more than the return from the exile they aren’t even in yet, because by describing the Messiah he’s talking about God’s eternal salvation plan for the whole world.

This chapter starts with hype about the salvation/ return from exile.

Jerusalem is to “awake awake”.

That is be aware that they are God’s people, and that he loves them. They actually have become cynical about God, and have no respect for him. Understandably perhaps because Egypt, then Assyria, then Babylon owned them.

There is a play on worthlessness. They feel worthless because they got conquered and the conquerors paid no price for destroying the chosen people. But God is also going to save them at no cost to them, for free. We’ll find later is because he’ll pay the price.

He talks about the messengers of this good news having “beautiful feet”. I love this, it’s God’s news, but we are the physical bearers of it. We have time and a physical being, and God finds it beautiful when we use our body and time to share the blessing we have.

Then they are to “depart depart”.

Leave the place of exile, of sin, and come to a place of holiness, of being cleaned and blessed by God and useful to him.

Then after the hype, in the last few verses, we get to the servant, the means of this salvation.

He’s king of kings… Wiser, more exalted than earthly Kings. They shut up when they see him.

He’s the mistreated servant, beaten beyond.  recognition. Remember sometime had to pay a price?

He is an unprecedented occurrence, and the incomprehensible made clear.

Isaiah is coming together!

Isaiah 47

Comeuppance.

I followed obsessively and with a bit of horror the election of Donald Trump against all odds in 2016, and I’m still hooked on US politics.  It seems like a big fable of dancing with the devil.  Particularly the US christians, who are tarnishing the name of the faith in exchange for power, it seems to me.

What I’m waiting for is for  it all to fall apart, and see what the effects of going through something like that are.

This chapter of the bible is predicting the comeuppance of Babylon.  Its personified as an enchanter, living in a web of falsehoods, who thinks they will get away with living a charmed life forever.  They’ve done whatever it takes to gain power, and now think they deserve the good things they have gained, and that the evil they did to get there will have no consequences.

The prediction of is stripping away the comfort and pleasure, and an image of genuine hard work for a living. Grinding flour on a millstone.

I somehow think Trump will never lose his millions. He’s just the quintessence of a salesman, who is selling his own success.  There is no consistency other than the using of others to get more success.

Reminds me of the wizard of Oz, what an american story!  There’s nothing there, all the front is built on lies. It steers clear of darkness, but it could be such a dark story. It is.

I’m wasting my time.  I should wind back my obsession – it makes no impact on my everyday challenges here in the small circles in which I live.  The Israelites were actually conquered by the babylonians, this is a word of comfort to people in distress. I am merely an observer of the US from the outside.

I need to channel my thirst for justice into areas where I can actually have some impact.

 

Isaiah 40

One of the most encouraging chapters in the Bible. After a few chapters of prose, interacting with the king and the military threats and politics of the day, where there is so much fear and desperation, Isaiah takes our vision up above it all to see what is really going on.

God is unspeakably mighty, except maybe no one ever did speak words that come closer to describing it!

Mountains are like dust, the seas are to him like water cupped in his hand. He sits above the earth, spreading out the heavens is like pitching a tent, people like grass hoppers.

He has a flock, that’s us. He cares to the point of self sacrifice about us, leading us tenderly, gathering us.

We have plugged into the solid true power, anything else is a bet on delusion. We’re up there soaring with him, powered with his power.

I want to live carelessly. Without care, courageous and brave. God has taught me about the grandeur in the smallest things, the eternal truths that inform reach moment. That time is measured by how well it is used, not how long it is or how quickly tasks get done.

A lifetime is not a monument of personal achievements you can look back on and polish and say “bow to the idol of what Paul achieved” (or “my idol is so lame, no one must see it”)

A lifetime is an opportunity, a location in space and time, for understanding and reflecting a wonderful truth: the universe has endless goodness and love at its centre, “God”.

Every kindness, every empathetic moment, every chance you have to bring joy where there was sadness, fairness where there was injustice, compassion even if you can’t fix everything, makes the universe a little closer to how it is supposed to be.

This is like waking up, spiritually. Moving hearts, even just your own in this materialistic world, is bigger than moving mountains.

Isaiah 39

The end of the king Hezekiah story and the start of the rest of Isaiah. It’s Isaiah’s sad role to spend half his time prophesying about the Assyrians, who conquered the northern kingdom, and half the Babylonians, who conquered the South. 

What a time to be alive!

Hezekiah is given 15 more years to live and the rare knowledge of the time of his own death, and a sign from God that it is true. 

He is one of the most godly Kings, but he does not do much good with his extra time. 

He has a son who ends to being one of the worst Kings, and he actually invites the Babylonians in and brags about all his treasures to them, giving them all sorts of intelligence about the kingdom.

Worst of all perhaps when Isaiah tells him that the Babylonians will enslave his people, he is simply relieved that it will happen after he is dead. He’s sort of given up, maybe he’s burned out of the responsibility of being king.

In the last chapter he sang “The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.”

He had it right then, living in gratitude enjoying wisely and with pleasure the time you have, that is a good way to live. The number of your years is in God’s hands, your use of the time is your responsibility.

Isaiah 38

King Hezekiah has his life extended. Isaiah announces it during a sickness. He won’t die, he’ll get an extra 15 years.

It’s matched with a promise that the Assyrians won’t attack during that time.

The King writes a poem talking about his bitter dread of death, and his praise of God for extending his life.

The theology of afterlife wasn’t as set in the old testament as the new. They had Sheol, this sort of grey neverland, not hell but not heaven either. 

David wrote that he would dwell in the house of the lord forever, feasting. He seems to have had a sense of eternal blessing, but the full notion of heaven didn’t come till Jesus.

I’ve probably got about 35 years unless I go early. I already think about whether I’ll be able to finish a song for every book in the Bible. If I push it too far, they may be very poor songs, you know if I’m 90 and have altziemers.

And I pray that I will say everything I want to to my kids, and that Kelly and I will have more time together to enjoy each other, not always harried.

This is a good reminder about getting your house in order.

Isaiah 29

Plan and meta plan. Disaster and recovery.

You think you have it bad, you forget God

Then God acts, and you wish you had it bad like you had it before, because now you realise you are on the wrong side of the universe.

And in that broken state, grace and mercy glimmer and become possible.

So it starts talking about a siege of Jerusalem, and then all the seiges.

Then how blind they are that they can’t see it is all God’s judgement.

He uses metaphors of double incomprehension.

So he says their concern about the seiges is like a hungry man dreaming of eating, and when they realise it’s God’s judgement will be like them waking up and realising they actually are hungry.

God’s truth is like a sealed book to them, and when the seal is broken they realise they can’t read.

I think this is written during the time of Hezekiah, which was like a pause before the final fall of Jerusalem. They use the time to practically prepare for the seige, like making a better water supply.

Isaiah’s message is that they desperately need to view their problems as spiritual. He describes their preparations as like clay saying to the potter “I’m the boss!” All the literal fortifications in the world won’t stop God.

It’s like a Matrix moment, they need to wake up from their dream of a life to realise they have no life, and only then can they start to learn what life is and start to find their way back.

Our pastor was taking about telling people about God this week, a subject that puts fear in my heart. I am the world’s least confronting person. It’s why I wrote this blog, all the things I find hard to say to my friends, to my family even. Maybe I need to see myself as cool like Morpheus in the matrix.

“Take the red pill.”

Isaiah 22

Jerusalem is lumped in with all the other prophesies about other towns, clearly I was in the right track yesterday about it losing its specialness.

The specialness it retains its from better knowledge. It will be judged, but the people should have known better!

So the practical preparations they did to be ready for the coming seige: fix up the water supply, and enjoy normal life while they could (eat and drink, for tomorrow we die)… were wrong.

They should have repented. They should have fought tho outnumbered, in the strength of God, instead of dying by starvation in seige, and then bring captured.

The stark choice is reflected in the careers of two of the high ranking government officials at the time.

Sheba was corrupt and self serving, and used his wealth to fashion and grand tomb for himself that he would never get to use. What a perfect example of a dumb approach to eternity, relying on your own strength.

Elaim was a godly man who God gives the “keys of David” to, he is a secure place to hang your trust, a secure “peg”, like a strong coat hook.

Hang your hopes on God, not your own strength.

The painful learning that what we can see, touch, hear around us is not the most important thing. This is the lesson of the fall of Israel and the difficult writings of the prophets.