The Bible in a Year – 1 October

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

1 October. 2 Chronicles chapters 22-24

This marks one of the lowest points in the history of Israel/Judah.  If the accounts of the Chronicler are to be believed (admitting that they are written from a Judean viewpoint), the northern kingdom of Israel had been effectively a pagan country for several generations.  Now in the reigns of Azariah, Athaliah and Joash, so is Judah.

Azariah represents the last of a continuous line of descent of male rulers, and was seemingly the worst of them in terms of his treatment of his people, and ignoring the religious covenant on which the nation had been founded.  The throne is seized after his death by his mother, who makes no pretence of following Israelite religion, but desecrates the Temple, promotes the worship of the false god Baal, and comes to murder her own grandchildren to stop them inheriting the throne.  Such is the extent to which absolute power can corrupt people.

All seems to be lost, except for the actions of one woman, Jehoshabeath, the late king’s sister.  Her actions are told in a way that is perhaps intended to mimic the story of Moses being hidden in a basket and found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, for she takes Joash, the youngest of the royal family, and hides him in the Temple with his nurse.  Miraculously, he lives there undiscovered for six years.

One of the constant refrains in the Bible is that however bad things get, however much the forces of secularism or false religion seem to be winning the spiritual battle, God will always keep a remnant of faith alive, like embers in a hearth, to burst into flame again at the right time.  For Joash this comes at the age of seven, when there are enough true believers among the influential people of Judah to stage a coronation and a coup.  The priest Jehoiada, Jehoshabeath’s husband, is the driving force behind this.

Joash seems to deliver on the expectations people had of him, and as a young man he restored the Temple both physically and spiritually.  But as soon as Jehoiada dies, he listens instead to the voices of the “old guard” who had counselled his father, and reverts to paganism.  A weak ruler who lets himself be manipulated by whoever had the upper hand.

The lesson, if there is one, from this dark period of Judah’s history, is that there needs to be not only a political ruler with a willingness to allow the practice of religion, but also a spiritual leader with at least as much influence.  Without both, a country soon loses its spiritual compass.

The Bible in a Year – 15 May

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

15 May. Jeremiah chapters 4-6

Jeremiah lived in the time before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and his prophecies in these chapters grow increasingly urgent.  Again and again the message God gives him for his people is that their sins (compared, as in Isaiah, to adultery or prostitution) were so grave that the people and their city deserved destruction. After centuries of being sent prophets to turn them back to God, still they persisted in ignoring his calls to worship him alone and show justice and right living.


In 4:1-4 there is one final call to repentance, with the startling call (not to be imagined literally!) to “remove the foreskin of your hearts”. The metaphor means that it is not having gone through a religious ritual of commitment that matters, but having the heart (emotions and will) dedicated to God.


But this last call is also ignored. This time they have gone too far – the rich as well as the poor fail to show any evidence of faith, the educated as well as the peasant, priests as well as laity.  Just twice there is a hint that a remnant will be saved – “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end” (4:27), “But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you” (5:18)



The final straw, before God sends the Babylonian horde in, bent on destruction and ethnic cleansing, is this: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule as the prophets direct; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (5:30-31). It is when even religious leaders are apostate that there is then no hope for the people.


If there are difficult times ahead for our nation, it may be due to any number of factors – economic, political or environmental – but there is at their root a spiritual cause.  If large numbers of people genuinely turned to God and sought to live their lives by his standards, there would be less inequality, more justice and truth in politics, more concern for the environment.  But is it the fault of the Church? I don’t think so.

The media in the UK often like to quote statistics of declining church attendance and prophecy the “death of religion” or similar.  But they ignore what I see within the Church, which is an increasing desire on the part of priests and ministers, and also lay people, to renew their own spiritual lives, as well as praying for the conversion of others. There are more people living in religious communities than for a long time (although they look very different from traditional monasteries), more people going on retreats, practising meditation, joining nurture groups. As traditional denominations have to cut numbers of paid clergy, more people are coming forward to train as lay leaders or self-supporting ministers.  We can never be complacent, but although the Christian church in Britain may be shrinking in numbers, it seems to me to be in good spiritual health.  And we may take comfort from the Bible that God will not overlook the faith of the few.