The Bible in a Year – 17 September

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

17 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 11-12

The anointing of David is followed in chapter 11 by an account of the exploits of David and his band of elite warriors (the “Three” and the “Thirty”) – maybe an early version of the SAS, highly trained men who were sent in to situations regarded as too dangerous for ordinary troops.

There is an interesting incident in 11:15-19 where some of these elite soldiers go to fetch water from the well in David’s home town of Bethlehem, currently under enemy occupation.  David is no doubt grateful for the gesture, just as people in exile or expatriates will request some familiar food from their home country. He would also have been proud of their achievement, but feels unable to drink the water that has been required such risk-taking.  Instead he pours it out on the ground as an offering back to God.  What gifts have you ever received that you felt unable to receive, or unworthy to enjoy?

Chapter 12 lists the troops from all the tribes of Israel – over 340,000 of them – who amassed around David in order to support his claim as pretender to Saul’s throne. Saul was the ‘rightful’ leader who had developed dementia – see my comments earlier in the year – and turned against David to persecute him.  Such a large rebel army inspired by religious zeal could only cause problems all round, as we have witnessed with the rise of radical groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.  From that perspective it is hard to have sympathy with David and his band, even although he is regarded by Jews (and therefore to some extent by Christians) as a spiritual hero.

The Bible in a Year – 11 July

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this, and the introduction to the Psalms for this book of the Bible in particular.

11 July. Psalms 78-79

Psalm 78 is one of the longest, and yet mostly covers a single theme: the re-telling, as found in so many places in the Hebrew scriptures, of the story of the Exodus. Once again the stories of the plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Reed Sea and God’s miraculous provision of food and water in the desert are recounted with pride, as the truth that has to be passed from generation to generation.


But this is no mere tale of national glory. Within this story is the dark side, bits of history that most writers would leave out.  How the Israelites failed to keep the covenant with God (10), rebelled against him and tested him by demanding food (17-18), made a token repentance but in their hearts flattered God and lied to him (36). And that was only in the desert.  Things were no better after the conquest of the promised land, when God was so angry with the people of Israel that “he abandoned his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mortals” (60).  And to understand that we have to realise that the Psalms were written in Judah at a time when the two halves of the nation had split, so that the remainder of Israel was seen as at best an estranged brother, at worst an enemy.  And the psalm ends with a clear statement that God “did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah … he shoes his servant David” (67,70).


So what seems at first like an honest account of the failings of the writer’s ancestors is in fact more of a criticism of “them” – the other tribes – by the one – Judah. The fact is, of course, that God was just as displeased with Judah as with the rest, and they all ended up being taken into captivity.  It is always a temptation to think that one has the moral high ground over one’s rivals, but to quote an English saying, “pride comes before a fall”, or the Biblical original “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).



The Bible in a Year – 30 May

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

30 May. Ezekiel chapters 1-3

What a dramatic start!  Unlike some of the other prophets of the Old Testament, we hear nothing of Ezekiel’s past, but are presented with both a first-person and third-person accounts of his earth-shaking vision.  Full of vivid imagery of light, noise and motion – wheels, eyes, flashes of lightning, the faces and feet of humans and animals, angels’ wings –  clearly Ezekiel was struggling to put into words what could not really be described. This was the ‘shekinah’ or glory of God, a privilege which few people have ever had (Moses, Jesus and his disciples Peter, James and John among them).


The whole of the first three chapters is taken up with his two encounters (or ‘epiphanies’) with this glory. Before we get to read the details of God’s prophecy through Ezekiel to his captive people in Babylonia, we have to understand the instructions given to Ezekiel by God in this vision. Eight times the Jewish exiles are called a “rebellious house”, and it is clear that they are unlikely to act on whatever God’s instructions to them are going to be.  It is also clear that they would oppose Ezekiel, and would be like “briers, thorns and scorpions” to him (those things that prick, scratch and sting).  Nevertheless, Ezekiel would be failing in his calling and duty, and held guilty by God, if he did not pass the instruction on.


In a much smaller way, that is the challenge facing all people of faith.  If we believe we have a message for the world from God then we must deliver it, however much opposition we might face.  This week the Archbishops of England have asked all the churches to pray for their communities, and in particular for the spreading of the Christian message among them, under the title “Thy kingdom come” (words taken, of course, from the Lord’s Prayer as taught by Jesus).   Unlike Ezekiel who had no support for his one-man ministry, church members can come together for mutual support in prayer, speaking and action.