Through the Bible in a Year – August 8

The Scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ki 17-18; Acts 23; Psalm 119:81-96

The soul of the Psalmist languishes, looking for the salvation of God.

From the context it seems he waits for a change in his own circumstances – but we can look further afield. For most of us our circumstances are historically most comfortable – we of all people should have a bigger vision of the Salvation of God, that the whole created order which has been languishing might be transformed.

The languishing of the soul of the Psalmist resonates with the languishing of creation which still lies under the heel of our own ‘unsavedness’ – our own lack of apprehension of who and where we are that causes us to live like blind and dumb beasts, bulls in china shops, insensitive to our context.

If our souls languish – we should pray ‘open our eyes, that we might see the wonders of your law’.

The Law of God, rather than being a set of strange and arbitrary rules and regulations is a profound ordering of the Cosmos itself. Transgression of the Law, living in ignorance of who and where we are and thus destroying this ordering, is the seat of our difficulties and the cause of the Salvation of God.

The 119th Psalm in its acrostic form, is an extended meditation on the Law of God, which is perfect and converts the soul. It’s very shape and pattern points beyond itself to the very structure of the created order, hidden from sin blind eyes.

Through the Bible in a Year – August 7

The Scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ki 15-16; Acts 22; Psalm 119:65-80

The 119th Psalm is an acrostic. Each portion begins  with successive letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. Such poetry is written with a dual purpose, firstly of course it is written as prayer full dialogue with God, but secondly it is written in order to be memorised.

In several places the scriptures exhort us to commit them to heart – not that as so many treat memory verses nowadays, as a handy motto for a tough time, but rather that our hearts may be constantly feeding on the Goodness of God revealed in his word.

The early monks would commit the entire Psalter to heart – indeed it was demanded of new postulants, those who sought to enter into the way of Christ.

Jesus, when he criticised the Pharisees for their lack of mercy and justice used their tithing of herbs and spices as a contrast.  ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others.’

it strikes me, what might seem to our Romanitcally atuned hearts, to be the wearisome work of memorising Scripture might well find a parallel in the tithing of herbs – the small things which we should not neglect. Those who are faithful in small things will be given charge of great things. How can we know what is ‘Justice and mercy and faith’ if we have not imbibed deeply at the well of the Psalms?

Through the Bible in a Year – August 6

The Scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ki 13-14; Acts 21; Psalm 119:49-64

The Lord is my portion, says the Psalmist.

Apart from me you can do nothing, says Jesus

The 119th Psalm is an extended meditation on the total sufficiency of God for those who seek him with all their heart, soul mind and strength. It is a Life transforming work.

Through the Bible in a Year – August 4

The Scheme for July and August can be found here

For a couple of days we enter the wonderfully comic world of Jonah, the unwilling prophet.

I am sure that if you have been following this blog with any degree of attention, you will understand that you aren’t about to find any attempt here to either rubbish the story for its fantastical elements, nor to argue for the authenticity of prophet swallowing whales. If that’s your gig, good luck to you, but frankly life is both too short and also too wonderful for such things.

Jonah is sent to Nineveh, a byword for evil in the Scriptures, and of course runs in the opposite direction, as we all would. Eugene Peterson in his beautiful book, ‘Under the unpredictable plant’ makes the observation that Jonah wants something more glamourous than the hard reality of prophet work in Nineveh. Nineveh is not about how life is meant to work out – Tarshish is. But it is Nineveh that God is to be found at work – he is not called to the healthy. God is at work in places of absence, not abundance. And the prophet is the symbol of that, so go to Nineveh Jonah must!


Through the Bible in a Year – August 2

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ch 21-24; Acts 17; Psalm 118

As Paul walks through Athens he notices how religious they are, to the point of as it were hedging their bets. He finds an altar to ‘an unknown god’.

Let us ask ourselves, are we too hedging our bets in the matter of belief? Is our life like Athens full of idols to which we pay great devotion, whilst paying lip service to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Through the Bible in a Year – August 1

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ki 10-12; Acts 15:36-16:40; Psalm 116-117

Gratitude for healing is the mark of Psalm 116, and gratitude marks out much of the language of the Psalms. In this sense they are somewhat alien to us. the Psalmist seeks at all times to see the hand of God in his life – at times that is a struggle – but even the struggle is expressed in prayer. the Psalmist understands that all of life is held in the hand of God and expresses himself accordingly. Thus when he recovers from illness he gives thanks to God for his deliverance.

For most is not all who read this blog, such a sense is something which is difficult for us to maintain, primarily because we have bought into the myth that we are in control of our own lives and destinies. A myth which our wealth, which historically is monumental, enables us comfortably to maintain.

Let us look around the room in which we are sat now. Look at our possessions. How many were gifts? How many have we accumulated ‘by the strength of our arm’, bought for ourselves out of our wealth? This is one simple expression of the way in which we are able to ‘build a life for ourselves’. And if we have built this life for ourselves, then why be thankful?

We may say, ‘I can be thankful that I have been given the strength to accumulate these things’, but is that the purpose of our lives? ‘Ones life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions’

The Psalmist on the whole lives much more on the edge. Even if the Psalmist is King David himself. Unlike Solomon who follows him, David is not renowned for his wealth and the David story which we read in 1 and 2 Samuel tells of a man living very much on the edge for much of his life – indeed his downfall occurs precisely at the point where he is settled and made a palace for himself. When he starts to live life on his own terms, taking that which is not his, seeking to possess.

Imagine what it would be like to live on the edge – not to know where your next meal was coming from. Imagine gratitude when it does come along.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 31

The scheme for July – August can be found here

2 Ki 8-9; Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 114-115

Rounding up some of the themes of the past few posts, the first verse of Psalm 115 is fertile ground for life giving prayer, meditation and contemplation.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.



Through the Bible in a Year – July 30

The scheme for July – August can be found here

2 Ki 6-7; Acts 14; Psalm 112-113

Yesterday we thought briefly how the source of the Life that was in Elisha was his absorption in the life of God. So devoted was he to God that he did not even rise to answer the door when Naaman came to call. [Of course we find this very hard to accept – witness the many sermons on Martha and Mary that sympathise with Martha, or that say ‘we need Marthas and Marys’ – completely ignoring the words of Jesus]

To be so absorbed in God is to see that there is no division between the Earthly and the Heavenly – only the heavy shroud of our own self obsession keeps us from seeing the chariots and horsemen of Israel.

This perception is of course what the scriptures enjoin us to over and over again. The Fear of God, which means we have no fear even if our city is surrounded by opposing forces, let alone the many minor fears which beset us.

Once more we are enjoined to pray the Psalms – to let go of our self obsession, that is the blindness of Sin.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 29

The scheme for July – August can be found here

2 Ki 4-5; Acts 13:13-end; Psalm 110-111

Our readings follow the ‘career’ of Elisha, the prophet who came after Elijah and yet whose work far outstripped that of his predecessor.

In the incident of the healing of the Shunemite’s son – there are of course parallels with the works of Jesus. But here I would stop to consider the means of healing Elisha employs. In the church we have absorbed much of the spirit body duallism of our forebears and this incident seems to some almost distasteful. But in this healing Elisha does not stand at a distance, or even at the bedside and prounce healing. His body is the vessel of the Spirit – it is the vessel of Life. The intimate contact reveals this. Jesus almost always heals by touch. In the church we have Sacraments – the Life is in the Material, the Spirit is in the fleshly.

Perhaps most clearly we see this in Confirmation and Ordination neither of which can take place without the laying on of hands – the Spirit cannot be passed on except through the flesh. The Word becomes flesh.

Later we see Elisha so absorbed in God, that he doesn’t even come to the door for Naaman. Whilst Elisha is the vessel for the life of God, it is only because his life is consciously devoted to God. He portrays the Great commandment – in loving God with all he has and is, he becomes Love for the neighbour.

To the world, the one who is God’s servant will always seem unduly preoccupied with God, but that is only because for most of us, we are preoccupied with anything but the Life and Love of God.

And no, it is not a matter of balance. Love the Lord your God with All you have and All you are.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 28

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ki 1-3; Acts 12:1- 13:12; Psalm 109

Yesterday we considered how the praying the Psalms not only places us before God in a way that perhaps no other portion of scripture can. What is more we thought of  how they freed us from our obsession with ourselves, most especially if we pray them sequentially as the tradition has taught us these past 200 years.

Today we read of the succession of Elijah by Elisha. The two form an interesting pair and comparing them one can see how Jesus is understood as the one who is preceded by Elijah, in the person of John the Baptist.

Elisha is determined to followed his mentor, but his request is a bold one – ‘a double portion of your spirit’. We pray for many many things, how much do our prayers echo this prayer of Elisha, so powerfully and vividly answered?

Jesus teaches us that without Him we can do nothing. Although we tend to think of this in terms of his presence, alongside, encouraging etc. we should I think think of it more in terms of his Life, his Spirit. In John’s gospel Jesus declares that those who follow him will do greater things (cf the words of the Baptist re Jesus) – perhaps we might learn from Elisha’s hunger for the Spirit?

However, before we do, we would do well to consider that which we ask for. Once more, one will search in vain for paintings of Elijah’s ascent from earlier generations. It is only our modern world which thinks it a small thing to represent those things that angels shield their eyes from.