Song of Songs

Keeping it short and sweet.  Firstly, I am not a fan of poetry and much prefer prose.  Secondly, I read nothing here that I could relate to the Lord or faith unless we are taking about having faith in another person.  However much faith we have in another person, we are all flawed to certain degrees.  So is the faith we have that which is in ourselves and in our ability to judge others rather than our faith in others?

Ecclesiastes

Ignoring the misogynistic aberration part way through, that comes upon you without warning, like Proverbs I can find a lot of wisdom and things to agree with here.  Indeed, what is the point of our life?  All that we do with the life we are given is such a small moment in time that will be forgotten and all trace of which will disappear in time.  Whatever we do with our lives, they will all end the same way – with death whenever that may come.  In the meantime, all we can do is follow our hearts desires, enjoy what we have, and here I may deviate from the message of Ecclesiates but I believe that we should try to be happy – it certainly will help with our physical health as well as our mental wellbeing.

Minimalism seems to be an ‘in thing’ at the moment.  It has struck me for a long time that we have far more possessions now than is necessary and which people have ever had in the past, and do they make us happy?  I have been on a mission to cut down on the amount of ‘stuff’ I have and am making progress, albeit slowly.  The rule is that less which is not consumable is allowed into the household than that which leaves by whatever means – mainly by being donated to charity (for other people to accumulate!).  I’m discovering things I never knew I had (and therefore clearly do not need), and then there are things I have owned for years and just held on for no particular reason.

Happiness for me comes from experiences and interactions with the environment and others, not from possessions.  Although I should qualify that there are certain books that make me smile whilst reading or whose words contribute to my sense of wellbeing.  And a less cluttered house will hopefully contribute to a less cluttered mind.

Proverbs

One of the most readable books of the Bible I have encountered so far.  ‘If you answer a silly question, you are just as silly as the person who asked it.’  One of the wisdoms delivered, not that I find all the proverbs to be wisdom and downright disagree with quite a few.  I find it interesting that in the main, the book of Proverbs seems to be aimed towards young men but yet starts and ends with a feminine tone, and in particular ‘wisdom’ is defined as a feminine object.  So where does that leave the Lord, masculine as far as has been referred to up to this point?

Masculinity / femininity are interesting concepts.  What are masculine and feminine traits and roles, and who decides these anyway?  Just because the majority are a certain way or do a certain thing, does not mean it is necessarily right and that everyone should be expected to be this way or act in the same way as everyone else.  Are we not all really just a mixed up combination of traits and thoughts – individuals and all valid in our own right.  Why should we have to be defined as any one thing?  Does it make those who do categorise more comfortable and feel they have knowledge and power?  Or, in the spirit of Proverbs, are they just fools and lacking wisdom?

Psalms

A book of prayers and songs, a few of which are familiar from worship I have been party to but mostly not and quite a lot of repetition amongst them.  Mostly those of David strike me that he is like a child whining about things not being good for him and praying for the Lord’s help.  Hypocrisy also strikes me in the belief that the Lord helps the poor and needy to become prosperous but yet those who go after riches are evil.  And I find it very odd in Psalm 133 for David to compare the wonderment of God’s people living together in harmony to anointing oil running down from Aaron’s head and beard to the collar of his robes – this is not something I personally can think of as a wonderful thought, even if it was on someone I loved or admired.

Psalm 144 alarms me in that part of it calls for the Lord to save the author or reader from the power of foreigners who never tell the truth.  For someone whose idea of utopia would be no borders and no need for a passport, and who does not believe that people can be categorised solely by the country in which they find they were born, this is just wrong.

Finally, I would like to comment on Psalm 101.  Coincidentally, it’s almost like a room 101 moment.  I would like to believe that the same could be said whether a person is faithful to the Lord, or any God, or none at all – not tolerating evil, not being dishonest, not tolerating those who are proud and arrogant, not whispering evil things about someone else, not being in the presence of a hypocrite.  Doesn’t this sound rather like a good way of living for anyone, whether or faith or not.  When we have just had Easter as well, it is has made me question why so many people in the world feel they need a faith and belief in a God, and whether I actually do.  I’m still working on the answer to that one.

Job

I am probably missing the point but I do not understand how the Lord allows himself to be manipulated by Satan into punishing and testing Job in the first place.  And given what Satan gives Job to deal with, it is any wonder that Job doubts the Lord in whom he has shown faith while times were good.  The Lord seems to just be pulling the strings for the fun of it and where is the respect to be earned from that?  I personally do not think it is sport to watch someone suffer.

Everyone has a certain amount of power to control their own lives and actions but there are always those who will exert some force about which an individual can do absolutely nothing to overcome no matter how hard they fight it.  We can try to live our lives in the most moral way we can but none of us are free from the control of others to differing degrees depending on where we live, and no matter how much we may disagree with the control exerted over us.  We can all only do the best that it is within our control to do.  That our seemingly lack of influence can sometimes lead us to despair should surely be forgiven and understood by others in whom we alliance ourselves whether family or friends.

And as I know I have stated before, it can not be that simple that you are punished for sinning but blessed for doing right.  In today’s world I see very little evidence of this in the lives of ordinary people.

Esther

According to the small introduction to Esther in my Bible I am meant to admire her courage and devotion to her people.  I do not see any courage or devotion.  What I see is a woman who carries out the instruction of her cousin and those around her to flatter a man of power.  I do not find out anything of Esther’s own thoughts, morals or soul to admire – we are told very little about them.

Now she has every right to act in this way much as some women do today (and maybe a handful of men too for all I know except they do not receive the same attention) – acting in a certain way and dressing and making themselves up in a certain way to attract the attention of the rich and powerful.  The only objection I have to all this is when they then complain about the treatment they receive.  If you are willing to sell your soul, fine, but you have to accept that in this case there are sacrifices that will have to be made, certain facets of life that you will have to give up in order to live the life you have ultimately chosen to pursue.

Nehemiah

I firstly thought that Nehemiah should be read in conjunction with Ezra but as with other areas of the Bible already covered there are inconsistencies between the two.  Nehemiah also annoyingly flips from the first person into the third and back to the first again however The Prayer of Confession and Agreement do give a nice little summary of the key points from the time of the Lord rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt.

We are also again reminded of the commands and laws issued through Moses.  I am particularly reminded of all debts being cancelled every seventh year and how this is also still a feature today in some areas, and also the giving over of a tenth of all produce and again how a vague notion of that still lives on in the experience I have had of religion to date.

I also want to comment on the Sabbath.  From reading Nehemiah comes the first indication of which day of the week it actually is.  Like some other notable celebrated days throughout the year, such as New Year’s Day or Mothers Day, it has always struck me as arbitrary but here we have our first indication that it is actually Saturday as we know it today.  And while some faiths may use this as their holy day, I am more familiar in my upbringing with it meaning Sunday – so how did this come about?

Ezra

I’m not sure I ‘get’ the purpose of Ezra.  Yes, it tells the story of the return from exile of some of the Israelites in two waves but beyond that …  I do notice that it is the first time I can recall that in the version of the Bible I am reading the Israelites are referred to as Jews.  It is also the first time that we have switched to the narrative being in the first person which I found slightly odd to read especially when it switched back again mid-chapter – something any writing tutor or instructor would advocate against most strongly.

The only real thing to comment on is the divorcing and sending away of foreign wives and children from these marriages.  I understand that for some people keeping blood lines pure is important although for what purpose and how they have reached this conclusion is completely incomprehensible.  In a week when I have felt the need to defend tarring all people of a particular race, nationality or religion with the same brush, it seems especially short-sighted to me.  Diversity has been proved time and time again to be beneficial in developing ideas and practices.  And whilst I might not yet be at the point where I necessarily agree with the words of John Lennon’s song Imagine in regard to imagining a world with no religion, I can completely understand the sentiment.

2 Chronicles

Part 2 in summarising (and occasionally embellishing) what has come before.  Did it make any difference to the way I felt about it before being told from a different viewpoint?  I’m not sure that it did.  I’m also not sure that I could say which was the easier to read – 1 and 2 Kings for some parts, 2 Chronicles for others.  If I was the author of this part I would probably be looking to cut and paste from both while adding my own take on it.

I don’t know if ‘troubles’ is the right word but it troubles me still that the ‘moral’ seems to be that the Lord rewards faith and obedience to him, and punishes non-belief and worship of him.  It really cannot be so simple: disease and death for those who do not worship him, wealth and a healthy long life for those that do.  Plenty of people who do have faith and worship the Lord get ill and die too young, and plenty of people live long fulfilling lives who have no faith at all.

And there is the contradiction: the Lord stated that children would not be punished for the crimes of their parents and parents would be not be punished for the crimes of their children but yet what does the Lord do but exactly this by punishing future generations for the sins of the current generation, although to be fair this happens time and time again and on the whole the current generation are also sinning against him, or at least not worshiping him.  Any other ‘sins’ they may be committing are not always stipulated.  Do as I say rather than as I do? – not if respect is required.

1 Chronicles

A summary of what has come before and not more interesting for it to be honest.  It’s like the summary notes when you are studying for an exam, and playing spotting the difference – some names are different, embellishments made on events already described and other subtle differences but essentially the same story told in summary.  To me, it reads more like a campaign log glorifying in battles won and as we have already established if you have read any of this blog previously I am very much a pacifist and abhor violence and war.

Again I am struck by how so many people in the world follow a God who seems to perpetuate so much violence and mistreatment of other people.  It leads me to also wonder about the accident of the place of our birth pretty much determining our religion and faith, or lack of.  I have commented in the past that I consider myself lucky to be born and live in a country where I am free to think and voice these opinions but what if I had been born and raised elsewhere – would I have different thoughts or similar, whether I was free to voice them or not?