Monarchists at heart

Yesterday I suggested that there was a subtle shift with the setting up of the Levitical priesthood, but that subtle shifts often lead to much more substantial shifts. Although I would wish to argue that the Levitical priesthood does mark a loss of the corporate royal priesthood this is not explicit within Scripture… but when we come to the issue of kingship this is very clear.

1 Samuel 8 is the central passage in this monarchial move. We read;

  • Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.
  • they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
  • solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

A sobering aspect is in the choice of Saul as king. A humble man, seeking to avoid the limelight, does not look to put himself forward but it is the people who insist on a king who will do things for them (1 Sam. 8:20). The corporate responsibility to be something for the nations become an exchange of that calling for a king who will be something for them as a nation. ‘We want to be as the nations’ is effectively shorthand for ‘and no longer a royal priesthood’.

Again God enters into the world of the king, and anoints Saul, David, Solomon and those who follow. As one king dies there is no discussion on ‘should we really have a king to be like the other nations?’, any debate has long since gone. Now the debate is not over kingship but at times simply who the next king should be.

Israel has moved a long way from being there for the nations, to being one of the nations. God is still present, he does not disown them.

From king to temple… tomorrow.


Levitical substitutes

Israel called to be a royal priesthood for the world (‘for the earth is mine’) slides down as it loses this calling when the levitical tribe is chosen to be priests for Israel. We read of the choice of the Levites in Exod. 32 and the golden calf incident.

And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” (Exod. 32:28,29.)

The violence might be (might be??!!) an issue for us but in context it was a people (levites) who were passionate for the fulfillment of the covenant that were chosen. They were on ‘the Lord’s side’. (Bear in mind that the contrast of the 3000 who lost their lives when Moses came down the mountain to the 3000 who found life when the Spirit came down on the Day of Pentecost is very deliberate, and highlights that the trajectory is from judgement to salvation.)

The shift from royal priesthood to a priestly tribe is more subtle than an immediate loss of the royal priesthood calling. In Num. 8:16-18, we read that the Levites replaced the choice of the firstborn from the people:

Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel.

It is not clear if the firstborn were to be priests within Israel and the Levites took that role, or whether it is an exchange of royal priesthood to that of a priestly tribe. So in seeking to be fair I suggest the shift is more subtle than a blatant exchange.

Two aspects we can note:

  • we do not need to look at things as if they are pure, in the sense of ‘it has be this way and only this way’. Compromise is part of our journey, rather than the idealism that those of us who are of a certain disposition love.
  • And secondly, God goes where we go. He anoints the Levites for the task. These two aspects should caution us.

Just because God’s anointing is present we must not read that as an endorsement, nor should we accept a compromise as an acceptable end point.

The subtle shifts, the acceptance of what is pragmatic, become the doorway through which further shifts take place that are anything but subtle. I can remember a strong interchange between a well-known bishop and an Anabaptist where the bishop argued that being a member of the House of Lords was a place where there was the God-given opportunity to shape legislation, therefore a ‘godly’ place. The response was that if the basis of being there was unjust (read for this ‘Christendom’) then this could not be seen as a ‘godly’ place. My vote, of course, was with the Anabaptist! This illustrates the journey. Idealism or compromise. I think the way forward is continual ongoing redemptive compromise – starting where we are but moving forward and upward in the most redemptive way possible.

The shift to the Levitical priesthood might not be a huge step, but it subtly moved the identity and calling of Israel away from being a corporate royal priesthood for all, to being a special nation whose calling separated them from the nations. Later in Num. 35 we read that the Levites were to be dispersed throughout the land. They were not given land separate from the other tribes – maybe a picture of what could have been. Certainly a picture post-Pentecost of those who lived as aliens in the world, living among the peoples.


A royal priesthood

Israel has left Egypt and arrived at Mount Sinai where they receive the 10 words that will shape them as a nation (and these 10 words are in direct contrast to the values of Egypt). There as Moses goes up the mountain to God he receives these words:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel (Exodus 19:5,6).

A very special relationship is on offer, a covenant not of equal partners, but one that has both purpose and conditions. The ‘for all the earth is mine’ is so key to understand the purpose of Israel. This election is to purpose, not for the damnation of others, but for their salvation.

What makes this call all the more powerful is the setting – delivered from being slaves to the Empire they are set free and are given an identity but it is certainly not all about them. As a priesthood they are there to offer sacrifices to God, but there is a significantly deeper role, that of intercession. They exist for the well-being of the world, they are to make healing possible among the nations.

There are other collaborating Scriptures. If Adam is symbolic of Israel we see it there – a model of care for the garden to be a light to those whose setting is in the wider context. Even if that is stretching the Adamic symbol, we have enough other Scriptures. We have the irony of Egypt with Jacob who is asked to bless Pharaoh (Gen. 47:7), and even the Pharaoh who was the nemesis of Israel asks Moses to bless him as the people get ready to leave their slavery (Exod. 12:32)! The nations need Israel.

In the original call on Abraham it is placed in relation to the nations. Israel cannot live in a vacuum as a chosen people, they are set within the nations as a priesthood for those other peoples. The nations are a result of the fall(s) that are in evidence from Gen. 3-11, and the genesis of the chosen people (Gen. 12) in Abraham is for the implicit purpose of release from the curse.

Then in the Isaianic passages concerning the servant we see they are nation-oriented (e.g. Is. 42:6; 49:6). There we read that they are to be a ‘covenant to the people’ and ‘a light to the nations’. The well-being of the nations are Israel’s responsibility.

So it is this implicit purpose from the context of the early Genesis chapters that I read explicitly here in Exod. 19 and again in Isaiah.

If we read this as the raison d’être for the covenant we can then read the ongoing story of the people as falling short of that call. Even the ‘high’ points of David (a king as a high point???) has to be set against the effect of his son Solomon who begins the systematic enslaving of the nation. Post-Solomon the result is the split of the nation, with the king who rules over the northern kingdom (Jeroboam) coming up to reign from Egypt and erecting two golden calves (1 Kings 12). (The resonances with history are sounding very loud when one reads of that event.) Yes, the northern tribes are in rebellion against the house of David, but there is also a deep relativity that runs through it all. A ‘pro-house-of-David and anti-rebellious-northern-tribes’ perspective might draw the line of evil along the north / south divide, but there is something deeper going on. North might be in rebellion, but Israel, even as idealised in Judah, is deeply fallen. The nations, and even the northern kingdoms are now enemies to be defeated or at least to be separate from.

The first element then of this fall was to lose sight of the corporate nature of the priesthood for the world, and to exchange that priesthood for an insular priesthood for the special nation. The priests are now going to serve the nation, to intercede for the nation. That sadly is a fall.



Redemptive trajectory

While recently away I began to see a clear pattern that in a series of blogs I would like to explore. The trajectory ‘down’ or ‘away’ from the original purpose has to be reversed. God as redeemer suggests he does not rubbish but, at a price, pulls whatever is to redeemed through the original initial point and even beyond.


The downward movement is along a progression:

Israel no longer living to be a ‘royal priesthood’ for the whole earth, but

living with seeds of ‘being like the nations’ the big picture is reduced, a priesthood for the nation not for the nations.

this is solidified with the call for a king, and ultimately this was a rejection of God not of Samuel.

the king has in his heart to build the Temple.

A few observations:

God does not disappear when Israel loses her calling, indeed his glory is seen in the Temple when it is dedicated. This should be a challenge for us: the presence of God does not validate where he is present.

The first act of the Cross is that of the Temple curtain. Along with other Scriptures shows that redemption has to deal with this final manifestation of the downward movement. (‘I saw no temple..’)

My suggestion will be in these posts that the gospel (‘good news’) is that Jesus came for the sake of the world, the light to the nations then was a mandate given to his followers, and that there is a parallel mission to that of Israel that is now the church’s mission.


Back home – with patience?

Always great to go to Madrid (unbiased opinion – everyone needs to visit that city!!) but also great to drive home last night. Our days in Madrid were very interesting and also a little challenging. The last post I wrote about being en route there since 2011 so we are now looking seriously at how to get our feet in the door and obtain the right apartment. We had narrowed down the area where we need to move to and were able to see two small (maybe that is ‘tiny’) apartments. No, neither one of those for sure would work.

This is the interesting time with regard to making a move. The place has to open its heart and arms to welcome us in – we think we are there. Then finding the right place – a home, yes, but a place that will facilitate us doing what we need to do. That is the challenge – getting that to connect with the level of finances etc. We have had the suggestion of finding a re-possessed place but when one’s focus is on shifting the wider economy it just does not sit well for us to profit from someone else’s loss.

So as we walked to the metro to come home and regroup (back up in June) the advert inside our carriage was one we had not seen while travelling the metro: tardó tres meses en comprar nuestro piso = it took three months to by our flat; kinda stood out to us! Maybe in three months time?

And to cap it all, I had a day recently with two friends, Ian and Raoul. Raoul has some very sweet revelation about the fruit of the Spirit. Of patience he said:

Patience is saying to God, ‘You can answer this prayer in your own time, so take as long as you want.’



Madrid Marathon

This weekend is the Madrid Marathon. Would love in theory to run one more marathon, but not sure it is going to happen any time soon. Alongside some thousands who will have disciplined themselves these past months we too though will be in Madrid, not to run a marathon but to walk some of our favourite streets, to pray, to eat, to meet people, to be there in the capital.

Since 2011 we have been heading to Madrid. Leaving Mallorca the end of 2011 convictions about ladders, looking up in the air, and a strange draw to the ancient city of Cádiz pulled us that way, instead of Madrid, for just over 2 years. Then when that phase was over it was two dreams that took us across Spain to where we now reside, rather than Madrid. However, we have not left that 2011 conviction and this will be one more trip to the city. Spain continues to be locked up politically with no resolution since Dec. 20th elections. We continue to pray for a good outcome and with the help of a dream think we have been able to hold back one outcome that would have restored the ‘status quo’. We are in 2016 and if the dream of the shifts from what was to a new order over the decade 2010 -2020 (11 years I guess actually) we maybe should be expecting the swing back will be to the status quo, but we are also aware we need to push strongly for new alignments. A good element that is coming forth is, with new elections looking ever more likely, people are probably entering them already collaborating with other parties. Simple oppositional politics and a more collaborative politics can only be healthy.

Anyway… not carrying an expertise over politics I will quickly move on, hoping one day to discover an expertise about something!

Madrid. Maybe a goal set before us, and we certainly think so. However it is there as a journey to be walked and that is more important. On the journey of the past years our perspectives have changed enormously. Having been away for the best part of a week (thank you to Gary, Hilary, Andy & Sue for your friendship and inspiration) Gayle and I spoke a lot together yesterday about where to invest time. In the past we have looked at Madrid as maybe a potential place where we could be involved in discipleship, maybe, but as the years unfold the big question is ‘who’ and for what purpose. And always the questions are more important than the answers at the formation stage.

This post is mainly to say (believe it or not) that I have not been writing because this past week I have been away, and the next days we are both away… but a week or two of not writing does not mean no activity, indeed – and I need to give some more serious writing to this – I have come back with a framework that goes this way:

Israel’s call was as a ‘royal priesthood’ for one reason – the whole earth was the Lord’s. This they lost, and received a priesthood for themselves… from there a king to be like the other nations, and then a Temple. A slippery slope. First issue Jesus dealt with was the Temple… Maybe you can see where I want to go. At this time there is so much common talk of ‘kings’ and ‘priests’. Maybe a move forward? Or can moves in the right direction only gather strength to imprison us there? We are sadly a long way to getting back to a ‘royal priesthood for the earth is the Lord’s’. A goal set before the body of Christ, but the journey is more important at this time.

The marathon runners have trained, and some will enter the race intent on winning (the experts) the remainder will run together. They will be shouted on to the finish.


Journalism – now where?

I have had a few articles and a YouTube link either sent me or I have come across since posting about a new media. I will not embed the YouTube link here – it has strong language, but if you can cope with that then search for:

Jacob Appelbaum and the video you want is from the Berlin Logan CIJ Symposium: “Your politics are in everything that you write”.

Yes he is angry, and and and, but it makes a strong case in no uncertain terms.

Julie Tomlin Arram (journalist) sent me an article that is well written and suggests that, in the light of the Panama Papers, journalism will either be effectively finished or there will be a new way. Read the article and see why the writer says that in the current situation:

Journalists fail to explain that Mossack Fonseca is not a bad element of the system but an element of a bad system.

We have in the papers not simply a current snapshot but a picture of the economic direction of the past 50 years.

I guess there is a financial cost (not allowed to buy and to sell always kicks in) for a new journalism to come through. So we applaud those who have set their faces to serving God’s world with a kingdom purpose for the media.

This surely is where theology has to serve – discovering the why of media and journalism.


A new media?

In what follows I want to communicate a prophetic conviction of the arrival of a new media. Certainly a new media presence within Europe. The old ‘woman’ of Europe can produce, and will produce a new media presence.


A little while back I realised the myth of the independence of the ‘spheres’ within society (education, health, politics, arts etc). The concept I had been working with was of them having their own measure of autonomy. Indeed in a healthy society that is how it should be. However…

A little aside:

  • we live in a fallen world – left to its own devices this will ‘fall’ to a place of increasing evil.
  • fallenness can be redeemed – brought back to purpose.
  • hence we do not operate from a distinct line of good / evil but fallen / redeemed (or better situations in a process toward even greater fallenness / or in a process of redemption).
  • I do not see either the future (pre-parousia) as ‘all evil, rule of antiChrist’, nor as ‘all perfect’.
  • there is ground to be gained and seasons when this happens incredibly. This does not make it permanent as ground has to be held.

And before coming to the ‘a new media?’ issue I consider that one of the deep insights of the book of Revelation (and if wanting to read it in context get a history book that shows the total domination and myth of Rome) is that of the two beasts. I have wrestled with that for a while. What are the two beasts? The primary one is that of preserving the elite at all costs (Imperial power) and the second one is that which keeps the first in place – hence it can be literal Emperor worship (the Imperial cult of the day), politics, media (here is where I am going), or finally if necessary of course military power.

Still with it?

The media – free and independent?

Probably on the whole not free and independent! We have some very challenging situations with the media.

  • The news channel most watched by our charismatic friends across the pond, one that is strong on family values…, the same media empire that ran the infamous ‘page 3’. In other words it was not serving family values but serving an agenda of thought formation.
  • The percentage of the media in the UK owned by a handful of people. 3 companies own 71% of the UK national newspaper market.
  • In Spain we have government controlled channels (and one owned by a certain Berlusconi of Italian fame) and then one independent channel. When a political party rose in Spain with an incredible growth of members – totally newsworthy by any stretch of the imagination – the journalists employed by the established media groups were banned from giving any interviews with those involved.
  • The BBC website these past few days seemed amazingly silent with respect to the material on Mr Cameron and his connection to the benefits he drew from the Panamanian company his father was involved in.

So maybe the beast has another associate – for the beast must have a voice – a servant in the media that is not allowed its own freedom, its own autonomy. BUT…

Prophetic prayer gives way to apostolic declaration – certainly that was my language of a few years back. Correct language at this point is not too important.


Maybe this does not mean everything will disappear and everything new will be here, but ground has been gained, there is a shift.

A dream

(In all I am writing it is not to demonise certain media organisations, or as in the dream, Northern Europe, they are symbols and examples of the structures that we all find ourselves living within.)

Last night I had a dream. I needed to go to the toilet to have a pee. I was not at home but knew it was in Southern Europe. (Dreams are strange!) When I got there I lifted the seat and in the bowl was stacks of paper and some dirty clothes. Pressed in and pushed down and the bowl was all-but full. In the bathroom were two other people (!!) who noted my surprise at what I had discovered. They were from France and Germany. One of them said – ‘Oh I did not know we couldn’t put that stuff in here (meaning both here as in the toilet and here as in Southern Europe) and that it would not just flush away’.

I knew I had to empty the bowl, but being pretty desperate, first peed then got on with pulling out of the toilet all the papers and clothing that was placed there to be flushed away from sight. Not such a pleasant task – but it was only a dream!!

So waking up this morning (a regular occurrence most mornings) I consider that there has been a way that the dominant powers have behaved that might have cleared stuff out of sight for the past years, but this stuff cannot be flushed down the toilets of Southern Europe. There will be a messy process that now ensues but there are papers and clothing that are going to be brought out to light, primarily (in the European context) from Southern Europe.

The mess has arrived. A new media, and new journalists who cannot be bought.


Child-poverty, housing – Spain

The Panama Papers highlight the obvious corruption that many are happy to propagate and be part of, or at least the lack of willingness to use whatever they have benefited from to be of help to others. I suspect that the remaining years of this decade will see greater protests concerning the myth of the ‘trickle down’ effect as the results of austerity produce a continuing flow up of resources.

In Spain a government has not yet been resolved (elections were Dec. 20th, 2015 and since then there has been a lock up) and it is at times hard to get a real grip on what is in the land. Travel here as a tourist, live in certain parts and the shiny BMW’s, Mercedes, or SUV’s will be visible. Certainly there are more than a few Spanish whose names are appearing on the Panama list. Yet there is something, hidden from many, that is all to visible to those that the statistics affect directly:

Here are a couple of articles:

This second article says that statistically child-poverty in Spain is second only to Romania’s in Europe, (another article interpreted the figures and placed Spain third lowest, behind Romania and Bulgaria).

Here are a few paragraphs from that last article:

Child poverty in the European Union has increased from under 20 percent to more than 22 percent in the last three years, reaching 29.9 percent in Spain, said the organization’s general secretary Jorge Nuño Mayer.

That puts the country only second to Romania and closely followed by Bulgaria and Greece.

Even Cyprus, long considered an affluent society, also has a poverty rate of over 29 percent among older people, the report said.

“Austerity measures have failed to solve problems and create growth,” Mayer warned, adding that “the European project and cohesion in our societies is at stake.”

Many unemployed and uninsured have turned to their families for help, particularly in southern Europe, but after years of recession, this resource is also running dry.

“Families are now exhausted, they cannot continue paying,” Mayer said. “A second wave of poverty is expected… the negative impact can last for decades.”

In Spain, the economy could take 20 years to recover to pre-crisis levels, he added.

If we add to the above the most recent statistic on empty homes in Spain – 3 million. And Spain with a population just over 40 million. So many properties, but where re-possessed many not on the market so as prices are not lowered.

And on the housing front try this article:

This article says included were:

1,860 homes, which had been originally rented out as part of city programs to assist low-income families and the young. Many of these tenants had signed lease options with the EMVS, giving them purchase rights over the homes after seven to 10 years of renting, depending on the contract.

The result has been evictions with many more to come.

Protests on the streets? Yes, that is sure to be part of the future. Protests that produce change? I think so if they can be impregnated with the hope that Jesus gave.

In a weekend that celebrates an anniversary of Azusa Street, the outpouring that many would see as the first of three distinct outpourings in the 20th Century, it is worth remembering that this was not just an outpouring of ‘power from on high’ but of social justice that crossed the very real racial and gender barriers. Egalitarian at heart it gave to the disempowered dignity and significance. Without that effect we have no gospel.