A Guest Blog by Gillian KimberPhoto on 22-10-2018 at 15.31 #2-2

“Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” (Joel 1.3)

Let me tell you a third story…

A story about leaders and people.

About different kinds of freedom and slavery.

About choosing a kind of slavery.

And losing your freedom.



It is, I’m afraid, a rather long, sad story about wars and times of peace, and about how hard it is for nations and leaders to behave better than families. And, just as you are about to give up hope,  it’s about the astonishing Good News in God’s Great Story.

Now, Moses had a young assistant and apprentice, Joshua.

Near the end of his life Moses, who is amazingly called the friend of God, had overstepped the bounds. He lost his temper with the people and took the credit for what God had done. Now Moses was no longer the right person to lead the people: Joshua was. After a glimpse into the country first promised to Abraham, Moses died and God buried him in a secret grave.

Just like Moses had taken the people through the Red Sea, their new leader Joshua took the people through the River Jordan and into the Promised Land. Then the new generation that had grown up during the forty years in the wilderness dedicated themselves to God again by circumcision.

But first, God said to Joshua:

‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you

I will never leave you or forsake you

Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you

Be strong and courageous

Do not be afraid

Do not be discouraged

For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go’

The four hundred years that God had told Abraham he was giving the people of Canaan freedom to choose how they would live, was over. Their sin and idol worship had reached its peak and God was using the nation of Israel to punish them.

By powerful miracles, very like those Moses had done, Joshua and the people conquered the fortified city of Jericho, the city of Ai, and many other cities with their kings, including one that would become known as Jerusalem. The stories shock us deeply, because God ordered them to kill the people in whole cities.

How could he do that?


We are challenged – can we trust that the LORD, the Righteous Judge knew what had been happening during those four hundred years? We know it included child sacrifice and the abuse of women in pagan worship….

While Joshua led them, the Israelites did serve the LORD, but after he died they were left to themselves, and chose to worship the war and fertility gods of the people they had conquered – called Baals and Ashtoreths. Then they married into their families and copied their way of life. Not good…

So, the LORD stopped helping them, and let them be defeated by raiders from their enemies.

Each time when it got bad enough, they repented – recognised they had done wrong – and turned back to the LORD, who then gave them war leaders called Judges to free them. However, as soon as that person died the cycle repeated. God had to choose judges from the people who were there, and it seems to me he didn’t have that many good people to choose from.

Deborah, a prophet as well as the only female judge, is probably the best role model. Of the other judges the most famous are Gideon, who showed great faith during his campaigns but ended up making an idol himself, and the mighty warrior Samson, who defeated the Philistines but seemed too easily to fall in love with their beautiful women.

However, the last Judge, Samuel, was more than a judge and a leader. He was born in answer to the prayer of faith of his mother Hannah. When he was a very young child she fulfilled her vow and apprenticed him to the family of priests at the shrine at a place called Shiloh. From the beginning he also showed that he was called to be a true prophet of God.

One night the old priest Eli and Samuel were asleep when the LORD called “Samuel!”

Thinking that Eli had called him he ran to him and said “Here I am; you called me”. Eli sent him back to bed, but after this had happened three times he realised that God was calling him. God had a message for Eli: he and his sons were about to be removed because of their terrible behaviour.

Samuel grew up to be a recognised prophet. Eli’s two sons were killed in a terrible battle with their enemies the Philistines in which they captured the Ark of God. This was the ornate gold-covered chest into which Moses had put the sacred stone tablets of the Ten Commandments for safe-keeping.

Eli died of shock.

From then on Samuel was both priest, military leader and Judge, rather like Moses and Joshua, leading the people in fighting the Philistines.

However, history was starting to repeat itself. Samuel was greatly respected, but as he grew old, his two sons who he had appointed to succeed him were clearly unfit to be judges. Together the elders of Israel came to ask him to give them a king instead. Samuel felt rejected, but in prayer God told him to do as they asked, but to warn them about the cost of having a king: serving in his army, paying taxes and losing their freedom.

Still they insisted.

God’s first choice, Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, was everything a fairy-tale king should be. He was tall, handsome, modest and powerful. He was a prophet and successful in battle. Samuel gave a thundering speech reminding the people to depend on the LORD and remember the miracles of the Exodus under Moses. Then he retired as their judge.

For many years Saul did well.

He expelled mediums and witches from the country, and his son Jonathan led successful campaigns against their enemies. But then, against God’s clear instructions he looted the spoils of war, so God called Samuel out of retirement to tell Saul that he was no longer with him.

So as the story goes on, we find Samuel again operating as God’s king-maker. This time the person of God’s choice is the youngest son of Jesse, David, from Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. He was much less outwardly impressive than his seven older brothers, not yet old enough to be in Saul’s reserve army, and still looking after his father’s sheep. God said to Samuel:

“Do not look at his outward appearance

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.

Man looks at the outward appearance

but God looks at the heart.”

By now Samuel had died, and without his support, King Saul had become depressed and frightened of losing the kingdom. Meanwhile, as David grew up he became a talented poet and musician. He entered the king’s service as one of his armour bearers, but also as musician to play for the king and lift his moods.

Goliath, a nine-foot giant of a man, was the boastful and heavily armoured champion of the Philistines. Facing Saul and the Israelite army he challenged them to choose a champion for a duel. Embarrassing his older brothers, young David stepped forward in his shepherd’s clothes. Then, carrying just a sling and five smooth stones, he cried:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin

But I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty,

The God of Israel who you have defied.”

With one stone Goliath was knocked unconscious, and beheaded by David with his own sword. Without their champion the Philistines took fright and fled.

There are many other stories of David and the way Saul increasingly distrusted him and made many attempts upon his life. Yet David waited for God to give him the kingdom he promised, and did not try to take the kingdom away from the man God first chose.

Finally, both Saul and his sons died in battle and David succeeded him as king at the age of thirty.

But life as king was even more difficult. In the forty years of his rule he won many battles against the enemies of Israel, and the prophet Nathan brought him God’s promises, instructions and warnings. We can get an idea of the heart that God was looking at when he chose him, by reading the numerous Psalms he wrote. They have inspired many generations of Jews and Christians to this day.

But in his later years, David too gave in to the temptations of being in power. Probably the huge number of wives he had was normal for kings in his day, but that does not make it any easier for us in our time to accept him as an ideal ruler.

But God was most concerned by his breaking of a marriage and the cover-up of his affair with Bathsheba when he arranged for the murder of her loyal husband.

David did repent, but his later years were marred, most terribly, by the abuse of his daughter Tamar by one of her half-brothers. Two of his sons tried to take over as king, and there were rivalries amongst his trusted leaders in his army. Despite his many failings, David’s faith, humility and desire to please God came to mean that he and his kingdom became a kind of taster for life on earth in the Kingdom of God, with a ruler he had anointed.

Most importantly, God promises him that:

“When your days are over

I will raise up one of your own sons to succeed you

I will establish his throne for ever

I will be his father and he will be my son.”

So, it came to be that Jews (up to the present time), have understood that the Messiah, a title which means both an anointed king and the leader who would finally deliver his people from their enemies, must be a descendant of King David.

Greek-speaking Jews used the word Christ, so we ‘Christians’ call Jesus, descendant of king David, our King and Saviour.

God chose Bathsheba’s son Solomon, to be king after David’s death.

Solomon was internationally famous for his learning and wisdom. He was the author of many proverbs, and probably a book on the meaning of life, and a poetic love song. The Kingdom of Israel reached its height during his long reign, and God called him to build the splendid Temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant and be the national centre of godly worship. However, he caused great resentment amongst his subjects for the level of taxation – just as Samuel had warned.

Then under his foolish, proud and boastful son Rehoboam, there was idol worship again. Then the kingdom split in two. A northern Kingdom, with its capital city Samaria, broke away under Jeroboam, an ambitious rebel official in the king’s service, and very confusingly they took with them the name Israel.

The story of the many other kings of this northern kingdom of Israel is that they chose to worship the war and fertility gods of the people they had conquered under Joshua.  Of each one, a very similar thing is said:

The king “…did evil in the eyes of the LORD

walking in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat

and his sin which he had caused Israel to commit.”

The worst of these was King Ahab and his wife Jezebel who displayed the typical pride, greed and violence of dictators even in our own time. His enemy and God’s mouthpiece, Elijah, was the most famous of the early prophets. God used all of them to warn his people in the two kingdoms of the judgement that would come if they didn’t change, and to plead with them to return to worshiping and serving him.

Later prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, pleaded passionately on God’s behalf for his people to return to him, and warned of the judgement that would follow if they didn’t. Isaiah glimpses the Messiah in his famous Servant Songs. He is also the most quoted prophet by Jesus and his apostles.

Eventually after twenty kings, all of whom worshipped idols, the LORD used Assyria to punish the Northern Kingdom for their disobedience and sin. They were mostly taken captive away from their land by the powerful Assyrian Empire, and the people living in that area became only loosely descended from Abraham’s family.

After the division of the kingdom, the Southern Kingdom became the Kingdom of Judah, named after the tribe of their kings who were all from David’s family.

Perhaps now, the political power of the Palace, the religious power of the Temple, and the words of godly prophets, would bring in the Kingdom of God on earth?

However, many kings were little better than their cousins in the north, and most people were happy to follow their example. Unfortunately, as in the case of the Northern Kingdom, God’s warnings fell on deaf ears.

The prophet Jeremiah wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He could see how terrible it was going to be, but nobody was listening to his warnings.

In Judah there were quite a lot of kings like the reformer Hezekiah who, it was said, “followed the ways of his father David”, but many followed the ways of the north instead.

Meanwhile in Exile with the people of the Northern Kingdom, the prophet Ezekiel had had visions of the LORD who sees all. These revealed disgusting scenes of pagan worship back in Jerusalem, right within the Temple itself, and throughout the city and countryside – shocking abuse of one another in ways forbidden by God’s Law.

In time, the increasingly deaf kingdom of Judah would also be punished by the LORD’s instrument: in this case the cruel Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, after he had conquered the Assyrians. The people of Judah became refugees in countries such as Egypt where Jeremiah found himself, or captured and taken to Babylon like the prophet Daniel, who in a similar way to Joseph, rose to high office, although a slave.

But there are wonderful stories of the way God delivered Daniel and his faithful companions from the political scheming they found themselves caught up in in Babylon – a fiery furnace, a den of lions.

However, probably the most important of Daniel’s God-given gifts was interpreting prophetic dreams. For instance, a dream was given to Nebuchadnezzar of an enormous statue with a gold head, a silver chest, belly and thighs of bronze, iron legs and feet of iron mixed with clay. It was utterly destroyed by a great rock. We can learn how Daniel told the king of his own time what God was telling him, but for us it is also a key to understanding how powerful kingdoms grow and are destroyed, and how God uses both good and wicked men to guide history towards his Messiah.

It was Daniel, too, who was able to tell the captives that they would return after seventy years of exile. This would finally happen under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Babylonians were defeated by the “rock” of the Persian king Cyrus. (Bad people being punished by other bad people). Cyrus decided it would be a good idea to send back some of the slave peoples to their countries: maybe they would be grateful to be freed, and perhaps they’d take with them their grateful and humbled gods?

After many difficulties and delays, the destroyed city walls of Jerusalem and the walls of Solomon’s Temple were rebuilt. Then there was a great celebration during which the people promised themselves and God to live as he commanded.

So it seems to me that both judges and kings had a hard time being good themselves – let alone keeping the ordinary people from behaving badly.

But Ezekiel understood and shows us this: God justly and completely rules over all kings and powers. He will be faithful to his promises to Noah, Abraham and David, and therefore he will still establish his Kingdom here on earth – and his Messiah in the eternal city.

“And the name of the city from that time on will be:



But before the final coming in of God’s Kingdom

there is a great silence.

Humanity waiting for The Messiah.

God waiting for the right time…


Now let me tell you The Great Story

The crown of those three stories

The Great Story of Stories that is happening even now…


Four hundred long years passed, but God never stops being in charge.

The great kingdoms of Persia and Egypt rose and fell.

People prayed, but the LORD did not Speak.

The mighty Greek Empire of Philip, and his son the great Alexander, was swallowed whole by the mightier Romans.

Finally, at the right time, God Said his complete Word

and the Messiah came!

As one of the early leaders of the church said:

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.

By faith Abraham …. Isaac…. Jacob…. Moses…. Gideon…. Samson….

David and Samuel and the prophets…. were all commended for their faith,

 yet none of them received what was promised,

since God had planned something better for us

 so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”


Jesus, was a descendant of David, but born into a humble family. His birth wasn’t like anyone else’s, but his earthly father Joseph had faith like that of Abraham, and his mother Mary‘s faith was like Hannah’s.

Like Moses he barely escaped being murdered when he was a child, by a frightened and wicked ruler. Like Moses he led his people through waters, as he calls us to turn around and follow him – to repent and be baptised with him in water.

Like David, he started ruling when he was thirty, the age of maturity. But he did not marry, nor did he sin like David and the other kings. David was anointed by the prophet Samuel, Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God.

He alone used God’s power only when and how God willed.

Moses and Elijah often represent the Law and the Prophets. They appeared to Jesus on a mountain where his true, glorious identity was briefly revealed to three of his closest followers: Peter (the ‘Rock’), James and John.

Jesus’ most famous miracles of healing and deliverance from evil spirits, were greater and more numerous than the miracles of all the old leaders. His teachings seemed new, yet they went to the heart of what God had already revealed, and the laws he had already given. Children, women and the poor were treated by Jesus as nobody else had done in any of the Three Stories.

Just before he died, he and his twelve close friends were gathered to celebrate the yearly Passover festival. At that meal, Jesus took the rescue story of Moses leading Abraham’s family from slavery in Egypt, and fulfilled it by making it his own story, the story of the LORD, through his Messiah, finally bringing the kingdom of God to earth.

Yet Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of those close friends working for his enemies, and executed on a cross. It was an unjust and cruel death, ordered by Pontius Pilate who was a politician in a tight political corner.

His death, not the death of Adam, or the sacrifice of Isaac, became the full and fitting ‘Taking of Responsibility and Payment’ for all our sins against our Creator and Father. His willingness to suffer and die is the window that we look through when we want to understand how much God loves us and how much love costs.

Three days after his death, Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. More than five hundred people met him alive…. recognisable by the wounds from the Cross, but radiantly alive, speaking, eating and breaking bread as he used to do.

Yet he is changed.

Now Jesus’ body is no longer mortal, and perhaps because it is not touched by the limitations we experience, even people who knew him best were slow to recognise him.

Finally, before he left the limitations of space and time and went back into the eternity of complete unity and love with His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to them.


So Jesus completes in The Great Story, everything that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, had Said from the beginning.

And his Story is our Story…

His call to “Repent” is a call back to our first purpose to bear his image into his world, and to do it his way.

The Good News he brings us, is of the forgiveness we need for the wrong choices we made and make still, and the rescue we long for from the badness that enslaves us.

It is also of the resurrection victory he had over death and his promise that our deaths, too, will be defeated by him

God’s own Spirit is with us, helping us to hear his voice again. He takes Jesus’ words and teaches them to us, he inspires us in our prayers, he opens to us the many other stories of people in the Bible – examples both good and bad. He coaches and encourages us in our new Family of people we find both easy and difficult to love. He joins with us in our worship and takes us into the heart of God in Communion.

And the Kingdom of God grows quietly and steadily between us….

Together, as his Family, we tell The Great Story of how God made a beautiful world. Of how he gave us the task of taking his Image into it and ruling and shaping it to his glory. And of how we chose another way of brokenness and false gods, of exploitation and greed and death. The Story tells of the many ways we failed and fail still – and of how God ‘Took the Responsibility’ of bringing us back to himself. It is the Great Story of how each one of us – man by man, woman by woman, child by child – in our families and communities and nations, are being invited to be members of his new First Family, living his way in his Kingdom.

And when God finally judges all things, the Story tells us that his people will rule over his world as his Image Bearers – the Body of Christ – and as his beloved Bride.

Jesus says: “Yes, I am coming soon.”

And we call out to him: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”















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