Gleanings from the Bible: 1 & 2 Chronicles

I can’t say that I relished reading 1 and 2 Chronicles at first, especially after completing 1 and 2 Kings. Chronicles covers much the same ground as Kings, but only deals with the Southern Kingdom (Judah) and is an abbreviated, sometimes sanitised, version of events, with the achievements of the good kings highlighted. Add to that copious genealogies and lists of people who occupied various positions in 1 Chronicles and you have an apparent recipe for tedium.

You can see why it was important though. Chronicles are the last books in the Hebrew Bible and were written for the Exiles returning to Judah. The books provided a who’s who of those who belonged and what they did. It helped to link the history of Israel prior to Exile to the returning remnant resettling the Land afterwards. Like many explorations into ancestry today Chronicles answered the question, “Who do you think you are? But also, “Why did the Exile happen to us?” and “Where do I belong now?”

WHY SAUL FAILED

Amongst all this there are still many instructive gems, such as the reasons why Saul failed as a leader (1 Chronicles 10:13). He was unfaithful, did not keep the word of the Lord, consulted a medium for guidance and did not inquire of the LORD. The last point contrasts with the success of David, who constantly inquired of the LORD (Yahweh) (1 Chronicles 14:10, 14. But also see 15:13).

CONSULTATIVE LEADERSHIP AND THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE

In 1 Chronicles 13:1-4 we see an example of David’s leadership. Over the movement of the Ark of the Covenant David conferred with each of his officers, then approached the whole assembly of Israel and said, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the LORD our God… let us bring the ark of our God back to us.” Sometimes we try to impose what we think is the will of God on people who are not ready to move. You remember that Samuel was reluctant to bow to the will of the people and grant them a king, but God allowed it even though the people’s will demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s power to deliver them. Ideally, of course, the people’s will and God’s will are in tune but if people are not on board it is usually counterproductive to force the issue. Willing cooperation is most often the way to go (Compare with Acts 15:28).

SACRIFICIAL GIVING

I think that David has the principle of sacrificial giving right when he said…
“…I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)

MINISTRY OF PROPHECY

In 1 Chronicles 25 prophesying is accompanied by harps. It would seem that here at least prophecy had to do with praise and worship of God rather than messages from God. Presumably it is identified as prophecy because it is (intensely) inspired worship. It can probably be compared to 1 Samuel 10:5-7. (On singing see also 2 Chronicles 20:21)

SEARCHING FOR GOD

The Bible often assures us that those who seek God will find him. It is David’s advice to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:9-10) and is preceded by the exhortation to acknowledge God and follow his commandments. Many people claim that they cannot see evidence of God and I wonder if they give up too easily, or whether they have, in waiting for him to post a sign, not really moved in God’s direction. Patience and perseverance are a hard lesson to learn in a society where instant gratification is the everyday experience, yet I think they are necessary in building a solid relational foundation.

2 Chronicles 7:14 outlines some conditions in seeking answers to prayer… humble yourself, pray and seek God’s face, turn from your wicked ways. And what will God do? He will hear, forgive, and heal the Land. (See also 2 Chronicles 15:15)

Incidentally I love the reference in 2 Chronicles 20:21, where Jehoshaphat, vastly outnumbered by his enemies, says, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

THE TEMPLE

The Bible asserts that God is not limited to a building, but the Temple did provide a ritualised place to meet with God via the priesthood. Prayer then was directed towards the Temple, (and during the Exile, in the direction of Jerusalem)(2 Chronicles 6:21). It is the way in which ritual should function to ideally enable people to focus their spiritual life and worship on God. In the New Testament we read that Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of God, that both the gathered Christian community and the individual Christian are temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), places where others may meet with God — and therefore a profound responsibility!

It is interesting that at the very end of 2 Chronicles, the end of the Hebrew Bible, has the Gentile King, Cyrus, declaring, “The LORD (Yahweh), the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah…”

God’s purposes are never ultimately thwarted! All people fall within his purposes.

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