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?”


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).


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).


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)


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)


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 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.

Gleanings from the Bible: 2 Kings

Second Kings continues the sorry tale of the decline of the Divided Kingdom, punctuated by a few bright spots in the southern kingdom of Judah and spectacular events surrounding the prophet, Elijah’s successor was Elisha. The schools of prophets seemed to know that Elijah was about to be taken and kept asking Elisha whether he knew. I can’t help smiling over the apparent exasperation of Elisha, “Stop reminding me!” It’s the trouble with godly prophets. They seem to know everything!

Sacrifice To The Gods

I had to think a bit about 3:27, where the battle is going against the king of Moab and in  desperation he offers his first-born son as a burnt offering to the god, Chemosh, on the city wall. The text tells us that as a result, “The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.” Some understanding of this seems to be that God was displeased with Israel’s King Ahab in some unspecified way and turned the tide back and/or that Israel were so disgusted by the sacrifice that they retreated. However, I have to say that it doesn’t read that way to me. Perhaps here we have one of those tantalising biblical glimpses into a spirit world where there is war going on, which is somehow linked in places with our physical world (Compare with Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10, especially verse 13). Could it be that the Moabite king’s heinous sacrifice did indeed energise evil in some way as to temporarily turn the tide? I don’t want to suggest that God was somehow overpowered, rather that individual battles, as part of the greater war on evil, may be more complex than we think. There is also an acknowledgment that behind Chemosh is Satan, who is powerful, though ultimately defeated in God’s overall purposes. It’s just a thought!

Naaman And The Servants

The story of the healing of Naaman’s skin disease is a reminder that grace comes without cost. Only the act of obedient response was required. The means by which Naaman receives the message of healing comes through an unnamed young servant girl, Elisha’s servant Gehazi, and Naaman’s own servant. It is still the servants of God who proclaim Good News and it is still God who brings it to effect in the lives of people.

Against The Odds

I like the story in chapter 6. First, Elisha’s statement in the face of impossible odds: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then, Elisha’s servant enabled to see the hills full of horses and chariots (another glimpse behind the scenes!). Next, the Arameans are struck with blindness and led into their enemy’s capital. You can imagine the look on their faces when they could suddenly see where they were. But here, in contrast to so many other acts of cruelty and revenge in Kings, Elisha recommends an act of grace where they are fed and sent home. “So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory” – the cycle of revenge was broken, at least in the short term. We could do with more of Elisha’s wisdom!

The Purge of Jehu

Jehu is a contrast to Elisha. At one level he carries out a purge of much of the evil of Israel in response to an apparent prophecy from God, but at another (as I heard one speaker express it), he took far for more delight in his task than any sane man should. I note that you could see him coming from a great distance. He drove like a madman! I also note that afterwards he continued worshipping the golden calves that his predecessor, King Jeroboam, had set up. It’s one thing to do the will of God, it’s another matter how you do it.

Exile And The Judgement Of God

Israel’s Exile to Assyria and Judah’s later Exiles to Babylon are clearly explained by the writer and the prophets as the judgement of God…

“All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God… They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced…
…They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless” 17:7-8, 15

The catalogue of Judean King Josiah’s reforms is a catalogue of how far Judah had fallen. All the good things King Hezekiah had done were then undone by King Manasseh and the changes that Josiah instigated then unravelled under subsequent kings, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar was complete. Only a poor remnant remained in the Land.

We are usually reluctant to ascribe disasters and world events to the judgement of God. It should be noted that Israel and Judah had pledged a special covenantal relationship with God, which made them especially accountable for their idolatry. All I will add here is that God has revealed himself to the world through the things he has made and particularly through Jesus Christ. To ignore the Creator and his directions for life is to invite trouble at an individual, international and environmental level. The other message of Kings is, however, that when we do turn to God, he brings guidance and deliverance so that people may live in peace and enjoy his goodness in this life and the next.

Gleanings from the Bible: 1 Kings

As a child I found one of the most impressive Bible stories to be that of Solomon. It taught me from an early age that God’s priorities are not that we should be rich, famous or powerful but that we should be wise and obedient in the things that God has given us to do. From an early age I asked God to make me wise, and I still do. Whether I am or not is for others to judge, but I do know that no matter how wise you may be, it is still all too possible to make atrocious decisions of commission and omission. Current affairs bears this out, as does history, particularly as Solomon’s reign progresses (or should that be, regresses?)

For all his initial good intentions, the ways in which God blessed and prospered him, his great building achievements and his undoubted great wisdom and acquisition of knowledge, Solomon went down the slippery slide into idolatry. It’s not how well you start in life, but how well you finish, for it is at the end of his life that Solomon handed on his legacy to his son, Rehoboam.

Rehoboam’s claim to fame, or rather claim to notoriety, was that instead of consulting God or even listening to the voices of experience, he took the advice of young and inexperienced men, provoked the northern tribes of Israel and caused a split in the kingdom, which set the scene for endless bloodshed, a loss of spiritual identity for the north and ultimate Exile and destruction for all the tribes. What was he thinking?!

Well here is an interesting twist. We read in 12:15, “So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfil the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam…” which was, “See I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand… I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshipped Ashtoreth… and have not walked in obedience to me.” (11:31, 33). The implication is that God had prompted Rehoboam to cause division in the kingdom as judgement for the idolatry of Solomon and the people before him!

That God should do that doesn’t absolve Rehoboam or Jeroboam from responsibility for causing the split. It would seem that God uses the intrinsic evil in people to bring about his purposes as he does with people’s inclinations for good. ‘Our’ decisions may not always be conscious, but they accord with our inner character. In the Christian sphere, the person who has become a follower of Christ and received the Spirit of God, is born from above. Their spirit is changed and their bias is turned towards God. As they continue in that relationship they will want to do what is right, to obey God, and even though they will sometimes fail spectacularly, sense of guilt and conscience should quickly bring them to repentance. King Jeroboam’s bias went the other way. He is remembered as the one who set the ten northern tribes of Israel on a trajectory of idolatry. No king after him turned the tide “away from the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.” (Incidentally, it makes you wonder what sort of a father Nebat may have been.)

The southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin fared somewhat better with a mixture of good and bad kings, measured not by their power or earthly success, but on the ways in which they led the spiritual life of the country either towards or away from God. The Judean kings (with one queen), beginning with Rehoboam read, evil, evil/good, good, good, evil, evil, evil, good, good, good, good, evil, good, evil, evil, good, evil, evil, evil, evil.

The hero in the North is never the king, but the prophet Elijah (and behind him, God of course). Here are stirring acts of God for desperate times. Drought and rain on command, feeding by ravens, oil and meal that doesn’t run out and then the contest on Mount Carmel with fire from heaven.

It’s well known that it only takes one negative comment to undo a whole string of positives. Jezebel’s threat seems to indicate to Elijah that after all that he has been through and all that God has done, Jezebel continues to control the monarchy and the Baalistic religion of Israel. Elijah wants to die but (as we have noted in a discussion on suffering in the world) he doesn’t see the big picture, only his own bits of the jigsaw, which are looking decidedly dog-eared!

God’s answer to Elijah may help us to hang in when things look bleak and out of control.
It’s basically this…
Elijah, go and anoint the next kings of Aram and Israel, and then your own successor   – and              understand that you are not alone. I have 7000 faithful people in Israel.

God knows what will both cause and allow events to happen. He has taken it all into account. The knowledge encouraged Elijah to continue his given prophetic ministry and to again confront King Ahab.

The last book in the Bible, Revelation, is avoided by many, and yet it has a similar message. “Hang in there. God is in control. He has already won and when history has played out you will see it even more clearly.”      Finish well!