Friday, May 13, 2011

I Chronicles In Review

So, I wasn't in the office much earlier this week to write a blog post, and since Wednesday I haven't been able to log onto blogger.  Since I'm now a good bit into II Chronicles, I'll do a post today summarizing the focus of I Chronicles.  This post will largely build off of themes I've already mentioned.

As I've hinted at in previous posts, although the books of Chronicles can stand alone, what truly makes them sing is when they are joined with the books of Samuel and Kings.  When we do that, differences immediately jump out, and those differences are what show us the unique message of the books of Chronicles.  They are not, as some assume, just a repeat.

For example, both the books of Samuel and of Chronicles record some of King David's wars and his ill-advised census of the Israelites.  However, in Chronicles those wars and the census aren't really about the wars or the census.  Rather, both point to the temple.  The wars recounted in Chronicles are only mentioned after David captures Jerusalem, and that is important.  Jerusalem is where the temple will be.  The story of the census, which unlike Samuel, takes place nine chapters before the end of the book, has an added detail.  Chronicles makes sure to point out that the threshing floor David bought to offer sacrifices to God is the future place of the temple, specifically because David learned he could offer sacrifices there, whereas he was afraid to offer sacrifices at the tabernacle in Gibeon (this has always intrigued me, seeing as how David was from the tribe of Judah and only descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi were allowed to offer sacrifices).  So, Chronicles shares the stories of David's wars and census for one reason: the temple of God.

Closely related to this is I Chronicles' focus on Jerusalem.  Almost the whole book revolves around the city.  And again, I Chronicles gives us a bit of information that the books of Samuel do not provide.  In chapter twenty-three verse twenty-five, David says this:

"The LORD, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people; and he resides in Jerusalem forever."

Why is Jerusalem so important?  It is the home of God.  Samuel and Kings never claim that so exclusively.

Another unique saying of David in Chronicles is his advice to Solomon.  Multiple times David instructs his son to be strong, take courage, and act, specifically in regard to building the temple.  That conversation is never mentioned in Samuel, neither is the conversation between David and Israel where he informs them that he will make Solomon king after him.  Because Solomon will be young and inexperienced, he will need Israel's support so he can build the temple.

One last thing that stood out (there are many other things that stood out, but for the sake of length, I've chose these few), I Chronicles ends with a word of praise to God from David.  In the middle of that praise he says this:

But who am I, and what is my people that we should be able to make this freewill offering?  For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.  For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.  O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. -- I Chronicles 29:14-16
Why the focus on only giving back to God what is already his?  Why the feeling that David doesn't think he has much?  Why the mention of aliens and transients when I Chronicles makes it very clear that David has made the land his own and his peoples'?   There is a reason for this, and it connects back to the focus on the temple, on Jerusalem, and on being strong, courageous, and active.

I Chronicles is not a history lesson but a book of encouragement.  I Chronicles is written after the exiles return to Jerusalem, and at that point Jerusalem is the nation of Judah's only remaining city.  After the Exile, the Jews are aliens and transients in their own land.  When they return, the people Babylon brought in to replace them are still there.  On top of that, they are poor.  If God does not provide for them, the aren't going to have much, and so whatever they give to him is directly a gift from him.  After the Exile, the Israelites ask, "What now?" as they look on a city with no walls, no temple, and no homes.  So what should the Israelites do?  The answer seems obvious, at least to those in positions of authority: we rebuild.  The Israelites will rebuild Jerusalem's walls because it is the city God lives in.  They will rebuild the temple so that they can worship God and be in his presence once again.  They will need strength, courage, and the encouragement to act because they have a long road of work ahead of them.  They need God to provide building materials so they can give it right back to him.  I Chronicles wasn't written to chronicle history.  It was written to foster a response of action and hope among the Israelites.  It may not translate 2500 years later, but Chronicles is like a "you can do it" Hallmark card.

If we're going to appreciate the books of Chronicles, that's how we should approach them.

Stopping place: I Chronicles 29

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