Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why We Need To Listen To The Books Of Chronicles

To be totally honest, I'm hitting a slump in my reading.  Since this isn't the first time I've read through my Bible in a year, I remember this feeling.  For me, it sets in when things start feeling repetitious, which is a problem since anyone who has read their whole Bible knows that many parts of the Bible are repetitious.  The books of Chronicles feel repetitious to me, and their stories aren't as engaging as, let's say, the books of Samuel and Kings.  However, we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we mentally tuned out and overlooked what the books of Chronicles have to tell us.

At the risk of sounding repetitious myself, there are multiple themes present in the books of Chronicles.  They are themes of advice and encouragement to exiles returning to a desolate homeland.  These themes are obedience, courage, action, trust, and humility.

I've talked about obedience already, so for today I just want to repeat a conversation we had this last Tuesday at our Reading Through the Bible in a Year Support Group (seriously, I have to come up with a better name than that.  "Bible class" isn't really accurate.).  In Genesis we can read the story of Noah building the ark.  You might remember that there are a plethora of details about how Noah is supposed to build the ark.  Gopher wood, so many cubits high, so many cubits long, so many cubits wide, one door and window...the list goes on.  The point of the story giving us those details is not that we know the dimensions and materials of the ark.  The point is that Noah obeys God in all the details.  The lengths Noah was willing to go to in obeying God are evidence and support for the claim that he was a righteous man.  The same goes for all the details about the Temple in the books of Chronicles.  Chronicles tells us that David received the plans for the temple from prophets and seers.  In other words, from God, just like Noah.  Now some might argue over whether that is true of not, but that isn't the point.  The point is that he obeyed, as did Solomon.  The point is that a good relationship with God is one brimming with obedience.  To exiles wondering how they are supposed to relate to God after their punishment, this seems like a direct response.  Israel needs to be in an obedient relationship with their God.

Courage and action are also themes I've written about already, so I wont say much new here.  To a struggling people wrestling with rebuilding projects, David telling his son to take courage and act must have resonates strongly in their ears.  It would have been very easy for the Jews living in Jerusalem to be afraid.  They had no wall for defense.  They had no army.  The people who returned probably wouldn't have been all master builders.  How would the Jews ever survive?  How would they perform the repairs needed to make Jerusalem a great city again?  Simply put, by remembering examples of who they could be from the past.  They could be people of courage again, people of action.  It was in their blood.

Many of the prayers in the books of Chronicles acknowledge that everything comes from God and that the Jews had earned nothing.  To a people who had nothing and were relying on God to provide for everything, this must have been encouraging.  God had made the Jews a great people once upon a time.  He could restore them now.  Nothing is beyond God.  The Israelites needed to trust in that, as David, Solomon, and many other great kings had done before.  God did not disappoint in the past.  He would not in their present.

And finally, humility.  This really didn't stand out to me until yesterday.  I read the story of Uzziah, how he began as a great king but the success God brought him made him arrogant.  Once that was in my head I started seeing that same pattern over and over again.  Joash began as a great king, but once he had peace and success he became corrupt, killing the son of the man who put him in power as a child.  Hezekiah was a great king, trying to bring about reform and inviting the northern tribes to participate in the Passover, something that hadn't happened since eons before.  But again, at the end of his life he developed a sense of entitlement.  I can't help but wonder if that is why his son who inherited the throne turned out to be such a rotten king.  Uzziah simply presents us with a theme we can find all over the place in the books of Chronicles if we're looking for it.  Pride destroys, both individuals and nations.  So, now that God had brought the Jews back home, they couldn't afford to repeat this pattern from the past.  They must remain humble before their God.  God is a god who lifts the lowly but crushes those who regard themselves too highly, and no one, no matter how righteous he or she begins, is immune to the temptation of pride.

So, obedience, courage and action, trust, and humility, these are the lessons the books of Chronicles have to teach us.  Repetitious, yes....  Full of mind-numbing detail, yes....  Speaking a true message about humanity and God, absolutely yes.  We need to be a people who listen to all the Bible has to tell us, not just the parts we like.

Stopping point: II Chronicles 36

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