I have recently been blessed in my study of the Chronicles. Chronicles is intimidating or just plain uninviting due to the genealogy in the first nine chapters. And then there is the Prayer of Jabez, which would drive anyone away from considering the book.
And yet, I have always been attracted by the passage in 2 Chronicles 7. You know the one, the one that many evangelicals use to talk about our engaging in politics: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV) I believe the evangelical political movement is right in starting here for their guidance, but I always felt there was more and there is.
The book of Chronicles is a handbook on worship (and if you know me at all, you know that is one of my passions). Exodus certainly introduces the covenant community to covenant renewal worship. Leviticus gives the basics of worship in the stipulations of the law of the sacrifices. But Chronicles fills out the life of worship in the life of the church.
This makes sense if you think about it. The Chronicler wrote early in the time of the post-exilic period. He is addressing an audience returning to Israel from Babylon. The temple had been destroyed. The rebuilding of the temple was primary on Israel’s agenda as directed by the Lord. Haggai speaks into this situation:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came too little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors. (Haggai 1:7-11 ESV)
The Chronicler’s genealogy focuses on the covenant line of David, tracking through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, and the Davidic line through Solomon down through the exile. After a brief chapter explaining that God took the kingdom away from Saul because Saul failed to worship Yahweh, the Chronicler reintroduces David and describes his covenant with the people of Israel. This event sets in motion a sequence of three repeated cycles that is punctuated with a worship service and culminated with an oracle from God. David undertakes the sequence of events twice in order to bring the kingdom into a state of rest as explained in 1 Chr. 17. Once the kingdom is brought to right and to rest by David, Solomon leads the worship service that sets the ideal course for the monarchy.
The pattern is as follows:
|Conquest||11, 12||18 – 20 David brings kingdom into a state of rest prophesied in ch. 17||Kingdom at rest; Solomon the man of peace; no conquest|
|Sin and repentance||13||21||cf. 1 Chr. 13:1-4; Solomon has benefitted from David’s precedence|
|Preparation for worship||14 – 15:12||22 – 27||2 Chr. 1-4|
|Worship service||15:13 – 16||28 – 29||5-7:10|
|Oracle from God||17||2 Chronicles 1:7-13||7:11-7:22|
1 Chronicles 17 is the clear thematic center of the combined book, but it is also a pivot point in the story, causing the story to turn back on itself, repeat itself, and charting the direction for the rest of the story. Throughout the Chronicles, the theme of worship or seeking God (דָרַשׁ ) is conspicuous. Yahweh rejects Saul and takes the kingdom from Saul because he failed to worship Yahweh. The sequences above set forth the proper way of worshiping or approaching Yahweh. The remainder of story of the Chronicles in many respects depends on how the line of David engage the proper worship of Yahweh.
While the remainder of Chronicles describes faithful decedents of David, the trajectory of the story is not good. The situation gets so bad that the book of the law, the book of which the king is to make his own personal copy, is lost.
When the book of the law is recovered, faithful king Josiah reinstitutes covenant renewal worship. However, in this situation the sequence is modified slightly. The concluding event in the sequence is conquest. The covenant kingdom is no longer a kingdom of peace for covenantal worship. As a result, the final act of worship brought about by Josiah is a military campaign against the high places and the false worship in Israel. Ultimately, the conquest that must occur is God’s own conquest of Israel and Judah in the exile to Babylon.
The message of the Chronicler to the post-exile nation of Israel is to encourage the nation in its worship, to admonish them in a proper, whole-souled devotion to worship. His message to us Christians is the same. How will we worship. I encourage a careful study of this book to anyone wanting to engage in covenant renewal worship.