1 Chronicles overview

The last time I read the Bible right through I was a teenager. It was a bit of a skim read that time. My abiding impression since then has been that Chronicles is “Kings again, slower and more boring”.

So I’ve been surprised to find it interesting, relevant and encouraging, and possessing a sharp and distinct literary construction.

The first half, Chronicles 1 at least, is incredibly upbeat. I mean, it is Israel’s glory days. But even so, it’s much more upbeat than two Samuel, which covers the same material.

You get the sweep of genealogy over the first nine chapters from Adam to the time Chronicles was written. Admittedly to read, it’s one of the more boring parts of the Bible, like reading a phone book.

But I really got the significance of it reconnecting and tying the original readers to the grand history of their people and their land. It’s tribal, it’s familial, it’s saying “this glory you are about to read about is your glory”.

One way and another it’s been my year for hearing the voices of many indigenous Christians. They tell stories of growing up sometimes not knowing Aboriginal or Torres strait Islander culture, because it has been disregarded and broken by the European colonisation.

This is a similar story of gaining hope though rediscovery and reconnection. The Israelites have been exiled, and their culture smashed. This book focuses relentlessly on the messianic line of David, the priesthood and the temple to restore hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

The Bible is all about your response to the people, time and place you have been put in while in your mortal body. Responses of justice and love in Australia are intimately intertwined with our cultural and spiritual identity.

I’ve inherited both the spirituality of the messianic revelation, and the original custodians of my country. Both are histories, not of my people, but of my identity, which reward my effort to understand.

So I remember the first nine chapters as powerful, not boring. Just as I’m not European any more, but Australian, by adoption into God’s kingdom, it’s the power of MY God on display. It’s my the fulfillment of my hope too.

David’s effectiveness is depicted through a series of telling military victories. These set up peace and prosperity, show how to have confidence that the outcome is in God’s hands, and show his mortality as he starts to sit out the battles. Ultimately, the bloodshed is given as the reason why he can’t build the temple.

David’s godliness is shown through being a king who acknowledges God as king. I thought the chapter about his leadership, 12 should be read by all new leaders. He is an ideal.

Nation building acts interleave the battles artfully, such as the founding of Jerusalem and bringing in the Ark. The theme is that it works when you place your hope in God’s way, not your own.

David’s messy family life is omitted, even his sin with Bathsheba.

His prideful sin of counting the people is his major flaw here, but even that turns upbeat and hopeful when the place of his repentance is transformed into the location of the temple.

Jesus would say “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (material provision) will be added to you. That is very much modelled in Chronicles. People are mostly shown as obedient to God, not chasing worldly success, but given it anyway.

Which is interesting, because the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple at the end of the old testament is by contrast quite downbeat. The optimism dries up as its clear that Ezra and Nehemiah’s new Jerusalem is only a shadow of the first one and certainly is not the new Jerusalem the one of Isaiah and Daniel/Revelation.

I read it during a time when I had a lot of stress about job insecurity and frustration with my own character. Jesus taught that he is the king, we are the temples, we are the priests. I found the fledging or if those ideas here here powerful and helpful in a pretty bleak time, the last thing I expected.

Israel’s origin story

1 List of Israel’s forebears from adam to noah. A tribal origin story of god’s people, written for a time when their identity had been smashed and needed to be reestablished, after conquest and exile.
2 Jacob’s sons, 12 tribes…
3 King David’s sons, all the kings in his line…
4 Descendents of Judah. An aboriginal friend from work helped me realise how valuable even tiny historical facts can be when a culture has been smashed.
5 Tribes’ settlement of the holy land
6 Detail about the tribe of Levi, the priest tribe. Major theme, this book is obsessed with the temple and religious practise
7 Descendents, biographical notes on the other tribes. The anniversary of my own father’s feath.
8 Tribe of Benjamin, mainly Jersusalem inhabitants, relevant to original audience
9 Completes the family lists up to the time of return from exile, the 9 chapters offer an epic sweep through history from adam til ‘now’, the time of authorship.

David becomes King, establishes Jerusalem

10 End of Saul, David highlighted his sin by refusing to compete for the throne
11 David becomes king, his warriors, his founding of Jerusalem as capital
12 How David unified the tribes and gathered armies, his leadership
13 Carrying the ark your way, not God’s way – a sharp reminder to the people
14 David’s early victories – life lived properly is about discovering God’s will more than doing it

Bringing back the Ark – Doing God’s work your way vs God’s way

15 Ark carried right, God’s way, its bought to Jerusalem, one of David’s greatest days
16 The celebration of the ark, a feast, a song about the eternal omnipotent God
17 David told not to build the temple is a great example of contentment, of sufficiency in God. Accepting ‘no’ from God.

Military victories establish a time of peace and prosperity

18 Davids military victories laying the groundwork of peace and prosperity for his son to build the temple. I contemplate ‘holy’ war
19 An example of the confidence of David’s army against ridiculous odds, they don’t imagine they could lose, and the enemy retires in confusion
20 A 3rd chapter of military victories… an oblique reference to David’s sin when he sits one out, and showing god blessing his people instead of him

A place of David’s weakness and repentance becomes the site of the temple

21 David’s flaw, his pride in counting ‘his’ people, treating God’s grace to him as a legacy of his own greatness. The place of his repentance becomes the site for the temple.
22 David makes elaborate preparations for building the temple. He has too much blood on his hands to undertake the project.

The organisation of worship in David’s time

23 A tent is made for the Ark, it is at rest, priests are assigned to shout praise. Writing on Saturday morning after a long week, I shout praise too.
24 The families and organisation of the Levite, priest, tribe. I praise sundays when you are in a good church.
25 The organisation of the musicians for the tabernacle. Ever a priority.
26 List of gatekeepers and treasury assistants
27 List of the military guards for the tabernacle in David’s time

Old David hands over the temple project to his son Solomon

28 David starts to hand over the temple project to Solomon, I contemplate dreams vs. journeys, collaboration, pride and legacy
29 Solomon accepts the task and prays for wisdom, I think about a good attitude to earthly blessing, enjoying but not demanding it.

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1 Chronicles 29

The book ends with the handover from David to Solomon. Solomon asks for wisdom, in terms that acknowledge that God has made a great nation, remembering his love for David. This pleases God. He grants Solomon wisdom and he also promises great wealth.

They go to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices. I got mixed up earlier, there are two tents. This one Moses made in the wilderness, and another in Jerusalem that David made for the ark of the covenant.

The book concludes with a description of how wealthy and powerful Israel became during Solomon’s reign.

It’s a sweet fulfillment of God’s promises.

It’s such a brief period, is like the flowering of the American prosperity theology. God blesses them with wealth.

Indeed, he doesn’t only use poverty or suffering. I’ve mentioned before the English band the Housemartins who famously said they would be Christians only when they had nothing in their bank accounts, but that is not the only way.

Here is a period when gold and silver were as common as stone. However God also doesn’t only use wealth and success.

It’s tempting to think that this is where it was done right, where God is in control and his will is being done fully as he intended. But it isn’t.

He told them back in Samuel that even having kings in the first place was second best, plan B.

The bad Kings that would come, and the split, decline and fall of Israel, result in the soaring visions of the prophets, the wisdom literature, global redemption, the God who lives in hearts, not buildings.

It’s one of the few books about the Jewish nation’s history with a happy ending, until you read that the only reason it ends here is that the scrolls it was written on weren’t long enough to hold the whole story. It ends here for technological, not literary, reasons.

So I’ll enjoy the good things without guilt, and pray that I can accept the bad. Neither condition demonstrates or questions God’s existence, his favour, or his will.

1 Chronicles 28

David was so much more involved with the temple than I ever imagined. Solomon built it, but David micro managed about every detail before he died.

He repeats, as he hands over the final instructions, that he can’t build it because he’s a soldier that shed too much blood.

He did. But God could forgive him that, I wonder if God is also leading the old man not into temptation.

The census debacle a couple of chapters ago showed David’s very human desire to be proud of his reign, to want to leave a legacy to what he achieved as Israel’s greatest king, bringing together their greatest period.

Maybe he could not have built the temple without falling into that sin, an old man’s sin.

It’s so Moses-like, leading God’s people to the edge of closure, but not being the one to claim it.

Moses’ sin, such as it was, was pretending to be God’s voice. He berated the people out of his own frustration, when God had not asked him to. Both needed to fight pomposity.

As I head towards late middle age, if not old age, it’s not what I expected to see in the passage. I have achieved remarkably little on earth, so I would have thought I was safe from pomposity.

But this blog is driven by a sense of legacy, it’s in there, in my motives. And my plan to write a song for every book, definitely. Though it’s also my identity and my pleasure in who I’ve been created to be. David was a song writer, and God didn’t seem to put any limits on that.

Intriguingly though… I wonder if he wrote crush/love songs about Bathsheba? Only the regret song, Psalm 51 made the Bible cut. But I digress.

I also have a problem with timidity, and the verse that rang out to me in the spirit was when David said to his son Solomon “Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.

I also let everything stop me. I seriously do.

So is God saying: achieve lots, and don’t achieve lots?

Perhaps the resolution of the conflict lies in the centre phrase, which I hadn’t noted till now “start the work”. Not “make sure you finish it” that is not the point.

Collaboration is a word bursting with godly potential. It’s how dreams become a journey, which is what they perhaps need to do to lead us not into temptation. In the process, they break a bit, get tarnished, they morph, perhaps you never actually reach them.

Sounding very “it’s a wonderful life”.

Do what God needs to be done. Live in God’s present, respond to it. That is closer to eternity than devoting our energy to planning our earthly memorial. As Jesus put it “store up for yourself treasure in heaven”.

So there is my dual message: be bold, seize the promptings of the spirit in the present, but don’t plan a self aggrandising future. Do and don’t do.

My job insecurity is eating me up a bit this week.

I offer that, my present, and my legacy on the altar God says is within the temple of my body, built upon the ruins of David and Solomon’s earthly monument of stone and cedar.

Woah!

1 Chronicles 27

Organisation of the military guard for the temple. A big list chapter again.

There really isn’t that much to 1 chronicles.

The first nine chapters are lists of people. They make genaelogical points about God operating though history, but few people attempt to deny they are boring reading.

Then a bit of plot. David’s life with the messy bits left out.

Now very detailed lists of temple priests, musos, accountants, gatekeepers, etc. The lists are 2/3rds of the book!

I won’t mention again the meta story of how this might fit into the sweep of the Bible, just pray for my family and get on with the day!

1 Chronicles 25

The musicians for the temple. Reflecting a modern church where the music is as important as the other ministry roles.

Certainly music was made for praising God, reaching for the divine, bonding communities.

They were divided into 24 bands of 12 musicians and played twice during the 48 week yearly cycle, like the other priests.

I wonder what it was like being completely unmusical and being born into the music priestly families. Your calling is determined by clan, not talent. Maybe that’s why the Psalmist wrote ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’

1 Chronicles 24

A technical chapter about how the priests, the Levites, were split into 24 groups, who would each have a week of performing the temple services, twice a year.

It’s also a list chapter, all the families of the tribe.

It’s Sunday today, and a special indigenous service to mark the start of NAIDOC week. Looking forward to that.

This church has worked out being the most enjoyable church experience of my life, it really is like my Sunday candy!

1 Chronicles 23

A chapter about what the priest tribe, the levites, would do. Their role changes a bit with David because the tabernacle has entered rest, ie: come to Jerusalem and will stay forever.

Entering his rest is a big biblical theme, justifies a new tag I think.

A whole bunch of them prepare food and shout praises to God every morning, evening, and extra for the new moon and feasts. Must have actually been a pretty good life in a way.

All this info would have been fascinating to the original readers, who had to set it all up again.

They say in the rest section that the temple will be in Jerusalem forever. But the new testament teaches that our bodies are the temple now, God dwells in us. So they were wrong in the physical sense. Revelation announces a new Jerusalem, which presumably doesn’t have a temple, just us.

It’s Saturday morning. It’s been a long week. Much illness and difficulty. I’m a bit numb, glad to have a day off. Happy to shout praises though.

Praise God for Saturday mornings, coffee and toast. Praise him for anti depressants. Praise him for love and promises, even though so much shows little promise. Thank him for showing me that love is something you just do anyway.

1 Chronicles 22

David all but builds the temple. The lavish building materials must have made depressing reading for the post exile Jews. They weren’t in a position to get 4 thousand tons of gold, 40 thousand tons of silver, and unlimited bronze. The bronze is mentioned twice.

Now we get judgement on the killing David did. He fought many many wars which are blandly noted in Samuel and Chronicles. At times he was a mercenary, this poet come killing machine. But here he mentions that it is one of the reasons God didn’t let him build the temple. He was judged after all.

I was also struck by rounding up foreigners and making them work on the temple. The good treatment of foreigners, not oppressing them because of the memory of Israel’s own slavery in Egypt, is mentioned 36 times in the books of the law. I saw it, didn’t David?

Moses didn’t get the promised land, Cain killed Able, Jacob cheated Isaac, Solomon built the temple and john the baptist pointed to Jesus. The constant deferment, moving to the second plan in the Bible. It makes sure it didn’t coalesce until Jesus.

But it’s also the result of sin.

I’m in a funk, poor focus at work. The instability is getting to me. I’ve come into a time of uncertainty, I’m no good at opportunism, I have no taste for it.

Fortunately I’m getting a fellow worker, someone to supervise. That will be an improvement, keep me focused.

I really want to do a good job, and I can imagine what a better job would look like but can’t summon up the energy to do it. I’ve been in this place many times before in my life!

It’s a kind of overthinking, a kind of pride I think. Just do what you can. Be normal. People like normal!

God can redeem the mess made by our sin, build it into his plans. Ask forgivness and move on. Do what can be done today.

1 Chronicles 21

The story of the census David took of the people and the punishment that came of it.

I remember the story from Samuel. It happens when David is very old. They have left out not only the Bathsheba/lust/murder incident, but many messy family dramas and a whole civil war, it’s really a ‘glory days’ book.

But this incident is a tragedy none the less.

In this telling, David’s urge to count the people is attributed to Satan. Clearly it’s meant to be seen as evil, but I still have to visit the commentary to understand why it is bad.

Counting implied ownership in the ancient world. It’s like David is saying they are his people, not God’s. And I get that.

David is about to die, and thinking about legacy, he wants to die knowing how big and powerful Israel has become, what a great king he’s been.

At the start of his reign, it was very much God is king, David the servant. It might seem like a subtle sin, but it is pride, the start of so much evil.

His sin is inevitable, his response is rare, and shows his godliness.

David’s pride evaporates when the prophet condemns him, he is repentant.

There is a basis in the old law for this being a sin that by justice should be punished with death. In Exodus, the counting of the people was accompanied by payment to God of a ransom for their life, acknowledging this idea that they are God’s to number. David hasn’t done that, and its a law he should know.

He gets from God a choice of punishment and to his credit he chooses the one which is most random, disease. His other two options, war and famine, disproportionately hit the poor and shield the rich. It’s the option most likely to hit him personally.

God loves those who die of the disease, I think he’s showing David they are his people. We believe death has no sting, that we go to a new more perfect earth. But pain is left behind.

Jesus told the parable of the rich fool who spends what turns out to be his last day on earth counting his wealth. His death is random, he’s not struck down because he counted his money. However, the fact that he could be struck at any time, the fact of death, whether today, tomorrow, or many years later, makes counting your wealth, indulging in greed and pride, a meaningless pastime, a wasted life.

What is the point of feeling like the great successful king and treating the people as your people, God is saying. None of it is actually in your control, you are not king.

David has the double pain not only of losing people to a plague, but of knowing that their years being cut short is highlighting the foolishness of his pride.

The place of his repentance and offering of a sacrifice to God to prevent further destruction is majorly significant.  God tells him to offer a sacrifice at this threshing floor, like a mill.  Its a place of transformation, crushing the wheat, throwing away what is not needed, producing flour for bread.

The commentary says its the first time God has named a geographical place for sacrifices.  Up til now, its been in the tabernacle, of no fixed address.  This location becomes the site of the temple, and also the site of Calvary.  The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon goes mental about it.

As an origin story for post-exile Jews, re-establishing the temple – the target market for chronicles – it is a key part of the book.

I love that each person’s story of God is linked to a time and a place. I think its increasingly important to view the church as an Australian church, Australia as a spiritual place, and within that, our localities as spiritual places. The different churches should unite in that, letting the ties to other countries, histories and traditions, which can divide the church, fade.

But also in this story, God’s love and justice are mysteriously on display. David’s weakness is a vehicle for God’s love and transformation beyond what even the original readers of Chronicles could imagine.