Chronicles for the Church
We in GBC are uniquely blessed in being able to benefit from the teaching ministry of DS (Discipleship Seminars). Taught in a refreshing and engaging way by some of our younger members, it is an invaluable resource for us – not primarily for the acquisition of more knowledge, but more importantly as an inspiration for spiritual maturity and transformed behaviour. Tan Yee Kiat here summarises for us some of the lessons learned from the recent series on Chronicles.
Teaching a book like Chronicles is tremendously challenging, and thus to help us see its relevance it is helpful to begin by using our imaginations.
Imagine for a moment that you are an exiled Israelite.
Having grown up in the Babylonian Empire, and subsequently Persia, what would you do if King Cyrus suddenly gave you the chance to return to Israel?
You have never set foot in the Jewish temple (which by the way has been destroyed). You have never tasted the unleavened bread of Passover, nor have you ever celebrated one. These rituals and festivals are so alien to you that you might as well be a Gentile.
These are the challenges that confronted the Chronicler. How would the writer inspire the post-exiles to return to the land to rebuild the temple?
Most people who read Chronicles struggle with the need to read this book (“I have just finished reading 1 & 2 Kings, why do I need to read stuff that sounds so similar … again?”).
Well, God gave us different books and these differences matter. A few things become obvious to us when we pay attention. For one, the Chronicler was writing from the vantage point of an exile returning to the land.
Two, the Chronicler, seeing the immediate heaviness of the task of rebuilding the temple, wrote to inspire the post-exiles to begin to do this great work. The Chronicler spent A LOT of time talking about the temple. Eight chapters about David preparing materials for his son Solomon to build the temple were written at the end of 1 Chronicles – stuff you do not see in the Samuel and Kings accounts.
Three, the purpose of all these was to get the Israelites to reinstitute their corporate worship of God. The Chronicler longed to see the return of the sacrifices, the priesthoods, the festal celebrations and so on. For the Chronicler, the worship of Canaanite gods, the spiritual adultery of the kings and the failure to seek God led to the nation’s exile. The Chronicler wanted a return of right worship.
Interestingly, Chronicles is also the last book of the Jewish Bible (which is arranged uniquely). This arrangement is meant to inspire hope. Just as the Jewish Bible’s first book, Genesis, ends with Joseph’s faith that they will not stay in Egypt but will return when God visits them, so the last book ends with the hope of Cyrus allowing them to return to the land and rebuild the temple.
What relevance do these things have for the Christian today?
The commission to return to build the temple is not too different from the one God gives us. The New Testament is full of ‘building’ language: we just understand the temple differently. 1 Peter 2:5 reminds us that we are “living stones” being “built up as a spiritual house”. Ephesians 4:12 reminds us that we the saints are to be equipped to “build up the body of Christ”.
We too are commissioned by King Jesus to build the living temple, and perhaps we need to share the Chronicler’s passion.
As Christians, we too can be inspired by God’s faithfulness and place our hope in God. How amazing to see that 2 Chronicles starts with a Jewish King named Solomon building the temple and ends with a Gentile King named Cyrus commissioning its rebuilding. All this, despite the turbulence of sin and idolatry going on in between. Will we trust in God’s promises and place our hope in them?
Finally, we can be inspired by the Chronicler’s passion for right worship. Israel’s idolatry wasn’t always a pure idolatry. They were worshipping God, but they were also worshipping other things besides God. Will you yourself return to a right worship of God?
In penning these reflections, we in the DS ministry are tremendously grateful to God for allowing us to teach His word. I am firmly convicted that all of God’s word is worth teaching, including difficult passages like Chronicles. As individuals, we have also learned a lot from teaching this book and are grateful to those who have journeyed with us. It is fitting that we give God all the glory and praise due to Him in sustaining us through this endeavour.
We thank God for (L-R) David, Yee Kiat and Matthew for the weekly Discipleship Seminars. They have started a new series on Hebrews, join the class to understand why the book of Hebrews is relevant to the church today. The class takes place from 5.15-6.15pm after Sunday service at Fellowship Hall on the ground floor.