1 Chronicles 21-23

1 Chronicles 21-23…God is sovereign over all.

Dualism, that philosophical idea that says good and evil are two equal and eternal forces, is shown to be false in the Word of God in its very first verse. When the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), the words the heavens and the earth are a synonym for “all things.” In the beginning, God created all things; this includes the Devil. Although he is very powerful, Satan is ultimately a finite creature who is by no means a match for our Lord.

Though He created the Devil, God is not in any way culpable for evil. Like everything else, Satan was originally “very good” (v. 31), and how Satan could fall when there was no evil present in creation is a great mystery. Still, we know our Creator cannot be tempted with evil, nor can He ever tempt anyone (James 1:13).

This truth can be seen in this section of 1 Chronicles. Applying material from the books of Samuel to the Israelites after the Babylonian exile, the Chronicler tells us Satan incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron. 21:1) even though 2 Samuel 24:1 says God moved David on that occasion. This is no contradiction; it illustrates the doctrine of providence. Since God is sovereign over all, everything that happens is grounded in His plan. David commanded a census because the Lord ultimately planned that he do so, but Satan was used as the secondary cause to incite David. God ordained David’s sin, but He is not to blame for the temptation, for Satan did the tempting. In this case we might say the Lord “allowed” Satan to tempt David in order to clarify the point that God does not stand behind evil deeds in the same way that He does behind goodness.

God is much greater than we are, so He is able to do things that we could never do, such as being sovereign over the Devil without ever being guilty of the Devil’s evil. Knowledge of this truth should not only move us to glorify the Lord but also to be confident that every tragedy we meet will serve a good purpose when all is said and done. If you are going through a difficult time, know that God is using it for your good even if you cannot yet see how. We often respond immediately to good things that happen to us by saying “that was totally God.” However, everything is “totally God,” and when we only see Him at work when we experience good outcomes we misunderstand His attributes and character.

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1 Chronicles 18-20

1 Chronicles 18-20…100% God’s sovereignty and 100% human responsibility.

These chapters outline a time in which soldiers, like Joab, did not hesitate to speak freely of God to their companions in arms. As we move increasingly toward a culture in the US where absolute truth is considered divisive and intolerant, casual followers of Jesus will be exposed. Even in the bible belt, there will likely be a cost to following Christ in the coming years, and those who would typically make a hasty profession of faith will have to carefully consider what they are doing.

We are reminded in this section of 1 Chronicles of Joab’s memorable advice to both trust in God and fight tirelessly. David’s General felt that the ultimate issue of the battle must be left to God, but that nothing could absolve him and his soldiers from doing their best. They believed that God was in complete control of the situation, but that they also were completely responsible for acting, and seeking to obey and love Him by excelling in their fighting.

This balance of God’s work and ours is an evidence of understanding scripture clearly. We must believe that God is the ultimate arbiter, but we must seek to speak and act as though the responsibility were entirely on ourselves. To believe that God will do all, and therefore ourselves to do nothing, is as bad as to believe that God leaves us to our unaided endeavors. We believe in the strength and sufficiency of God’s purpose. But, we know that there is a link in the chain of causation which we must supply. This is difficult for us to grasp in our finite human minds, which is why we need to trust the truth of scripture more than our own understanding.

1 Chronicles 15-17

1 Chronicles 15-17…King of the cosmos.

When contemplating His kingly rule, God’s sovereignty is one of His foremost characteristics that we find accentuated in Scripture, and is emphasized here in this section of 1 Chronicles. According to 1 Chronicles 16:31, “The Lord reigns.” That God is sovereign remains unbelievable to those without the eyes of faith. Made in His image, we were created to exercise beneficent rule over the earth and its creatures, tasked to exercise God’s dominion for His glory (Gen. 1:27–28). Had we not fallen, Adam and all his posterity would have continued reflecting the glory that God intended for His creation to this very day. But being in Adam, we all choose to exercise dominion selfishly, chasing after our own ends, grabbing for an autonomous life that values power, wealth, and prestige as ends in themselves (Rom. 5:12–21).

When the Lord sets His grace upon us, however, the righteous dominion we exercise in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in our families, at work, and in other places embodies the fact that the creator God is sovereign and has made us to reflect His glory. This was particularly true of the righteous old covenant kings. While there was a great temptation for them to take the nation away from the law of God so that they could chase after their own selfish desires, good kings like David did not succumb to this temptation — for the most part — during their reigns. Instead of keeping the eyes of the people on the king’s sovereignty, they acknowledged and directed their people toward the reign of the Lord. We need to do the same, trusting the Lord, and submitting to Him with joy.

1 Chronicles 12-14

1 Chronicles 12-14…Church unity.

The crowning of David secured the unity of Israel. Because all these men of war converged on the chosen king, they met each other, and became one great nation. The enthroning of David was the uniting of the kingdom. This is also the secret of the unity of the Church. We will never be united with the brothers and sisters in our local church unless we believe and live out the gospel. It is as each individual heart esteems the Savior that each will become one with those with whom we’re in covenant community.

Is your heart perfect to make Christ king? We read in 1 Chronicles 12:33 of Zebulon, whose warriors were not of a double heart; the margin says they were “without a heart and a heart.” The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; he is not to be relied upon in his loyalty or service to his king. The life dedicated to Christ is that of the man whose eye is single. It is only this man who receives anything from the Lord. Let us ask that the thoughts of our hearts would be cleansed by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, that our hearts may be perfect toward Him, and so perfect to all who hold Jesus as King and Head, though they differ from us in minor points, especially within our local body. Different regiments, but one army, one movement, one king.

Let us learn to keep rank, shoulder to shoulder, and in step, with our brethren. Too many like to break the ranks, and do God’s work independently. Fifty men who act together will do greater execution than five hundred acting apart. There is too much of this guerilla fighting. Unity is strength; and in their efforts to overthrow the kingdom of Satan it is most essential that the soldiers of Christ move in rank and keep step. The corporate witness of Christ’s church, particularly the love, unity, and holiness of each local church, is a very powerful witness.

1 Chronicles 9-11

1 Chronicles 9-11…The coming of a King.

On the Sunday opening His Passion Week, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding the colt of a donkey. A large crowd gathered. Excitement was in the air. Was this the Messiah for whom they’d been waiting? To show respect, some spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from nearby trees and placed them in front of Jesus.

Shouts rang out. ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ (Matt. 21:9). ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ (Mark 11:10). ‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’ (John 12:13). In more ways than those present realized, the King had indeed arrived, and He was indeed descended directly from David, the greatest king Israel had ever known.

Have you ever connected Palm Sunday with these chapters of 1 Chronicles? In many ways, the journey to Passion Week started here, as David began his rule over all Israel. Once again, the Word of God delivered by Samuel was fulfilled, though he didn’t live to see it. The anointing of David was realized as he assumed the kingship, first of the south and then of the entire nation.

After Saul’s death, the southern region of Judah confirmed David as king, but the north continued to try to follow the old dynasty. When Abner, the northern military commander, switched sides and joined David, a turning point was reached that resulted in David’s conquest of Jerusalem and rule over all Israel.

David was only 30 years old at the time, but he had already lived an eventful life and waited a long time for God’s promise to be fulfilled. His kingship marked a ‘golden age’ in the history of Israel. More importantly, as we’ve already seen, his family tree will bring to the world God’s gift of His Son, Jesus.

1 Chronicles 5-8

1 Chronicles 5-8…Household unity.

Baal was the idol-god of Zidon and of many surrounding nations. This idol, representing the sun in his productive force, was worshiped with impure and scandalous rites. The introduction of this name into the appellation of one of Saul’s sons indicates the secret root of the declension and consequent misfortunes of that ill-fated monarch. In the earlier part of his reign he was perfect in his allegiance to Jehovah— Jonathan means “Gift of Jehovah”— but as the years went on, he became proud and self-sufficient and turned to Baal.

The name which Jonathan gave his son had another significance. Merib-baal is one who opposes Baal. It is as though he would indelibly, stamp upon his child an undying hatred and opposition to that idolatry which was undoing his father’s character and kingdom. In this choice of his child’s name we also gather the deep-seated piety and devotion of that noble soul, whose heart was true to God amid the darkening shadows of his father’s reign. It was this that probably drew David and him so closely in affinity.

How absolutely necessary it is for the peace of a household that there should be a oneness of devotion to God! Where that is the first consideration, there is peace and blessedness; and that it may be so, it is of the greatest importance that the parents should be constant in their godly allegiance. The ruin of Saul’s home, family, and realm, began in his personal disloyalty to God.

1 Chronicles 1-4

1 Chronicles 1-4…God wants our obedience.

Two basic principles enumerated in the list of names in these first four chapters prevail throughout the OT. Namely, obedience brings blessing, disobedience brings judgment. In the Chronicles, when the king obeyed and trusted the Lord, God blessed and protected. But when the king disobeyed and/or put his trust in something or someone other than the Lord, God withdrew His blessing and protection.

Three basic failures by the kings of Judah brought God’s wrath:

1) personal sin

2) false worship/idolatry

3) trust in man rather than God

Before we quickly move past these failures and assume this was something only experienced in the OT, we need to look at our own hearts. We are guilty of these things daily. So, we need to repent and put our hope in Christ daily. Also, we need to conform our thoughts and hearts to God’s word. Only then can we mature in these areas.

2 Kings 23-25

2 Kings 23-25…A flicker of hope.

The end of this reading (particularly the conclusion of 2 Kings 25) is something like that faint breeze of hope in an otherwise dark landscape. The previous section ended with a bleak picture of loss and sadness for the nation of Judah: no land, no city, and no temple. Some were killed brutally, others taken into exile. And we were left wondering if Judah would ever be restored? Would it all be darkness from here on? Then we come to end of this book of 2 Kings and there is a flicker of hope.

A new king of Babylon took the throne and a change occurred. Jehoiachin, king of Judah, was released from prison. The Babylonian king, Scripture says, “spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor” in Babylon. Jehoiachin was permitted a place at the king’s table where he ate well “for the rest of his life.” Moreover, Jehoiachin was given a regular allowance to support himself and his family.

In the face of the utter darkness of 2 Kings 25:1-26, we get not a floodlight of promise, but still a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the reader is expected to remember God’s everlasting promises to Judah in 2 Samuel 7:13-16 and 1 Kings 11:39. Judah may have forgotten God, but God had not forgotten His people.

Of course, it would still be another five centuries of ongoing oppression under foreign nations, but eventually, out of that darkness, the Light of Christ would come (see Matt. 1:12-16). The book of 2 Kings ends with a glimpse of that coming glorious restoration.

2 Kings 20-22

2 Kings 20-22…Flawed leaders.

Although the record of leadership in 1 and 2 Kings shows marked failure, rulers like Hezekiah and Josiah were largely faithful. These kings were righteous, but even they could not keep God’s covenant flawlessly. This section of 2 Kings records the occasion when Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, sent envoys to Hezekiah, who put on a show of all his treasures and his armory. Clearly this was a mistake, for Isaiah the prophet rebuked him, proclaiming that the empire that came to check out Hezekiah’s resources would be the same empire to exile his sons. Isaiah regarded this error as so troubling that he recorded it in his own book of prophecy.

Deuteronomy 17:16 explains why Hezekiah erred. The king of God’s people was not to go to Egypt to acquire many horses, which were a significant part of ancient Near Eastern armies. This was really a warning against military alliances with foreign powers to bolster Israel’s forces, and Hezekiah knew this warning. Matthew Henry says the Babylonian king “found himself obliged to Hezekiah … for the weakening of the Assyrian forces, and had reason to think he could not have a more powerful and valuable ally.” Hezekiah had successfully resisted Sennacherib of Assyria, and Babylon came knocking at his door to see if Judah might be of help against their common enemy — the Assyrian empire. In showcasing his military and economic strength, Hezekiah implied an alliance was possible.

If good kings like Hezekiah failed, what hope did Israel have for the monarchy? Only the hope that God would put His Messiah on David’s throne (Ps. 110).

2 Kings 17-19

2 Kings 17-19…Invisible reality.

Scripture records many occasions on which the kings of Israel and Judah rebelled against the larger empires of their day (i.e. Rome, Egypt, Assyria, etc.) with whom they formerly made treaties. Violating these alliances invariably earned the wrath of these empires. This section of 2 Kings records the point at which Hosea of Israel broke covenant with Assyria, and the result was that the northern kingdom was taken into exile in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1–6). Almost 150 years later, in 586 BC, the same thing happened to Judah when that land rebelled against Babylon (24:1–25:21).

This is a perfectly reasonable and correct explanation of the aforementioned historical realities, and is in fact what we are told in Scripture. Yet history is always more complicated, and this interpretation, while accurate as far as it goes, does not tell the whole story. The author of 2 Kings also goes “behind the scenes” to give us God’s perspective on what happened. As we see in 17:7–23, even though the rebellion of Israel against another empire might have been the immediate event that sparked the exile, the ultimate cause of Israel’s expulsion from the land was flagrant covenant violation, especially the grievous sin of idolatry. Thinking they could rebel against the Lord with impunity, God’s covenant people brought judgment on their own heads, just as their covenant Lord promised would happen (Lev. 26:14–39).

Sin is no small matter, and its consequences are severe. Those who regard lightly the Lord’s holiness cannot be surprised when they feel the fury of His wrath. If we are in Christ, we need not fear that we will be exiled from the blessed presence of God forever. However, God may still discipline us for our sin, and we may feel the effects of His disciplinary rod on the covenant community just as the righteous remnant went into exile along with the unfaithful Israelites. But if we live a life of repentance, we will learn from the Lord’s discipline and experience joy even in our pain and struggle.