Some Lessons from the Chronicles (Part 2)
Harry Lacey, Cardiff
The Chronicles were written subsequent to the reign of Hezekiah. The mention of his days shows they were remote (4. 41). Judah's captivity is referred to as long since (6. 15) and the closing words were certainly written after it (2 Ch. 36. 22, 23). The reason for that captivity is stated as if from a remote date and for a generation unfamiliar with the cause of the Exile (9. 1). It is likely that the Chronicles were written in times when the hearts of men like Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah burned with a passion for the Temple of God, the dwelling place of Jehovah.
A fair impression of the difference of point of view between Kings and Chronicles may be gained easily by considering the first eight verses of 2 Ki.18 with the first eleven of 2 Ch. 29. Kings describes Hezekiah's faithfulness to the true God and his intolerance of idolatry. Chronicles describes his devotion to the house of the Lord. In Kings, 62 out of the 95 verses recorded of him are devoted to Sennacherib's invasion; but in Chronicles, out of the greater number of 117 verses, only 23 are given to the great political event. Of the remaining 94 verses, 82 provide a detailed account of how this king behaved in regard to the Temple and how he inspired and directed a revival in regard thereto; Kings does not mention this religious feature of his reign.
Three faculties are essential to make complete the work of God in any time: the faculty of the prophet, with its burden of truth from God and its insistence upon faithfulness to it; the faculty of the priest, with its response to God in devotion and worship; and the faculty of the king, with its responsibility to maintain rule for God. This being so, it is evident from the above-mentioned peculiarities of the two records that the Kings are written from the ' prophet' point of view and that the Chronicles are written from the point of view of the priest and of the house of the Lord.
It is staggering, yet profoundly true that the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy (Isa. 57. 15), has ever been seeking to dwell with men. The triumphant outburst from the throne at the end of the book of God (Rev. 21. 3) is because this has been attained. All revelation is to this end, and even redemption is a means toward it. God kept tryst with unfallen Adam, and sought Mm after his transgression. It was He who opened the way back, and all through the long ages of the unfolding purpose of God which relentlessly and unerringly presses on to the eventual tabernacle of God with men, He has delighted to walk with such as Enoch and to make a friend of such as Abraham, It was He who redeemed Israel and desired them to make a sanctuary that He might dwell amongst them. The Lover of men longs to dwell with men and thrice blessed is he whose soul is gripped by this great fact, which evidently held the heart of the chronicler, and made him write from this point of view.
The prominence of the Temple as the dwelling-place of God in the Chronicles emphasizes that more is required for the satisfaction of God's heart than that His people be sound fundamentally. His desire is to dwell with them. Israel sung of making a habitation for God when they reached Canaan, but it required a fresh revelation from Him to move them to provide this for Him as they journeyed thither (Ex. 25. 8). Likewise, all Christians realize, surely, that we shall constitute a holy temple in the Lord when we reach heaven, but it is necessary for us as for them to be deeply impressed with the privilege of providing a house for Him here and now as we journey heavenwards.
Whilst the house of God in one sense is the sphere in which He has moved in all dispensations (Heb. 3. 1-6) and in another it is His people generally (Eph. 2. 19 and 1 Pet. 4. 17), it is also true in a special sense that a local assembly of Christians is to fulfil no less function as believers gather for breaking of bread, for prayers and for ministry (I Cor. 3. 16 and 1 Tim. 3. 15). It is easy for Christians to consider meetings from the point of view of their enjoyment or otherwise of them, but the realization that God desires the gatherings of His people to be to Him all that our household of living affectionate relatives is to our heart and all that our homes are to us as places of rest and refreshment, will change our point of view and impart something of that passion for God's house that filled the heart of the chronicler.
So gripped was he by tins passion that political matters are passed summarily, social things have little special treatment, except as they are shown to result incidentally from devotion to the Lord, but the scribe delights to mention the songs of praise, the service of Levites and priests, and the gathering of wealth and the expenditure of skill to beautify the place of Jehovah's dwelling.
The whole history is written from a positive point of view. Though neglect of the house and the claims of God must need be noted, the heart is never occupied with this negative aspect. Space is rather given to, and fervour is rather apparent in, the treatment of those things, which manifest devotion to the claims of the Lord. Both Kings and Chronicles record the bringing-up of the Ark and the breach of Uzzah, and by so doing indicate that there is a wrong way of doing a right thing, and that desire and enthusiasm are not enough for acceptable worship. The extra space given in Chronicles to David's consultation with others and fellowship with them in resorting to God's way of doing God's will, is written for our learning. Chronicles shows why the second attempt to bring up the Ark was successful. The extensive preparation to do the Lord's will in the Lord's way, the resultant ministry in relation to the Ark and the service of priests and Levites to celebrate, to thank and to praise the Lord the God of Israel, are the special feature of this record (16. 26-42).
It is interesting that the name of the man who led the praise is recorded-Asaph. This name is found at the head of twelve psalms and means—to gather. It seems to be another indication of the constructive spirit, which will gather for God and will make praise its chief work (1 Ch. 16. 7, R.V. margin).
Before going on to consider in later articles the various influences for good and ill and the various attitudes toward the house of God which existed in old time, let us remember that (i) however sincere and enthusiastic we may be, there is a right way of doing the work of God, (ii) there is a passion for that dwelling amongst His gathered people for which His heart longs, and (iii) there is a constructive spirit which makes for this and which issues in praise and devotion to Him from such a building-together of His people into a temple of God.