At first glance, 1&2 Chronicles seem to land us in the world of Microsoft Word and Excel. The long lists of names and numbers would fit well in an Excel spreadsheet and the rest feels like a copy&paste job from earlier bible books. But 1 & 2 Chronicles is actually a book of Hope, written to a people that were leaking hope by the day.
- Israel had returned from exile, rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple. But it’s all a bit of a damp squib. The glory days are gone. All hope is gone.
And so the Chronicler gets out his history books and sets about writing his own. Why? To fill Israel to overflowing with fresh hope.
First, Chronicles looks back to the past to find hope for the future
Starting with a big long family tree, there are three major strands of hope he draws out:
- a person, a place & a people. A person (the Messiah, the promised King); a place (the temple where God would live); and a people (the united people of God, “all Israel”)
→ Sometimes the present seems bleak, and the future non-existent, but Chronicles will do us good. Reminding us we’re part of this one big unfolding story of glory; we too are longing for this same mighty kingdom, this same presence of God, & this same unity of his people.
Second, Chronicles idealises the past to build hope for the future.
This is no simple copy&paste job from Samuel & Kings. Gone are accounts of David’s adultery and Solomon’s idolatry. Instead, it’s overwhelmingly positive. Not that the Chronicler wants to hide these things – you could easily read them elsewhere – but instead he wants to highlight what could be.
→ Such positivity certainly should instruct us. The brave exploits of David’s mighty men; David’s own devotion as he prepares for the Temple project; the generosity of the people, “freely and willingly” funding the temple from their own pockets; the prayers of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. Loads to learn for us.
→ But above all this positive picture should inspire us, excite us, leave us longing for the person who would finally make this happen, for the King who would fulfil all these hopes and dreams, for Jesus the Messiah, the ideal king. (cf. Luke 1:68-9)
Structure? Chronicles can be divided into four big blocks.
- Genealogies (1 Chronicles 1-9) – seemingly boring but very significant, reminding Israel that from Adam to end of exile, God has stuck with them.
- Ideal Kingdom (1 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 9) – centering on David & Solomon, with the kingdom established and the temple constructed.
- Divided Kingdom (2 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 28) – a potted history of good kings and bad kings.
- Restored Kingdom (2 Chronicles 29 – 2 Chronicles 36) – an overly positive picture of particular kings, giving a glimmer of what a restored kingdom could look like.
Chronicles paints with such positivity, assuring us and exciting us for two reasons:
- so that our hope is built up for God’s coming Kingdom
- and so that our hope stirs us up to get active in God’s kingdom now.