Week 28, July 11-15
1 Chronicles 8-24
It’s worth repeating the the gospel is preached through historical record. We see God’s providence, guiding and directing all things to their appointed end. That is true of the the big picture, and it’s true of a single family’s genealogy, such as Benjamin’s in chapter 8.
It won’t be long before the nation of Israel splits into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom will consist of the tribes of Judah and most of Benjamin. These two tribes will be the kingdom that gets bombarded by Babylon. After king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon permits the exiles to return to Judah to rebuild, they are the descendants of those tribes. Those names are listed in chapter 9. Most important to the life of the religious community were those who could regather the people—the priests, Levites, and gatekeepers.
1-2 Chronicles can seem like they are random stories or histories thrown together without much thought. Chapters 1-9 are a genealogy that ends with the return from exile. Chapter 10 begins a new section going all the way back to the time of King Saul. And don’t 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings both describe this same time period?
The books of Chronicles are less concerned with a blow-by-blow historical account of Israel’s history and are more concerned with the religious implications of that history. You read comments like, “So Saul died for his breach of faith” (1 Chronicles 10:13). Saul’s whole reign is summed up in a couple of paragraphs, because the focus is on the the religious meaning of his reign.
Even King David’s life is only a few chapters, more of an executive summary. The author is focused on identifying Saul’s reign as a failure and David as the first true king of Israel. His shortcomings are minimized and his military victories are magnified. David is also identified with establishing right worship in Jerusalem. He is shown to be responsible for bringing the ark, the sign of the presence of God, to Jerusalem. The placing of the ark in the tent of worship is only given four verses when it is told in 2 Samuel 6:17-20. But in 2 Chronicles, it receives a significant part of chapter 16. The religious implications of Israelite history are the sole focus of the books of Chronicles.
Chapter 17 in its entirety confirms the everlasting covenant God made with David. In this covenant, two components are established: a son of David on the throne, and a house for worship of God. David will not build the temple, but that will fall to his son Solomon. This covenant sets up the expectation of a future son of David, one who will lead his people into true righteousness and obedience. In the same way Jesus fulfills that expectation, he also fulfills the expectation of a temple for worship of God. Jesus is the earthly king and the heavenly temple.
David has another series of military victories. Again, these are not so much historical records as they are religious instruction. Throughout the narration of his victories, we’re told about David’s justice and equity among his people (see 18:14). David is also embarrassed or disgraced by another king, but they are quickly destroyed.
Because the author’s focus is religious instruction, he’s not unconcerned with David’s faults if they have a valuable lesson and show God’s providence. David orders a census, which the author tells us is inspired by Satan, in order to build up his army. God disciplined David by sending a pestilence upon the people. In response to God’s judgment, David purchases some land to build an altar where he can sacrifice to God. This is the future site of the temple which Solomon will build. The covenant made to David is progressing.
David is now an aged king, and he is preparing Solomon to replace him. Note that none of the drama between the remainder of David’s sons is given here at all. It’s all about religious instruction. In his final days, David organizes the religious leaders into their divisions. This includes everything from the priests to the musicians. Each of these sections is given significant space.
David gives a final charge to the people of Israel to keep the law and follow the rightful king of Israel. This is the only hint we get that there is dissension among his children about who the rightful king might be. He simultaneously presents a public charge to Solomon to stay faithful.
Paul and Barnabas continue to preach primarily to the Jews first, but they will turn away no Gentile who desires to hear and obey. We could say that the Jews are being divisive by making people choose sides. But that’s exactly what the gospel does. It expects action on one of two roads: the wide or the narrow way.
The Greeks were known to be extremely religious people. Though they were also known for their philosophers, they did not discount the supernatural. When Paul heals a lame man, the people think that their pantheon of gods has descended upon them. Paul takes this opportunity to explain to them the biblical worldview that has a sharp division between the divine and human. God has shown patience to those who blur that line in the past, but now, he calls us to repentance. It was God’s kindness that blessed even those who rejected him.
More Jews are determined to destroy Paul and put an ends to his message. A group of Jews stone Paul and leave him for dead. Whether it was a miracle or not, we are left to wonder. But Paul gets up and continues to preach. He is not wishy-washy about the kind of life the Christian has to look forward to. Many of them will experience the kind of persecution that he himself has faced, even to death. But Paul’s ministry looks similar wherever he goes. He strengthens the churches and sets up solid leadership wherever he goes.
The conflict between the Jews and Gentiles has come to a head. Essentially, there were Jews who were amenable to the Christian message with one caveat: you must become a Jew first. Why was that? There were several sects within first-century Judaism. None of the primary sects followed a particularly captivating personality, but they were more idealogical. Those who saw Christians as purely idealogical had no problem subsuming them under the banner of Judaism.
But the Christians won’t stand for that kind of misunderstanding. They truly believed that the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile was eradicated, never to be rebuilt. Instead of a complicated initiation into Judaism, Gentiles could place their faith in Christ alone. Salvation is from the Jews, but the Jewish Messiah is the one Messiah for all people. Enter the Jerusalem council.
Peter relates his experience from chapter 10 with Cornelius. As an apostle, his experience is authoritative. He received a vision and saw the Spirit fall. Because of this confirmation that the Spirit is being poured out on the Gentiles, the council makes the judgment that all that Gentiles need to do is not to offend their Jewish brothers and sisters.
Some have argued that James adds to list of demands beyond the gospel. But all that he says shows that he is not adding anything but actually lessening the burden upon the Gentiles who live among Jews. They should not take part in civic idolatry, abstain from sexual immorality (which is a sin for everyone, regardless of ethnicity), from unclean carcasses, and from blood, which may have had a ritualistic/cultic emphasis. We might summarize the outcome of the Jerusalem council like this: have nothing to do with any idolatrous practices, with a few examples given.
Even the apostles did not agree on everything beyond the gospel. Paul and Barnabas disagree on the best way to move on after John Mark had gone his own way at some earlier point. Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul disagreed. This was not the end of their ministries; in fact, they both continued to strengthen the churches. Sometimes, disagreement is not the end but simply a complicating factor. This same John Mark will write the gospel of Mark as a protege of Peter.
While Paul takes Silas instead of Mark, he meets Timothy. Timothy had both Jewish and Greek heritage, so he was someone likely to have an impact as the wall dividing Jews and Greeks was coming down. Paul, Silas, and Timothy continue to strengthen the churches and winning more people to Christ.
We’re told that the Holy Spirit forbade them from going to Asia. Why in the world would the Spirit not want apostles to go a certain place? It’s not that the Spirit didn’t care about Asia, but more that the Spirit already had a plan for this group of missionaries. Paul receives a vision of a man telling Paul to come to Macedonia and to preach there. We’re not told how close in time these two events were. It likely wasn’t that long, but even in the face of being stopped from their desired travel, they continued moving. They wanted to go to Bithynia, but when that was not allowed, they went through Mysia to Troas. If they couldn't do what they wanted, they would do what they could. One setback was no reason to grow despondent and to quit.
Up until this point, besides Cornelius, we haven’t had a great number of stories of individual conversions. But here we have a few in quick succession. The gospel is shown to spread to whole families and cities, and now we’re seeing the impact of the gospel on individuals. Lydia is a successful businesswoman who worshiped God but did not know him as savior. While in prison, Paul and Silas’s jailor is converted. Jailors were not among the wealthiest people in that society, so we see the same gospel moving powerfully in the lives of everyone who believes, regardless of anything about them.
Psalm 136: God created all things and saved his people from slavery.
Psalm 137: Even in captivity, we will sing praises to our Lord.
Psalm 138: Everyone will one day acknowledge the Lord.
Psalm 139: I am completely known by God.
Psalm 140: God will one day destroy the wicked.
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