1 Chronicles 25-29
The books of Chronicles are primarily focused not on exact history but on the religious significance of that history. We shouldn’t be surprised when there are lengthy sections that deal with the temple, which was the center of all religious activity for Israel. The musicians would worship in song during the time of daily sacrifices. The temple musicians were skilled singers and instrumentalists. The leader of the musicians trained the other musicians.
These musicians were not just volunteers; they were chosen from among the Levites, the tribe who were already chosen to be priests. They were experts in the law, and the music reflected theological accuracy, not just emotional expression. 1 Chronicles 9:33 tells us that they served day and night. If you’ve ever had professional musical experience, you understand the level of commitment and time required to become proficient. Music as entertainment has its place; that place is not in worship of God.
The gatekeepers shared similar responsibilities to what we might call a trustee. They guarded the entrances to the temple, as well as all that was inside. It was not just a security detail; they guarded the sanctity of God’s house. There were an incredible amount of details that went into the right worship of God, especially the sacrifices. The gatekeepers were charged with both the security of the temple as well as the necessary physical components of the entire system.
The temple required an extreme amount of organization. The priests also functioned as treasurers, officers, and judges. Like the priests, commanders of the army served for periods of time. This tempered the burden of serving in a role that required constant preoccupation.
Once the necessary temple officials are in place, David begins the final process of handing responsibility over to the officials and his son, Solomon. He calls all of those officials together to charge them to remain faithful to all that their duties will require. In the same place, David charges Solomon to also remain faithful. David knows that building a temple will not be a quick or painless process. Even if there is a plan and a host of officials already in place, no building project is without its opposition. Solomon must be confident in his kingship and lead the officials. The king will be the primary covenant-keeper in Israel. As the king goes, so goes the nation.
David’s final act is to pray over the people. David recognizes, finally, that everything he has comes from God’s good pleasure. All we do is give what he has given to us back to him as a measly offering. Can that rightly even be called a sacrifice?
Solomon is anointed a second time to confirm in front of everyone that his coronation is unchangeable. David has reigned for forty years, and now he dies. His life is summarized as “full of days, riches, and honor” (29:28). The author even recognizes that if a person wants a full accounting of David’s reign, he should look elsewhere. This is a purely religious document, outlining why the nation of Israel is in the state it is.
2 Chronicles 1-10
God offers Solomon anything; Solomon asks for wisdom and is given much more (1). Solomon makes preparations for the tempe (2). The temple is built and furnished (3-5). The ark is brought to the temple (5). Solomon dedicates the temple (6). God sends fire from heaven to consume the first sacrifice (7). The temple is fully dedicated, and Solomon prays (7). The author recounts Solomon’s greatness over the course of 20 years of building the temple (8). The queen of Sheba is in awe of Solomon’s greatness (9). Solomon dies (9). Rehoboam is anointed king (10). Jeroboam begins to undermine Rehoboam’s reign (10).
1-2 Chronicles were originally one document, later divided into two for readability. The division is neat and tidy; David dies at the end of 1 Chronicles, and Solomon begins his reign in 2 Chronicles.
We rightfully praise Solomon for asking for wisdom. But we should also recognize that it was God’s offer to give anything to Solomon that precipitated his request. Solomon has surely heard all about Saul’s spiritual disaster of a reign. He witnessed firsthand the problems that stem from a lack of self-control in a king in his father. In humility, he asks for wisdom to do better than his predecessors in spiritual matters. The author of 1-2 Chronicles wants us to see that it was God’s gift of wisdom that made Solomon so great, nothing inside of Solomon that he could claim as his own. To show how generous God is, God gives Solomon far more than he asks for. Much of it came from foreign lands, possibly signifying Israel’s role in both being blessed by the nations as well as being a blessing to the nations.
Because the temple is so central to what it means to be an Israelite, Solomon spends considerable time in preparation to build it, much like his father David. He calls for the best material and expert craftsmen. In an interesting note, Huram-abi of 2 Chronicles 2:13 is supposed patriarch of the fantasy-laden Freemasons. But that’s a post for another day.
Over the course of a few chapters, Solomon completes the construction of the temple. Like the building plan for the tabernacle in the wilderness, it is set in great detail. Of note is the description of the Most Holy Place. There is gold everywhere. Two cherubim, or angels who are given a guardian function, are incredibly ornate and covered in gold. Expensive blue and purple fabrics line the area. This is God’s earthly throne. We must be told how intricate and beautiful God’s dwelling place is. Take note of how often the quality of the materials is mentioned. God is worthy of the best.
Then the ark is brought into the temple. The moment is full of pomp. It is placed in the Most Holy Place, the sanctum sanctorum, under the wings of the cherubim. At this time, an innumerable amount of animals are sacrificed. Note that the priestly musicians are worshiping at this time, as well. These musicians were not leading a congregation in worship as we do in Sunday morning worship. They were simply given a charge to worship God in music because is worthy of it. A cloud is often used as an image of the presence of God. At the completion of the building of the temple, God fills his house with his presence. Much later, the prophet Ezekiel will see the presence of God leave the temple because of Israel’s unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 1). The temple will then be destroyed during the time of the exile. Once it is rebuilt, there is no mention of God’s presence filling the temple; that is, until Jesus Christ comes in the fullness of God. That is why Simeon and Anna are worshiping and praising God; he has come to fill his holy temple.
Solomon addresses the people with a brief historical reminder of what has brought them to this time and place. We should take note of how often biblical characters do this. History is context. Why are the people dedicating a temple? Because of their own desires or hard work? No; it is because God made a promise to Abraham, then to Moses, then to David. God is the living God of Israel. God makes and keeps his promises. God made a covenant with Israel on Sinai, and the evidence of it is kept in the ark in the Holy of Holies. There is no God like our God. Solomon’s prayer is that the people would turn to God in repentance when they sin and that God would settle in the Holy of Holies among his people.
The temple will serve as a type, or a foreshadow, of Jesus Christ. When he says that he will rebuild the temple, he is saying that upon his resurrection, he will actually be the temple (John 2:19). He will be the place where we worship God. When we come to Christ, we come to the temple. In the age to come, there will be no temple because Christ is our temple (Revelation 21:22).
For seven days, the people feasted and celebrated the presence of God in their midst. It’s at this time that God speaks to Solomon again. He warns Solomon that when the people neglect his house and sacrifices, or they practice this superficially or selfishly, he will close the skies and the ground so that nothing grows. But, in an act of mercy, if the people humbly repent, he assures Solomon beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will forgive them instantly. There is no question that God loves to forgive his people. God also makes a promise to Solomon that if he neglects his kingly responsibilities and the divine law, he will remove Solomon just as quickly. It will be a clear sign of kingly abdication.
But again, this is about religious instruction. The author shows us how awesome Solomon was, as a type of man who lives in a way that honors the Lord and as a man whom the Lord honors. Solomon is so great that exceptional people from foreign lands come just to witness his greatness, hence the Queen of Sheba. The greatness of the kingdom of Israel takes her breath away. Solomon is wealthy beyond measure. This is the end, however, of Solomon’s story, as far as the Chronicler is concerned. The major religious concerns have been told, and now it’s time to move on. Solomon’s death is quickly recorded. Like his father David, Solomon reigned for forty years.
Paul preaches again in Ephesus to some who are already disciples but have not heard of the Spirit (19). Paul stays for two years to preach and debate (19). A family of exorcists are overpowered by a demon, which leads to many withes, etc., to burn their books; the word of the Lord increases (19). A riot breaks out because of the damage done to the idol-making business (19). Paul goes to Macedonia; he preaches all night, and a young man falls asleep and then out of a window; he dies, but Paul is able to miraculously resuscitate him (20). Paul addresses the elders of the Ephesian church; urges them to guard against incoming wolves (20).
Paul’s missionary journeys continue. He finds himself in Thessalonica with his crew. For every warm welcome Paul receives, he receives two public stonings. Paul addressed the Jews of the city for three Sabbaths. They rejected the gospel, and a mob formed to throw them out of town. Instead of the Jews coming to faith, we’re told that many Greeks, both men and women, confess Jesus is Lord. Apparently, Paul’s message consisted primarily of how the Messiah would have to suffer before entering into his kingdom. That by itself is not so much the controversy. But think, how did the Messiah suffer? By whose hands did he suffer? We might understand why the Jews took offense. Regardless, they refused to believe.
We’re not given hardly any information about Jason. But suffice it to say that the original readers surely knew who he was, or his place in the story would have made no sense. This is one of the many evidences for the reliability of the Scriptures. The original readers did not challenge either the historicity of the events or the reality of the characters.
After preaching to the Gentiles (and presumably setting up a church), Paul and company leave for Berea. The Bereans are noteworthy because of their insistence upon corroborating Paul’s gospel with the Scriptures, or the Old Testament. The New Testament commends the Bereans for doing so. This means that we should also search the Old Testament for Christ. All of Scripture is a single story of God’s redeeming plan for creation. Some interpretive frameworks, such as dispensationalism, overextend the discontinuity between the testaments/covenants. On the other hand, interpretive frameworks such as covenant theology overextend the continuity. It is enough o say that Christ is concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament.
Nota Bene: I have found the interpretive framework of “progressive covenantalism” to be a compelling way of reading the Scriptures as a whole. God progressively works his plan of redemption through the successive covenants, culminating in the new covenant in Christ’s blood. I have some excellent book recommendations for those who are interested.
Paul reaches Athens and addresses many of the philosophers in the town square. Many of them are not impressed with Paul or his message, calling him a “babbler” (17:18). Some theologians have taken the snippet of Paul’s sermon in Acts 17 to the Greek philosophers as evidence that we do not need to turn people to Jesus, per se, just to God. It’s a way of softening the exclusivity of Christianity. But that attempt falls on its face, because in 17:18, Luke clearly tells us that Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” What we have here is only a summary statement of Paul’s sermon, not a transcript. When we share the gospel, we preach Christ and him crucified.
Again, Luke makes note of both men and women coming to faith in Christ. Why does Luke keep adding the short phrase, “and not a few women,” to his narrative? He is showing that while faith in Christ is exclusive, it is also inclusive. Christ is the only way to the Father, but all people are called to repent of their sins equally. While some arguments are horrendously overblown, it is true that women were often second-class citizens in Greek/Roman/Western cultures. Christianity exploded primarily because of the Spirit’s work, but secondarily because of the inclusive message of redemption.
Paul continues to move about and preach to both Jews and Gentiles. But the Jew continue to reject Christ. Finally Paul tells them that they have judged themselves, and their blood is on their own hands. There are times in the life of the church when we shake the dirt off of our feet and move on, as heart-wrenching as it may be. We are most faithful when we honor the gospel.
As the Jews attack Paul, they attempt to involve the civil authorities. They approach the proconsul Gallio. A consul is a government leader an emperor puts in a place of authority in a location far from the center of the empire to be the emperor’s eyes and ears, and a proconsul is something of a deputy of the consul. Bureaucracy is nothing new. Don’t be surprised when those who hate the gospel use every tactic they can. Even today, there are those who wish to use the full force of the state and federal government to silence the gospel message.
One man Paul meets in Ephesus is Apollos. We’re told he’s from Alexandria, which is not a small detail. Alexandria was a significant center of education and philosophy in the ancient world. It was the ultimate cosmopolitan locale. You’ve probably heard of the famous library of Alexandria. This is Apollos’s hometown. He’s an exceptionally bright man. He’s a bold preacher. His problem is that his understanding of the things of God, the gospel, are unpolished. True intelligence is the ability to polish your thoughts so that they’re clear, and that’s exactly what Priscilla and Aquila do for Apollos.
Acts 19 is perhaps the greatest evidence that humor is a divine attribute. It contains one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture. These Jewish exorcists, the sons of Sceva, have a exorcism business. They have made quite a living doing so. These seven sons of Sceva begin to believe they can exorcise demons in Jesus’s name. In one attempt, they lose control of the situation. The demon says to them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” There has never been a line in a movie as perfect as that. Immediately, the demon takes the lunch of each of the seven sons of Sceva, strips them naked, and sends them running through Ephesus. Go ahead and take a minute to enjoy that mental image.
This results in the magicians, witches, warlocks, sorcerer supremes, scarlet witches, and any other dark artists burning their books in the center of town. The value of those books was 50,000 pieces of silver. Inflation aside, that’s a huge amount of money. It’s not a surprise that this sparks a riot in Ephesus. A silversmith who made silver shrines is suddenly out of business. He gathers his fellow tradesmen together to riot against Paul and his cohort. There is another attempt to involve the government, but there just aren’t any charges that will stick. The Christians are good people who live in peace in the city, but that doesn’t stop their enemies from trying to destroy them because of the gospel.
The riot died down, and Paul left for Macedonia. He continues to strengthen the churches and evangelize. In one such instance when Paul is preaching, he goes a little long. It’s noteworthy that the Christians are gathering to hear the word preached on the first day of the week (20:7). This has been the case ever since Christians began meeting, to worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s day.
Since Paul only has time to stay for one day, he wants to say everything he can. So, he goes well into the night. Eutychus, a young man, is doing his best to stay awake, but the day is long. He it sitting in a window sill, falls outs, and dies. Paul rushes down, picked him up, and he was resuscitated (resurrection is reserved the the end of the age).
Paul heads to Ephesus to continue strengthening the churches. While there, he addresses the elders/bishops/overseers. He urges to pay close attention to the people, their flock. One of an elder’s/pastor’s main jobs is to guard the flock from emotional and intellectual wolves. There will be teachers who try to twist the word of God to make it say what it clearly (or not so clearly) does not say. Their goal will be to draw away people from the faith once delivered to the saints. Your pastor’s job is to guard you from that happening through the preaching and teaching of the word, prayer, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Psalm 141: I will keep from doing evil by seeking the Lord.
Psalm 142: The Lord is my peace.
Psalm 143: I am weak, but the Lord will guide me.
Psalm 144: The Lord blesses his people with all good things.
Psalm 145: God is great, everlasting, and righteous.