Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Chronicles #7 (2 Chron. 27-36)

ChroniclesToday we finish the story of the Divided Kingdom in the second book of Chronicles (and the read through of the Hebrew Testament begun in 2015) accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. This section records the final destruction and exile of the kingdom of Judah. God gave them many opportunities to repent, but the nation as a whole failed to trust God so He gave them over to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

While the previous kings were mixed bags of good and evil, Chapters 27-28 present one king who was all good (Jotham) and one who was all evil (Ahaz). This will become the pattern through the rest of Chronicles. Jotham receives the standard blessing from the LORD for his faithfulness. Ahaz proves to be the worst king of Judah so far. He worships idols and makes foreign alliances. He tries to make an alliance with Assyria to defeat his enemies, Israel and Aram, who are threatening him. To do this he closes up the temple and sets up an Assyrian altar in Jerusalem. However, the Assyrians do not come in as a partner. They come in as a conqueror.

Jotham demonstrates how blessing can follow punishment. Every generation has the hope of renewal. The postexilic community needs the hope of blessing following punishment, and they need the warning that evil can follow righteousness. 2 Chronicles 27, 433

The Chronicler rebukes those in his own community who enslave the sons and daughters of relatives for economic profit. They must return their fellow countrymen (lit., “brothers”) or else the Lord will turn his anger on Israel. 2 Chronicles 28.9-11, 445

If only Ahaz had humbled himself (like Manasseh; cf. 2 Chr 33:19, 23), God would have reversed the effects of his defeats. However, when Ahaz would not humble himself, the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz. The reason for this humbling is twofold: (1) Ahaz promoted wickedness in Judah and (2) he had been most unfaithful to the LORD. Ahaz is the most unfaithful of all kings. 2 Chronicles 28, 448

Chapter 29 of 2nd Chronicles begins the final major section of the book: The Reunited Kingdom. The northern kingdom has been wiped out by Assyria while the southern Kingdom barely survived. There is still great danger from the Assyrians. Will tiny Judah survive?

The reign of Hezekiah begins this final section. The chronicler focuses on Hezekiah's great reforms. Except for David and Solomon, no king takes up more space in Chronicles than Hezekiah. Most of this focus in Chronicles is on the reforms of Hezekiah within the first few months of his reign. The reforms begin with the cleansing of the temple, its rededication, and celebration of its reopening. Chapter 30 records a unique nationwide celebration of the Passover that calls up remembrances of the Passovers of David and Solomon. Finally, chapter 31 tells the story of the Hezekiah as preparation for maintaining good temple buildings and ministries. The people's response is overwhelming. Not only do they give enough for the priests and Levites to live on and maintain the temple buildings, but there are "heaps and heaps" of surplus to store for the future. How do God's people prepare to meet a great enemy? Not with military might, but with covenant faithfulness.

Hezekiah’s reforms contrast with Ahaz’s apostasy. Hezekiah’s faithfulness seeks mercy just as Ahaz’s apostasy engendered wrath. The postexilic community must make their choice: will they follow Hezekiah or Ahaz? 2 Chronicles 29, 460

Hezekiah’s Passover had both Davidic and Solomonic meaning as all Israel celebrated God’s grace. Worship is a time of unity, thankful remembrance and seeking God’s face. “In short,” Graham writes, “it is a time for the reorientation of the human heart—to remember what God has done in the past and to infuse the present with hope for a future life of well-being and communion with God.” 2 Chronicles 30, 467

When Hezekiah saw the heaps, he blessed (praised) the LORD. To bless the Lord is to ascribe to him what is due him, but to bless the people is to place upon them what belongs to the Lord. In gratitude, the people give God credit for his generosity and at the same time ask God to bless his people even more richly than he has in the past. Worship entails both blessing God and his people; it includes praise and intercession. 2 Chronicles 31, 481

After Hezekiah's reforms, God tests his heart with a battle, an illness, and some international intrigue. Hezekiah's problem was pride; a tendency to do things first on his own without asking God for direction or protection. In each case he seems to repent quickly. In the battle, God gives him miraculous victory over the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem, without the army of Judah doing anything. Jerusalem was the only city in the region that did not fall to Sennacherib's army. God also heals Hezekiah's fatal illness. With the Babylonians, Hezekiah seems to ascribe his great wealth and honor to himself rather than to God. The Babylonians will cause problems later for Judah and Jerusalem.

This (section) demonstrates that Yahweh “really rules in Israel,” and “aims to stimulate faith in Israel’s God rather than admiration for Israel’s king.” The Lord reigns—Hezekiah is only his servant. Confidence and assurance arise out of God’s ability to deliver his people. It is not vested in human kings. God is the one who saves and justifies. 2 Chronicles 32, 485

Hezekiah and Isaiah depend on the faithfulness of God. The verb “cried out” appears 4 times in Chronicles. In every case the people of God are distressed (1 Chr 5:20; 2 Chr 18:31; 20:9; 32:20). When his people cry out, God hears and delivers. 2 Chronicles 32.1-23, 490

Chapter 33 records the evil reigns of Manasseh and Amon. Manasseh causes Judah to sin like no king before him. He is the first king said to "lead astray" the nation. He introduces a wide array of idolatrous beliefs and practices into Jerusalem and even introduces a blasphemous carved image of YHWH. He is captured by the Assyrian king and exiled to Babylon. While in exile he cries out to God, humbles himself and repents and God restores him. When he returns he tries to remove the idolatry he brought in but it is too deeply entrenched with the people. Amon contrasts his father in that he refused to repent and seek God. He is assassinated as an example of what happens to those who refuse to seek God.

The story of Manasseh underscores the grace of God like no other text in Scripture. The evil perpetrated by God’s anointed leader is unimaginable. Its depth and extent rivals Ahaz. But, the grace of God abounds more than sin. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom 5:20). When one seeks God, the grace of God knows no bounds. 2 Chronicles 33.1-20, 505

The Chronicler specifies the manner in which Amon followed his father. However, the Chronicler also specifies the manner in which he differed. Though Manasseh humbled himself, Amon did not. Therefore, he was punished. 2 Chronicles 33, 508

Chapters 34-35 record the reign of Josiah who is characterized as a good king who does not turn away from the ways of David. He becomes king at the age of 8, begins to seek the LORD at the age of 16 and by the age of 20 is beginning national reforms to remove idolatry from the nation. After 65 years of apostasy the temple is in disrepair and he begins a renovation project. In the midst of this a copy of Torah is found. Josiah responds with repentance and asks the prophetess Huldah to intercede. She gives the word of the LORD that the covenant curses are coming on Jerusalem but Josiah will go to his grave before this happens. Josiah responds with even wider reforms. As Josiah truly seeks God, God reveals Himself and His will to Josiah. Chapter 35 records Josiah's leading of the greatest Passover in the history of Israel. He doesn't end well though. Josiah attacks Egypt, against the will of God, and dies in battle much like Ahab did. Nevertheless, the chronicler evaluates him as a good Davidic king.

King and people stand under Scripture as it unveils God’s intent for his people. The reformation begins in Josiah’s seeking God but finds its communal dimension when Scripture is applied to the people. Inner personal piety is incomplete without communal renewal under the authority of Scripture. 2 Chronicles 34, 512

The central motif is the normative function of the Book of the Law in the religious reformation and the confirmation that book receives from Huldah the prophetess. Josiah seeks the Lord through Scripture and prophetess. Thus, Josiah submits to divine authority. The narrative, therefore, offers a model of submissive faith—the people of God hear the word of the Lord and obey. 2 Chronicles 34, 515

Our lives are scattered with acts of unfaithfulness. We are not perfect royal priests anymore than Josiah or David. But God is faithful and gracious as he looks in our hearts and judges us by our intent to seek him...God is gracious, even in an unfaithful act that leads to death...God judges the heart and life rather than one’s last act. 2 Chronicles 35, 528

The exile and end of the kingdom of Judah comes in chapter 36. 4 Kings rule, and all their reigns end in exile and death. Two kings rule for 3 months (Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin) and two rule for 11 years (Jehoiakim and Zedekiah). Jehoahaz is exiled to Egypt while Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim and Zedekiah are evil as Ahaz and Manasseh. God will delay exile no longer because, under Zedekiah, the entire nation rejects him and turns to idols. God turns Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar and he totally destroys it. Jerusalem will be unoccupied for 70 years so that the land may enjoy its Sabbaths which were neglected throughout Israel's entire history. The book ends on a hopeful note with Cyrus' decree to invite the Jews to return, occupy the land and rebuild the Temple. Because of God's grace, there is always hope.

God seeks his people, but they reject him. He demonstrates his patience through messengers, but ultimately the king, leaders of the priests, and people forsake him. God, faithful to his relational principle (1 Chr 28:9; 2 Chr 15:2), forsakes those who forsake him. 2 Chronicles 36, 535

God enables his people to go up (עלה, ˓ālah). He is with them, and by his grace, they will go up. This is the last word in Chronicles. It describes the exodus of God’s people from Egypt into the land of promise...The final words of Chronicles, then, bespeak the restoration of God’s people. The people of God are invited to “go up” to worship—to return to Judah, rebuild the temple, and experience the gracious fellowship of God. 2 Chronicles, 539

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