The Words of the Days
We are reading together again the book of the Chronicles. So far it has been all of genealogy and apparently dry and meaningless. Now, all scripture is profitable, we are told. This is an essential part of the divine message of life's demands. And there are interesting facts amid the genealogies that clearly show us that they were meant to be read. If we are really godly- minded and spiritually-minded, we SHALL be interested in all of scripture, because of the consciousness that it is the Word of God, the Word of Life, and these genealogies are included.
In the Hebrew scriptures, Chronicles comes last in the Old Testament. It is important to understand its purpose. I and II Chronicles, in the Hebrew scriptures, are one book. It was the Septuagint translators who divided it into two. It is a summary of the whole Old Testament given from an entirely God-centered point of view. It reveals God's idea of the relative importance of things. Its Hebrew name means "the words of the days"-a beautiful and significant title, for each day leaves its word in God's book, when all else is forgotten.
Surely the whole Bible is of God - the book of Kings is as much as the book of Chronicles. All that is recorded is important. But this particular book is a summing up at the end, in broader perspective - an analysis and an explanation of the whole. Everything is ascribed to the hand of God. God is seen in everything. This is BASIC. As soon as we leave God out of anything, we are wasting our time; we are beating the air. This is why all the mighty works of men are meaningless and futile, as Solomon makes so clear.
Chronicles constantly refers to the activity of God in rewarding good and punishing evil. It shows the power of the love and the Word of God. How God draws near His people in it; how He constantly oversees it and enforces it. It is simply and plainly, but reverently written-solemn and spiritual in tone, always conscious of God in the background. We shall note as we read through these books, how the chronicler points out simply and directly, the spiritual lessons of events. Its spirit is both admonition and encouragement.
It was apparently written for a new beginning in Israel, after the return from the Babylonian captivity. It covers the entire period from Adam to the proclamation of Cyrus and the return from Babylon. It appears to be one book with Ezra, for it ends with exactly the same three verses that the book of Ezra starts with. Its latest genealogy, that of David straight through Zerubbabel, goes to about 425 BC - the latest events in the Old Testament scriptures. Therefore, Chronicles covers a period of about 3500 years, about half of the 7000 of the whole purposed.
It has always been ascribed by tradition to Ezra, and it has all appearances of that fact - the time, the circumstances, the terms used for Ezra and the position that he held in Israel at this time. He is the logical author. The modern view, of course, rejects this, as it rejects all else. It tries to make it much later, endeavoring to discredit the scriptures and bring them down to man's low, weak level.
The Chronicles are unlike any other book in the Bible, for they do not undertake to cover any new period not already covered. Rather, it is a summary of the whole. It brings out more clearly than before the Messianic promise made to David. It largely covers the same period as Samuel and Kings, but from more specifically divinely and religiously centered viewpoints. It is a history with a special purpose.
It leaves out very much that is not directly connected with the central movement of the divine purpose, and it greatly expands the religious sequence - the temple services and the Levitical arrangement and the religious reforms of the good kings. It hardly mentions at all the northern 10-tribe kingdom, except where it is absolutely necessary to give the picture that it is dealing with. In all, it emphasizes the fact that anything that strays away from God looses all meaning and importance, and becomes near animal and worthless.
What is the Chronicle's primary purpose? Why did God consider it necessary to give a parallel account of ground already covered? It seems to have both a nearer and a broader purpose. That is, an immediate purpose for its time and a long range purpose for all times. As to the immediate purpose, it appears to have been given especially for the needs of those who returned from the Babylonian captivity.
Both for the material and practical re-establishment of the framework and organization of the nation, and also to unify and to inspire them spiritually and religiously - to teach them their highly privileged position before God with its great responsibility - to give them a strong link with the past and an understanding of the present, and an interest in the future - to give them stability and a national purpose based upon the covenant to David and the temple service - to re-establish the Levitical pattern - to emphasize the religious aspect of their life and their history - to resettle them according to their old estates - to magnify God before them and give Him His right place as the center of the nation - and to teach the vital importance of the true worship of God according to the pattern set down by God, as nothing else is acceptable, no matter how well meaning.
When we think of this people brought back after 70 years of captivity, their whole previous national life destroyed and this long wait, we can see how desirable and necessary was this book to review the past for them and set them on the right path. Obeying God, seeking Him, praying continually to Him, recognizing His activity on behalf of His people, and His judgment for good or evil - these constitute the theme of Chronicles.
It appears to have been, as mentioned, the last written book of the Old Testament, together with Ezra and Nehemiah. Final-intended to complete the whole of the dispensation before Christ. It has four principle characteristics. First, its emphasis on worship and the temple arrangement-religious reformation and the religious state of the nation through its history.
Second, its genealogical background, lists and names - to give stability and reality and unity with the past. This is very important and where so many are drifting astray today. We must maintain our awareness of and harmony and continuity with the sound foundations of the past. We don't keep beginning again.
Third, its history built around the House of David - the covenant to David - Israel's link to the glories of their future.
And fourth, its ascribing every event, great or small, directly to God's hand and providence. This is another vital lesson. The more we can see and recognize and realize and remember that everything in our lives, great and small, is directly of God, and that He misses nothing and neglects nothing, the easier it will be to accept, and the better we shall react to it.