Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Perspective

1 Chronicles

I was kind of amazed to learn that 1 and 2 Chronicles tell a large part of the history all over again!  But of course this narrative offers a different perspective.

The first 9 chapters (plus various other chapters throughout) go through the genealogy in great detail.  The story picks up in Chapter 10 with the death of Saul and the rest of the narrative recounts David's reign.  Some of the stories bear resemblances to those in Kings, but others are missing or have differences.  Many of the stories are stories of battles, but the main emphasis initially seems to be on bringing the ark of the covenant first to Obed-edom (Ch. 13), and then to Jerusalem (Ch. 15).  (I like it that the music and the musicians are given special mention!)  And the remainder of the emphasis seems to be on David's plans to have a special house (the temple) built to house the ark.

In Chapter 17, the Lord, speaking through Nathan, tells David that building the temple is not his to do; instead, one of his sons will do so.  The dialogue in Chapter 17 is very moving.

Then there are more stories of battles, and the odd story of how the Lord became angry with David for taking a census (Ch. 21).  A pestilence resulted.  Then David was moved to built an altar on some man's threshing floor, and now peace with the Lord was restored.  David was afraid to go to the tabernacle, and I think the point of this part of the story was that the Lord was moved by David's repentance and humility.  Not regarding himself as worthy enough to offer a sacrifice in the normal way, he makes an altar in a humble place (even paying full price to the farmer for taking over his threshing floor), and offers a sacrifice there.

I'm still puzzled about why taking a census evoked the Lord's wrath, though.

1 Chronicles ends with David assembling materials for the building of the temple, and charging his son Solomon with the task of actually building the temple.  When he was old "and full of days" (23:1) he made Solomon the next king.  He also gave Solomon the plan of the temple (Ch. 28).  Most important of all, though, is the message to continue to follow the ways of the Lord.

The passages where the Lord speaks and where David speaks are very moving, showing the closeness of the relationship between the people and God.  David is portrayed as loving God, as trying to do what is right, and as wanting to show his immense appreciation by planning to build a great temple, and wanting above all for the people always to live in this awareness of, closeness to, and appreciation for God.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What's Right vs. What's Wrong

2 Kings 3-25

After Elijah, Elisha becomes the next prophet.  There are some stories about what Elisha did as prophet, some of which are very similar to the stories of Elijah, which makes me wonder if these really were two separate prophets, or if the stories somehow got confused over time.  (For examples, compare 2 Kings 4:1-7 with 1 Kings 17:8-16, and 2 Kings 4:8-37 with 1 Kings 17:17-24.)

Much of 2 Kings is about the kings of both Israel and Judah.  It tells the story of the fall of each.  Israel falls first.  All of its kings are described as having done "what was evil in the sight of the Lord," which was to worship (or to tolerate the worship) of the wrong gods.  Judah fell later.  Most of its kings were just as bad, but there are a few who are described differently, as having done "what was right in the sight of the Lord," and walking in the way of David, which meant honoring the proper Lord, and even destroying the worship sites for other religions.

One of the last of these kings, Josiah, ordered the cleaning and refurbishing of the house of the Lord, and the workers then found the book of the law, which apparently had been lost for some time (2 Kings 22:3-10).  The king was upset because he realized, upon hearing it, that for generations they had not been following this law -- no wonder the Lord was upset with them!  (See 2 Kings 22:13-20.)  He vowed to try to do better.  But, despite all that he did, it was too little to late.  After he died, later kings returned to doing "what was evil in the sight of the Lord," and finally Judah was conquered too.

I think this is a story of a people turning their attention too much to earthly powers and earthly ways, forgetting their holy heritage and their holy call, which weakened them and caused them then to be conquered and to lose what they had.  Perhaps Josiah's response was not enough because he went on a rampage in an attempt to destroy what was bad, but in that maybe forgot to recover and highlight what was good about the ways that they should be following.

I find this interesting, because today we see many people railing against what they think is wrong -- but, strangely enough, that does not seem to help.  Rather than eradicating all badness, such an approach just stirs up more fear and hatred.  Maybe we would do better to focus our vision on what is right and good, and live that into reality.  That is what gives us true spiritual strength.