June 29, 2010 David Balzer

1 Chronicles 1-9: Who are God’s People?

I want you to imagine you’re a Jew living in Jerusalem about 450 BC.  Your grandad had lived through the invasion by Babylon in around 600 BC. That’s when the first prisoners were taken away.

He was only a boy, but he remembered it well. They’d been terrible days. Jerusalem besieged. Famine. Desperation.

Finally, in 576, the Babylonian soldiers broke through the walls and destroyed everything. Jerusalem’s intimidating fortress was destroyed. Solomon’s majestic temple – smashed to the ground. And all the temple treasures taken off to Babylon. And that’s when Grandad, and just about everyone else, was carried off to Babylon, too.

And there they’d waited for seventy years.

And that’s where YOU were born. Babylonian by law. But Jewish by birth. Your passport said “Babylon”, but your line said “Jew”. And you grew up knowing nothing but the ways of Babylon. Its language. Its buildings. Its food. Its plants and animals. Its roads and rivers and mountains.

And then in 539, just when you’d given up hope that anything would change, there was a change of government. Persia, and King Cyrus, captured Babylon.

And just a few months later, in 538, there was a miracle. King Cyrus said you could go home! Home to re-build the temple! What a celebration there’d been! Finally! A chance to go home! Back to Jerusalem!

And that’s how you’d ended up back here. In a city you’d only ever heard about. But never seen.

But it didn’t look anything like you’d imagined it. Like grandad described it. No thick walls. No public buildings. No bustling market-place.

It was more like a poor, dusty village. Not much left of the glorious centrepiece of Solomon’s empire. The home of the temple of the Living God.

And you were in a strange land you’d never seen before. Dusty roads that wandered out into unfamiliar country. Strange birds and trees and plants. Unusual noises and smells. Like nothing you’d ever known. It might have been your HOME LAND, but it didn’t FEEL like home.

And you started to wonder whether this really WAS your land. After all, there was no Jewish king. No Son of David on the throne. Persia was the one making all the important decisions.

And there was no palace. No city walls. And no temple. No altar. No sacrifices. Perhaps this WASN’T God’s land, after all.

Perhaps you weren’t even one of his PEOPLE anymore. Perhaps he didn’t recognise your Babylonian accent. Or perhaps you’d sinned just once too often. And so God had finally turned his back.

Not that you’d ever actually FELT like a Jew. You’d never seen the altar. Never smelt the roasting meat from the sacrifices. Or even been in the temple courts . In fact, you could hardly call yourself a Jew at all! What DID you have in common with your ancestors? Quite understandable really if God have given up on the lot of you.

That’s YOU. And YOU’RE JUST THE PERSON CHRONICLES WAS WRITTEN FOR.

NOW I want you to imagine you’re sitting there in Jerusalem one Sabbath, 450 BC. You’re busy re-building the city. And today’s your day off. And you, and all the other Jews, are settling down to listen to Chronicles being read. Today it’s the first nine chapters.

The reader stands up. And opens the scroll. Clears his throat. And begins. Ch 1. “Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan.” And as he keeps reading, you’re mind wanders back to the stories you know so well. How God made Adam in his image. To look after the land. How Adam had sinned and been turned out into the garden. And it was all downhill from there.

And then in v4, you catch the names of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth. And your mind wanders again. The only family out of all mankind that God saved. Everyone else destroyed by a flood.

And as the names continue, you shake your head in amazement that God could only find one family worth protecting. Imagine how wicked everyone must have been! But you’re glad he saved ONE. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here today.

And you hear about all the other nations that sprung up after Noah. Verse 13. The Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and so on.

And SO on.

And then your ears up again. Verse 27. Abram. Or Abraham. The one who’s name was changed. That’s right. And you remember WHY God changed his name. Because he’d promised to make Abraham the FATHER of a great nation. With more kids than the stars in the sky!

Imagine how hard it must have been for Abraham to believe that!? It’s hard enough for YOU to believe it, and there’s a few more of you than in Abraham’s day!

And the names continue. Verse 34. Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel.

Israel? Oh, that’s right! He used to be Jacob! But God changed HIS name too! That night he wrestled with God. And wouldn’t let him go! Until God had BLESSED him. And so God blessed Jacob. And called him “He who wrestles with God”

And that’s the nation that YOU’RE part of. The nation who wrestles with God! – struggles to get the blessing God promised! If that’s true, then it feels like he’s got you down for the count at the moment. Not much blessing around.

But it certainly didn’t seem like that for Jacob. Because God DID bless him. Twelve sons. And each one became the father of a tribe.

And just as you’re thinking about that, the voice from the front booms out. Ch 2 v1

(1 Chr 2:1-2 NIV)  These were the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, {2} Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.

And then for some reason, he starts listing the descendants of JUDAH. The FOURTH oldest son. Verse 3.

(1 Chr 2:3 NIV)  The sons of Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah.

And as the reader continues, you wonder why he’s started with Judah. Until he gets down to v12.

(1 Chr 2:12-15 NIV)  Boaz the father of Obed and Obed the father of Jesse. {13} Jesse was the father of Eliab his firstborn; the second son was Abinadab, the third Shimea, {14} the fourth Nethanel, the fifth Raddai, {15} the sixth Ozem and the seventh David.

David! Of course! King David was from the tribe of Judah! No wonder he started with Judah! And within a of minutes, he’s got through to David’s sons. Ch 3 v 1.

(1 Chr 3:1-2 NIV)  These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron: The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel; {2} the third, Absalom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

“What a sorry bunch they were!” you think to yourself. “Poor old David must have despaired!” Just as well someone better came along. And then you hear v4.

(1 Chr 3:4-5 NIV)  These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months. David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, {5} and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and …Solomon.

Ah, Solomon! Now there was someone who REALLY measured up to David’s high standard. He followed after God’s heart too! And he was the one who built the temple! And the whole world marvelled at his wisdom. And his wealth.

Obeying God. That’s the way to make sure you receive God’s blessings! Love him with all your heart and mind and strength!

And as you reminisce about the good old days. Some OTHER names catch your attention. The kings who came after Solomon. And it was down hill after him! Some were terrible. Some  – not so bad. And some kings pretty good, really! Verse 10.

(1 Chr 3:10-16 NIV)  Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, {11} Jehoram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son,

And so on. All the way down to Zedekiah. V16. That was the end of the line. The last king. The king in Grandad’s time. The one Nebuchadnezzar dragged off to Babylon.

But the list kept going. Because kids were born in Babylon. Just like you. In fact, some of these names were even sitting right next to you! Verse 17.

(1 Chr 3:17-19 NIV)  The descendants of Jehoiachin the captive: Shealtiel his son, {18} Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. {19} The sons of Pedaiah: Zerub l and Shimei. The sons of Zerub l: Meshullam and Hananiah. Shelomith was their sister.

These were people YOU KNEW. People you’d worked with. Eaten with. And they were at the end of that great long line of God’s people!

And then you realise. They’re JUST AS MUCH God’s people as ANY OTHER PERSON along that whole line! God’s plans just keep marching down through history. He keeps drawing a people for himself. To serve him, and love him. He keeps doing it. Whether or not it LOOKS like that’s what’s happening!

And as you keep thinking about that, the reader keeps working through his lists of names. The rest of Judah. And then all the other tribes of Israel. Back up to the oldest son. Simeon. And then Reuben. Gad. Manasseh.

And then in Ch 6, he gets to Levi. And it’s not long before Moses and Aaron get a mention. Verse 3.

And straight away you think of the temple. Because it was Aaron who first got the job of looking after the altar. The sacrifices that went with the Tabernacle. That was the tent that showed that God was WITH his people. All through the desert, God travelled with them. Pitched his tent right next to his people! What a privilege to to have God living right among you? Weren’t they lucky?

And when he gets through all Aaron’s relatives finishes that, he keeps going with the OTHER tribes of Israel. Next in line after Levi. Ch 7. Assachar. Then Benjamin. Then Naphthali. Then Joseph’s two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. And finally Asher.

And then he gets to ch 8. And for some reason, he starts back on with Benjamin. “Hang on a minute!” you think “Didn’t he just DO Benjamin?” And as you’re thinking about whether you’re going crazy, he gets down to verse 33. And everything becomes clear.

(1 Chr 8:33 NIV)  Ner was the father of Kish, Kish the father of SAUL, and Saul the father of JONATHAN…

Saul! That’s why he’s so interested in the tribe of Benjamin! Saul was the FIRST king. And not much of a king either! The trial run. Version 1.1. The one you try before you get the REAL king.

And then finally the speaker gets to the end of the list. The whole nation up until the exile. And he pauses. Wipes his brow. Has a drink of water. “What’s next,” you think to yourself, “I’m glad all those lists are over!”

And then he starts again. Ch 9 v1.

(1 Chr 9:1-2 NIV)  All Israel was listed in the genealogies recorded in the book of the kings of Israel. (That’s BEFORE the exile) The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. {2} Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.

And there it was. In the space of three sentences. This guy had jumped from Israel under the kings. Right across the exile. And now he was describing the people who came BACK to the land.

And then you realise it. It’s the same line. You’re just one part of the great line of God’s people. You’re NOT cut off. Isolated. Forgotten by God. You’re just as much a part of God’s people as all the others on that great long list. You are brother and sister with anyone on that list who obeys God.

And whether you’re a Jew in 450 BC, or an Aussie in 2003. The message is the same. However far we’ve come down through history. However far away we are from the Promised Land. Whatever our nationality. God continues to call out a people for himself. And if you’re a Christian, you stand at the end of that great, long line. If you have responded to what God has done by sending Jesus, you are PART of GOD’s PEOPLE.

Because since Jesus came, the membership policy has been thrown out the window. It USED to be the rule that to be one of God’s people, you needed to find your family name somewhere in that great long list we’ve just looked at. You needed a foot in one of those twelve tribes of Israel. (Except perhaps for a few exceptions.)

But then Jesus came along. And died for the sins of people from EVERY NATION. And he says, “Trust me. Follow me. Obey me. That’s how to be one of God’s children!”

And THAT’s the new membership policy. Nothing to do with LINES. And EVERYTHING to do with OBEDIENCE. Have YOU been obedient? Are YOU following Jesus?

And the funny thing is that’s ALWAYS been the membership policy. Nothing to do with LINES. And everything to do with OBEDIENCE.

We read that this morning in Romans 9 (p801). Paul’s trying to work out how come most of his fellow Jews had rejected Jesus. And been cut off from God’s people. When God had promised that he would ALWAYS be their God.

Perhaps God couldn’t be trusted? Perhaps he’d promised ONE THING. And then changed his mind? Found a BETTER option?

“But that’s not it at all,” says Paul. It’s there in Rom 9 v6

(Rom 9:6-8 NIV)  It is NOT as though God’s word had failed. FOR NOT ALL WHO ARE DESCENDED FROM ISRAEL ARE ISRAEL.

(In other words, not everyone who’s BORN a Jew is truly one of God’s people. And he goes on) V7.

{7} NOR BECAUSE THEY ARE HIS DESCENDANTS ARE THEY ALL ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN.

Abraham was the great man of FAITH. But Paul’s saying, Abraham being your ancestor is no guarantee that you’ll have faith in God too. You can’t just wave your birth certificate at God. It’s been said that “God has no grandchildren!”

Instead, Paul goes on to say, it depends on who God CHOOSES. He chooses some and he doesn’t choose others. That’s what he did in Isaac and Esau’s time. And that’s what he did in Pharaoh’s time.

And that’s what he’s STILL doing today. Still choosing some and not choosing others. Think about all the different people you meet in a week. God has chosen SOME of them and NOT chosen others.

But how can you tell who God chooses? The answer’s over in Ch 10 (p 802). When God chooses someone, he opens their eyes to see the truth of who Jesus is. And they respond by believing in Jesus. Look at v9 – the test for who God’s chosen.

(Rom 10:9-10 NIV)  That if you confess with your MOUTH, “Jesus is Lord,” and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the , you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Do YOU believe that Jesus is Lord? That he is the boss of life And ? That he’s the boss of YOU? If you can say “YES!” to that. And if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the . Then this verse says, YOU WILL BE SAVED.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Australian, Irish, or American. Look at v12.

(Rom 10:12-13 NIV)  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you trust Jesus, then you stand at the end of that great long line of names we read this morning. Whatever your nationality.

Right from Adam’s time, God has chosen a people to be his own. And whether it was the tiny band of Jews plugging away in Jerusalem in 450 BC. Or a tiny band of Christians plugging away in Doonside in 2003. We are STILL his people.

As long as we keep walking in OBEDIENCE. Confessing that Jesus is Lord. Showing people who Jesus is, so that when God switches on the lights, they can respond.

As long as we keep living like that as God’s faithful people, then he will KEEP calling a people to himself. Growing his people. Bringing them on. And the family tree will continue to grow far beyond US. And that’s the message of 1 Chron Ch 1 to 9.

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