2 Chronicles 29-36: When is war good?

When is war good? That’s a question the advertising agency for the Australian Army must have asked. “When is war good? How do you make such a violent job sound attractive?”

You’ve probably heard the old line “Join the Navy. See the world. Meet interesting people. And KILL THEM.”

You can imagine the ad agency meetings. “When is war GOOD? When is WAR good?” Round and round went the question. And my guess is they couldn’t believe their luck when EAST TIMOR came along. Because the army finally had something GOOD to do. You’ve seen the ads.

“My name’s Fred Spencer. And I’m an electrician in the Australian Army. When we went to East Timor, we were able to HELP the people. We rebuilt their hospitals, and got the electricity working again. And now the country’s back on track. All because of the Australian Army. Why don’t YOU join the Army, so you can help people too!”

And without doubt, the Army WERE a great help in East Timor. But it just seems a bit strange that that’s the ONLY part of the job they talk about.

“When is war good?” Whatever you’re opinion about Iraq, the Americans and John Howard would have us believe that the battle for Iraq is a GOOD war. Because we’re liberating a country. Removing a ist sympathizer. A dictator. That’s how the argument goes.

And I believe there are times when war IS necessary. When the evil you’re up against is SO bad, war is the only option. And as events are unfolding, it seems like this might be one of those times.

1. Wickedness, Warning and War

“When is war good?” The question gets asked again/ here in the last part of Chronicles. These chapters are about WICKEDNESS, WARNING AND WAR.

Judah is WICKED. And God is bringing WAR on them. But it’s WAR which is a WARNING. A warning to turn back to him. And that makes it a HOLY war. A GOOD war.

Judah is like a car that’s just about out of petrol. At the end of Ch 35 King Josiah dies. And he’s the last drop of petrol in the tank. The last whiff of anything good in Judah. And the car splutters, coughs, dies. And rolls to a stop.

And God knows that drastic action is needed. So he calls for the demolition squad. The wrecking ball is about to fall.

And the wrecking ball part 1 is Egypt. They’re on the rise. The biggest kid on the block. And it’s Josiah’s son Jeho-ahaz who feels the brunt of Egypt’s might. He’s the next king. That’s in 609 BC. And Ch 36 v3 tells us he only reigned 3 months. And for the whole time, Jerusalem is under siege from Egypt.

In fact, NONE of these last four kings experience any peace. It’s 23 YEARS OF WAR until the final destruction of Jerusalem in 587!

So poor old Jeho-ahaz only lasts three months. That’s all it takes for Egypt to finally overcome Judah. And they strip the land of riches. And impose a heavy war tax. And Jehoahaz himself gets taken off to Egypt.

His brother Jehoi-akim gets put on the throne instead. A puppet ruler for Egypt. And he lasts for 11 years. 11 years of WAR. But now Babylon’s starting to grow strong. And Egypt and Babylon are the two bullies beating each other up. And Judah’s caught in the middle.

And when Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin takes over. But HE only lasts three months. Three months and ten days to be precise. That’s v9 of Ch 36.

Because Babylon finally wins the arm wrestle. And they’re WRECKING BALL NUMBER TWO. And their eyes turn to little Judah. And it doesn’t take much to bring her into line as well. Not that there’s much left to take. It’s already up on bricks. Someone’s pinched the wheels and the stereo. But Babylon still manages to smash in a few doors. And strip the motor.

More of the temple treasures head off to BABYLON. And Nebuchadnezzar decides to take Jehoiachin there as well.

And he puts SOMEONE ELSE on the throne. Jehoiachin’s UNCLE Zedekiah. The LAST KING of Judah. And he lasts 11 years. But it’s 11 years under the thumb of Babylon. The threat of war constantly there. Cowering in a corner. Sending off payment every few months to keep the bully at bay. More and more gear getting stripped off the car.

But despite all the warnings/ nothing is bad enough for Zedekiah to turn to God. Look at v12.

(2 Chr 36:12 NIV)  He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD.

Not that anyone else is any better. Look at v14

(2 Chr 36:14 NIV)  Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

2. Postponing War – God’s patience (36:15) – 2 Peter 3:8-9

And through all of this. God remains patient. They might think times are tough. But this is only the WARNING WAR. The war before the real thing. The entrée before the main course. God is actually POSTPONING WAR because he’s patient. Look at Ch 36.15

(2 Chr 36:15 NIV)  The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.

Repent. Turn back to me. For the sake of David. For the sake of the temple. For the sake of my name. That’s the message of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

3. Holy War – God’s judgment

But it makes no difference. The people refuse to listen. The WARNING war has no effect. V16.

(2 Chr 36:16 NIV)  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets UNTIL THE WRATH OF THE LORD WAS AROUSED AGAINST HIS PEOPLE/ and THERE WAS NO REMEDY.

Finally in 587 BC. The end comes. God’s PATIENCE runs out. Now it’s time for God’s JUDGMENT. V17.

(2 Chr 36:17-19 NIV)  He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword IN THE SANCTUARY, and spared neither young man NOR young woman, old man OR aged. God handed ALL OF THEM over to Nebuchadnezzar. {18} He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. {19} They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

Almost total slaughter. Men AND women. Young AND old. Soldiers AND civilians.

And they destroyed EVERYTHING. Houses, public buildings. Palaces. The city walls knocked to the ground. Even the TEMPLE was completely destroyed.

And we might shake our heads at the cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar. But this WASN’T/ Nebuchadnezzar’s doing. It was God’s. The JUSTICE of God. He was the one behind it all. He BROUGHT UP Nebuchadnezzar. He HANDED Judah over. All because of Judah’s rebellion.

Yes, Nebuchadnezzar did the . But it was for God’s PURPOSES. This was a HOLY war. A JUST war. Dare we say it – a GOOD war.

4. When is war good?

A GOOD war? But when is war good?

Despite the terrible picture that’s painted. There IS good. A silver lining to the cloud. Because as God so often does, there’s GRACE in the midst of JUDGMENT.

It’s not COMPLETE destruction. Some are spared. V20.

(2 Chr 36:20 NIV)  Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

And we get a clue that this is part of God’s MERCY from the word that’s used. Remnant. “SHERRIYT”.

Throughout the Bible it’s a term used for the FAITHFUL ones who God PROTECTS. And preserves. While the wicked are destroyed.

And so what’s good about THIS war. Is that God SAVED a REMNANT. They were his TRUE people of God. The TRUE Israel.

And the Babylon which had been THE DESTROYER. Becomes Babylon the PROTECTOR.

And it’s not just the PEOPLE who are protected. It’s the LAND ITSELF. Look at v21.

(2 Chr 36:21 NIV)  The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

What’s good about this war. Is that the land gets a chance to rest. And be renewed. So that when the NEW God’s people come back to the Promised Land, they’re coming back to a brand new land. A complete fresh start. Ready to start from scratch.

That’s what’s GOOD about war!

And God still works the same way today. The New Testament teaches us that God chose SOME before the creation of the world. A REMNANT who he’d give his Spirit to. Open their eyes to see who Jesus was. And to understand what he demanded of them.

EVERYONE deserves , yet to SOME God gives life. Purely by grace. Nothing to do with worth. Have you responded to his offer of life in Jesus?

5. Hoping for a worthy king and an obedient people (36:22-23)

And then the last two verses of Chronicles jump forward seventy years. To the time when Babylon has fallen to Persia. And the Jews are still stuck in Babylon. But it’s time for God’s people to go home. V22.

(2 Chr 36:22-23 NIV)  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {23} “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you–may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'”

And with that invitation, the connection between past and present is complete. Between God’s people of OLD, and the people at the time of the writer.

Remember who’s listening to this? The first hearers are THAT EXACT FAITHFUL REMNANT who’ve just been described. Who’ve ALREADY come back. Who’ve BEGUN rebuilding. And who’ve taken up Cyrus’ invitation.

(“That’s us!” They say to themselves as they hear these last words)

And they had wonderful prophecies to keep them going/ like that in Isaiah 11.

(Isa 11:1-13 NIV)  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. {2} The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, …{3} and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. …{5} Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. {6} The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. …{9} They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. {10} In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. {11} In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, …. {12} He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;

And the final message of the Chronicler/ is this. “This is what you’ve got the chance to claim. God’s given you a fresh start. A new chance to rebuild Israel. Even the land is refreshed and excited. It’s just waiting to become the Garden of Eden all over again.

It’s the chance to learn from the mistakes of the past. And to re-commit to God, and the temple. To recommit to serving under a faithful king. And godly priests. Who’ll lead you into a new glorious age.” It’s a wonderfully upbeat note to finish on.

And no doubt, the people continued to work hard for a while. And to hope for the dawning of a new age. Hoping for a worthy king, and a faithful people.

But the golden age never came. And the people quickly fell back into their old habits. Judah was always under the thumb of some foreign power After Persia it was Greece. And then after Greece it was Rome. And there was never any strong option to be king.

And so the people continued to hope for a WORTHY king, and an OBEDIENT people. But they never came. They continued to look to God to be faithful to his promises. But he didn’t deliver.

Not for another 500 years. When Jesus was born. A Son of David. From the shoot of Jesse. Just like Isaiah said he would.

And God’s Spirit was on him like no other person. And through his and resurrection, he won a victory like no other king. And initiated a kingdom like no other. And he called a people to follow him who were unique from any other nation.

A worthy king. And an obedient people. Judah’s hope was well-founded. God delivered. It just took a little longer than they thought. And it happened in a different way.

Flip over to the last book of the Bible. Revelation. Ch 5. (page 869). It shows us this worthy King Jesus from a DIFFERENT point of view. From the standpoint of heaven. From the position of the END OF TIME, rather than the MIDDLE.

The chapter starts with John still looking at a vision of God. And he’s holding a scroll. It represents God’s plans and purposes for human history. His Palm Pilot. But there’s no-one worthy to open it. No one who can carry out God’s plans.

And so John weeps. Will God’s plans be short-circuited? Isn’t there ANYONE who can see God’s plans through?

But wait! There IS someone. V5.

(Rev 5:5 NIV)  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

A mighty King. A lion! Just like Isaiah’s prophecy. A WORTHY king! A triumphant warrior! Powerful in battle! It’s Jesus!

But he’s not what we’d expect. Look at the next verse.

(Rev 5:6 NIV)  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,

What sort of a triumphant lion is a slain lamb? Surely they’ve got the wrong person! How can HE be worthy?

But he IS. Perhaps the LION bit’s able to make up for the puny lamb bit. In v7. He takes the scroll. And yet it’s the very opposite of what we thought. Because those in the heavenly court sing a new song. V9

(Rev 5:9 NIV)  And they sang a new song: “You are WORTHY to take the scroll and to open its seals, BECAUSE YOU WERE SLAIN, and WITH YOUR YOU PURCHASED MEN FOR GOD from every tribe and language and people and nation.

King Jesus is WORTHY because he was SLAIN. It’s as the LAMB, that he can achieve God’s purposes. His purposes to make a NEW PEOPLE. A people from every language on earth. Just like Isaiah 11.

And look at what that new people will be like. V10.

(Rev 5:10 NIV)  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

An obedient people. A victorious people. Who will reign. Just like Chronicles was hoping for. Priests. Who serve God faithfully. And represent him before men.

Jesus the WORTHY KING. Brings in a FAITHFUL people. A kingdom and priests. That’s what WE are. We are EVERYTHING Chronicles was hoping Judah would become.

And it’s all because of our WORTHY King Jesus. This Easter, let’s rejoice with the victory Christ won on the cross. And let’s WORSHIP Jesus. Joining with the whole crowd in heaven.

(Rev 5:11-14 NIV)  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. {12} In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” {13} Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” {14} The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Introduction to 1 and 2 Chronicles: The King, The People and The Temple

Chronicles is unusual because it describes many events which are also described in Samuel and Kings. In some places the writer (called the Chronicler) ADDED details which WEREN’T found in other parts of the Bible, and in other places he LEFT OUT parts of the story. He had a theological purpose behind these choices.

The Chronicler relied on many written sources. About half his work is taken from Samuel and Kings, with other sources including Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. He also refers to other non-biblical books.

It seems likely that the book was written for the Jewish community who had returned from Babylon. God had exiled them there from 605 BC. David’s kingly line was lost, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. In 538 BC Cyrus allowed them to return. They are in the land, yet have no Davidic king and are under the rule of Persia.

Is God still interested in them? Are God’s promises to David still valid? Are they still God’s people? Where do the people go from here? These are the questions the writer of Chronicles seeks to answer for the returned Israelites. His big theme is that the way to restore God’s blessings for Israel is to restore the people, the king, and the temple to the way God intended them to be. He achieves his purpose by emphasising several themes;

1. The king: The reign of King David was the high point in Israel’s history. He was a man after God’s own heart. The Chronicler highlights the positive aspects of David’s reign, holding him up as the ideal that Israel can again aspire to. Returning a king from David’s line to the throne is a key step for the Chronicler in the restoration of God’s blessing to Israel.

2. The Law and the Prophets: This is a major focus of Israel’s covenant life under the leadership of the house of David. It was Israel’s obedience to the law, rather than simply the existence of Davidic kings or the temple which assured Israel of God’s blessing. A primary feature of the FAITHFUL king was his attempt to bring the people back to the law, and to heed God’s prophetic word.

3. The temple: The rebuilt temple and its service are God’s greatest gifts to his people. His account of the reign of David focuses on David’s preparation and instructions for the temple. The description of Solomon emphasises his building of the temple.

4. All Israel: Despite God’s people splitting into Judah (southern tribes) and Israel (northern tribes) during the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chron 10), Chronicles still emphasises “all Israel” – listing the genealogies and lands for all twelve tribes, and specifically noting when ALL Israel assembled during the reigns of David and Solomon. The narrative makes frequent mention of movements of godly people from the north to Judah for specific religious reasons. This also serves to give the readers hope for the day when God will restore more than simply the remnant to the land – but all Israel.

The book can be divided into the following sections;

a) 1 Chron 1-9: History of the kingdom

b) 1 Chron 10-2 Chron 9: The united kingdom

c) 2 Chron 10-28: The divided kingdom

d) 2 Chron 29-36: The united kingdom

5. God’s election: God has chosen the tribe of Levi to serve in the temple. He has chosen David as king, and Solomon to build the temple. He has chosen Jerusalem to be his city, and the temple to be the place where His name would dwell. These acts of God assure postexilic Israel that they are still God’s people whose election hasn’t been cancelled.

6. The Promised Messiah: Chronicles sustains Israel’s hope for the promised Messiah by recalling the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7 in 1 Chron 17, and then regularly referring back to it. The idealised depictions of the faithful kings (David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah) show the Messianic ideal. They served as types, foreshadowing the David to come of whom the prophets had spoken, encouraging hope in Israel in the face of discouragement.

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.

1 Chronicles 10-12: David and the Nation

A while ago I preached at a little country church. And one of the things I prayed for during the service/ was that God would bring PEACE in the world. That he would work in the politicians and diplomats and leaders to bring about a PEACEFUL end to the various conflicts around the world.

A fairly standard, non-contentious type of prayer. Or so I thought. Two old guys came up to me after the service. Gruff-looking. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” one of them said. “I didn’t agree with what you prayed.”

He went on to say he didn’t think I should pray for PEACE because God was a God of WAR. God wanted to destroy evil. And that the church was to be involved in that BATTLE.

I asked him how he knew which side was the EVIL one, and which one God was fighting for. How did THE CHURCH know which side to choose? What about the Christian churches in each of those countries? Israel? Palestine? Afghanistan? America? Iraq? Zimbabwe? Northern Ireland? East Timor?

I spent the next 20 minutes or so talking to him. It’s probably more accurate to say ‘being talked AT by him’. And I never really got to the bottom of what he was getting at. Or why he held those views.

But he DID talk about some sort of global conspiracy. He said he’d been researching it for 20 years. I don’t know what he’d been reading. But I don’t think it was his Bible.

As funny as it was at the time. It was also sad. Because there are LOTS of people around today like this guy. Who misunderstand their Bibles, and try to make them say things they were never meant to say. This guy would read Old Testament passages like this one from 1 Chronicles. About how King David and all his mighty men killed hundreds of wicked Philistines. And he’d drop himself, more or less, straight into the picture.

“God’s people THEN/ went to war against the wicked. We should do the same.”

But it’s not as simple as that. What DO we do with these sorts of passages? Yes, there is a continuity between the New and the Old. Some things are the SAME.

But lots of things are VERY DIFFERENT. We AREN’T Jews. God’s people-NOW/ aren’t just from ONE NATION. We DON’T live in the Promised Land. And God DOESN’T generally punish the wicked by wiping them out in battle. And so we need to tread carefully.

And that’s the approach we need to take in today’s reading. It’s a picture of God’s kingdom at its best. The all-conquering King David – so much better than Saul. Surrounded by his band of mighty men. In the best city in the world. Beautiful Jerusalem. And the whole people are behind them. 100%. It doesn’t get any better than this.

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the question WE need to keep in mind as we look at it/ is what does it have to do with US?

And the first question to ask – the one that willhelp us/ is “what did it have to do with the FIRST AUDIENCE?” What was God’s message to the ORIGINAL HEARERS?

Sometimes we can’t really work out who that might be. But for Chronicles, we’ve got a fairly good idea.

  1. What was God saying to Jews in Judah around 450 BC?
  2. What’s God saying to us today?

1. The People’s King:

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the first part of the picture is to do with THE PEOPLE’S KING. And it starts in Ch 10.

Now, you mightn’t think that Ch 10’s about King David at all. After all, it’s describing what SAUL did. But it IS about David. And you can see that/ from the particular BITS of Saul’s reign that are described. And from the lesson at the end of that Chapter.

We know from other parts of the Bible/ that Saul wasn’t the BEST king in the world. But he didn’t do EVERYTHING wrong. He did have SOME victories. But here in Ch 10. It’s only the LAST MISERABLE FAILURE that’s described. That’s all we’re told about Saul. How he was KILLED. Nothing about his coronation. His reign. His victories. His relationship to David. Just how he DIED.

It’s funny how it’s always your most embarrassing moment that people remember. They quickly forget your victories. But they never forget your failures. And that’s what’s happening here.

Saul’s being painted as black as possible/ to show up David. It’s like trying to paint with white paint on white paper. You can’t do it. You need a dark background to show up the white. And Saul is the David’s DARK BACKGROUND.

And you can also see it from the moral at the end of the chapter. Why Saul was a failure. Look at it there in v 13 of Ch 10.

(1 Chr 10:13-14 NIV)  Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, {14} and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

There it is. Black/ and white. Good/ and bad. Saul and David.

Saul was UNFAITHFUL to the LORD. He DIDN’T KEEP GOD’S WORD. And he asked A CLAIRVOYANT for advice, rather than God. And the result? .

And what’s the implication? What’s the comparison? DAVID (on the other hand) was FAITHFUL to the Lord. He DID keep God’s word. And he DID ask God’s advice.

What was so good about David? Was it his military victories? His great wealth? His perfect moral character? No! He was a man who followed after God. A man after God’s heart.

And the message to Israel in 450 BC? It’s the same as the message to us. Whether there’s a king around or not/ the way to live under God’s blessings is to BE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW AFTER GOD’S HEART.

Firstly, are other attractions seducing you? Money, influence, approval? BE FAITHFUL to God. No idols.

Second. God gives you a command. But you’re not sure obeying it will make you happy? You think you know better? KEEP GOD’s WORD. That’s the only way to live the rich and full life God’s designed for you.

Third. Not sure who’s ADVICE to listen to? The latest book, or guru, or financial planner? Ask GOD’S advice. Pray about it. Listen to what God says through his Word, the Bible. You’ll never go wrong.

David followed after God’s heart. Saul didn’t. Make sure you do. That’s the message.

And the people in David’s time could see the difference between the two men. And they knew who they preferred. No question! Look at Ch 11 v1.

(1 Chr 11:1-3 NIV)  All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and . {2} In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'” {3} When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the LORD had promised through Samuel.

And you can see the sort of leadership that God had in mind. He didn’t want a king to protect the people. Lead them into battle. Because no MAN could be the Saviour of Israel. That was God’s job. And whenever kings tried to do it on their own, they only got into trouble.

What sort of leader was God after? (See it there in v2?) A SHEPHERD. To show the sheep where to find water, and grass, and protection and comfort. To point the people towards God.

And all the way through Chronicles/ that’s the measuring stick of a good king. Did he point people TOWARDS God, or AWAY from God? Did he SHEPHERD the people?

In fact, if you go back and read 1 Sam, God didn’t want to give Israel a king AT ALL. They wanted a KING like the NATIONS. He wanted to give them a LEADER instead. That’s the word He uses. It’s a word that might also be translated ruler, or prince, or vice-regent, or second-in-command. But NOT king. The king’s REPRESENTATIVE in other words.

Because it’s only GOD who’s the TRUE king. And the LEADER’S job was just to carry out the KING’s wishes.

And it’s the same word here in Chronicles. At the end of v2. “You will shepherd my people Israel/ and you will become their RULER.”

So the godly leader shepherds the people towards God so HE can supply their needs. And he also REPRESENTS GOD before the people. Carrying out GOD’S Wishes. Following GOD’S agenda. Building GOD’S kingdom, rather than his own. And those were exactly what DAVID did. He wasn’t perfect. But he SHEPHERDED God’s people. And he built GOD’S kingdom.

And it’s STILL those two qualities that make a good leader of God’s people.

2. The king’s people

Next, our attention turns to the king’s PEOPLE. And that’s in THE REST of Ch’s 11 and 12. But in a strange way/ THESE CHAPTERS are ALSO about David.

Because they’re such a NOBLE band. So LOYAL and BRAVE and DEVOTED. That it just casts David in an EVEN MORE flattering light. “King David was such a great leader – just look at the sorts of people who followed him. And look what they were prepared to do for him”

Let’s look at some of these individuals. First up there’s Joab. David was looking for a commander-in-chief. And the job application was Jerusalem. The impenetrable city. It was held by the Jebusites. And his whole life, David had looked at it from the outside. He grew up in Bethlehem – just around the corner.

And now he was king. And that was the city he wanted. So he said to his soldiers. Ch 11 v6. “Anyone who leads the attack will be the new commander-in-chief”. Joab did it. Won the city. And got the job.

Next up, some of those under Joab. Mighty men, with great stories of victory against incredible odds.

In v15 for example, there’s the story of a time David was out in the desert. Feeling pretty thirsty. And he’s not far from his home town of Bethlehem. But the problem was/ it was filled with Philistines. And David makes some off-hand comment about how much he’d love a drink from his favourite watering-hole. Wishful thinking really. V17.

(1 Chr 11:17 NIV)  David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

And three of his men take him seriously. They’re SO loyal, and SO brave, they break INTO Bethlehem, get the water for David. And then break OUT again to bring it back to David.

But David is so humbled by their action, he won’t even drink the water. “Who am I to deserve such loyalty?” Instead he offers it to God. He’s thankful to God for the group of men he’s got around him.

And the chapter continues. More stories of mighty men. Individuals, with names, and ancestors, and backgrounds. Special skills. Like Ch 12 v2

(1 Chr 12:2 NIV)  they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed;

And they were a scary bunch. Look down at v8.

(1 Chr 12:8 NIV)  Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the desert. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains.

And if it’s INDIVIDUALS who are emphasised. It’s their UNITY that’s the key point. Because as different and special as each of the mighty warriors was/ it was their UNITY behind David that’s important. Diversity within unity. Go back to the start of Ch 11.

(1 Chr 11:1 NIV)  ALL Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and .

And down to V3.

(1 Chr 11:3 NIV)  When ALL THE ELDERS of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD etc

And v 4.

(1 Chr 11:4 NIV)  David and ALL the Israelites marched to Jerusalem

And the idea’s taken up again at the end of Ch 12. Each of the 12 tribes are listed. Not so many individual names. Just the total numbers. ALL ISRAEL behind David.

And look down at v38. The summary of these chapters.

(1 Chr 12:38-40 NIV)  All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over ALL ISRAEL. ALL THE REST of the Israelites were also of ONE MIND to make David king. {39} The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. {40} Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.

Individual people united under a godly king. That’s the picture. And the message to the Jews in 450 BC is this. “Forget that Israel is divided. Forget that there’s only a of tribes at the moment. You can get back to this by following David’s example. Follow after God’s heart.

And follow the example of the people – be loyal, and united under God’s king. And if there’s no king, keep praying for one. And keep looking for God to come good on his promise. Because he DID promise that there’d always be a king from David’s line on the throne.

But for the Jews in 450 BC, he never came. At least not the sort of king THEY were looking for.

3. Another king

But God DIDN’T forget his promise. He DID send his king. Jesus. ANOTHER king. Descended from David’s line. Born in David’s town, Bethlehem. And it was into David’s city – Jerusalem – that he rode on a donkey. And as he did, everyone praised God, and shouted, “Hosanna to THE SON OF DAVID. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”

And that brings US into the picture. Because Jesus is the king WE serve. The PERFECT SHEPHERD. The perfect LEADER of God’s kingdom. And we are HIS people.

But what does OUR service LOOK LIKE? And that gets back to the question the old guy from Gulgong had. Do we storm through Doonside shops blazing away with a gun, because that’s what DAVID’S followers did? Of course not.

And part of the answer is in the passage from Hebrews that we read. Ch 11 is the great list of FAITH soldiers. People who did various things because of their TRUST in GOD. And some of those things are to do with battles and warfare. But most aren’t. Listen to these verses from the end of Ch 11 (p 852 if you want to look it up) V32.

(Heb 11:32-34 NIV)  And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, {33} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, {34} quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

That’s all pretty violent, isn’t it? My mate at Gulgong would love that bit. But listen to how it changes. V35. (People who were just as much God’s soldiers).

(Heb 11:35-38 NIV)  Women received back their , raised to life again. Others were d and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. {36} Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. {37} They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– {38} the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

What sort of battles are these? Answered prayer, persecution, poverty. Exactly the sorts of battles WE might face. This week.

And who is the enemy they’re fighting? Not the Philistines. V35 says it’s . V38 says THIS WORLD wasn’t worthy of them. That’s the world of SIN. The world where SATAN is having a field-day. That’s the enemy WE’RE up against.

And our warfare is to do with PRAYER, and standing up for Jesus, and being persecuted. And counter-cultural poverty. Because we’ve got DIFFERENT PRIORITIES. Just like THOSE Old Testament warriors.

And even though some things are the SAME. Hebrews goes on to describe one of the DIFFERENCES. The major difference between us, and the people who followed David. Look at v39.

(Heb 11:39-40 NIV)  These were all commended for their faith, yet NONE OF THEM RECEIVED WHAT HAD BEEN PROMISED. {40} God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As faithful, and brave, and loyal, as David’s soldiers were. And as wonderful as David’s reign was. It didn’t last. And it WASN’T what God had promised. A HUMAN king in an PHYSICAL land/ was only a taste. Enough to give the Jews in 450 BC a longing for SOMETHING BETTER. Something that would LAST.

And that’s exactly what God had in mind. Something better. For US. And it was a plan that would include THEM as well. That’s what v40 says. God’s people BEFORE and AFTER. United by God’s plan. His plan of salvation in Jesus.

And what does that mean for us? Back to the old Gulgong question. Look at Ch 12 v1

(Heb 12:1 NIV)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Look at those Old Testament faith-warriors. Follow THEIR example. Get rid of sin. Anything that can weigh you down, or trip you up, or distract you. Or make you less effective.

David’s mighty men followed THEIR king with bravery and loyalty and determination. Let’s follow King Jesus with the SAME bravery and loyalty and determination.

But we don’t just look BACK at those Old Testament examples. We look forward. Look at v 2.

(Heb 12:2-3 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus is the AUTHOR of faith. Every warrior in Ch 11 with faith, had it as a gift from God because of Jesus.

And he’s the EXAMPLE of faith. The faithful, loyal, sacrificial servant. And we’re to CONSIDER HIM. When things get tough/ look to Jesus, so you don’t grow weary and lose heart.

That’s the war that we’re involved in. To keep following Jesus. And living for him. And not giving up when it’s easier to. And standing our ground, when it’s easier to fall back.

And that’s the message I’d like to give to those two old guys in that little country church!