These intermittent entries are based on a decision I made to read the Bible in 90 days at the beginning of 2013.
The books of Chronicles are repeats in the grand scheme of the history of Israel. They offer new perspective on things covered in the other historical books of the Old Testament. That being said, I came across something that I don’t think I would have seen had I not been reading so many chapters each day (thus the entire purpose behind this reading plan and the “observing from 30k” entries).
After you wade through the taxing genealogies at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, there are stories about the end of Saul’s life and the leadership transition between him and David. Some of these stories are quite interesting, some are fairly common fare. Some go from intensely engaging to hard to follow once another list of family names or properties pops up. But something happened as I began to read these accounts that I can only, curiously, refer to as relief.
I didn’t even realize it, but the entire book, practically, of 2 Kings is the depressing story of Israel’s downfall. Outside of a small handful of righteous kings, the book is a who’s who of dastardly, wicked, evil, self-centered, cowardly, and trashy rulers. We see brutal forms of idolatry taking place like temple prostitution and child sacrifice by fire. There is the sadness that comes with watching the Hebrew people rise to inconceivable heights under the leadership of David and Solomon, and then beginning with Solomon the downward slide. I started this paragraph with the words, “I didn’t even realize it”, not because I didn’t previously know what 2 Kings was about, but because the transition was so smooth from greatness to failure that I wasn’t aware of just how bad things had gotten and, maybe more interesting, just how easily I got used to reading about it. I grew to expect the failure, the sin, the evil. I remember feeling frustrated with Solomon when he built the pagan temples and altars to appease his ridiculous harem, but by the time Manasseh showed up to undo all of the good Hezekiah had accomplished I wasn’t shocked or appalled or even mildly surprised, I was…indifferent.
So when Chronicles began talking about David and his mighty men and a passionate, worshipful push to get the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, and David’s inquiries of the Lord regarding going into battle against their enemies – once these glorious stories began it was like a literary defibrillator hooked to my brain. Suddenly I realized just how accepting I’d become of Israel’s fate and apostasy.
I’m afraid that it’s too easy to grow dim over time. And I don’t just mean sinful. I meant that when life beats us down, when things consistently go wrong, and when we feel like the story-line is repeating itself the temptation is not sin but acceptance. We too easily get used to things being bleak. We hedge ourselves into the safest pessimisms that we can in an effort to guard our hearts and minds against future disappointments. Once things have gotten so bad the only thing worse seems to be getting our hopes up and thinking it will change only to fatalistically find out that it won’t.
What happened to me in 1 Chronicles 11, unexpectedly, was a kind of rescue. Israel, who at the end of 2 Kings had been completely ravaged and taken into exile…Israel, whose best and brightest had been literally castrated and were being brainwashed in Babylon…Israel, who had officially earned the title “spiritual whore” – that Israel looked at a young man who had killed a giant by himself without weapons of war, who had brutally mocked the masculinity of 200 enemy soldiers as an engagement gift to his future father-in-law, who had heard songs written about his military exploits before they’d even happened – they looked at him and said, “we are your bone and flesh.” (1 Chronicles 11:1) I was arrested and pulled out of the pits of leaky-basement expectations by the re-arrival of a king of epic character, bravery, and passion.
In a way, what happened to me in 1 Chronicles 11 yesterday is what happened to me in 2002 when another King, more heroic, more epic, more passionate, and of more renown stepped into the mundane soup of my life. Yesterday, and eleven years ago, I was confronted with what can only be called “Good News”. I was reminded yesterday just how grateful I am for that Good News, for that Gospel.
I wonder if in the midst of global upheaval, political intrigue, economic crisis, social chaos, and personal misfortune – in the middle of all that a dose of Good News might just be the charge that you need re-imagine life in a way that allows for hope. I challenge you to daydream, just for a moment, about what the world might look like if everything were immediately “better”. Whatever you can imagine, however tranquil, lovely, and sublime I tell you with great certainty that the world the new King is going to bring is that good and more so. I encourage you, and to a certain degree I plead with you, don’t let the cycle of sadness define the future…friends, there is Good News.