The author of 1 Chronicles (most likely Ezra) suggested the following guiding principles for the post-exilic community to whom he was writing:
- David was the one God chose to make a forever covenant with
- Jerusalem was the place where He chose to put His name where He was to be exclusively worshiped in the Temple
- David was a great king because He greatly loved the Temple and the worship related to it
The Temple and its worship—a litmus test for Judah’s kings
These guiding principles are the formula for Israel’s success in the land God had given to their ancestors. If they want to continue in the land, shepherded by Davidic descendants and serving the God whose Temple is in their midst, they must remain faithful to Him. 2 Chronicles proves these guiding principles by showing how those kings who held to them—especially those who remained faithful to God and labored for His Temple—prospered, while those who did not experienced chastisement. The Temple was not intended to be a good luck charm or a monument to architectural ability, but rather the place where His people would worship Him solely.
Those kings who worked for the good of the Temple receive extended treatment and commendation. The majority of the chapters devoted to Solomon’s reign (chs. 1-9) focus on his building the Temple. Work on his own palace is given only passing mention. Jehoshaphat, despite his compromise with Ahab’s house, did much good by sending Levitical “teaching teams” to instruct Judah in the law of the Lord (17:9); he labored to bring Judah back to the Lord God of their fathers (19:4) and himself demonstrated confidence in the Lord when up against an innumerable foe (see ch. 20). Even though Joash finished his life and reign poorly, his work to repair the Temple is noted (24:4). Hezekiah and Josiah receive extended treatment and implied praise in 2 Chronicles as stand-out examples of two men who restored the worship of Yahweh at the Temple. Both called Israel to Passover celebrations virtually unparalleled in the nation’s history (30:25-26; 35:18).
The words abandon and humble
Two key words in 2 Chronicles are “abandon” and “humble.” (Only Jeremiah uses the word “abandon” more than 2 Chronicles.) Those who abandon God must humble themselves before Him. 2 Chronicles warns against abandoning the Lord as early as God’s response to Solomon’s prayer. If Israel turns away from the Lord and abandons obedience to Him, the consequences will be severe. They will be uprooted from their land and from the Temple and banished from God’s presence (7:19-22). But if or when chastisement comes for abandoning the Lord, the needed response is to humble oneself before the Lord. This is the point of perhaps the most famous verse in 2 Chronicles: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (7:14).
The pattern of abandoning the Lord and then humbling oneself before Him is a major theme in 2 Chronicles. Rehoboam abandons the Law of the Lord (12:1) but then humbles himself when chastisement came (12:7). Abijah asserts as a reason why God will help Judah in battle is that they did not abandon the Lord like Jeroboam had done in the Northern Kingdom (13:10-11). God through Azariah the prophet promises Asa that as long as they seek God, He will be found by them, but if they abandon Him He will abandon them (15:2). Sadly, Asa does abandon his sole dependence on God and refuses to humble himself (16:7, 12).
God shows Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him (16:9). But those who abandon Him and His ways face terrible consequences, as seen in the lives of kings Jehoram (21:10), Joash (24:18, 20, 24), and Ahaz (28:6), whereas godly kings like Hezekiah realize the wrath such abandonment caused and call Israel to turn back to Yahweh (29:6-10). In fact, Judah’s abandonment of the Lord to burn incense to idols will bring sure judgment upon the nation (34:24-25). God speaks of Josiah’s humility before Him twice in one verse (34:27). Manasseh provides a fascinating example of a king who abandoned the Lord, worshipping everything else but Him, but received singular grace and help from the Lord when he humbled himself (33:12). Amon followed his father’s sin but not his father’s humility (33:23).
Judah’s abandonment of the Lord and refusal to humble themselves before His prophets brought the nation to a point of no remedy (36:12, 17). Just as God had warned, He took them into exile, the Temple articles were carried into Babylon, and the Temple itself was burned (36:7, 10, 18-20).
Willing to rebuild God’s house?
But God in His covenant mercy to His people and in faithfulness to His promise to David will not utterly abandon His people nor His Temple, which is the note of hope on which 2 Chronicles ends: “Yahweh, the God of heaven . . . has commissioned me to build Him a house in Jerusalem . . . who among you from all His people may Yahweh His God be with him and let him go up” (36:23).
- What guiding principles does Ezra lay down in 1 Chronicles for the postexilic community to whom he is writing?
- Give some examples to show what we mean when we say that the Temple and its worship becomes a “litmus test” for Israel’s kings. (Could they prosper if they neglected God’s house?)
- What are two key words in the book of 2 Chronicles?
- How do these two words relate to each other? Give some examples from 2 Chronicles.
- What is perhaps the most famous verse in all of 2 Chronicles? Explain how it articulates a key theme of the book.
- What are some areas in your life in which you have abandoned the Lord and need to humble yourself before Him?
- Name a king or two in 2 Chronicles who are outstanding examples of humility before the Lord.
- With what call to action does 2 Chronicles end? (How does this fit with Ezra’s emphasis throughout the book on the importance of the Temple? Do you think he had a point he was driving home to his readers by the way he told the stories of 1 & 2 Chronicles?)