Some Lessons from the Chronicles - Introduction
Harry Lacey, Cardiff
Seeing that whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (Rom. 15.'i), it follows that spiritual profit is to be derived from a consideration of The Chronicles. These 'temple letters' as Paul calls the Old Testament Scriptures ("sacred writings" R.V., "holy scriptures" A.V., 2 Tim, 3. 15), being God-breathed are therefore profitable, and serve the purposes enumerated in the passage: "for reaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness:" their general aim being that the 'man of God' become perfect and throughly furnished.
This designation of a believer as a man of God is one in advance of that which terms us children of God or even sons of God. It is a designation which indicates complete Christian maturity. It implies also a knowledge of God and experience of His ways. The use of it in the Holy Scriptures suggests that the person who bears it is one who is able to stand for God and, if need be, to stand for God alone when others fail to own His claims.
It is obvious, as the passage teaches that such a man of God requires a certain condition of spiritual health and moral vigour and certain spiritual equipment if he is to be ready unto every good work. These inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament in which Timothy was instructed as a babe (2 Tim. 3. 15) are such as to produce this condition and to furnish this equipment. Consequently, we are encouraged to study The Chronicles by reason of the contribution they will make lo this end and by reason of their necessity to us if we are to attain it.
Our first Lessons will be drawn from the position of The Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible and from the various names given to those records by the saints of ancient times.
Most Christians have noticed the unusual order in which Christ spoke of the books of the Old Testament when He expounded them in the Upper Room (Lu. 24, 44). He spoke of the Psalms as following, and not preceding, the Prophets. That was the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible then, as it is in all Hebrew Bibles today.
This tact prepares us for what is perhaps a little more surprising; that is that The Chronicles stand at the very end of the Hebrew Bible which Christ used in His day, after both Psalms and Prophets, Thus they closed the canon of Old Testament Scripture and, as we shall see, reviewed its history.
The scope of the Chronicles is such that it scans that part of human history to which the Old Testament is devoted. They start by mention of the name of Adam, and close by reference to the return from Babylon. Their nature is that of a review. The records of the men who were associated with David in his rejection are given, and their exploits for him then and when he came to the throne are described. The lives of the kings of Judah are reviewed in few verses and their good and bad deeds summed up in striking epitomes.
The position of the Chronicles then, their scope and general character makes them like the judgment seat of God (see Rom. 14. 10, R.V.) of the Old Testament. In this way they bring to us a fresh consciousness of the fact that 'we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ', which will take place at the close of this present phase of Christian, experience. In that soon-coming day of Christ' new books of Chronicles wilt be disclosed, and the names of all who now are associated with Christ in this day of His rejection will be made known, and the exploits of all those who have wrought valiantly for Him will be described. In the same way that those who wrought in fine linen were mentioned in the old Chronicles (4. 21), so those who now work the fine linen of lives of righteousness will be known in the day of the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19. 8, R.V.), Those who were potters and who worked amongst plants and hedges were not left out of the old Chronicles (4. 23); nor will (hose who give themselves to the work of cultivating for, God be unmentioned in the day of Christ's rewards.
The local Christian assembly is spoken of as God's cultivated place (1 Cor. 3. 9), and those who are prepared to spend the time which is necessary to encourage growth for God in the plants of His pleasure will not be without adequate recompense in the day when He makes up His jewels. It is wonderful what a weakly plant will produce through the attentions of a true gardener's skill, and what has been produced in the lives of apparently weakly Christians by the skill of patient, affectionate and faithful shepherds will shine in true glory in that day.
The books of The Chronicles have been called by different names, which are instructive. The Hebrews called them The Books of Days, They were records, and it is probable that it is from this designation that our English one of "The Chronicles" was derived. The suggestion is that, as there were records kept of the lives of those people, so are there records being kept of the lives of God's people in these days. Thus indeed will it be possible for our lives to be handed back to us again in that day. It is questionable if any of the people who are mentioned in Chronicles realized then that we should be reading of them now in an age after theirs. Will our lives be evident to others in following ages? In many modern offices, there are in use machines which, by a turn of a switch, speak back again the details of a conversation that has taken place; that men can do so helps us to realize how easily God will be able to bring back to us the things done in the body (2 Cor, 5. 10).
When the Old Testament was translated into Greek (called the Septuagint Version, and often indicated by the letters LXX). The Chronicles were placed along with the other historical books and in a position following The Kings as we have them in our English Bibles today. At that time they were given a title which is highly significant. They were designated by the somewhat cumbersome word Paraleipomenön, which means of the things being left upon one side', or, simply, 'things left unnoticed'. This new way of entitling the books was evidently suggested to these "old-time scholars by the way in which things unnoticed in The Kings were brought into places of some prominence. The reference to Jabez is an example. But for The Chronicles, his desire for God's blessing, his aspiration to possess more of his possessions in the land of his inheritance, and his desire to be preserved from evil, would have remained unnoticed. Nevertheless in them they come in for special mention and this serves to show what sort of things in the lives of believers now, which so easily pass by unnoticed, will earn the Master's "Well done!" in that day.
So, whilst the position of The Chronicles reminds us of the fact of the judgment seat of Christ, and the Hebrew name reminds us that records are kept, the Greek title brings to our minds the truth that persons unnoticed now will be brought into becoming prominence at the day of Christ's glory and that those things done for Him which receive no adequate approval now will come in for suitable commendation then. At the very threshold of our studies in the Books of The Chronicles, therefore, we may be encouraged as well as challenged by these facts.
We shall see in our subsequent consideration of them that these records are written from a special point of view, which enhances this encouragement and heightens the significance of this challenge in connection with the church life of the present-day Christian.
(To be continued D.V.)