Friday, September 24, 2010

Keeping it in context of the larger story

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 33

Read: 2 Chronicles 23:16-35:15

Verse that stood out:
[Uzziah] sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success - 2 Chron 26:5

When we read the Bible, it's helpful to remember that we need to keep the whole story in mind. Case in point, we've been in the period of the kings for quite awhile now. 1-2 Chronicles is basically a retelling of the stories that have come before in 1-2 Kings. This retelling is from a specific point of view and serves a specific purpose. Primarily, this is a book written to people returning to Israel from the Babylonian exile. While it's history, it's a specific kind of history, theological history. The writer of Chronicles is attempting to convey theological truth with historical illustrations. That truth is simple: obey God and things will go well. Disobey God, and well, you can see how that turns out from the history you're reading.

This idea of sowing faithfulness and reaping blessing is a theme throughout the Bible (see Psalm 1 for a great example). This is what we call a general truth. That is, most of the time, when we do what we are supposed to do, good things follow. I teach this to my own children. I tell them, if they work hard on their homework, they'll usually get good grades. They'll certainly get better grades than if they don't work hard on their homework. But notice I said usually. General truths hold for most of life, but they do not preclude exceptions. Sometimes we work hard at our homework and still don't comprehend our homework. Sometimes we work hard in the fields, but the harvest still fails (because of weather or disease). Sometimes we act faithfully towards God, but blessings are slow to come. Sometimes all we get for our good behavior is persecution and pain.

Do 1-2 Chronicles ignore this truth? Maybe. More likely, it's just outside of their purpose. They're trying to instill the general truth in the minds and hearts of the people returning to Israel after the exile. You've got to learn the basic rule before you learn the exceptions. But the Bible has plenty of room for the exceptions. We'll get to them eventually - Job, Ecclesiastes, some of the prophets, even the teachings of Christ highlight the exceptions to this general rule. Which is why we're reading the whole thing. So, pay attention to the general rule as you read Chronicles, but keep in mind the exceptions.

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