Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 12.17-18
17 David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in peace to help me, I am ready for you to join me. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when my hands are free from violence, may the God of our ancestors see it and judge you.” 
18 Then the Spirit came on Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: 
“We are yours, David! 
We are with you, son of Jesse! 
Success, success to you, 
and success to those who help you, 
for your God will help you.” 

Reflection: Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms
By John Tillman

Chronicles might seem like a book that looks back, longing for the “good old days,” but in reality it uses the past to think about the future.

David’s kingdom is idealized partly because one purpose of Chronicles is reminding people that a king “like David” is coming. Its readers had seen a Temple and a wall rebuilt, but not a kingdom. They wrestled with God’s promises of the past and past generations’ failures to fully realize those promises. Did God mean what he said about David’s kingdom having no end? Would God really bless the nations through them? When would this “Son of David” arise?

Chronicles gives a more thorough account of the slowly growing support for David after Saul’s reign. These men from many tribes transferred allegiance to a homeless, wandering king and a kingdom not fully realized. Many brought their entire families. 

Amasai is the chief of David’s elite fighting force. They are known more for feats of battle than prophecy. Yet, Amasai was also a Levite and God’s Spirit came on him to proclaim that he, and those with him, were for David. By God’s Spirit he prophesied success and peace.

Many times in my life I have idealized “Mighty Men” like Amasai, Joab, and the other “sons of Zeruiah.” There are good things we can draw from these men and their many brave actions. However, too much teaching in the church about these men invokes “spiritual warfare” in twisted ways that allow Christians to cloak political violence in spiritual language.

These men and their lifestyles are not ideals for the Christian life. Many who served David, such as Joab, relied on violence, shrewdness, and political assassinations. They shed their own country members’ blood in service of their own power and to cover up David’s sins.

There are kingdoms of this world, like Saul’s, that are passing away. These earthly kings, tribes, and parties demand our attention, our fealty, our loyalty. They ask us to shed others’ blood by endorsing, normalizing, or embracing violence. We might fight…except that, as Jesus said, our kingdom is from another place (John 18.36) and our battles are not against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6.12)

Let us not be goaded by kings, like Saul, who may be destroyed by their own violence. By God’s Spirit, may we forsake perishing, worldly kingdoms and prophesy success and peace for the imperishable kingdom of Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are cure for the nations. The curse of destruction will be abolished. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign forever and ever. — Revelation 22.1-5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 11-12 (Listen – 11:59)
Hebrews 13 (Listen – 3:31)

Read more about The Superior Bravery of Tenderness
Bad spiritual takeaways from these “Mighty Men” passages “baptize” men’s sinful, violent tendencies as honorable spiritual qualities.

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Jesus is a greater king than David, never failing to minister to those in need. He did more than honor the outcast, he cured their disease.

Legacy of Failure

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 10.13-14
13 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 death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Reflection: Legacy of Failure
By Erin Newton

In a developmental psychology course, I remember learning that adults ages 40-65 enter a phase focused on leaving a legacy. The typical desire is to make a positive contribution to society. If this is a natural human development, you expect to see evidence of this in the Bible.

Repeated stories in the Bible are common: four gospels, two law books, and the echoed history of Israel’s kings in Chronicles. The retold life of Saul is condensed with a succinct obituary: Saul died because he was unfaithful. Compared to all the chapters of his life in 1 Kings, he is now a blurb of failure.

The Bible is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so these repeated stories should catch our attention. Forever, his bad deeds are highlighted while the handful of good moments are overshadowed. His legacy will go down in history as someone who sought advice from others rather than God. Saul consulted a witch and she summoned the prophet, Samuel, a voice he had ignored many times before. He had plenty of chances to change his ways, but he didn’t care.

What is interesting about the list of faithful believers in Hebrews 11-12 is that many of them had serious flaws, episodes of bad decisions. Despite the errors made in their lives, they are called the “hall of faith” and the “great cloud of witnesses.” What makes these people different from Saul when they all struggled with sin? In a word: repentance.

You and I are going to keep struggling with sin. Culture will tempt us to listen to bad advice. Our pride will seek to put others down and scoff at any form of rebuke. Temptation is here to stay, for now. How we respond is our responsibility. 

We need to be reminded of our humanity and our great need for forgiveness. We can toil and strive and put every ounce of sweat into creating a good, impactful legacy. But as the light begins to dim and the sweet voice of the Lord begins to call us home, the greatest peace we will have is knowing our lives were another retelling of His legacy. “Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken… and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12.6-7)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
And yet my people did not hear my voice, and Israel would not obey me. — Psalm 84.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings

1 Chronicles 9-10 (Listen – 7:48)
Hebrews 12 (Listen – 4:36)

Read more from Erin: Muscle Memory
Our spirit has “muscle memory” of sorts. Our heart is shaped and trained by our thoughts and actions each day.

Read more about Weeping For Rebels
We have all been Absalom, rebels trapped by our sinful pride.
We have all been Joab, refusing mercy to those who slighted us.

Sheerah the City Builder

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 7.21-24
Ezer and Elead were killed by the native-born men of Gath, when they went down to seize their livestock. 22 Their father Ephraim mourned for them many days, and his relatives came to comfort him. 23 Then he made love to his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named him Beriah, because there had been misfortune in his family. 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah. 

Hebrews 11.13-16
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

Reflection: Sheerah the City Builder
By John Tillman

Most readers probably don’t remember Sheerah because her only mention is in a genealogy. Genealogies typically go father to son, father to son. Mentions of females are notable.

Genealogies seem boring to modern readers. Name after name parades down the page (often names we have difficulty pronouncing) and we just don’t see the point. 

The extreme individualism of our age is one reason for this boredom. We don’t typically feel connected to our ancestors. We see ourselves as solo artists or heroes, not a part of a whole. However, genealogies go beyond record-keeping. They tell stories.

Reading these passages was a way to re-experience the stories of those mentioned. Readers knew the stories from the other scriptures and the prophets. Their memories would light up as they read even just the names. Like a cameo of a Marvel character appearing briefly in a post-credits scene, these lists of names have exciting tidbits for those with the patience to read them.

The miniature stories we find in genealogies are hints of a larger tale. They are like open windows installed in a stairway, and it is worth pondering what the architect, the writer of the genealogy, hoped we would see.

Sheerah is a leader and architect. She built multiple cities, one of which bore her name. The other cities were twin cities on a border between two Israelite tribes: Ephraim and Benjamin. Upper Beth-Horan and Lower Beth-Horan, were not typical farming settlements. They were extremely important militarily and as part of the country’s religious life. 

Beth-Horan guarded an important ascent toward Jerusalem and was a city dedicated to the Levites amidst those tribes. The “upper” part of the city was Ephraim’s and the “lower” part was Benjamin’s. Levites from these cities would serve in Jerusalem’s Temple on a rotating basis.

The writer of Hebrews says all the faithful long for another land, another city. This includes the men and women listed in the genealogy of faith called the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. 

Our genealogy of faith is full of imperfect, broken, and flawed humans leading to Jesus. God is not ashamed to be called their God and he is not ashamed to be ours either. We are not alone in our walk of faith. Connection to and knowledge of our “cloud of witnesses” can inspire more Sheerahs to build cities leading others to God’s city.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 7-8 (Listen – 9:04)
Hebrews 11 (Listen – 6:22)

Read more about No Such Thing as God Forsaken
May we not lose hope in our God or hope for our cities.

Read more about Faith of the Flawed
The purpose of this passage is to demonstrate how ordinary people overcame difficult situations through their faith in God.

Why Chronicles?

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 5.24-26
…They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families. 25 But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile…

Reflection: Why Chronicles?
By John Tillman

Chronicles is often viewed as a repeat of Samuel and Kings but its purpose and construction are quite different.

Chronicles opens with the most complete genealogical record in the Bible. We find ourselves in the midst of a tangled web of interconnected families, tribes, and nations. Chronicles’ genealogy accomplishes more than simply reciting some names of relatives. Starting with Adam it connects the thread of God’s plan from ages past. It shows the hand of God correcting, guiding, and moving through his chosen instruments—humans.

It may seem from our perspective that Chronicles is whitewashed, omitting certain sins and failings and emphasizing victories and accomplishments. But the readers and writers of these accounts already had the books we call Samuel and Kings. They already read the condemnations and lived the fulfilments of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others. They were the descendants of the failed leadership of Israel and Judah. They had no illusions about how they came to be living in exile.

The Chronicler wasn’t fooling anyone by leaving out certain events. That was not the point. The Chronicle’s purpose was theological, not historical. This rebuilt history was written by descendants of those who returned and rebuilt Jerusalem. It only makes sense that they’d create a record that started at the beginning.

The Chronicler traces God’s promises carefully, like a thread, through the chaos of interfamilial and international conflicts. Again and again and again, the Bible shows us humans stumbling and failing to carry out God’s work of righteousness in the world. This reminds us that we are also waiting for a ruler who will not fail.

We need both Chronicles and Kings in our lives. Kings reminds us of the depravity and sin that is present in all human leaders and governments. It reminds us that chariots are not to be trusted in and horses cannot deliver victory. (Psalm 20.7)

Chronicles, as a whole, testifies that it is God who carries forth good purposes, even through wicked men and wicked nations. Chronicles reminds us that we stand amidst the fiery “chariots and horses of Israel” (2 Kings 2.11-12; 6.16-17; Psalm 68.17) and that the greatest victory is delivered to us by Jesus, the prince of peace who arrives on a donkey.

Our history, our sins, our mistakes, cannot be deleted but our story going forward can be rewritten. We can be incorporated into the greater story of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one little stroke to drop out of the Law.” — Luke 16.17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 5-6 (Listen – 12:23)
Hebrews 10 (Listen – 5:33)

Read more about The Hero We Need Isn’t Jehu
Jehu wasn’t the hero Israel needed. He’s not the one we need either.

Read more about Compelled Toward Community
Let us not neglect our responsibility to love, care for, and encourage one another in the body of Christ called the Church.

Restoration Begins

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 25.28
28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. 30 Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.

Reflection: Restoration Begins
By John Tillman

Even the Babylonian destruction and exile, with all its violence and extreme practices, could not stop the purposes of God to bless the world through the people he chose.

Jeremiah told Jehoiachin that “even if he was a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.” (Jeremiah 22.24) However, Jehoiachin did surrender to Babylon rather than rebelling against him like other kings before and after him. 

Perhaps it was this surrender that eventually led to him being restored to some status by the Babylonian king. It is unrecorded in canonical scripture, but Rabbinical tradition assumes that Jehoiachin repented of his wickedness while in captivity. This is shown in how God seems to lift the curse on Jehoiachin that was pronounced by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah stated that Jehoiachin should be “childless” and that no son of his should sit on David’s throne or rule. However, after many years in chains and captivity, the repentant king is restored. 

The writer tells us that Jehoiachin “put aside his prison clothes” and ate at the king’s table. Jehoiachin also had a grandson appointed as governor when the Jews began to be returned to Jerusalem. The prophet Haggai would use the exact same phrase used by Jeremiah to indicate that God had relented and reversed the curse: “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” (Haggai 2.23)

Restoration begins with repentance. Exile and slavery are not the end for God’s people. They’re more like a restart. Israel had been enslaved when he called them out of Egypt. He would soon call them out of Babylon as well. In Egypt, Israel started as honored residents of the nation and ended up as slaves. In Babylon, the pattern reverses. 

Through Jehoiachin, the king who was raised from prison to the side of Babylon’s king, comes Jesus, the king who was raised from death to the side of Heaven’s king.

We, when we repent and return our affection to God, are lifted out of the prison of our sin and seated at the table with Christ. May we put aside our prison clothes, dress in Christ’s righteousness, and walk in freedom that produces justice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 85.10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 25 (Listen – 5:24)
Hebrews 7 (Listen – 2:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicle 1-2 (Listen – 11:18), Hebrews 8 (Listen – 2:22)
1 Chronicle 3-4 (Listen – 8:52), Hebrews 9 (Listen – 4:40)

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
The return from exile narrative is a mirror-version of the Exodus from Egypt narrative.

Read more about The Exodus and The Return
There are two different examples in scripture of God setting his people free from oppressive captivity and parallels in the New Testament to go along with them.