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Monday, April 7, 2014

Revival and Reformation Pt 1

{Here is the audio file. Give it a listen while you plow through the manuscript below}
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Revival and Reformation Pt 1
1 and 2 Chronicles

Give us, Good Lord, the hardiness we will need today and throughout this series, to hear you, to fathom what we are to believe about you and what you require of us, and to see better what it means to love you whole hog. Amen.

Where, oh where are my marbles? That is exactly what you may likely wonder about me and my sanity, because we’re going to launch off in a series on 1 and 2 Chronicles. What in the world would possess me to do such an imprudent thing??? Well, today I hope to show you, and to even stir up a bit of excitement.

1st-The Place of 1 and 2 Chronicles: Where are 1st and 2nd Chronicles in the Bible? In our English versions they are smack in the middle, which is fine as far as it goes. But in the Hebrew Bible they are the last set of scrolls, which is instructive. Then 1 Chron. 3.19-24 mentions something like 9 generations south of Zerubabbel {522-486 BC} (the sons of Elioenai) which would place the final composition and arrangement of 1st and 2nd Chronicles in the 4th century B.C., finalized somewhere after Malachi. This is a book, then, initially written for Jews who are still under the Persian thumb, many of whom are still trickling back into Judah, and the message then has to do with reclaiming, reviving, reforming, returning.  Primarily 1 and 2 Chronicles is an interpretive, people-defining, God-focused, retelling of historical events with this agenda in mind: to reclaim, revive, reform and return the people of God to the God of the people.

2nd-Pulling it Together: One way we know that there is a goal, or goals, is the intentional editorial economizing going on here. Allow me to put it in context. This biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer covers roughly 40 years of his short life. 1 and 2 Chronicles covers around 900 years. Loads and loads of important, normal and abnormal things are totally avoided, and those items that fit into the goal-stream are recorded. Just think of America’s short history, and how many books have been written about each era, each president, adventurer, war, etc. Together they could fill up the whole Edmond Public Library and more. And think about what it would be like to have President Obama call you up and commission you to weed through it all that to pull together a short 100 page book! Very much like the Gospel accounts, these events, episodes, scenes and actions are true, historical happenings, but they are being packaged (through Holy Spirit guided editorial economizing, reflective recitations, etc.) in such a way as to draw the hearer/reader toward a goal or set of goals. Very much as the Gospel according to John had its goal (20.31...), so 1 and 2 Chronicles flows toward an overarching aim, an ambition that is meant to reclaim, revive, reform and return the hearts and minds of God’s Church to the God of the Church.

3rd-The goal? Look for repeated themes, words, phrases and refrains…… Called on/called upon/cried to – used 7 times. Forsake/abandoned – (if you forsake the LORD…” or “because you have abandoned….”) and (“if you do not forsake the LORD…”) 8 times. Did what was right/did not do what was right – 11 times. Seek/sought the LORD – (positive and negative, did or didn’t) used 12 times. But the biggy, the shocker was this: Heart/whole heart – (positive and negative) used 27 times! 1 and 2 Chronicles is primarily about reclaiming the heart, reviving the heart, reforming the heart, returning the heart to seek the LORD, to authentically call upon him, to not forsake or abandon him; but to do what is right in the sight of the LORD! From early in 1 Chronicles to the end of 2 Chronicles this message pulses through like the relentless beat of a long rap song. ***If you listen carefully you will hear two verses being worked out in 1 and 2 Chronicles: (a) On the one hand is 2 Chronicles 20.20. (b) And on the other hand is the promise of forgiveness 2 Chronicles 7.14.

What value is there in our slugging and sloshing through 1 and 2 Chronicles?

1st-Learn to read this story as what it is: the God-authorized version of our history. Almost every rehearsal of these true, historical events gives us God’s own analysis of the decisions made and actions done, for the purpose of helping to guide us in this “long obedience in the same direction,” of what God wants, and why we should care. That means that as the Spirit of God blows over our hearts while examining 1 and 2 Chronicles, we will draw nearer to God. We see him being faithful in the face of horrendous human infidelity, duplicity and treachery (which gives us hope)! But we also watch him dependably replenish, rescue and ratify his peoples’ loyalty and we will grow in fidelity ourselves. The Catechism (#3) ties this together, “what do [1 and 2 Chronicles] principally teach? [1 and 2 Chronicles] principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”

2nd-It will direct our minds and hearts to flee to Christ, especially as we see being hammered out a concept stated by Paul in Galatians 6.7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap”

3rd-There is a subtle point that shades 1 and 2 Chronicles and also tints the coloring of of 1 and 2 Kings. Please hear me, especially if you have children, or if you have adult children who have severely disappointed you: There is no automatic correlation between the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of parents and the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of children. The crucial word is “automatic.” Faithful Asa spawned faithful Jehoshaphat, but faithful Jehoshaphat sired faith-breaking Jehoram. Rotten Ahaz produced God-committed Hezekiah. God-committed Hezekiah bred bloody Manasseh. Godless Amon hatched wholesome Josiah. Wholesome Josiah reproduced the last four faith-breaking kings of Judah.

[“Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely chequered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations (Matthew 1:7,8) .
     1. Roboam begat Abia;
that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
     2. Abia begat Asa;
that is, a bad father, a good son.
     3. Asa begat Josaphat;
that is, a good father, a good son.
     4. Josaphat begat Joram;
that is, a good father, a bad son.
     I see, Lord, from hence, that my father's piety cannot be entailed*; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son” (Thomas Fuller, quaintest of English divines, in his Scripture Observations).  

{*Verb 1. Involve something as an unavoidable part or consequence. 2. Law; limit the inheritance of property over a number of generations so that ownership remains within a family or group (“Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English,” 3rd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 331).}]

4th-1 and 2 Chronicles pounds into our hearts and noggins a better, healthier notion of revival, revitalization and reformation. As Americans we want the “new and improved” everything. Whether it’s in religion, spirituality, church planting or church growth – “it’s not your father’s oldsmobile” has become the kind of mantra that we lustfully chant as we almost pornographically salivate over wanting the newest, freshest, thrillingest, latest, hottest, hippest, and most fashionable experience. But 1 and 2 Chronicles provides the sane, sound, sober and salubrious “method” (if you will) for revival and reformation (whether of a denomination, church, family, or person) – and it is simply being reclaimed and returning to God as he has revealed himself. As God promises in Jeremiah 6.16: “Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Returning to ancient paths sounds like going back to stunted, stinted, stagnant ways; but by giving up the unrelenting rat-race of the “new and improved” and returning to God’s ancient paths, we will find it fresh, freeing and fortifying.


5th-What Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3.15-17 applies to the adventure we are about to launch out on….“from childhood you have been acquainted with [1 and 2 Chronicles], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [1 and 2 Chronicles] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3.15-16).

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