[12] Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. [13] And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. - 1 Chronicles 29:12–13 (ESV)

First and Second Chronicles are immediately interesting because readers will notice that they are reading a recapitulation of the stories in the books of Samuel and the Kings. "Why", a person might ask, "is the Bible repeating itself? Didn't I just read about this?" The answer is yes and no.

The passage above is a helpful representative passage for Chronicles because it illustrates the sovereign power of God over all things. Not only that, but it also illustrates God's active involvement as a sovereign ruler over the whole earth. God is the one who makes great and gives strength. There are no powers who become powers despite God's efforts to the contrary. And this dovetails nicely with the occasion for the writing of the Chronicles.

The first thing I typically point out to people who ask about the point of Chronicles is the fact that Chronicles follows on the heels of Samuel and Kings in the Western canon but not the Hebrew canon. The Western canon groups together history books, but the Hebrew canon has a different arrangement. Whereas the Western canon is arranged according to Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophets, the Hebrew canon is arranged according to the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. In the Hebrew canon, Samuel and Kings are grouped with the prophets while Chronicles is grouped with the Writings. We are used to thinking of Malachi as the last book of the Old Testament. But for the Hebrew arrangement, the final book is Chronicles.

The placing of Chronicles in the Hebrew canon is its own illustration of the purpose and function of Chronicles. Funnily enough, the Septuagint's (the Greek Old Testament produced before the time of Jesus) name for Chronicles is, "Things Left Out". In a similar way to the four separate Gospel accounts which each have their occasion and intended audience, Chronicles is an account that parallels Samuel and Kings but with a unique occasion and audience. As we look at the outline of Chronicles, the occasion and audience, and their importance, will become clear.

An outline of 1 Chronicles

1-9 - Genealogies

Chapters 1-9 cover genealogies. That is, they contain records of names and descendants leading to the time of the return of the exiles after the Babylonian captivity.

The crucial thing to recognize about Chronicles is that it was composed after the return from exile. Whereas Samuel and Kings were composed contemporary to the time, Chronicles serves as a retrospective for God's people from a particular point of view: the exiles who have returned from Judah and are looking to rebuild.

10-29 - The Reign of David

The bulk of 1 Chronicles covers the reign of King David. It begins with a condensed account of King Saul, zooming in quickly on the occasion of his death and the reason that the kingly line did not continue with him. The next couple of chapters (11-12) describe the kind of men that came to David at Hebron to make him king.

Chapters 13-18 cover the establishment of David's reign and his devotion to Yahweh in it. The Ark of the Covenant is retrieved, enemies are subdued, and proper worship is instituted. David builds his palace. He also attempts to build a temple as a permanent place of worship but is told to wait.

David's meteoric rise continues until chapter 21, which is when David conducts a census that he should not have. The story might have been omitted had the end of the plague not served as an explanation for the site of the Temple. Where the plague stopped is where David decreed the Temple would be built. He commissions his son Solomon to do so in chapter 22.

Solomon is made king in 1 Chronicles 23, upon which a great numbering is made of the Levites and leaders of the people, showing who was assigned to which jobs and roles in the worship of Yahweh according to the Law of Moses. David gives a speech to the gathered leaders and commends to them the work of building the Temple. Solomon's greatness and success are noted before David's death is recorded and the book ends.

The Benefits of 1 Chronicles

Anyone who reads the accounts of David's life in Samuel before reading Chronicles will likely find that David's life seems airbrushed in Chronicles compared to Samuel. The purpose and occasion of the book make all the difference.

In Samuel, the purpose is to give an even recounting of David's life and the events leading to and surrounding his ascension to the throne. In Chronicles, the establishment of worship and the preparation for the Temple occupy much more of the focus than in Samuel. We could say that Samuel is about David. In 1 Chronicles, David and later Solomon are foils for telling the story of the Temple.

Why does this matter? When we consider the central role of the worship of Yahweh in Chronicles, we can be moved to consider the centrality of the role of worship in our lives. As the people are back from exile and rebuilding their lives, their focus in retelling the history of Israel from their viewpoint does not center on kings, palaces, human achievement, or hope in each other. Their focus and hope are in the God of the universe who made them his own and who has power and authority to make small or great. The people's focus is rightly on Yahweh because in Yahweh should be all their hope.

It is far too easy for us to become myopic, making our lives about us, focusing on the details of our lives, and ultimately losing sight of the forest for the trees in front of us. 1 Chronicles illustrates for us the fact that, when we look back 4oo years from now, our focus will be less on ourselves and more on what God was doing.

1 Chronicles moves painstakingly toward placing the worship of Yahweh at the center of the people's lives, dictating their organization, leadership, and investment. Lives rightly lived are lives lived for Yahweh.

Do we believe that the most praiseworthy, memorable, and impressive things about us are the achievements we attain relative to one another? Are we so short-sighted to live for outdoing and impressing one another when we will all fade like grass and another generation will take our place? Are we so short-sighted? Why not live for an audience of the one eternal God who is the center and purpose of our existence and who gives us the strength in the first place to accomplish whatever we set out to do?

May 1 Chronicles remind us to set our eyes and hopes on things above, where Christ is, and to make our lives about being properly oriented to him. He is the constant; everything here changes. If we focus on the temporal, our focus will always be shifting. But if we focus on Christ, we need not fear losing our way.

On 1 Chronicles and Living for God Through Christ