The temple was a magnificent structure, and when Solomon dedicated it to the Lord, he prayed that God would hear the prayer of anyone – Israelite or alien – who would come there to pray.
When all was finished however, God made an appearance to Solomon, and emphasized what was important: “if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.’ But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’ ” (2 Chronicles 7:17ff).
Trust, which of necessity requires allegiance and obedience, is what God has always wanted. His blessings have always been dependent on it, and nothing has changed or displaced that very important point.
This passage was a reminder, that their recent experience as exiles was that they had failed to keep the covenant of the Lord. It was also a warning for the future.
The Chronicler devotes more attention to Hezekiah than any other of Israel’s kings – except for David and Solomon. Especially does he focus on Hezekiah’s role regarding the restoration of the worship of the Lord.
I’ve tried to imagine what the great Solomon temple would have looked like – all boarded up and deserted – for that would have been the image seen by Jerusalem’s inhabitants. Hezekiah undertakes to change this by commanding the religious leaders to be about their God-given work. Proper worship is a focus of the book of Chronicles, and because Hezekiah makes such a heroic stab at re-establishing it, he gets a lot of press.
Martin Selman writes: “[E]very human being’s first priority should be to acknowledge God’s worth. That, for example, is how the ten commandments begin (Exod. 20:3–6), it is the reason for Jesus’ obedient death on the cross, and it is the chief characteristic of the community in heaven (Rev. 4:1–5:14; 22:1–9). When Hezekiah, therefore, made it the first act of his reign to prepare properly for worship, he was observing a basic biblical principle, and not just indulging in antiquated ceremonial. His action also reminds believers today that their pattern of worship should always express their wholehearted commitment to God (cf. 1 Cor. 12–14; Rev. 2:14–16, 20–23). Indeed, for the New Testament, sacrificial worship makes a claim on the whole of one’s life (Rom. 12:1).”
Uzziah was the second longest reigning king of Israel, surpassed only by Manasseh. The Chronicler says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and “sought the Lord” and the result of his faithfulness was that God gave him success. A good portion of chapter 26 is devoted to his success. He was successful militarily and politically – his fame (mentioned twice) spread as far as Egypt. Unlike his father, he was respected by the people he governed. He was a builder and successful in business.
All of this came about by God’s blessing (“he was greatly helped” – vs. 15).
Reading chapter 26, you have to wonder what else Uzziah could have possible wanted after so much success. But it becomes evident beginning in verse 16 that he coveted the one thing he could never have: the priesthood. Entering in to the temple, he proceeded to offer incense to the Lord, a daily offering permitted only to the priests, descendants of Aaron. When rebuked for his effrontery, he went into a rage and was struck with leprosy.
Two sins characterized Uzziah: “pride” and he was “unfaithful” to the Lord.
Martin Selman observes that leadership is not a right, but a gift. Uzziah failed to understand that. To be given the opportunity to lead is an unmerited favor of God. Anyone who leads in God’s service must keep that in mind.
The account of Rehoboam’s reign takes 58 verses in Chronicles. In comparison, Kings gives him 34 verses. Not only is the account longer, the writer’s interest is different. The Chronicler begins with Rehoboam’s attempt to unite Israel. God informs him that he should not fight with his brothers, and Rehoboam is obedient to God. In addition, the priests and Levites and all the people are obedient to God (note the three references to obey the Lord, seek the Lord, and walked in the ways of David and Solomon) and the nation prospers (note the use of the word “strength” three times in chapter 11). The business of walking in the ways of Solomon (and David) is emphasized by the selection of numerous wives (for himself and his sons) and by the advance appointment of a crown prince who is not his eldest male child.
While chapter twelve informs us that Rehoboam’s dedication lasted only three years, both chapters emphasize God’s willingness to bless when there is even a modicum of faithfulness. We don’t get from either chapter that Rehoboam was a paragon of spirituality, but he appears teachable and repentant when disciplined. This is the heart of the message regarding Rehoboam. It would be an important message for the Israel of the Exile. However rebellious they had been, repentance could bring the blessing of God. I think that’s an eternal message, surely one for our own time.
A comparison of Chronicles and Kings reveals that the Chronicler has shortened the account of the building of the temple by about 50%. On the other hand, the Chronicler now begins to expand slightly the account of Kings here, focusing more on what the temple means than on the building itself.
Solomon begins with what looks like a contrast: God said he would dwell in a dark place, but (on the other hand) I have built a magnificent temple for him. Yet what Solomon is really doing is explaining the dark cloud that now fills the temple and has driven everyone else out. God has truly taken up residence, as can be seen by the dark cloud.
In Kings Solomon requests that his sons be as blessed by God as he has been, but only if they live like David. In Chronicles, the emphasis is not on living like David, but on keeping the law (of course, like David did, but note the mention of “the law”). Note also the references to the promises made to David. The first readers, returning from exile, would need to know God had not abandoned them nor his promise to them regarding the enduring kingdom of David.
As Solomon’s prayer comes to an end we find the most divergence from the account of Kings. The prayer ends in behalf of God’s priests, His people and the king (the anointed one) and urges God not to forget the love of David. It is this last line that is so instructive. The entire basis for the entire prayer is the love God promised to David. It has nothing to do with anything David did, only with what God has done. The entirety of the future of Israel hangs on a promise God made to one of their forefathers.
This should begin to remove us from the persistent anchor that our security with God depends on some sentimental attachment God has for us individually. God has acted out of love for all mankind, and in Jesus, God has made certain promises to those who entrust their lives to Him and live accordingly. Our hope and trust is in that love expressed so very long ago. God’s word is so secure that it does not hve to be renewed with each generation.
You will find a more complete accounting of Solomon’s temple in Kings, but there are some features you will only find here:
*The porch (portico) is overlaid with gold. Add to that the inside, and you have one more expensive building.
* The amount of gold used for the Most Holy Place was six hundred talents (about 23 tons) – the same price paid by David to Arunah for the whole temple site (1 Chronicles 21:25).
*There is a curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. This is in addition to the doors (2 Chronicles 4:22) serving the same purpose and corresponding to the veil in the tabernacle.
While the description is shorter, the short version makes for a more pointed observation as to the grandeur of the temple itself. This is to be a magnificent structure. The first readers can consider all this as they plan to rebuild the structure, but everyone knows it will not be as grand as Solomon’s. Some of the glory has gone, and it is all their own fault. As the first temple was a reminder of God’s presence, the second temple will be a reminder of Israel’s sin.
Perhaps Herod got that point as he laid the plans for a new temple being built during Jesus’ time. Perhaps he sought to overcome that lesson by over building. All perhaps. But like the temple of Solomon, Herod’s structure met an ignominious end not long after its building – a lasting rebuke to all those who would enshrine God’s presence in a physical structure rather than a human life.
Like the marathon runner who, exhausted, looks only for the tape of the finish line, so the writer of Chronicles speeds quickly to the end in his final chapter. The exile is not the end of the story, but it is the end to which the story has been progressing since the days of Ahaz. To see the speed with which the writer is finishing his story, note that this chapter is the only time in 2 Chronicles 10-36 that the writer deals more briefly with the same subject matter than Kings.
Four points are worth considering as the book closes: First, the failure of Israel was not the failure of the monarchy alone, or of any one generation of people, but the failure of the whole nation throughout its history. There have been bright spots, but these have been too few. Second, it is possible to be beyond the help of God (note the “no remedy” of verse 16). Not that Israel is beyond ever being forgiven, only that she is beyond deliverance from discipline. She committed the crimes and will do her time in Babylon – penitent or not. As Martin Selman observes: “Though the exile provides further evidence that God is always gracious and compassionate (cf. 2 Chr. 30:9), the opportunity to call on his mercy will not always exist. It is therefore wise to take God’s invitation seriously (v. 23).”
Third, the key to a successful spiritual life is emphasized. As chapter thirty-four comes to an end, Huldah the prophetess tells Josiah that his relationship with God has been enhanced by taking God’s word seriously and humbling himself in obedience. In this last chapter, Israel’s failure is due to the opposite response: “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy” (vss. 15-16).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the lesson of the abiding presence of God. Even in a foreign land, exiled for moral and spiritual on a national scale, God was looking out for her – and looking to her future. And so, “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm” that would allow God’s now disciplined people to return home. The only question remaining would be: “have they really learned their lesson?”
Chapter thirty-two opens with a noticeable contrast: “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib, king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.”
How’s that reward for faithful service?
He might have legitimately cried to God: “I’ve done all you asked and tried to be faithful in every way and this is how you repay me?”
But perhaps Hezekiah understood what we all understand: the only obligation God ever has to us is that of His own making. We cannot put Him in our debt.
Sennacherib left his own account of the siege of Jerusalem. It can be seen on the Sennacherib Prism in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (the image is reproduced here). He claims to have captured 46 walled cities and deported 200,150 people and shut up Hezekiah “like a bird in a cage.” He does not mention defeating Hezekiah. Herodotus (Histories 2.141) also gives an account of Sennacherib’s defeat.
The Chronicler does not mention that Hezekiah tried to buy off Sennacherib with the temple’s gold, nor does it mention that Hezekiah appealed to Egypt for help (compare to 2 Kings 18), not because he sought to cover up those failures, but solely because he chose to emphasize Hezekiah’s faithfulness – such as it was – and God’s willingness to bless.
Likely, the first readers knew the whole story. But the idea for them, and us, is that God’s help does not depend on perfection, but on faithfulness, however hobbled it might appear.
How do you repent?
It’s an important question because it is an important matter, though one we don’t hear much about these days. And yet, Jesus talked about it a lot and conditioned salvation on doing it.
2 Chronicles 28 gives us an example.
God often sent warring peoples against Judah to punish Judah for her sins. But the warring peoples all too often took that opportunity as a time for excessive cruelty and exercised a vindictiveness that reached far beyond the intent of God’s discipline. You see this plainly in Zechariah 1:14-15. There, an angel is astonished by the seemingly hostile nature of God’s punishment. God replies: “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.”
In chapter twenty-eight of 2 Chronicles, Israel is the rod of God’s discipline toward Judah, but in that discipline, Israel goes too far. Confronted with this fact by the prophet Oded, how will Israel repent?
Repentance involves a change of heart that results in a change of life, often involving seeking to make up for sin. You can’t really “make up” for sin, but you can act like you sorry and seek to mitigate the results of your actions. In this case, Israel takes all her captives from Judah, clothes them, doctors them, and delivers them back home with compensation for their inconvenience.
Repentance isn’t just being sorry for sin, it’s acting like we are sorry and seeking to make right the wrongs we have committed.
Chapter twenty-five summarizes the reign of Amaziah – one of the most difficult to date. He is said to rule Jerusalem 29 years, but he was also a captive in Israel for a while. Perhaps it is best to presume that his son, Uzziah (Azariah), was made co-regent when Amaziah was taken captive and that he was taken captive about five years into his reign.
Previous chapters have underscored God’s displeasure with the northern kingdom and the adversity visited on the southern kingdom for its alliance with the north. You see it again here. Amaziah hires 100,000 mercenary soldiers for 100 talents of silver – which works out to about an ounce of silver each. Why would mercenary soldiers work for such low wages? More importantly, when the contract was cancelled, why would they rebel? The answer is to be found in the spoils of war. The soldiers hoped to make much more from pillage – which explains why they ravaged the Judean towns on the way home.
God told Amaziah he could not ally himself with the evil people of Israel. Amaziah responded that he’d already spent a lot of money on them. God told him to cut his losses. Better to lose all that silver than to go into battle with God against Him.
Amaziah does cut his losses, but he doesn’t learn the lesson. He foolishly adopts the gods of the Edomites, and God immediately effects his downfall. Here’s the point: no matter how successful you seem, it is God who determines your destiny, whether in this life or the next, God will have the final say.