Monday, October 28, 2013

Where Is Jesus?

The Holy Bible is clear that Jesus ascended or return to heaven on the 40th day after His complete death on the Cross and resurrection for the sins of the world (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:3, 9; Ephesians 4:10). Jesus’ disciples visibly witnessed Jesus return to heaven into the clouds (Acts 1:11-12). During His earthly ministry, Jesus told His disciples and others on three different occasions He would return to heaven (see John 3:13; John 6:62; John 20:17). One day, Jesus will return to this world again at His second advent or second coming with His full glory and honor for the world to see (Mark 14:62; Acts 3:21).

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-31). Jesus’ promised Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1; see also Joel 2:28-32). So, Jesus' physical presence left this human world (Acts 1:9), but the promised Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit comforted, protected, and guided Jesus’ followers (now called Christians) to continue His ministry of spreading the Gospel (or Good News) – the message of God’s love for the world (John 3:16; John 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-4). Through our faith and obedience in Jesus, Jesus asks and God the Father sends the Holy Spirit to live and dwell within our hearts (John 14:15-18).

So, where is Jesus today? Today, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 14:62; Mark 16:19-20). While at God’s right hand, Jesus acts as our Advocate, Activist, and Supporter with God the Father (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). Moreover, Jesus is our Great High Priest as He has offered Himself on the Cross at Calvary as the perfect and final sacrifice for the sins of the entire world forever (Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:21). Thus, Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God the Father looking after our welfare and pleads for us continually with God the Father. Jesus’ continuous presence in heaven with God the Father assures us that our sins have been paid for and forgiven past, present, and future (see Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 9:24). This wonderful assurance frees us from guilt and from fear of failure.

While at God the Father’s right hand, Jesus communicates through the Holy Spirit to everyone that trusts and believes in Him as their Lord and Savior. As believers in Jesus, we become God the Father’s children and grafted (reconciled) into the family of God with Israel (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Even more, God the Father sends us the Holy Spirit to help, encourage and strength all who wholehearted believe and trust in Him and make a commitment to turn from sin and wickedness (John 15:16, 26). Thus, the ascended Jesus is with us each and every day through the Holy Spirit with any struggles here on earth. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus’ permeates the entire universe with His presence and power through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:10). The help of the Holy Spirit is just one simple prayer (call) away (Luke 11:13).

The Holy Spirit is God and the Third Person of the Trinity or Godhead (God the Father, God the Son – Jesus Christ, and God the Spirit) (see Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Holy Spirit empowered and guided God’s people in the world. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to encourage the people to turn from wickedness and to wholeheartedly worship (serve) the true and living God (see e.g. Numbers 11:29; Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 2 Samuel  23:2; 1 Kings 22:24; Nehemiah 9:30; Hosea 9:7-9; Joel 2:28-29; Micah 3:8; Zechariah 7:12). As mentioned earlier, God sends the Holy Spirit to live or dwell in everyone and anyone who genuinely turn from sin and wholehearted accept the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-21; John 14:15-17, 26; see also John 15:26; John 16:7-15).

The Holy Spirit is “holy” (e.g., true, pure, and ethical) (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10) just as God is holy, pure, and true (Exodus 15:11; John 15:26; Revelation 6:10). The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God Himself throughout the earth and entire universe (Psalm 139:7; Isaiah 63:10). God’s Holy Spirit abides or lives within believers of Jesus as they walk in wholehearted obedience and closeness to God and God’s ways and flee sin (John 14:15-17; John 15:1-17; John 16:8). As we continually trust in and walk with Jesus, we have the righteousness (holiness) of God (Romans 1:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:21). To have the Holy Spirit is to have Jesus living within (Romans 8:9-12). God is Spirit (John 4:24).

Our holy God expects us to imitate (mimic) Him by following His moral standards (1 Peter 1:14-16). Jesus died for our sins to make us holy (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26). As believers of Jesus, we are called to be a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Holiness occurs by walking closely to God and fleeing sin and wickedness (Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-25, particularly 1 Peter 1:15 quoting Leviticus 19:2; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Holiness is the truth of the Word of God that makes us holy (John 1:1-2; John 14:26; John 17:17).

Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth. . . . God has chosen you and made you His holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, because you were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful. Colossians 3:1-2, 12-15 (NCV)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Douglas, J.D. and Tenney, Merrill. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Holy Spirit: Overcoming Life’s Struggles

Peace I (Jesus) leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV) 

Humans have always had to face hardships and struggles in many forms: persecution, sickness, harassment, imprisonment, even death. These difficulties could cause people to fear that God has abandoned them. But when a person accepts God through Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live within one’s hearts (see Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:5-6). In essence, believers of Jesus are indwelt with the life giving Holy Spirit as a result of their wholehearted faith in Jesus to help handle all life’s hardships and struggles (Romans 8:10). 

The Holy Spirit as our “Helper” He would send to the disciples after He returned to the Father (John 14:16). In difficult times, the Holy Spirit is present as our Helper, Advocate, and Strength to overcome stressful circumstances and situations (see John 14:27). Once we accept Jesus by faith, Jesus requests the Holy Spirit, and God the Father sends the Holy Spirit in answer to Jesus’ request. God freely gives believers the Holy Spirit to fill their hearts with His love and peace (see Jeremiah 31:33-34; Acts 2:17-21; Romans 5:5). Only when God’s Holy Spirit is present within a person’s heart can one achieve true peace and fruitfulness (Ezekiel 36:22-38; Galatians 5:22-23). 

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit brings God’s peace and comfort to handle life’s pain or circumstance. Unlike worldly peace, God’s peace from the Holy Spirit guarantees believers that in any circumstance God will never leave, forsake, or abandon them (Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:35-39). The Holy Spirit is the intercessor that indwells the believer and serves as the Revealer and Helper of God’s will. 

Jesus to Disciples:  And I (Jesus) will pray to (God) the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 (NKJV).

Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit to believers as a gift to live with and within their hearts (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit is God working with, around, and inside believers every day. To have the Holy Spirit is to have Jesus Christ Himself (John 14:18), who never leaves or abandons us (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is just a simple pray away to ask for His help in any life difficulties (see John 14:16-18, 27). 

Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain. 27 God can see what is in people’s hearts. And He knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for His people in the way God wants. Romans 8:26-27 (NCV). 

Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:18 (NLT). 

Also, the Holy Spirit works to provide all people - Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews)  full access to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for ours sins on the Cross at Calvary, believers receive the Holy Spirit to approach God openly through prayer (see Ephesians 3:12; Acts 10:34-37, 44-48; 1 Peter 3:18). In the prayer life of believers, the Holy Spirit intercedes and prays for us before God. Even more, the Holy Spirit empowers believers’ prayers and makes them effective. One specific kind of prayer that the New Testament says is empowered by the Holy Spirit is the gift of prayer in tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:2; 14-17). 

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 (NLT)

Another work of the Holy Spirit is empowering believers to overcome any spiritual hostility, attacks or opposition. Simply put, the Holy Spirit strengthens believers for spiritual warfare that opposes them. Fear, sin, evil, uncertainty, doubt, and numerous other forces are all at war within and around believers. However, the Holy Spirit is the peace within our hearts and lives to restrain these hostile forces against us. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to distinguish between spirits and defeat evil. The Word of God functions as the “sword of the Spirit”. That is why believers MUST read and study the Holy Bible.

For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

The sword of the Spirit is the only weapon of offense against evil attacks, hostility, and opposition. When believers are tempted, we need to trust in the truth of God’s Word. Sadly, all believers are sometimes engaged in a spiritual battle and find themselves subject to evil’s attacks because they are no longer on evil’s side. To withstand evil attacks and hostility, believers must depend on God’s Holy Spirit and His Word and fight evil using the strength of the Holy Spirit’s power living within us. 

The Book of Acts highlights the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the early Christians and their many struggles. Because of the status of the Holy Spirit’s work in Acts, the Book has often been called “the Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Early church believers in the Book of Acts overcame many obstacles to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. For instance, Stephen and Philip were filled with the Holy Spirit and preached by His power and direction despite hostile opposition (Acts 6–8). Moreover, the Apostle Paul’s ministry was empowered and strengthen with a strong presence of the Holy Spirit as his guide and energy after encounter with Jesus Christ (Acts 9:17; Acts 13:4). 

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11 (NIV). 

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:13 (NIV)

Jesus Christ promised the help of the Holy Spirit in times of trial (Mark 13:11). The Holy Spirit gives believers courage and the right words to say in time of trouble (see also Matthew 5:11). Jesus Christ sends His Spirit to strengthen believers who are persecuted. To receive boldness, believers only needs to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to give them courage, strength, and confidence (Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit helps believers in their weakness (Romans 8:26). 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NASB)

As a believer of Jesus Christ, you are not left alone here on earth to handle and cope with life’s problems. Even when you do not know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf before God, and God answers. With God’s Spirit helping us pray, a believer should never be afraid to come before God the Father. Always pray and ask the Holy Spirit to intercede and pray for you “in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). Then, when you bring your prayers and requests to God, trust that God will always do what is best. 

During our struggles, the Holy Spirit brings an atmosphere of peace into situations. The Holy Spirit imparts an atmosphere of joy (see also Acts 13:51; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). God is “not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 - NKJV). In spite of the circumstances and struggles believers face, they are not alone. God’s Holy Spirit is present (omnipresence) as revealed in Psalm 139:7. Believers can rest in the peace of Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit in the most troublesome times. 

Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I [Jesus Christ] am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 (NLT). 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Esther: A Courageous Woman

If you (Esther) keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Esther 4:14-17 (NLT)

The story of Esther is filled with drama, power, extravagant banquets, romance, and intrigue. Every detail of drama in this story folds into another drama from one page to the next. The book of Esther is the last of the Old Testament historical books. This true and accurate Old Testament book reveals the relationship of God's sovereignty, God’s providence, and human will.  The story of Esther illustrates the unseen Hand of God’s providence and sovereignty in our human world with the story’s startling string of coincidences. 

Esther's story begins around 483 B.C. in the kingdom of Persia. Persia was the dominant kingdom in the Middle East after Babylon's fall in 539 B.C. Esther was among the Jewish people that decided to remain in the Persia kingdom after King Cyrus decree of 539 B.C. Cyrus, the Persian king, had issued a decree allowing all Israelites (now called Jews) to return to their homeland. Ezra and Nehemiah, the books preceding Esther, tell of the “Second Great Deliverance” of the Jews returning to Jerusalem after 70 years of foreign captivity (see Ezra chapter 1 – 6; Jeremiah 25:11; Jeremiah 29:10). Yet, many more Jews decided to stay behind and not return to Jerusalem. Esther and her family were such Jews that decided not return to Jerusalem.  Many modern-day communities of Jews in Iraq and Iran descended from these ancient Jewish exiles that decided to stay in Persia. 

The book of Esther begins with the powerful King Xerxes of Persia having a drunken party with his friends at his royal palace in Susa (Esther 1:2-8). The Persians were very fond of wine and parties (also called banquets or festivals). Susa was one of the main capitals of the Persian Empire during this period. While in a drunken state, King Xerxes called for his wife, Queen Vashti, to parade her wonderful beauty in front of his friends. However, the Queen refused to obey the king’s order. So the king through the advice of his royal counsel removed Queen Vashti as queen. Historians often portray King Xerxes as a proud, mean-spirited, and impulsive man as seen in the events of Esther’s chapter 1. So after Vashti’s removal, King Xerxes issued a decree throughout the Persian Empire to begin a search for a new queen. Many young and beautiful virgin girls were gathered and brought into King Xerxes’ royal harem for essentially a sex contest to determine who would be King Xerxes’ new queen. Esther, an orphan-young Jewish woman, was chosen to be in the royal harem (Esther 2:17-18). Esther’s cousin Mordecai raised this beautiful young Jewish girl as his own daughter into a woman. King Xerxes was so delighted with Esther that he made her his new queen. Esther is the Persian word for “star”. 

In the meantime, Mordecai discovered an assassination plot against King Xerxes and courageously saved the king’s life (Esther 2:21-23). Also during this time, an ambitious and prideful Haman, a non-Jew, was appointed second-in-command in Xerxes’ empire. Haman was a descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites, a long time enemy of the Jews (1 Samuel 15:20; see also Exodus 17:16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). As Haman was walking by Mordecai one day, Mordecai refused to bow in reverence to him. Haman became very angry and decided to kill not only Mordecai but all his people, the Jews. The Jews in Persia had been a minority since their Babylonian deportation from the Promised Land in 586 B.C. To accomplish his evil plot against the Jews, Haman decided to trick King Xerxes to issue a royal decree to destroy all Jews in the Persian Empire. In essence, Haman’s decree from the king was a government-sponsored genocide of the Jewish people. 

Once Mordecai discovered Haman’s planned genocide of the Jews, Mordecai informed his cousin, Queen Esther, in the royal palace. Mordecai believed that God would somehow preserve His people. He knew that God might accomplish His goals through the courageous actions of His people like himself and Esther. In fact, Mordecai believed that Esther’s advancement to royalty had been in the providence of God to save His people. Moreover, Mordecai believed if Esther failed to save her people, God would have another way of saving the Jews, since God’s purposes are not stopped by the failure of one person to respond obediently to His leading. 

God’s sovereignty and providence are seen throughout the story of Esther. "Providence" is one of the words which do not occur in the Holy Bible, but represents a biblical doctrine. The Bible describes providence as God’s mighty acts to help His people (e.g., see Psalm 104:10; Psalm 136:25; Romans 1:20).  Providence in the fullest sense is God’s gracious outworking of His purposes in Jesus Christ to save His people (Ephesians 1:11).. In sum, the doctrine of providence tells us that the world and our lives are not ruled by chance or by fate but by God’s Hand.

"Sovereignty" is the biblical doctrine that God is King, Supreme Ruler, and Lawgiver of the entire universe (e.g., see Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:17, 25, 34).  King David summarizes God’s sovereignty at 1 Chronicles 29:11-12. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore you as the One who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from You alone, for You rule over everything. Power and might are in Your Hand, and at Your discretion people are made great and given strength (1 Chronicles 29:11-12, NLT). God is indeed the only Ruler and King of all (Matthew 6:13; 1 Timothy 6:15) as God is all-powerful and omnipotent. God works out everything on earth in conformity with His divine purposes and will (Ephesians 1:11). Nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17-23; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37). The best example of God’s sovereignty is His gracious work of redemption to save all people who trusts Him through His Son Jesus Christ in faith. Jesus the Messiah is “Mighty God” (see Isaiah 9:6-7) and “Son of the Most High God” (Luke 1:32-33). The authority of God’s Holy Bible is an expression of God’s sovereignty and a chain of God’s divine plan to save His people (see Matthew 5:18; Luke 24:44; 2 Timothy 3:16).

Young and frightful, Queen Esther courageously risked her life to save the Jewish people. She believed that the safety of the Jews were more important than her life and responded, “If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). Esther’s reply is a confession of faith and confidence in God’s will and wisdom (Esther 4:15–17; see also Job 13:15; Daniel 3:17-18). “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV). “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods . . .” (Daniel 3:17-18, NKJV). 

Although Esther was queen and shared some of the king's wealth, she had very little power and rights in the Persian Kingdom. During this era, women were mostly used by the king only for his sexual pleasure. In essence, Esther was only a powerless sex partner as she only came to the king when he called her for his sexual pleasure.  King Xerxes had not called Esther in over a month.  Yet she alone as queen had access to the king. Mordecai reminded Esther of her unique position. “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  Esther responded with courage and faith:  “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16). At that point Mordecai expressed his strong faith in God’s providence. Moreover, access to the king was strictly limited, even his wife had no right to approach. As mentioned earlier, Historians portray King Xerxes as a proud, mean-spirited, and impulsive man. Esther knew the dangers of appearing before the king without being asked and she had not been called by the king for thirty days. So, Esther needed God's protection and wisdom. So, Esther gathered support from her royal court and fasted. By calling for a fast, Esther and the people essentially were praying and seeking God's divine help from Haman’s genocide plan.  In the Old Testament, prayer always accompanied fasting (see Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 6:16–18). Fasting was designed to petition the blessing of God on an assignment and trust in God provision. 

Unable to sleep, King Xerxes decided to read the historical annals of his kingdom and discovered the assassination plot against his life that Mordecai prevented. Surprised to learn that Mordecai had never been rewarded for this deed, the king asked Haman what should be done to reward the courageous man. However, Haman thought the king was talking about him, and so he described an extravagant reward. Later, Haman learned that the king was actually rewarding Mordecai for his courageous actions and not him.  

After fasting and praying, Esther decided to host a banquet to seek help from King Xerxes on behalf of the Jewish people to soften the king’s heart (Esther 7:1). At the banquet hosted by Esther, the king asked the queen what she desired. She instructed the king that Haman had plotted to kill her people, the Jews. Esther convinced the king to issue another decree to save the Jews life (Esther 8:8). Angered and frustrated by Haman’s actions, the king ordered that Haman be killed on the same gallows Haman had mounted to kill Mordecai (Esther 7:10). Eventually, the king promoted Mordecai to Haman’s royal position in the Persian kingdom and the Jews were saved from death. 

To celebrate this miraculous occasion, the Jewish people established the feast of Purim (2 Maccabees 15:36). Purim is celebrated by Jews on the 14th and 15th days of Adar (February–March). Just as Christians celebrate the arrival of God to earth in the life of Jesus Christ each Christmas, Jews celebrate the events of Esther at the Festival of Purim. The Jews celebrate the feast of Purim (also called the feast of Lots) to celebrate Esther and Mordecai’s courageous action and self-sacrifice that saved the entire Jewish nation from genocide (Esther 4:14; see also Genesis 12:1–3). The festival got its name from the casting of lots (like dice) against the Jewish people (Esther 3:7) – a gamble that eventually backfired against Haman. The author explains the origin of celebrating Purim on two different days even today. Jews observe Purim on the 14th everywhere except in Jerusalem which schedules Purim on the 15th day. Jewish families read the book of Esther aloud on the day of Purim. Through her obedience, Esther became a true “star” (the meaning of her Persian name) in the kingdom. 

The book of Esther is a unique book of the Holy Bible. First of all, the word for God or the name Yahweh (Lord) does not appears in the book. Esther’s story has a complete absence of any reference to God, worship, prayer, sacrifice, the Temple, Jerusalem, or God’s Law. In this sense, the book of Esther appears to be a completely secular (nonspiritual) with no direct religious teaching. Because of this secular nature, scholars have debated whether the story of Esther should be included within the Holy Bible. Also, the scene of Esther occurred in the Persian’s capital of Susa and not Israel with the marriage of a Jewish girl to a gentile king. But the story’s many events to save the Jews occurred only by God’s deliberate design (providence). 

Even more, the story of Esther is about human will. Mordecai and Esther could have giving up with the news of Haman’s genocide plan and just sought to save themselves. Instead, Mordecai and Esther’s unselfish actions seized the moment and they acted to save their people. Esther’s story is similar to that of Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 37–50) and Daniel in Babylon (see Daniel 1–2). Each of these stories revealed a Jew who was delivered from a death plot and rose to a high position in a gentile government. Also, just as in Joseph’s story (Genesis 41:1-45) and Daniel’s story (Daniel 2:1; Daniel 6:18), the hero’s personal fortunes were reversed because of the king’s disturbed sleep (Esther 6:1). These stories all testify to God’s sovereignty over the events of life. The universe’s Great King exercises His providential and sovereign control over His people.  

Most important, the book of Esther gives a clear example of God's sovereignty (rule/control) and providence (wisdom) in the nations of the world. Although God is never explicitly named in the book, the story of Esther tells of God’s mighty Hand working in the many circumstances behind the scenes to save His people from death. In essence, God’s presence and wisdom fills the pages of Esther. When it looks as if the world is in the hands of evil people, God was still in control to protect His people. These many "circumstances" or “coincidences” in the book of Esther were not just the result of chance, but of God's sovereignty and providence (e.g. Esther 2:17, 21-23; Esther 4:14-16; Esther 6:1-2; Esther 7:8-10). Esther just “happened” to be chosen the new queen (Esther 2:17). The king just “happened” to be unable to sleep. When he picked up some reading, the king just “happened” to come across an account of Mordecai’s good deeds to save his life (Esther 2:21-23; Esther 6:1-2). Haman just “happened” to build a gallows to execute Mordecai that turned out to be used for his own death. Nothing just happens. These “coincidences” were part of God’s great plan to save His people. The book of Esther is another amazing story of God’s continuing protection of His people from their enemies. These events seemed coincidental, but these coincidental events all demonstrated God’s control and care for His people (Psalm 121:4; Romans 8:28). No matter how hopeless our condition; God is in control of our world. God is never absent, even though we may live in a world hostile to God. People of God must never fear because we can always trust God to care and protect His people.

Joseph to his brothers:  As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for He brought me (Joseph) to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 (TLB)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Esther and Ruth are the only books in the Holy Bible named after women. Ruth was a gentile who married a Jew, while Esther was a Jewish woman who married a gentile. Both Esther and Ruth’s stories are inspiring examples of faith and courage for all people – men and women. Other courageous and faithful women of the Bible include Abigail (1 Samuel 25); Deborah (Judges 4); Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22); Jochebed (Exodus. 6); Rahab (Joshua 2); Mary (Luke 1:26-38); and Lydia (Acts 16:11-15).

God calls people to accomplish His good purposes on earth (Esther 4:14; see also Ephesians 2:10) to become His living sacrifice. Esther and Mordecai became a living sacrifice to accomplish God’s good works on the earth (Romans 12:1-1). Yet, Esther and Mordecai were two of the most unlikely people to be chosen to play major roles in shaping a nation. Both were Jewish exiles living in a pagan nation. Even more, Esther was Mordecai’s adopted, orphaned cousin (Esther 2:7). Yet, Esther and Mordecai became heroes because they took quick actions at the “right time,” while others stood watching in horror. True heroes recognize the crisis and takes action. 

At first glance, the hostility between Mordecai and Haman appear to be a simple case of disrespect on Mordecai’s part (Esther 3:2). However, a further investigation reveals their hatred goes much deeper. The book of Esther stresses that Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite (Esther 3:1, 10; Esther 8:3, 5; Esther 9:24). Tradition holds that the Agagites were descendants of Agag, the Amalekite king whom King Saul had failed to kill and thereby disobeyed God’s specific instruction (1 Samuel 15). The Amalekites stood under the permanent judgment of God for attacking the Israelites during their journey from Egypt to the Promise Land (Exodus 17:8–13; Deuteronomy 25:17–19). Thus, Haman's hatred was directed not just at Mordecai, but at all the Jews. The Amalekites had attacked Israel after she fled from Egypt (Exodus 17:8-16; 1 Samuel 15:2). For this reason, the Lord would “be at war against the Amalekites from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25:19). Also, the Amalekites were descended from Esau, Isaac’s older son. The enmity between the Israelites and the Amalekites dated to the beginning of both peoples. 

Now, with Haman’s rise to power, the Amalekites were in a sense threatening once again to destroy God’s people. But this time, God used Mordecai to frustrate the plan. Mordecai was descended from Kish (Esther 2:5)—the same family of Benjamites from as King Saul (1 Samuel 9:1). Thus, Mordecai completed for God what King Saul had failed to accomplish (Esther 7:10; Esther 9:4–5, 13–15) to blot out the memory of the Amalekites (Exodus 17:14-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Also, the author of Esther is insistent that the Jews did not take the plunder. Seizing the plunder centuries earlier in the battle against the Amalek had cost Saul his kingship (1 Samuel 15:17-19, 23). In the book of Esther, not taking the plunder brings royal power to Mordecai as well as grateful recognition of his people (Esther 9:20-23). 

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His (good) work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI:    Baker Book House Company, 2001.
LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush. Old Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.
Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Return to God!

When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” . . . So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:3, 11-15 (NLT)

The writer of 1 and 2 Chronicles wrote to God’s people returning from foreign captivity. In 2 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 25, God’s judgment on sin came true. Israel had persistently disobeyed God and God’s way. This disobedience brought a split in Israel – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Eventually, God’s people and their land were conquered and carried off to the foreign lands of Assyria and Babylonia. The Israelite people were held in foreign captivity for 70 years. As God’s people returned from foreign exile, the writer of Chronicles wanted to give the people assurance of God’s glorious plans and future. 

The Chronicler lived at a time when God’s people appeared defeated after God’s divine judgment for sin. Upon returning from foreign exile, the Israelites (now called Jews) had no king, no Temple, and Israel’s hope for the future looked lifeless. Israel and Judah no longer existed as an independent kingdom ruled by the dynasty of David. Instead, the people had limited freedom under a Persian governor. Israel was no longer an independent nation but a small province in the Persian government. So, the Chronicler reminded the people of God’s secure promise to David and the glory to come (1 Chronicles 17). The promise of the Kingdom that God gave to David was confirmed for Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:4-7). The Chronicler had complete trust in God’s power, sovereignty, and justice. Most important, the Chronicler knew that God would be faithful to His promise, and His kingdom would eventually rule over the world. God would bring a Savior through these returning Israelites from the dynasty of David. With the birth of Jesus, the Chronicler’s hope for Israel was finally realized. Jesus was the anointed King and Messiah from the dynasty of David (Matthew 16:16-17; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20). Matthew’s genealogy reveals Jesus as the ultimate success of the Chronicler’s hope of a new King (Matthew 1:1-17) for all nations (Isaiah 49:6).

The writer of Chronicles reminded the people of God’s promise to David and their future hope. When David decided to build a house for God’s Ark of the Covenant, Nathan the prophet had a vision informing David that God would build a house or dynasty for David (1 Chronicles 17:10-14; 2 Samuel 7:11-14). The eternal Kingdom of God and Messiah would come about through David’s family line (see also Psalm 2).  The Chronicler took God’s promise to David very seriously as the Kingdom of God would come through the promised Son of David. So, the Chronicler encouraged the people to hope for the future. 

The Chronicler’s rationale for hope comes from Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple: “Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This passage is unique to Chronicles and illustrates Chronicler’s emphasis on repentance and restoration. This promise reminded the people of the conditions necessary for God’s glorious future and restoration: humility, prayer, repentance, and healing. The words of Jehoshaphat also expressed the Chronicler’s view: “Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed” (2 Chronicles 20:20). The Chronicler also appealed to Israel’s leaders to faithfully and wholeheartedly seek God (1 Chronicles 28:8-10), and encouraged God’s people “be strong and courageous’ in trusting God to provide (1 Chronicles 28:20-21). 

The key to restoration and survival for the returning Jews was wholehearted faithfulness to God (1 Chronicles 16:11-13). The Chronicler repeatedly reminded the people that unfaithfulness to God led to their divine judgment. God wanted the people’s complete loyalty, dedication, and commitment to Him from their whole heart.  The Holy Scriptures are clear that God does not want mere sacrifices or religious rituals (e.g., see Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8). Instead, God was more concerned with their heart condition – moral character and conduct. God lovingly instructed the people to first and foremost seek Him from their whole heart for their daily guidance, help, and protection (see also Matthew 6:33) and to walk faithfully and humbly with Him as their God (2 Chronicles 7:14; Micah 6:6-8). God’s restoration to their land would come through their genuine repentance of their sins and wholeheartedly seeking God. 

The Holy Scriptures are also very clear that God graciously gives His abundant mercy and answered prayers to those who humbly and wholehearted seek Him (e.g. see 2 Chronicles 12:6-7; 2 Chronicles 33:12-19). “Seek the LORD while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God rewards humility, integrity, and prayer with His healing and deliverance. Yet, God also brings judgment upon disobedience, wickedness, and evil. For instance, the Chronicler used Saul’s life as an example of unfaithfulness to God (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).  Saul actively disobeyed God by attempting murder, ignoring God's instructions, and seeking guidance from a witch (medium). He never went to God unless there was nowhere else to turn or when it suited him. However, David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). As king, David wanted to restore the Ark of the Covenant, building a Temple for God, and bring God’s glory on earth (1 Chronicles 16:7-36; 1 Chronicles 22:19; cp. 1 Chronicles 28:8-10; Psalm 105). Even with his sins with Bathsheba, David humbly acknowledged his sins and sincerely asked God for forgiveness (Psalm 51). The Chronicler writes of David’s son Solomon continuing his father’s legacy of seeking God (2 Chronicles 1:6; 2 Chronicles 6-7). The Chronicler focused much of his writings on David, Solomon and the southern kingdom of Judah. In fact, almost half of the Chronicler’s history of Israel constitutes the reign of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 11–29; 2 Chronicles 1–9). The books of Chronicles present the period of David and Solomon as an ideal time when all of Israel was UNITED in worship to God (2 Chronicles 7:8) and reigned as an international influence.  

Even more important, the books of Chronicles repeatedly connected obedience and wholehearted faithfulness to God with God’s blessing and disobedience to God with God’s punishment and judgment (see also Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27 and 28). The Chronicler reminded the returning Israelites that God wanted their wholehearted obedience, allegiance, and faithfulness to Him as their God. In fact, God wants everyone to humble themselves, turn from their sin and wickedness, and wholeheartedly seek Him (see also Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; James 5:16). Through TRUE REPENTANCE (humbling oneself and turning from their wicked ways), God willingly and freely removes our guilt and bring His restoration (healing) (see also Luke 15, James 4:7-10). God’s forgiveness always follows our repentance. Repentance is not just saying, “I am sorry.” Moreover, repentance is not just tears and a sad countenance. True repentance means turning away from our evil ways — from thoughts and actions that displeases God — and turning toward a life that reflects God’s ways and actions (e.g., following Jesus’ example). God will never bless evil and will not prosper those who practice sin and wickedness. To do so would violate God’s very nature - Holiness. So if we want God’s blessing, we must follow His character by pursuing His ways. “Be holy,” God commands, “for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15–16).

Most important, the Chronicler warned the people over and over against worshiping idols and remaining faithful to God. Idolatry is making anything more important than God. Money, looks, success, reputation, and security are all idols, then and today. When anything rival God's first place, we are committing idolatry.  Wholeheartedly following God brings benefits and rewards (not necessarily material). Yet, turning away from God brings suffering, punishment, and ultimately destruction. Today, God's conditions are just as clear as they were in David and Solomon's day. Choose to obey God and live. Repentance is always a means of avoiding, or at least moderating, God’s judgment. God always sends warnings before judgment falls.

God is full of mercy, loving kindness, grace, truth, and patience (Exodus 34:6-7; see also 1 Chronicles 16:41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1; Jeremiah 33:11). The Lord God, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” (2 Chronicles 7:3, NLT).  God's love for each person is so great that He seeks each individual out and rejoices when that person is "found" (Luke 15:3-6). In fact, God in the Person of Jesus Christ to offer His salvation and love to everyone that truly repents and turn to Him in faith with their whole hearts.  For the Lord God is “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished . .. .” (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV). If we confess our sins and repent, God willingly forgives our sins and brings healing (Leviticus 26:40; 1 Kings 8:33-34; Nehemiah 9:2; Ephesian 2:8-10; 1 John 1:9). God wants to love us as a loving Heavenly Father and bring His goodness into our lives. God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16). 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good (prosperity) and not for disaster (harm), to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray (call upon Me), I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NLT)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Family Heritage and the Books of Chronicles

The books of Chronicles connect the branches of the family tree for Israel and traces Israel’s history back through time and culture. This tracing provided Israel with an extensive genealogy and relational path to provide the people a sense of identity, heritage, and destiny (1 Chronicles 17:21-22). The Chronicler traces the roots of Israel from Adam onward, recounting its royal line, and the loving plan of God for His chosen people. Few people will enjoy reading the books of Chronicles with its many lists and genealogies. Yet, the books of Chronicles reveal God’s unshakable faithfulness and promises to His people. If you are a believer of Jesus Christ, these people are your ancestors too. 

The book of Kings ended with both Israel and Judah in foreign captivity and revealed a dark age for God's people. Israel had been broken into two kingdoms (Israel in the north and Judah in the south) in 931 B.C. upon King Solomon’s death. In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel were invaded and destroyed by the Assyrians. Then, the southern kingdom of Judah was destroyed and fell in 586 B.C. at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. By 586 B.C., Israel lay in ruins. The Temple was burned, the walls of the city were broken down, and the people were deported to a foreign land. The Israelites had disobeyed God and His righteous standards, worshipped other gods, and only did what was right in their own eyes. As a result, God brought His judgment upon His people and they were carried off into foreign captivity. The people had forgotten to first and foremost trust and rely upon God for their power, wisdom, and wealth.  

The books that follow Israel and Judah’s fall are the books of Chronicles. Chronicles were written to the Jews returning from foreign exile and rebuilding Jerusalem following their seventy-year Babylonian captivity. The writer of Chronicles is selective in his retelling of Israel’s history. Instead of writing an exhaustive work, the Chronicler highlights certain narratives of Israel’s history to teach them about their royal heritage. The Chronicler virtually ignored the northern kingdom in his retelling Israel’s royal history as the northern kingdom had no good kings. The northern kingdom had only a succession of only evil kings that lead the people away from God.

The books of Chronicles parallel the books of Samuel and Kings. The Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament) refers to the books of Chronicles as “the things omitted,” indicating that its translators regarded the books of Chronicles as a supplement to the books of Samuel and Kings. Chronicles has a freshness and flavor all its own. However, Chronicles’ focus is on David, Solomon and the kingdom of Judah. The writer of Chronicles viewed David and Solomon as victorious and great men with no failures or sins. Most important, Israel experienced its golden age during David and Solomon’s reigns.  Israel was considered a respected world power with wealth, a Temple, and wisdom. The Chronicler wanted the Jews to re-establish their royal connections to the good kings of their history.

The books Chronicles (1 and 2 Chronicles) were originally one book in the Hebrew text. They became separated into two books by the translators of the Greek version of the Old Testament. Essentially, the books of Chronicles trace and summarize Israel's history from the beginning of the human race with Adam until the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent return of the Jews during the reign of the Persian king, Cyrus the Great (559–529 B.C.). Cyrus, king of Persia, authorized the Jews to return to their homeland (538 B.C.). Those Jews who wished to return were allowed to return to the land to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple and their city. The returning Jewish community needed encouragement and a sense of family unity. Chronicles established continuity between the pre-exilic Israel of the past and the post-exilic present. Upon returning, the people had no king and subject to Persia’s governance. The Chronicler wanted the people to know of God’s continued love and faithfulness to His people as the everlasting King and their special spiritual heritage with Him as God. 

What other nation on earth is like Your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have You redeemed from slavery to be Your own people? You made a great name for Yourself when You redeemed Your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations that stood in their way. You chose Israel to be Your very own people forever, and You, O Lord, became their God. 1 Chronicles 17:21-22 (NLT)

The genealogical of Chronicles moves from the list of righteous people who lived before the Flood, to the sons of Noah and then to the Messianic line in Shem. This line is then traced to Abraham onward to David’s line, Israel’s greatest king (1 Chronicles chapters 11 – 29), where the Messiah would come.  In fact, the writer of Chronicles stresses the Davidic kingship line because a son of David would occupy his throne forever. This Son was Jesus the Messiah (1 Chronicles 17:12-14). These genealogies are completed by those recorded in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 1:1–17; Luke 3:23–38). Israel's past formed a reliable basis for reconstructing the nation after their foreign exile away from God’s Promised Land. Many of the people needed hope and encouragement to begin again. The people had to be reminded that God’s covenant promises to Israel was still in force, and that He would complete His redemptive purposes in the world (Philippians 1:6).  So, the Chronicler reminded the people of God’s still future blessings that would culminate in Jesus Christ.

The books of Chronicles are similar to the books of Samuel and Kings but they by no means are identical. Four main parts compromise the historical account of the books of Chronicles: (1) genealogies from Adam to postexilic Judah (1 Chronicles chapters 1 – 9); reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 10 through 2 Chronicles 9); Judah’s reign during the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles chapter 10 – 28); Judah’s reign as a sole kingdom (2 Chronicles chapters 29 – 36). In the same way that there are four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there are two accounts of the history of God’s people with the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. These books offer different historical perspectives of Israel. While the books of Samuel and Kings were written to those in exile, the books of Chronicles also addressed the post-exilic community returning from captivity.

Particularly, there are some notable differences in the Chronicler’s retelling of Israel history and the books of Samuel and Kings. In fact, several discrepancies and contradictions between Chronicles and the record in Samuel and Kings have caused liberal critics to doubt Chronicles’ historical trustworthiness and reliability. Some critics even called Chronicles nothing but historical fiction. Where Chronicles parallels material Samuel and Kings, the writer of Chronicles was accused of glorifying Israel’s past through exaggerated numbers and other changes in his sources. However, the details included in Chronicles were not intended to be exhaustive. The Chronicler emphasized the Davidic line. Therefore, King Saul is mentioned only in passing; and the rebellious northern kingdom, not of the faithful or Davidic line, is mentioned only where the northern history concerns the southern kingdom. Also, many displeasing details of the kings are omitted (e.g., David’s sin with Bathsheba, Absalom’s rebellion, Adonijah’s usurpation of the throne, Solomon’s many foreign wives, etc.). Even the history of Elijah and Elisha and their ministry in the northern kingdom is omitted.

Concerning numbers of Chronicles, sometimes the writer of Chronicles used larger numbers in its statistics than its parallel accounts in Samuel or Kings (e.g., cf. 2 Samuel 24:9 and I Chronicles 21:5). Other times, the number in Chronicles is smaller than the parallel passages (e.g., cf. I Kings 4:26 and 2 Chronicles 9:25). Yet, many prominent biblical scholars have explained the number variants because the system of numerical notation used in ancient times was difficult to determine. Other biblical scholars believe most numerical discrepancies can be attributed to variant transmission. 

Importantly, the writer of Chronicles writes to encourage the nation to return wholeheartedly to God. Only by faithfully following God and seeking Him would they as a nation prosper and be healed (see e.g., 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 -prayer of Jabez; 2 Chronicles 7:14). “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The Chronicler retells of the tragic result of idolatry and the people’s failure to place God first place in their lives. The writer of Chronicler reminded the people that God must be faithfully love, worshipped, and obeyed. The Chronicler aimed to reunite the nation around the true worship of God after their exile so the people would look only to God for their strength, protection, and guidance.

The writer of Chronicles records the king’s achievements and failures and noted how each king measured up to God's righteous standard. A good king faithfully obeyed God's laws, eliminated the places of idol worship, and made no alliances with other foreign nations for their help. For example, in 2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 32, Hezekiah is presented as a model of moral obedience and ensuring blessings by the framework “he did what was right in the sight of/before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:2; 2 Chronicles 31:20). Significantly, the writer of Chroniclers stressed that as a king was faithful, obedient, and devoted to God, they experienced prosperity, rest, honor, fame, a victorious army, building projects, and tribute from foreign kings. This connection of faithfulness, obedience, and devotion to God also flowed to individuals. 

The Chronicler’s theology of retribution is fundamental to understanding the books of Chronicles. The Chronicler continually stressed the theme of individual responsibility and the consequence of one’s own actions (see also Ezekiel 18). Each individual is accountable to God for his or her actions (see also Ezekiel 18:21-24, 30-32). Simply stated, wholehearted obedience to God is always rewarded with blessing, while disobedience to God results in God’s judgment. When a king led the Israelites into idolatry, disobedience, and wickedness, the king and the nation suffered. Unfaithfulness to God, the worship of foreign gods, and the failure to obey God’s righteous stands resulted in war, defeat, conspiracy from within and without Israel, and disease. Yet, God always provided an opportunity for REPENTANCE! Only true repentance can stop God’s judgment. For the repentant, God’s grace was at hand to repair the damage (2 Chronicles 7:14; see also 2 Chronicles 30:6-9, 18-20; 2 Chronicles 32:25-26; 2 Chronicles 33:12-13, 18-19, 23; 2 Chronicles 34:27). The Chronicler taught that when the king and his people wholeheartedly prayed to God, sought God for deliverance, and turned from their sinful ways, God was faithful to deliver and save His people. “Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT). The Chronicler stressed to the people returning from exile to humble themselves, seek God, and turn from their sins. The writer of Chronicler seeks to teach the readers the weighty lessons of God’s grace and judgment in Israel’s history. In essence, the Chronicler focused on Israel’s need for spiritual revival – renewing their faithful commitment to God and reforming their new society to rely on God for their help, guidance and protection.  

Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush. Old Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.