God Prepares His People

God Prepares His People

Hey, aren’t those first nine chapters of First Chronicles a chore?  I distinctly remember on this read through, just before starting this book, thinking, “Well, here we go.”  It wasn’t a pleasant thought.  It was more like, this is a job to be done, a task to be endured.  And yet here of all places is where God decides to give me an insight that I have never read in any commentary or thought about in my own study of scripture.  Isn’t that just like God?  To give insight where you think everything is mundane and monotonous. 

Here is the insight in chapter 1 which made me pay special attention to the rest of this opening section which I usually sort of “tune out” while reading.  In I Chronicles 1:43 we read, “These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel.”  Wait a minute.  Jacob and Esau were brothers.  Or should I write Esau and Jacob were brothers?  (because Esau was the firstborn.)  The nation of Edom (descendants of Esau) and the nation of Israel (descendants of Jacob) began within the same generation.  The descendants of Esau went to Mount Seir and began to formulate as all people groups do.  They organized government, established a system of authority with dukes, and had kings who reigned over them.  Here in this section, I count 8 kings who reigned in Edom in their early days as a nation.

This is how it’s normally done.  This is how people groups develop and survive.  But this wasn’t how God led His own special people that would change the world.  God established a covenant people through His promise made to Abraham.  Yet what did He do to prepare His people to be a blessing to all nations?  If you read Genesis 12:1-3, there are all these great things that God is going to accomplish through the offspring of Abraham.  But the roadmap to this greatness, as God lays it out in Genesis 15:13-14, is not the way that other nations are taking.  If you were told that your nation were destined for greatness, on what roadmap do you think God would lead your nation?  The plan in the mind of God was for the entire nation to become a people enslaved and oppressed.  They would not have a king of their own, but would have another nation rule over them for 400 years.  These other nations were developing in an autonomous way with their own kings, but the people of God were finding their identity as slaves.

When the nation of Israel came out of the iron furnace (see Deuteronomy 4:20, Jeremiah 11:4), their entire identity up to that point had been as oppressed slaves.  God established their new identity as being the people of God, see Exodus 19:5-6.  Then when Israel came up to the border of the promised land in close proximity to the nation of Edom, they were approaching a nation that already had a history of kings and a system of dukes.  Edom, with a 400 year head start, refused to help Israel in their time of need, see Numbers 20:14-21.  Moab also was a nation formed in the same generation as Israel.  Lot was like a son to Abraham before their parted ways.  Then Moab was his son, making Moab and Israel two generations removed from Abraham.  Moab had a king at this same time that Israel was approaching the promised land, see Numbers 22.  All these other people groups had kings, but Israel had no king.

This principle is not isolated just here.  This principle of God preparing people through oppression and humility is uniform throughout scripture.  Moses, the man of God, was not exalted to greatness at first, but was rejected by his own people.  “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” Exodus 2:14.  Why does God use this way?  I believe one of the reasons is the way in which God wants to lead His people to greatness.  The children of Israel had their identity as being oppressed so they could be a blessing to others who are oppressed.  If you notice the laws which God established to govern His people, a good portion of them remind the children of Israel of their past identity.  Three times in the book of Deuteronomy we read the exact language “You will remember that you were slaves in Egypt, therefore I command you to do this thing.”  Give your servants the day off, give to the poor, free your slaves, forgive debts, do not charge interest, be kind to the foreigners in your land, look out for the orphans and widows; do all this because you were once slaves but now the LORD has redeemed you.  You belong to Him now.

This was the true greatness that God had in mind when He said He would bless Abraham and his offspring.  True greatness in the eyes of God is being kind to the oppressed.  True greatness in the eyes of God is forgiving debts, welcoming foreigners, and giving to the poor.  If you missed this, I suggest you read the book of Deuteronomy again.  And all of this would happen without a king.

This basic principle was to point them to the true king who would reign over them.  If you look at the structure of the book of I Chronicles, there is an anticipation for that king who would reign over the nation of Israel.  Saul was rejected for his breach of faith, I Chronicles 10:13, but David was the man that God chose, I Chronicles 11:1-3.  In I Chronicles 1:43, we see the comparison of Israel and Edom.  The nation of Edom had a huge head start over the nation of Israel.  But was the nation of Edom greater than Israel because they chose that way?  Not at all.  Because God led His people into slavery and out of the iron furnace, now God could exalt a truly great king, a man after God’s own heart.

This is the way to greatness: through humility and oppression.  It should come as no surprise that God would lead David down a path of rejection for many years before exalting him as the King over all His people.  Saul and many other leaders in Israel persecuted him and hunted him for his life.  I Chronicles does not document the full extent of the rejection, but instead focuses on the strength added to David while he was being rejected.  I Chronicles 12 documents the children of Israel who were brave enough to join David while he was still rejected by the leadership of Israel.  I Chronicles 12:1 mentions the time that David was in Ziklag.  If you read I Samuel 27:1 for the context, David was despairing for his life during this time.  Yet here are men of God pledging their loyalty to David in response to David’s humility.  I Chronicles 12:8 mentions the Gadites who joined David while he was in the stronghold, see I Samuel 24:22 for the context.  This is just after David spares Saul’s life for the first time.  Just keep reading through this chapter as David’s army grows mightier and mightier, yet he refused to put himself forth as the rightful king of Israel.  David chose humility and oppression in the wilderness.

I and II Chronicles is centered around David as the premier king who brought about peace by another way.  God exalted David because he humbled himself before God.  The same verse in I Chronicles 1:43 is found in Genesis 36:31.  But in Genesis, the entire story of how God would finally bring a king to Israel is not found.  So the Chronicler (I believe it’s Ezra) pulls together the metanarrative to demonstrate God’s overall plan to bring forth this premier king, or king of kings.  It is only in reading I Chronicles that the plan of God becomes evident, that plan being to bring forth a nation of redeemed slaves ruled by a humble king.

There is another metanarrative contained in scripture.  It is the plan of the people of God, those who find their identity as being slaves of sin.  There are people here who realize this world is under the oppression of the devil and long for true freedom, a world where people are not oppressed by sinfulness.  Instead of looking to others as the source of their frustration, they turn the scrutiny upon themselves and realize their own sinfulness is contributing to the evil in this world.  It is to these people that the King of kings came.  Jesus of Nazareth came in order to redeem them.  According to the established rule, He came in humility and was oppressed by His own people.  Yet in His rejection, many identify with Him rather than with the kingdoms of this world.  This is the kingdom that will rule all kingdoms and bring blessing to the entire world.  I invite you to choose humility and rejection in the wilderness.

May the LORD richly bless you in your reading of scripture, no matter how mundane and monotonous the passage may seem.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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1 Response to God Prepares His People

  1. Ron B says:

    Your study reveals God’s faithfulness to a people that were putting their faith in the Almighty, not any government. Many Christians today think the answers to their problems are going to be solved standing at the ballot box instead of on their knees in their prayer closets.

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