We find ourselves quite a few years later than when we found ourselves in II Chronicles. The people of Israel are still in captivity and the king of Babylon, Cyrus, tells the people of Israel that they are able to return back to their homeland and they can rebuild the temple once again. But there is a problem. There are people within the Babylonian kingdom who see the Jews as a threat and reach out to the king and encourage him to change his mind. They tell him to look at past history and they can see how dangerous the Jews have been over history.
As a result he does and he stops the building of Jerusalem and the temple. But then the Jews respond and encourage him to look at the past and see how he decreed that the Jews could and should rebuild and that Babylon would actually help in the rebuilding process. As a result the rebuilding begins once again and we read in 6:16 – “The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of teh returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” That’s a fitting ending, but we are in the middle of the book of Ezra in the Bible, not the end.
We find ourselves in the waning days of Judah before the entire land and people are taken into captivity, first in Egypt and then to Babylon, pretty much definitively. Before that we find the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah mentioned. We look at the kings and the back and forth between righteous and unrighteous.
Hezekiah comes along and is a super king, not only does what is right in the eyes of the Lord, but encourages the people to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. They do and there is peace in the land. Again, we see this correlation between obeying God and peace. One of the more exciting places to go in Israel is Hezekiah’s tunnel which is a feat of astounding engineering.
Manasseh takes over and was a bad egg. Josiah takes over and everything changes once again. The change is seen primarily in the discovery of the law of the Lord which is brought out to the people and the people are able to obey and follow the Lord as a result. Josiah also kept the passover and the people came to Jerusalem to celebrate it with him. This is the last hurrah, as after Josiah things change and go from very, very good, to the worst it has ever been.
Jehoahaz takes over and only last three months and then the Babylonians come and carry the people into captivity. Thus ends the time that Israel was in the land. From there we see the Israelites live in diaspora until 1948 when Israel became a nation once again.
The flip-flopping from kings who love and serve God and those who do not follow his ways finds its extreme in these chapters. Ahaz was one of those kings who not only did not serve the Lord but aligned himself so completely with other nations that they invaded Jerusalem and took people captive to the tune of hundreds of thousands. Judah was becoming a wasteland. Ahaz at one point says: “Because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, I will sacrifice to them so that they may help me.” We also read in 28:3 that Ahaz “made his sons pass through fire”, which is a euphemism for child sacrifice. This was the most abonimable thing that one could think of if you were an Israelite. As you should expect. God was not happy.
Then along comes Hezekiah. Not only did he do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he tried to rally all the other Israelites that were spread out across the land to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. A type of diaspora had already taken place, Jews were spread out as a result of being conquered under Ahaz all over the region and beyond. So Hezekiah sends out notice that passover will be celebrated, even though it was the wrong month and the people were unclean, we will celebrate Passover regardless.
It reminds me a bit of when we were locked down under covid and one of the first things we missed was Easter and I said when this is finally over we will come back and celebrate Easter together. I don’t care what time of the year it is, we will declare it to be Easter. Well, that never happened because instead of ending all at once, Covid just kind of kept on going and going and going. But this is what Hezekiah did. When he sent out notice most of the Jews spread out mocked him and made fun of him.
But they did Passover and it was a glorious thing and the Lord was with them and that began another detente with the Lord and His people. In the Psalms that we look at for today they are both Psalms of ascent which means that they are Psalms for those who were rising up, like pilgrims as they made their way up to Jerusalem, as if Hezekiah had called the people and they were rising up to make their way into Jerusalem which is at the top of the hill. Very appropritae.
We continue along in the sons who take over after their father’s die as kings of Judah, the southern kingdom. Remember, this is the nation where Jerusalem is located and so it makes sense that this is where the attention is given. The temple is located in Jerusalem and God promised that David’s progeny would rule and this is a listing of David’s progeny and how faithful, or unfaithful, these kings were to God.
After the unfortunate rule of Jehoram we read: “He departed with no one’s regret.” That is an unfortunate truth, but at least the person who comes next, Ahaziah, has a good chance to do better. But that doesn’t happen. Ahaziah takes over and only rules for one year and then his mother, Athaliah, takes over and things go downhill.
Joash then begins to reign when he is 7 years old thanks to the planning and the strategy of Jehoiada who was the chief priest at that time. Things move in the right direction with Joash and he rules as he should have, obeying the Lord. But once Jehoiada dies, Joash and his rule go south as they turn away from the Lord. Amaziah takes over then and he also did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. We are on a bit of a streak here of kings doing God’s will.
We can’t skip over Psalm 121. It is a Psalm of hope as pilgrims who made their way to Jerusalem would see the city on the hill and be able to say out loud: “I lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence should my help come?”
Once Asa dies his son takes over, Jehoshaphat and we see that he continues along in the way of his father, that is in the way of the Lord. That is good news, for now. As a result of his love for God there is peace in the land. It always amazes me in Scripture that there is a correlation between the love of a king for God and the amount of peace that is in the land. It seems as if the ruler loves God then there is a corresponding dose of peace that is given out. The more love for God, the more peace is present in that person’s reign.
He makes an alliance with the northern kingdom, that would be Israel, that in itself is not negative. Together they are about to go into battle as a unified force but Micah tells them that they will be defeated. The two kings don’t listen to Micah and go into battle anyway and the king of Israel is king. Jehoshaphat makes it out alive and continues in his reign. God continues to show him favor in defeating his enemies in battle.
Once Jehoshaphat dies then things start to go south, I mean in a bad way. Jehoram takes over and starts the downward slide toward apostasy. Elijah warns him and tells him that because he walked away from God and is ruling apart from God that his death would be a painful one with his bowels coming out of his body. Yeah, that sounds terrible and that is what happens.
In Proverbs we see the result of what happens when someone fears the Lord. It is a fountain of life. That is advice that seems to be eternal and something upon which we can rely.
We begin again by seeing a divided kingdom, but the emphasis is going to be on the south, that is on Judah where Jerusalem is located. It is in the south where the family line of David continues and his sons and his progeny continue to rule. In the north you have another line of rulers that is not taken from David’s side of the family. Let’s l9ok at who takes Solomon’s place after he dies.
We pick up with king Rehoboam who is the son of Solomon. He does pretty well. Remember, the goal is to keep faithful to God even in the midst of a land where paganism surrounds the country. Rehoboam looked to go agains the north to take back the north and unite the country once more, but God said no because this division was from Him since the people had been unfaithful. At the end of his time Rehoboam does what was evil in the sight of God.
He is succeeded by Abijah who does a pretty good job in following God. He is then succeeded by his son Asa who does a spectacular job and rules over Judah and Jerusalem for over 35 years. He took away the idols, even from his own queen mother and made her step down because she had an idol. In the last chapter we see that he starts to move away from the Lord and rely on his allies for victories and God is not super thrilled by that. He reigns for 41 years. That’s a pretty good run.
We have the dedication of the temple both in II Chronicles and in Psalm 30. Solomon dedicates the temple and has a visit from the queen of Sheba who is impressed by his wisdom. But before that Solomon asks that the temple be a place where the people can go when there is famine or pestilence or drought or anything at all that would take the poeople down, and the temple should be a place where the people beseech the Lord and he answers. God promises that it will be that.
We have not only the visit of the queen of Sheba but also Solomon takes as a wife the daughter of Pharaoh. It could be that this was Cleopatra, at least it sounds like this is a pretty popular way to understand this history. Psalm 30 is a celebration of the opening of the temple and so obviously it could not have been written by David, even though it is described as a Psalm of David. We know that David was not living when the temple was built.
Chronicles ends with divisions starting to be seen in the kingdom. After the death of Solomon things start to go downhill, starting with Solomon’s son listening not listening to the advice of the older folks, but rather the younger folks.
Solomon is now firmly in place as the king. It is time for him to build the temple of the Lord. We see early in our reading that he is also in need of a new home for himself, but we find that his priority for now is to build a temple, a home, for God. Because he was able to unify the land even more than how it was unified under David, he is able to get help from all the surrounding regions to build the house of the Lord.
Before we get to the building we can’t just skip over that Solomon asked from God wisdom. God says to Solomon in 1:7 – “Ask what I should give you” and Solomon respond in 10 – “Give me now wisdom”. God does that. That was a big deal to God that Solomon asked for wisdom and not for riches or any of the things that most people would ask like riches or fame or power. Just give me wisdom and the rest will follow, if it is the will of God. Then he reaches out, in wisdom, to the other kings to help him build the temple of God.
Once the temple is build we hear a song raised by all the Levitical singers where we find the words: “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” When we get to Psalm 72 we find ourselves in a classic kingly Psalm. It is Psalm that lifts up the needs of King and asks for the protection and safety of the king and the grace of God to fall upon the king. We find the phrase – “long may he live!” That is still used in connection to the kings and queens of this earth even to this day.
David’s life comes to an end and once again the preparations, the detailed preparations are tended to by David. He calls all the people together and repeats to those who are present the words that God spoke to him about why he could not build the temple himself. I am a warrior and so God does not want me to build the temple but I’m putting everything in place so that my son, and I have a lot of sons, but my son Solomon is the one who is going to be building this temple.
He also encourages Solomon and tells him to be strong and courageous. That should sound familiar, remember Joshua when he was terrified to take over from Moses and how he was told by God to be strong and courageous. Well, this is kind of similar although it is David who speaks to his Son and not God who speaks to Joshua.
In Psalm 32 we find that phrase that gives us hope and also directs our steps: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. We know that in Jesus our transgression is covered. We know that by no act of our own Jesus covers us with his pinions and protects us. We find in Psalm 32 a reassurance that is covered by the blood of Jesus.
Proverbs covers a few areas of life that could be considered relevant for today. We are given investing advice in vs.11: wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but those who gather little by little will increase it. A little warning to all those cryptocurrency folks. We have advice on how to raise children in vs.24: Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.
Let’s start with Psalm 127 and we find ourselves in a very familiar Psalm. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” I love that verse. It can apply to our families, it can apply to our churches, it can apply to our government systems, it can apply to our friendships, it can apply to…you name it.
Solomon is given the complete book on how to build the temple and given full capacity to build the temple from materials to people to whatever else he might need to build it. But David is still king and just isn’t given the power to build the temple. We then transition to those who are going to play a pivotal role in the temple especially those who will be officiating, who are Aaron’s sons.