Lectures on the Books of Chronicles

1 Chronicles 9‑11  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Chron. 9-11
If we reign in life, it is by Him and by Him only; and if Israel is ever yet to reap blessing and to be the means of blessing throughout the earth, all depends upon the Messiah. Little did they know that when they rejected Him! They never entered into the mind of God; and, when Jesus came, they were less prepared than ever. Never did God see them in a lower condition. They had been grosser; they had been more offensive in their abominations, but their heart was far from Him. In vain did they worship Him. Hence, therefore, they deliberately preferred man-and man false and guilty and rebellious-to the Lord of glory. "Not this man, but Barabbas." How utterly, then, all was ruined-ruined morally before the destruction came upon Judah and Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. It is always so. Outward judgment follows, and is in no way the cause of our misery. The misery is from within, from self, from Satan's power through self.
So it was with Israel, so it is with each; and so, further, are we delivered by one Man outside ourselves, and that one Man the Son of God. All depends upon Him, therefore, for us now, for every day's blessing-not merely for our salvation, but for every day's light and guidance. All our mistakes arise because, alas! not Christ governs, but self. All our happiness is found where Christ takes the first place. So it will be with Israel by and-by. But this was not understood then. God shows that He understood it all along, and that He revealed it in His Word; for this it is that accounts for the books of Chronicles-the purpose of God. It is all hinging upon His purpose, upon His Messiah—His purpose to send His Son to take up that purpose and give it solidity, to make it unfailing.
David, therefore, acting as a type of the Messiah, orders everything anew. The old state of things according to Moses did not abide in its arrangements. The grand principles, of course, are everlasting; but there was a most important difference in the form, and that difference of form was due to the superior glory of the one who was there even as a type. How much more when we remember the antitype, the Lord Jesus. David, therefore, orders an entirely new arrangement in this respect. The priests were divided into courses, and one course was to be always on the spot in Jerusalem. That state of things is not in the least referred to in the Pentateuch. But David not only arranged for a house of God, but houses for the priests. There were many mansions around that central house of God for the priests; and there the priests, each according to their course, lived. The consequence was that they required to have the offerings brought there-to Jerusalem. We can see the reason why. God had been preparing the way, even from the beginning, for the offering at that one place that is named-where His name should be placed -that one place that He should choose. Then when the place was chosen and the temple built, we can understand all, because these priests could not have subsisted a day unless Israel had, according to the command of God, brought their offerings and their sacrifices and the like. On this they subsisted. Had there been neglect in this respect, the priests must have of necessity gone back to their own places of residence, and left the altar and the incense, and all the order of the temple, completely neglected.
Accordingly, then, we see the great importance of the change that now took place, and why the genealogies became of such importance, because the books of Chronicles were written after the captivity, when everything was thrown into disorder. The Jews, disheartened by the destruction that they never would believe till it came, might have thought, "What is the use of a genealogy? What is the use of caring now about our lands or houses? Everything is ruined. All is gone." But the man who believed God, knew that seventy years would see them returning from their captivity; and, therefore, care for God and confidence in His Word would make them jealously preserve their genealogies in order that, when they did return, they might enter upon the allotment of God. For this was what made every homestead in Israel so precious-that it was God that gave it. It was not merely something that man earned by his own labor or skill. It was the gift of God to them.
Therefore, if an Israelite was bound up very particularly with his family, it was no mere matter of vanity or pride, as among us very often; but in Israel it was bound up with the purpose of God. It was no question of what some rogue had done, so, perhaps, getting his family into favor, as is very often among the Gentiles; but in Israel, all was ordered of God. It was God's appointment, and the worthies there were men who were worthy according to God-men who had, by their achievements in faith, won, according to the will of God, a place for Israel; for all their blessings were more or less connected, although all was poor and feeble compared with that which shall be, but still it was a type of what is to be. Hence, therefore, patriotism, a genealogical line, families that held on to the remotest antiquity -these had a divine character in Israel, which they have not in any other country under the sun. Elsewhere it often becomes offensive; indeed, if people only knew the truth, a thing rather to be ashamed of than to be proud of.
But in Israel it was not so. There, although there were sad blots, and blots upon the fairest, still, for all that, there was that which was truly divine working in the midst of that poor people from the beginning downward. We can see therefore that these genealogies had a character altogether higher than might at first sight appear; and I have no doubt that most of us have read these genealogies, thinking it was high time to skip over them. I have no doubt we have often wondered why they were ever written at all, and why they should be in the Bible, though, perhaps, without in the least wishing to disparage what was inspired -for I am now supposing pious people. But I am quite persuaded that very few persons, comparatively, have a clear distinct judgment why God has attached so much importance to these genealogies. One reason why I have dwelt upon it now is this-to give, as I trust, a truer view, a simpler understanding, why the Lord in this wondrous book should give us so much that appears to be little more than a list of names.
Well, when they returned, these genealogies would be of capital importance, and of capital importance for the Israelites in order that they should not usurp-in order that they should not be unjust-in order that they should be content with what God had given to them-in order that they should link themselves with all that was great and glorious in God's sight in the past. These genealogies were of the greatest moment for this. In their weakness they would require every cheer and encouragement.
But, further, they were under responsibility, according to their substance, to give to the temple of God-to remember the priests and Levites who had none inheritance among their brethren, and, more particularly, as the order set up by the king would be restored again, the courses of priests. We find it in the New Testament. We see the birth of John the Baptist under these very circumstances. His father, according to his course-the course of Abia-was at that time doing service at the temple. He had left his house in the country. He was in Jerusalem. Thus the genealogies were of the greatest moment in order to settle justly, and according to the will of God, that which could not be haphazard and of the will of man; but there should be faith' in it, piety in it, an owning of God in it.
These, therefore, seem to be among the grounds-I do not say all the grounds, but among the grounds-why God led some of the Jews to pay such attention to their genealogies. And it is remarkable that at least one tribe, if not two, is left out here. I presume they did not think of it; many individuals in all the tribes may have been careless, but it is a solemn thing to find that, from one cause or another, almost in every case in the Bible where tribes are mentioned, one or two are left out. It is the failure of man. No matter what it is, it is the failure of man. If Moses speaks prophetically, Moses also leaves out. This was a sad and solemn sign-the omission of a tribe. The fact is, there will always be these irregularities till Jesus comes. There never will be order maintained in this world according to God until the Lord Jesus reigns. But at this time there was a peculiar disorder-the utter breakup of the people, of the kingdom, the carrying away into captivity, could well account for this. The genealogies, therefore, are very partial; but they were all reckoned by genealogies. And if a priest could not prove his genealogy, he was not allowed, as we know from the book of Ezra, which is the successor of the Chronicles-the natural sequel of these books. The priests were not allowed to minister at all unless they could prove their genealogy, though they might be ever so truly sons of Aaron.
The fact itself was not enough. There must be the proper register and proof of their genealogy-a thing of very great importance for us now, I would just observe, to draw spiritual profit from; for now in these days, when there is a universal profession of Christianity, we are called upon to prove our genealogies. You see there is no difficulty in bearing the name. The time was when a man confessed Christ to the danger of his life. Now it is a cheap and common thing. Nearly everybody does it. All the world (so to speak) is baptized in these lands. Therefore, plainly, in answering to the type of a priest as of a spiritual man that draws near to God, one must look for more than the mere fact of being baptized. It is not enough-we all feel that-and without knowing that we are acting upon this very principle; that is, we require the priests to prove their genealogies. By-and by, when the Lord comes, He may discover many a one that we may not have thought of. That does not prove we were wrong. It does show how full of grace He is, and how perfect His wisdom. But we must go by what appears. He acts by what is. He is the truth. We are not the truth. We can judge only according to evidence that comes before us.
So in the 9th chapter we have the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is the peculiar feature of what begins here-the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And Benjamin is particularly mentioned with a view to that. But, further, the Levites and the priests are brought before us for the very same reason, and their various offices and work. And last of all, because they had been connected in so special a place-and, indeed, were of Benjamin-of the family of Saul. as mentioned before. These repetitions are very striking in the book. They are not casual; they are all connected with God's purpose, for now the great object is to show the passing away of man's will in order that God's purpose should reign. Man chose Saul for reasons of his own. The children of Israel wished a king like the nations. This never could satisfy God. God must choose a man after His own heart. Hence, therefore, the first part of the regular history of Chronicles, after the genealogies, is a brief notice of the passing away of the house of Saul in the next chapter.