While the stories of spiritual, moral and political decline may seem to predominate, remember that the Chronicler’s intent is to encourage the post-Exilic community with stories of God’s grace for all who turn and return to God with sincerity. Thus the reforms and victories of Jehoshapahat, most notably, the victory recorded in II Chronicles 20. This was consonant with Israel’s most common way of fighting during the time of Joshua and the Judges: the Israelites show up in faith and worship, and God does the fighting. Yet, in a cautionary tale for all of us, even as righteous a king as Jehoshaphat falls into the temptations of power and self-sufficiency, through his alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel. This same temptation overcame kings Joash and Uzziah (Ch. 26). In all the cycles of fall and rise, departure and return, degeneracy and restoration, one reign will stand out in a brief blaze of glory, that of Hezekiah (chapter 29). After the terrible pollution of the temple by King Ahaz, King Hezekiah undertakes a campaign of purification and restoration, the details of which are enumerated and celebrated by the Chronicler. Not only does he relate the how and what of worship, he relates the who; who among the families and clans of the Levites did what to honor God and restore his glory to the Temple. The task was so daunting, pressing and compelling, that other Levites than the priests had to be conscripted for various tasks. But the grace and help of God were experienced in the process, showing us how vital and “apocalyptic” is worship. By “apocalyptic” I mean revealing of heavenly and eternal realities. Contrary to the attitude of ancient Israel’s neighbors, worship does not support the state; the state supports worship. For us, some 28 centuries later, this is a powerful and necessary corrective, for we tend to see religion, faith and worship as valuable in as much as they may help us be more happy, productive and well-balanced citizens of the current social order, or to the extent that they help us achieve our desires and goals in the world as it is, by worldly standards of success. The Chronicler turns that mindset, and the ancient parallels to it, on their heads and reminds us again and again that the nation and its leaders are finally only as powerful and secure as are their faith and loyalty to God. For us, then, worship is not an interruption to the week, a departure from “the real world,” nor a tonic for a more prosperous and peaceful life. All such things are to be in service to God and to his worship and honor.
This is a Wisdom Psalm, in that it is about life, contrasting the ways of pride, wickedness and impiety with those of the humble, virtuous and God-fearing. Like the wisdom taught by Jesus, it too has an apocalyptic element to it, in the judgment foreshadowed at the end of the psalm, in verse 12: “See how the evildoers lie fallen— thrown down, not able to rise!” A thought worth noting, because it is typically overlooked in Western conceptions of the Christian faith (with the exception of Francis of Asissi), is in verse 6, “You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.” To God, animals are not only hoofed or feathered factories to provide for human need. They are considered in the Old Testament laws of sabbath, gleaning, and sabbath years, permitted to take their part of what God provides. They have their worth and delight in their Creator’s eyes, making respect and care for Creation a part of biblical wisdom. But the main point of the Psalm is the goodness and providence of God, a sense for which is the key factor of wisdom.