“…Your love, o Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountain, your justice like the great deep. … How priceless is your unfailing love!” (Ps.36:6-7a)
2 Chronicles 30-36.
We continue our exploration of the Chronicler’s message and word of encouragement to post-exilic Israel. He lifts up cultic fidelity, displayed through devotion and worship of Yahweh, as the pathway to restoration. Using biblical characters, Kings in Israel, the Chronicler aims to illustrate his central theme by showing that a king who acts faithfully will know the blessings of Yahweh through victory in war, building projects, wealth, fame among the gentiles, healing in times of illness, and the respect and regard of his people at death. The reverse holds true for a king who is unfaithful and does evil in the eyes of the Lord. Thus, the Chronicler in chapters 30-32 continues with Hezekiah to show that Yahweh rewards faithfulness. Hezekiah reunites the people “all Israel” both northerners and southerners (30:1) under one faith (30:6, 9), one temple, one geographical location “Land of Israel” (30:25; 34:7), and under the worship of Yahweh. To ensure worship becomes a lifestyle among the people, Hezekiah reorganized the temple. He provided regular burnt offerings (31:3); he invited the participation of the people through their gifts and talents in the form of financial contributions (v.4-10) and treasury keeping (v.11-19). The Chronicler highlights Josiah, another king somewhat reminiscent of reforms to Hezekiah. Like Hezekiah, Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (34:2). He sought to purge the land and Israel of idolatry, thus enacting reforms for the worship of Yahweh (34:4-7). He led the post-exilic community to renew their covenant and devotion to the Lord (34:31). The Chronicler goes on to narrate the event of Josiah’s disobedience by choosing to go to battle without the instructions of the Lord, and how this resulted in his defeat and death, which is consonant to the Chronicler’s theology of retribution. The Chronicler also wants his audience to know that in as much as they were faithful kings like Josiah and Hezekiah, there were also some unfaithful kings who did not follow Yahweh. These kings: Manasseh, Amon, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, led their subjects astray and as such suffered the inevitable consequences of their disobedience. The motive of the Chronicler here is not to present Yahweh as the angry God who does not show grace and mercy, but would dish out nemesis. Rather, his motive is to warn Israel that inasmuch as Yahweh is merciful, sin or disobedience brings inevitable consequences. The reason for this warning is so that Israel will remain faithful to their God.
Ezra 1-4.
Like the Chronicler who reports the history of the exiles to show that Yahweh rewards cultic fidelity, the writer of Ezra retells the story of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity and the reforms carried out so that they can worship their God. In telling this story, the writer of Ezra aims at letting his audience know that Yahweh had brought about both the return of the exiles to Judah and Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. He notes that the favorable action of the King of Persia, Cyrus, toward Israel was in keeping with the word of God that was foretold through the prophet Jeremiah (1:1-3; 6:22). He goes on to say that Yahweh did not only move Cyrus to bring about the return of the Jews, Yahweh also “stirred” Cyrus to contribute to the return by restoring to the Jews the temple vessels that were taken from the old temple during the time of the exile (1:7-11). The writer goes on to talk about the rebuilding of the altar (3:1-6), the laying of the foundation to the new temple (3:7-13), and the obstacles faced during these rebuilding projects (4:1-24).
It is evident from both the Chronicler and the writer of Ezra that worship is the center of any thriving community of believers. The reforms enacted by Hezekiah and Josiah as well as the rebuilding projects of Ezra were all so that the people could worship Yahweh again. Inasmuch as worship needs to be dynamic, changing with the changing needs of the people, it also needs to maintain continuity with the heritage and heritage of the faith.
Submitted by Michael Jinteh


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