The Global Message of 1 Chronicles

First Chronicles in Redemptive History

Written soon after Israel’s devastating exile from the Promised Land, 1 Chronicles emphasizes that God still has a plan for his people and his king in Jerusalem. The exile to Babylon had shattered Israel’s faith in God’s covenantal promises. How could the deported descendants of Abraham ever bless the nations (Gen. 12:1–3) as a special people (Ex. 19:5–6)? What happened to God’s assurance to King David that his throne over Israel would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16)? Though many of the Jews had already returned from exile, they remained slaves in their own land without a king to call their own (Neh. 9:32–37).

First Chronicles reviews the past glories of King David in order to pave the way for another Davidic king who will rule with God over the nations (see 1 Sam. 2:10; Psalm 72).

God’s Global Reign through a Davidic King

The theme of universal redemption might seem subdued in 1 Chronicles, a book which sandwiches various stories about Israel’s King David (1 Chronicles 10–21) in between genealogies (chs. 1–9) and various lists regarding Israel’s army and temple furnishings (chs. 22–29). It is undoubtedly true that 1 Chronicles mainly concerns David and the city of Jerusalem. But this book also highlights three ways in which God’s history with Israel occurs on a bigger stage and for a broader purpose. For King David has been placed in a position of authority in order to embody the reign of God over his entire creation.

The blessing of God for the nations. First, the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1–9 stress the special place of David in God’s global plan of salvation. First Chronicles begins with Adam just as Genesis does (Gen. 5:1; 1 Chron. 1:1), yet 1 Chronicles passes over many generations in focusing attention on the clan of David (2:15; 3:1–24). It is worth noting that the pivotal figure standing between the genealogies of Adam and David is Abraham the patriarch (1:28). The rebellious descendants of Adam had once sought to “make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). In response, God promised Abraham to “bless you and make your name great, . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2–3). The descendants of Abraham would one day become a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:3; compare 1 Chron. 17:27). The continuity in God’s covenants with Abraham and David is one of the main themes of 1 Chronicles (e.g., 16:16; 29:18).

The worship of God by the nations. Second, David calls on the nations to worship God just as Israel does. When the ark is brought to Jerusalem, David appoints the family of Asaph to declare the power of the God of Israel to the whole world: “Make known his deeds among the peoples! . . . Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! . . . Tremble before him, all the earth” (1 Chron. 16:8, 23–24, 30). The dedication of the ark must not be a private religious affair for Israelites only. All nations are invited to celebrate the abundant blessings of God upon his chosen people. Such a worldwide audience for Israel’s worship is also envisioned in psalms about Zion and, later, its temple (e.g., Psalms 46–48; 67; 84).

The supremacy of God among the nations. Third and finally, the God who fulfills his promises to David has no equal among the gods. David had desired to build God a physical “house” (i.e., a temple; 1 Chron. 17:1) as other ancient peoples did for their deities. But the God of Israel does not need such a house (17:4–6; compare 2 Chron. 2:6; 6:18); instead, he says that he will build David a “house” in the form of an everlasting dynasty (1 Chron. 17:10–14). This remarkable promise leads David to proclaim the greatness of the God of Israel: “There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears” (17:20). The God of the Bible cannot be limited to the puny categories and limitations of pagan deities.

First Chronicles and the New Testament

The final Davidic king. The theme of God’s faithfulness to the Davidic covenant in spite of the exile provides a significant bridge between the Old and New Testaments. As does 1 Chronicles, the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy, an abbreviated one this time, which features Abraham and David: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Matthew then highlights the arrival of Jesus in the world by calling attention to equal intervals from Abraham to David, from David to the exile, and from the exile to the coming of Christ (Matt. 1:17). This equality is achieved by omitting three kings in the second group and several generations unknown to us in the third, where thirteen generations cover some 600 years. Such selective genealogies were common in ancient literature. Matthew’s point is that Jesus is the rightful heir to the covenant promises made to David about having a son who would reign forever (2 Sam. 7:12–16).

To all nations. Because he is the long-awaited son of Abraham and David, the arrival of Jesus in the world ushers in a new phase of God’s plan of salvation. God now entrusts to Christians the privileges and responsibilities of being righteous citizens of Zion: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16; compare Ps. 48:1–2; Isa. 60:1–3). Jesus is the last and greatest Davidic king, who commissions Christians to instruct the peoples of the world with the truth about God: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).

First Chronicles and the Global Church Today

God’s purpose throughout history to restore the world to the way he intended it in Eden reaches a high point in the throne of David. For through David we discover that despite the sinfulness that continues down through David’s line, God “will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” and God’s “steadfast love will not depart from him” (2 Sam. 7:13, 15). These promises are the reason for the writing of 1 and 2 Chronicles.

In a day of political corruption of every kind at every level, God’s people around the world can take heart in the invincible purpose of God to restore a kingdom in which justice and righteousness will one day be established. In the coming of Jesus, this kingdom has already dawned (Mark 1:14–15). Whatever the frustrations over governmental corruption or anxiety over political instability, in Christ anyone can be welcomed into a kingdom that will include much suffering (Acts 14:22) but finally perfect glory and joy (1 Thess. 2:12). Every Christian can say, with Paul, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).