6. When God Feels Absent: 1&2 Chronicles
In times of doubt, reflect on God’s past faithfulness to maintain hope for it to continue
This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him; go up then!” -2 Chronicles 36:23
The setting for the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles is one in which the Israelites feel very distant from the presence of God. As a consequence for their sin, the Israelites have been exiled from their land and taken into captivity; but after many years, the Israelites are finally invited to return home! The message in the book of Chronicles is written to Israel upon their return. Its purpose is to bring hope to the nation who, ashamed of their sin, was questioning, “Is God really still with us? Can we expect God to still fulfill his promises to us?”
Maybe you resonate with this feeling. Like the Israelites, you’re questioning God’s presence with you. Because we can’t see or touch God, it can be difficult to remember that God is with us in every moment. Maybe you worry you’ve done something to cause God to move away from you.
In light of this struggle, let’s examine the hope given to Israel in their doubt! Chronicles retells the Old Testament story to highlight the past faithfulness of God, inspiring hope for God’s continued faithfulness.
The book starts with a genealogy that emphasizes the royal and priestly lines of the Israelite tribes Judah and Levi. “Look at what God has done for you,” Chronicles is saying, “God brought from you a line of kings and priests, and he is working through your nation to bring blessing to the world!” In pointing to God’s past faithfulness, Chronicles is reminding the people that they can trust in God’s commitment to bring a descendant who will be the ultimate king and priest to Israel.
The book also recounts stories from the golden age of Israel under King David when the temple was built. Again, these narratives not only remind the people of God’s work in the past, but they inspire Israel to keep trusting in God’s present work! Israel’s years under David are not the unsurpassable glory days; rather, they’re a foreshadow of the coming age where the promised king will come and rebuild God’s temple in all its glory!
The hope that Chronicles sought to inspire did not end in disappointment: we can now see that God fulfilled every promise in Christ!
Born into the royal line of Judah, Jesus now rules as the ultimate king, inviting all the nations of the world to come and live under his reign of peace. Fulfilling the priestly role of the Levites, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice himself when he died on the cross, making a way for people to be in a relationship with God. And finally, Jesus fulfilled the temple prophecy, not by building a new physical temple but by coming to earth as the true temple, the very presence of God among us!
The Israelites recounted stories of God’s faithfulness to them in their times of doubt. What would it look like for you to do the same? When you don’t feel God’s presence; when you question his love for you; when you doubt the promises he makes in his word, could you look back at God’s faithfulness in your own life to regain assurance and hope?
Go back to the simplicity of the gospel, and reflect on your salvation. Remember that Jesus died for you while you were still his enemy. You did nothing to earn his love in the first place. Isn’t this evidence that there is nothing you could do that would cause God to abandon you?
Remember that Jesus left his throne in heaven, entered into a life of immense struggle and suffering, and then died an excruciating death…all so his presence could come to live within you. Isn’t this evidence of God’s commitment to you?
RESPOND: Take a moment to reflect on and praise God for his past faithfulness to you, that your hope might be reignited.