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God may be the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, but he's totally interested in what's going on with his creations down on Earth.
Back in the day, God made a deal with the Jewish people. If they would love and obey him, he would be their God and they would be his people. This covenant still holds for the people in our story:
Solomon and company draw close to God by continually praising and glorifying him. It also doesn't hurt that they build him "an exalted house, a place for [him] to reside in forever" (6:2). Way to keep your friends close.
One of the first items on any king's agenda should be to make sure that the people of Israel are holding up their end of the covenant and remaining faithful to Yahweh. The good news is that God can be generous when he's feeling appreciated:
Money. Power. Military victories. Is there anything God won't do for the people who love him (and obey the huge list of rules he handed down thousands of years before)?
The basic point? If you obey God's commandments it means you have faith in his wisdom. You understand that God the Father knows best. Praise is great, but when it comes down to it, real friendship is about listening to each other. The message throughout Chronicles is that although kings often fail to hold up their end of the agreement, God never wavers.
What happens if you don't trust in God and obey him? It's not pretty. Here are some examples of what happens to people who decide to stray:
So do these harsh punishments mean that God isn't just? Maybe he should be a little more lenient? It depends. Are parents unfair when they ground their kid for breaking curfew? Is a judge cruel when he sends someone to jail for stealing? In both these cases, the person who's being punished knew the rules and broke them anyhow. The same is true for the people of Israel. They know what God expects of them, but sometimes they don't listen. God can be harsh sometimes, but these consequences were built into the agreement. He's just being consistent.
Despite raining pain on Judah from time to time, God keeps his promises to the people. He reserves the throne for David's descendants and puts up with some pretty rebellious and disgusting behavior on the part of many of the kings. Despite what appears to be the final blow—the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in Babylon, we learn that God eventually allows the exiles to return and gives them a chance to get it right. He hadn't abandoned them; he withdrew his presence to make a point, but never stopped caring about his people.
Even though Yahweh is the God of Israel, he makes sure we know that he's in control of all nations, not just Judah. Even though they worship other Gods, other nations acknowledge the power of Judah's God. We've seen how the King of Tyre and Queen of Sheba have acknowledged God's power in making Solomon so wise and wealthy. Not all kings get it, though:
Do you not know what I and my ancestors have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to save their lands out of my hand? Who among all the gods of those nations that my ancestors utterly destroyed was able to save his people from my hand, that your God should be able to save you from my hand? (32:13-14)
Huge miscalculation by King Sennacherib.
God also uses other nations to accomplish his own purposes:
Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their youths with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or young woman, the aged or the feeble; he gave them all into his hand. (36:17)
The Persian King, the most powerful emperor in the world, is also subject to God's control:
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. (36.22-23)
This is a pretty amazing statement from an emperor whose primary god is not really Yahweh. He gives God credit for his possessing all the kingdoms under his rule. Keep in mind, though, that this is the Jewish version of events. In the Persian records, Cyrus gives the credit to Marduk. Regardless, the Chronicler's point is that God controls the fate of all nations, even though they might not realize it.
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