5 minutes reading time (962 words)
What's your favorite epic TV series? A show that lasted for years. Season after season. Always keeping your interest. Anxiously waiting for the next episode. The Crown, Downton Abbey, ER, 24, Lost, Breaking Bad, Heartland, Madame Secretary.If you've ever watched an epic series, you know the feeling of the unresolved plot twist. The cliffhanger. The hope for resolution of the conflict, the dilemma, the tragedy. How in the world will they ever get out of this mess? What about their hopes and dreams? Now this disaster. This horrible turn of events. Who will rescue them from this terrible mess they've gotten into?
When the long-awaited new episode arrives, you need something to remind you of where things are in the story. To help you remember the characters you've come to love, and hate. The highlights of their best moments. The timeline of the turn of events. The pending doom. You need an overview of what's happened so far.
To bring you up to speed, epic TV series use a narrative device called a recap sequence. The recap sequence contains a selection of brief moments from past episodes. A recap sequence usually begins with a voiceover or a subtitle such as, "Last week on…" or "Previously on…." The recap sequence transports back to the storyline. The plot tension. The story so far.
Our English Old Testament ends with Malachi, the last prophet. The book of Chronicles (originally one unified work) follows First and Second Kings. But in its traditional Jewish ordering the Hebrew Bible ends with First and Second Chronicles (a unified literary work). It helps to think of Chronicles at the end of the Hebrew Bible. That's where our Re-Read 2021 outline puts Chronicles. That's where God's people imagined Chronicles at the time of Jesus. That's the order Jesus was taught and understood.
Chronicles was written after the Jewish people returned from Exile. It is a summary of all the Jewish scriptures. A look back. A recap. If the Hebrew Bible was an epic TV series, Chronicles might begin, "Previously in the Jewish Scriptures." Think of it as a recap sequence, though admittedly a very long recap sequence. Chronicles is the story so far.
The first word in Chronicles is "Adam." Does that word bring an episode or two to mind? The story's beginning. A beautiful garden. A royal wedding. Like the opening scene of Lion King. After the word "Adam" there are nine chapters of genealogies. Did you read them? A genealogy looks terribly boring but if you think about them as recap sequence, they are extremely interesting and thought-provoking. I recently listened to First Chronicles 1 through 9 while driving. All nine chapters of genealogy. Like a long recap sequence, images flashed across the screen of my thoughts. Adam. Seth. Noah. Nimrod. Abram. Jacob. Tamar. Aaron. Phinehas. Boaz. Joab. Obed. David. Abigail the Carmelite. Solomon. Zedekiah. On and on the names read. Dozens and dozens of names. Nine chapters. An avalanche of episodes, characters, and scenes.
The Chronicler selects, retells, and reshapes scenes from Israel's past to point them to the hope for the future. The writer highlights two key characters - the messianic King through the line of David and the priesthood through the line of Aaron. Stories of David and the Kings are selectively included, along with some new scenes, to highlight David as the ideal king and to highlight the covenant promise of a king like David (1 Chronicles 17). Second Chronicles highlights stories of the Israel's kings from David through the return from Exile. Scenes of success and failure. They flash through one after another in quick succession.
The book of Chronicles is an epic overview of the whole Old Testament. Like a recap sequence, it's written in a way that announces the story isn't over.
The recap sequence actually ends with an edict from another king, the imperial king of the world at the time. King Cyrus of Persia.
"The LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, "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 36.22-23)
The Chronicler knows the Jews have already returned from Exile so the Book ends by pointing forward to the messianic hope of Judah's house and the people of the future temple of the Lord, the God of heaven.
And so, the recap sequence ends. Israel is waiting for the next episode. Waiting and waiting.
Turn the page and what do you read. Matthew 1:1
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…."
The genealogy of Jesus. Name after name. Familiar names. Like hearing the theme song of your TV series. The genealogy from Abraham to David. From David to Jesus. It's Matthew's way of plugging into the series. Matthew's continuation of the recap sequence linking with the Chronicler. Connecting to the story so far.
Thus begins the new episode. So, what's going to happen? Will God's chosen people ever be able to be bless the world through Abraham's seed? Will David's promised heir ever arrive? Will the prophecies of Isaiah be fulfilled? The Lord God coming with might, tending his flock like a shepherd. How will God keep his covenant promises to save Israel and, through Israel, all nations?
So that's the story so far. Now where does the story go? You have to keep reading.
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