If 1 Chronicles is the uplifting story of Israel's Golden Age, when King David ruled with justice and mercy, then 2 Chronicles is the hard right turn. Everything starts out just fine. David's son, Solomon, builds the Temple in Jerusalem and impresses everyone with his wealth and wisdom. But when Solomon dies, Israel's fortunes take a nosedive. For starters, the country breaks into two warring kingdoms. The new king of the unified kingdom, Rehoboam, isn't as politically savvy as his ancestor, David. Tired of Rehoboam's heavy-handed rule, the ten northern tribes break away and form their own kingdom. Both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel go through a series of kings that could best be described as a mixed bag—if by "mixed bag" we mean incompetent, murderous idolaters who'll kill their own grandchildren if that's what it takes to stay in power. It wasn't all bad news, though. "Jumpin'" King Jehoshaphat tries to get a peace treaty going with his friends in the north. King Hezekiah starts the tradition of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem. And King Josiah rediscovers the first five books of the Bible during his reign and realizes it would be a good idea to pay them some serious attention. But these few bright spots aren't enough to counteract the absolute corruption of the rest of the kings of Israel. Breaking divine law, killing off family members, worshipping goat-demons—there's all kinds of shocking stuff going down. Things get so bad that even though God has promised that David's descendants will always reign in Israel, he lets the Babylonian Empire invade and destroy Jerusalem, level the Temple, deport much of the population, and leave the rest to die in various horrible ways. Eventually, God lets the people return to Jerusalem to rebuild amid the rubble. But if you were feeling optimistic after 1 Chronicles, with the righteous King David having things well in hand, prepare to be discouraged.
Why Should I Care?Why do bad things happen? The author of 2 Chronicles knows why, and there's no question about it. Bad things happen because people disobey God—it's as simple as that. Did your army just get demolished in battle? Better think twice about worshipping those goat gods. Got a case of leprosy? Just because you're the king doesn't mean you're allowed in the Temple doing jobs reserved for the priests. It couldn't be more clear: if you want health, wealth, victory, and military success, you need to do what Yahweh asks. He might be forgiving if you're truly sorry, but otherwise it's just basic math: disobedience = disaster. Don't you wish it were all that simple? We all know that plenty of bad things definitely happen to very good people. Maybe you have a friend who's kind and generous and dying from a horrible disease. Or a fun, supportive cousin who was killed by a drunk driver. Maybe one of your parents can't find a job despite being hardworking and smart. Maybe your sweet little sister gets chosen as the tribute from Region 12. Natural disasters sure don't make distinctions between good and bad people when they happen. It all seems so unfair, and it's understandable to want explanations. And there are plenty of explanations. You've heard them all—God's will, things happen for a reason, things happen for no reason, we don't have all the information, they must have deserved it, bad genes, bad luck, bad parents. We all want to figure it out so we can prevent this stuff from happening to us. But apart from not doing dumb, avoidable things that put us at risk for accidents or illness or failure, bad things can happen anyway. And as long as they do, people will wonder why. Chronicles is one answer to this huge question, but you'll have to find your own. And while you're looking, don't text and drive, m'kay?
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