Book Review – The Message of Chronicles (Michael Wilcock)

This volume in the Bible Speaks Today series covers the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles in 288 pages. In the introduction, Wilcock sets the scene and deals with the issue of relevance. The Chronicler is telling stories of times before the exile to those living after it. If we struggle with the question, “how is all this relevant to me”, then so did the original hearers. But the Chronicler is more than a historian, he is a preacher. His sermon is about right relationship with God and his sometimes selective use of history is intended to draw out principles that illustrate various points.

One of the biggest challenges a commentator on Chronicles faces is what to do with the long-winded genealogies at the start of the book that can test the patience of even the most committed reader. Wilcock does an admirable job of helping us through this difficult section, presenting this material as “the tree of the Lord’s planting”, with its root, branches, and fruit. David, Israel (Jacob), and Adam are particularly highlighted, the Chronicler making the point that the people of God are the true kingdom, God’s true family and the true humanity.

As he goes through the remainder of 1 Chronicles, which is about “David, the man of war”, he deals with several of the chapters out of order, so he can group them into themes of nation, ark, testimony and temple. The Chronicler is preaching to a people who live in “day of small things” compared to the grandeur of David’s day, but the challenge of his sermon is that people in his own day follow the example of those before them and “offer willingly” and “consecrate themselves” to the Lord’s work.

The Chronicler is often accused of manipulating history, and Wilcock is not afraid to highlight several the places where his account deviates from the Samuel/Kings narratives. The Chronicler may be selective in places, but does so to support his point, rather than attempting to “suppress” information that his audience know in any case. Wilcock also deals with “anachronisms” such as reporting the amount of the temple offering in terms of the Persian Daric, which amounts to no more than presenting the total in “today’s money”.

Wilcock’s interpretation of the Chronicler’s sermon is that he presents David and Solomon as a double ideal – kind of two-fold picture of God’s true kingship. The point for the original audience is not for them (or their rulers) to “be like Solomon”, but that blessing will follow when the life of God’s people is directed by the one of his choosing.

As he moves through the various later kings, Wilcock picks out various lessons from their lives which he thinks the Chronicler also is trying to highlight. We see Asa’s capitulation to ‘worldly wisdom’ in 2 Chron 16:2-3, and Jehosophat’s repeated ill-advised alliances (a marriage alliance, a military alliance and a commercial alliance).

Many of the kings are described as examples of “pastors”, such as Uzziah the “strong” pastor whose strength was his downfall, and Josiah the “alone” pastor. Wilcock sees the throne and temple as the main two focuses of the Chroniclers sermon, and though Jesus is the fulfilment of the three-fold office of prophet/priest/king, it is priest and king that are at the forefront here.

Overall, this is a helpful guide that will broaden your understanding of the overall message of these books, as well as help you appreciate them in their own right as opposed to simply being the poor relations of the much fuller Samuel/Kings accounts.

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