Day 97—Whitewashed History—“Leadership and Poverty” 2 Chronicles 1:1 – 5:1
April 7, 2021, 7:02 AM

Day 97—Whitewashed History—“Leadership and Poverty” 2 Chronicles 1:1 – 5:1

Well, I’ve read again about Solomon’s construction of the temple, and it left me sort of…bored.

A whitewashed historical perspective has its place. We know that these are basically legendary stories of nearly perfect rulers that we hear thus far from our Chronicler as a kind of trope, a method of pointing something out by the way in which it is presented. The trope in this case is to support the Godly kingship of both David and his son, Solomon in order to inspire the people who are returning from exile.

Keep in mind that there is a 400 year gap between the writing of Chronicles (approx. 400 BCE) and when Solomon actually ruled (approx. 950 BCE), and the purpose is to encourage the people, to remind them of their heritage and to firmly establish the Davidic line as the House that God established.

Certainly that is true when it comes to establishing the worship spaces of the people of Judah and Israel. (Reminder: the split in the kingdoms into north and south changed this for the northern kingdom. At the time of this writing, the kingdoms are united.) David first established the tent of meeting near the Gihon Spring, and then later the Temple was built high on Mount Moriah, a place that overlooked all of the surrounding hills and valleys. Symbolically to go ‘up’ to the house of the LORD reminded people of God’s sovereignty on the high hills. Practically, it created a perfect place for the king to live nearby and to have an ability to survey the surrounding areas for any possible enemy infiltration as well.

Modern visitors to the Temple Mount (google it for a quick view) will see the same view that Kings David and Solomon would have experienced, albeit with more housing, modern roads, etc. The Temple Mount is one of the places in Israel where you can walk literally on the pathways where ancient kings, and where Jesus himself, walked.

I think it’s important to say also that this is the beginning of the modern ‘church’. This gives us a picture of what has guided builders, stonecutters, glass makers and other artisans throughout history in order to create a beautiful and holy space in which God may be worshipped. Now, the Temple claimed to have the pure presence of God contained, the Shekinah Glory, and it was the only place that ancient people of Judah could worship God in God’s presence. Observant people have always said prayers in their homes, before their meals--in other words, while the Jews at the time honored God in all the places they travelled, the only place where they could truly be in God’s presence was in the Temple itself. This is what made exile so terrible for the people of Judah (southern kingdom). Leaving the Temple behind meant leaving behind the presence of God.

And so, while the whitewashed details of David and Solomon’s life were far less interesting to me this time around, I understand the overall purpose of what the Chronicler is doing. The Chronicler is distilling the story, taking out the impurities and shadows, in order to present something pure to the people who are returning from hopelessness and diaspora, a group which has been displaced from their homeland and their worship.

So if I were to contemporize it—let me just riff here. The people of Johnstown, particularly those of St. John’s—I’ll call them the Parishioners-- are conquered, St. John’s Church is torn down, and the people are made to live in…Vermont, let’s say. While in Vermont, the people are separated from each other, begin to adapt local customs and gradually begin to worship God in different ways, and with the incorporation of some local rules, such as serving Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at every religious gathering. Gradually the people of St. John’s start to forget where they came from and how they once worshipped. There are no photos, just stories told from person to person. About 70 years later, after intermarrying with local Vermonsters, and adapting the local Dairy Customs, they are told they can return.

But what are the Parishioners returning to? What are their memories, their practices? Where is their Church? Who will rebuild it?

And that’s when the Chronicler is a help. This is the airbrushed remembrance of a time when the people of Johnstown worshipped God in the Church, when there were no roof leaks, no cracked foundations, when the light coming in through the stained glass windows was perfect and painted the plaster walls with brilliant colors, when the Priest who offered ‘sacrifice’—or celebrated the Eucharist, used words of pure faith and inspiration that connected the people directly to the heart of God in Jesus. This idealized picture builds hope in the hearts of the Parishioners who then want to re-create purity in worship, a building that honors God, a place where the presence of God is clearly felt and experienced. The Chronicler provides inspiration.

Not sure if this helped today, but it helped me a bit. I preferred the swashbuckling David of passion and action from Samuel, the silly Solomon who loved his many wives to the point that he lost sight of God. Those stories ring true for me. They bring truth to the table and show me how God has worked with his sometimes wayward people.

But the stories of the Chronicler remind me of the ideal, the purpose and the faithfulness of God in a different way, minus the distractions and side stories that create intrigue and color. Yes, the story of David and Solomon has lost some color, but it has created a clearer blueprint for the people of Judah to see how the past will help them create the future. To quote from our own Prayer Book and the renewal of Baptismal promises—and they will, with God’s help.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML



Comments

04-07-2021 at 11:21 AM
Carol Bluni
Using Ben and Jerry's to explain Chronicles! Amazing, I love it!
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