I have now read to the end of 2 Chronicles. Some bits were boring, but I’m glad I did it, as it gave me a real overview of that period of Jewish history, and also an insight into the character of God. The books are basically lists of kings, giving their name, who their father was, and any major events. They finish each brief biography by saying that everything else the king did is recorded in different books. (We have some of the other reference books, in Kings and some of the prophets – like Isaiah. Others are lost.)
The thing is, as you read, you see how the kings kept on ignoring God. There would be a good king, the temple would be repaired, the laws upheld – and then his son would take over and we would read, “… who did evil in the sight of God”. It was a recurring theme. A king would take over, he would introduce new ideas about where/how to worship God and introduce other gods, the people would follow his lead, God would allow bad things to happen (like defeats in battle or famine or illness). Over, and over, it kept happening. Then, at last, there would be a king who tried to return to the rules God had given in the past, he would rebuild the temple, get rid of foreign gods, tell the people to observe the Passover. And God would forgive the people. Over, and over, whenever they returned to him, God gave them another chance.
This was interesting. As a mere reader, an unattached observer, I became fed up with the Jewish people. When, yet again, a bad king took over and the people followed him and ignored God, I was very irritated with them. As I read those words, “who did evil in the sight of God,” I found I was groaning. Oh no, surely not again. Then, when after a few generations, someone turned back to God, realised things were wrong, tried to do the right thing, I kind of wanted God to say no, stuff it, you didn’t learn last time, now it’s too late. Because that’s what I would do, after so much deliberate wrong-doing, after they continued to ignore what they knew from the past, after they stopped following God yet again. I would run out of kindness, tell them they’d blown it. But God didn’t. Every single time they came back to him, whatever had gone before, God accepted them.
You really have to read the whole of 1 and 2 Chronicles to get a feel of what I’m saying, which takes some discipline, but at the end, you are slightly amazed by the patience of God. It’s like a pre-runner to the story of The Prodigal Son, where a boy is shockingly rude to his father, shames him publicly, messes up big time – and then the father takes him back as soon as he returns. Such love. Love way beyond what I am capable of, almost beyond what we can even understand. This is my God.