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Forgotten Power: The Lord’s Supper and the Biblical Pattern of Revival

 

The “Chronicler” as Old Testament Theologian of Revival3

Several related Old Testament books deal centrally with the cycle of sin and revival: 1 and 2 Chronicles (originally one work) and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (also probably one work). The writer (or editor) of these works, called the “Chronicler” by scholars, wrote perhaps as early as the late sixth century b.c.4 This was a time when the Second Temple was functioning as the center of Jewish worship, but Israel was no longer politically independent. The Chronicler was probably a Levitical scribe and singer or musician—his works have a lot of detail about the music ministry of the temple.

It has also been noted that the Chronicler’s writings downplay the role of the classical prophets such as Isaiah or Hosea. Along this line, note the incident in the book of Nehemiah in which local prophets accept bribes to give false utterances against rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 6:10–14). This is not something that reflects well on the office of the prophet. Instead, the Chronicler takes an almost Pentecostal view that the Spirit of God and prophetic utterances are universally spread.5 For the Chronicler, the classic prophets such as Isaiah and Hosea are part of the voice of God to Israel and Judah, but they are not the entire voice. There are also lesser “seers,” momentary speakers of God’s word, such as a pagan pharaoh (2 Chron. 35:20–22) and a soldier, a “chief of the Thirty,” who had the Spirit of God come on him to give a valid prophecy (1 Chron. 12:18). These are messengers of God who did not have the formal prophetic office. Presumably the Chronicler would not have been surprised by the visionary and prophetic experiences of the Scottish revivals or the Cane Ridge revival, where even children prophesied.

The Chronicler used many sources, most notably 1 and 2 Kings, but also the prophetic books of the Bible, memoirs, and other sources we no longer have. These he forged into a theological interpretation of the history of the rise, fall, and restoration of the Israelite nation from the time of David and Solomon to the beginning of the Second Temple period. He focused on the southern kingdom of Judah, which included Jerusalem and its beloved temple.

The Chronicler’s longest work, 1 and 2 Chronicles, is not the favorite Old Testament reading for most Christians. The work begins with lengthy genealogies and includes details of temple worship that bore many of us. It is also history, and therefore one may be tempted to downgrade it as less useful than Old Testament books such as Proverbs or Psalms.6 But principally, because it is an Old Testament book, some of the Chronicler’s assumptions are alien to modern readers. For starters, the Chronicler understands that God manifests his character through both mercy and retribution. If one disobeys the precepts of the law of God, and especially if one falls into idolatry, retribution will be severe and certain—on this earth, and not necessarily in the afterlife.7 Many contemporary Christians have been raised with the idea that God has so much “unconditional love” that his retribution is merely a rhetorical threat.

The Chronicler also assumes that the full, true worship of God is corporate worship, which takes place within the context of the temple cult, with its divinely established covenant rites of the Mosaic law. This is not to say that the author is an Old Testament legalist, for throughout the work is a deeply embedded understanding that proper worship must include sincere and wholehearted devotion to the one God of Israel. This is dramatically highlighted when the Chronicler cites King David’s charge to his son Solomon with his duties as king:

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. (1 Chron. 28:9)

This stark choice is repeated throughout the work and becomes the judgment peg of the kings of Judah and Israel.

Finally, the last section of Chronicles shows the kingdom of Judah overrun by the Babylonians. Jerusalem is sacked, the people are killed or exiled, and the temple itself is destroyed. Although there is also a hint of the coming restoration of the temple, this is not a Hollywood ending. The contemporary reader may receive the impression that Chronicles is mostly a book of divine retribution—and like Lamentations, a record of spiritual tragedy.

That is an unbalanced view. Although 1 and 2 Chronicles record the history of the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, embedded in that tragic narrative is the pattern for restitution and revival—a hopeful theme. It is the good news of God’s promise that no matter how apostate his people become, revival is possible. Without exaggeration it can be said that the Chronicler is the Old Testament theologian of revival, and his writings present for us a focused pattern for revival and restoration. Although the details of the revivals in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah are different, the general pattern is the same. A sinful and apostate nation must repent, reject idolatry, seek God, and obey his laws and commands. Obedience and loyalty to the Lord is manifest especially in the corporate worship and covenant ordinances of the Mosaic law.

 

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Category: Church History, Summer 2003

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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