READ – 1 Chronicles 10:1-7; 11:1-3, 9-10; 12:38-40
After 9 long chapters of genealogy, the book of Chronicles begins its re-telling of the story of Israel’s kings in chapter 10. The first three chapters of the narrative (Chapters 10-12) recount for us in stark contrast the demise and fall of King Saul and the dramatic emergence and rise of King David. Saul’s story ends with him dying alone in defeat. David’s story begins with “all Israel” gathered with him ready to go to battle wherever he leads.
To understand these 3 chapters and their application to our present day, we need to remember that Chronicles was written during one of the hardest and most discouraging times in the story of Israel. They had just passed through the lowest point in their story as a people – the exile. They came out of this time with excitement, returned to their homeland and made some progress BUT… their lives were not turning out as they had hoped, their faith wasn’t as vibrant as they thought it would be. Many were disillusioned, almost everyone was dealing with some level of disappointment. They needed something that would enable and inspire them to endure. These 3 chapters are the opening “pep talk” in the book of Chronicles meant to inspire hope that God can and does bring renewal to people when it seems like all hope is lost. They show us four things everyone needs to know about how God brings renewal to his people.
SUMMARY: 4 Things We Need to Know About Spiritual Renewal
1. WE NEED TO KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE A FIGHT
The thing that all three of these chapters have in common is that they are all about fighting. The very first words in the narrative after the long genealogical introduction to the book are not “Once up on a time…” but “Now the Philistines fought…” (10:1) It’s important that we make a simple observation here. The author of Chronicles knew the people to whom he was writing were struggling and disillusioned. They were fighting just to live a life above their daily circumstances. He must’ve thought, “I’m not going to start at the high point in Israel’s history, when things were great, and the land was at peace and rest. I’m going to start this story in the heat of the battle.” All spiritual renewal and growth comes as a result of a hard-fought struggle. Some of us get extremely discouraged because we have the wrong idea of what spiritual renewal looks like. Renewal is not about reaching a state of spiritual tranquility and serenity, it’s about staying engaged in “the good fight of faith.” (1 Tim, 6:12) As Ralph Erskine wrote, “Faith, without trouble or fighting, is a suspicious faith; for true faith is a fighting, wrestling faith.”
The Chronicler highlights a few stories to show us what kind of fight we’re up against. It’s not just any fight, it’s a fight with impossible odds against us. The stories of the mighty men (see Eleazar 11:12-14 and Benaiah 11:22-25) are examples of how God wants to bring us renewal in places where we believe it’s most impossible. While it may not bring us a feeling of relief, knowing renewal is going to be a fight helps us to persevere in the process of change trusting that God is at work even in our struggles.
2. WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT TO FIGHT
Not only does Chronicles show us that renewal is a fight, we also find wisdom here for what battles we are called to fight. One of the main things that prevents us from orienting our lives around God and his kingdom is that we tend to fight the wrong fights. Instead of pouring our energy into loving God and others, we use so much of our energy seeking our own self-advancement and desires.
Here the contrast between David and Saul is instructive. Saul lost his battles because he was fighting to prove himself to others. In his insecurity, he ended up fighting his best ally (David) instead of with him. David on the other hand fought to have the help of a community in his life. Saul tried to fight his battles alone. He didn’t admit his need for help or ask for help until it was too late (and even then, he looked for it in all the wrong places). David, from the very beginning knew he needed help. (Look at 11:10, 12:1, 12:18.) We need to fight to be people who are fighting with and for us in the pursuit of God and his kingdom.
3. WE NEED TO KNOW WHY WE FIGHT
There is one thing about these chapters filled with incredible triumphs and impossible victories that – if you take it away – none of it happens. None of it is possible. That thing is a person – David. If David isn’t in this chapter – none of these things would have happened. These warriors are not fighting for self-preservation or self advancement. They are fighting for David and his kingdom. It was their love for David and desire for his kingdom to come that motivated them. THAT is WHY they fought. (Read 11:15-19 for an example.)
Chronicles was written to awaken hope in a greater David to come. Someone who would inspire boldness and courage. Someone who would bring unconquerable renewal to the world. The gospel is that the greater David has come. Jesus came fighting our true enemies with us. And ultimately, He fought and conquered them for us – taking on our sin, death, evil on the cross. In the greatest victory of all time, against all odds, it was One Man vs. the entirety of human sin, death itself and all evil and the One Man emerged victorious from the tomb. We fight our battles for spiritual renewal and growth out of love for the One who fought for us and his kingdom.
4. WE NEED TO KNOW WHO FIGHTS FOR US
The great hope given to us in these chapters is that we don’t fight or achieve impossible victory in our strength. God fights for us. All other religions tell us to fight for our standing and approval before God. It’s up to us. The irreligious approach to life is to fight for our needs and rights. It’s up to us to fight for ourselves. The gospel tells us “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex. 14:14) Our great fight is the fight of faith – to trust that, in Jesus, God love us and is always fighting with us and for our renewal into the image of his Son.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Do you struggle with having the wrong idea of what spiritual renewal looks like, expecting to achieve a state of tranquility and peace vs. the continued good fight of faith?
3. Is there a place in your life/soul where you have given up hope? A place you think renewal of God’s work in your life is impossible? How might this passage give you hope that God can work in this part of your life?
4. It was said in the sermon that we should keep in mind the development of the bible’s teaching on the battles we are called to fight. The New Testament clarifies who the real enemies of the soul are – the world, the flesh and the devil. Do you find that you tend to spend your energy fighting the wrong battles (in family, marriage, parenting or work?) How can you redirect your energy into the right battles?
5. How does the gospel give us the right motivation to fight - love for Jesus and his kingdom?
6. What would it look like to be a community that is fighting with and for each other’s spiritual renewal? Spend time praying for each other. You may want to read aloud the following passages as a reminder that God fights for us.
Jeremiah 1:19, Exodus 14:14, Deut. 1:30, 3:22, 2 Chon. 20:17