On Reading 1st Chronicles as a Dad

4065_ItDRvdbd-QMy Children and God’s Children: An Analogy

Like most parents, I often enumerate lists of information to my children throughout the day. Usually the lists contain commands, promises, and little stories demonstrating the commands and promises. But there are other lists, too, lists which are seemingly disconnected from any narrative structure and, therefore, any conclusive moral. My kids don’t mind the first kind of list, but the second makes them confused, cross-eyed, bored, discombobulated. Clark, my two-year-old, is understandably completely lost in such situations. Noah, my four-year-old, doesn’t know how to categorize the list, although he understands more words than Clark. And my eleven-year-old, Ayden, understands the vocabulary, the words, and the structure of the whole – he just doesn’t get it.

Intellectual maturity partly explains my sons’ different responses; moral maturity explains the other part. See, if I had been enumerating a list of furry animals to Clark, he would listen intently. If I had been enumerating a list of cartoon characters to Noah, he would listen intently as well. And if Ayden heard me enumerating weapons, cheat-codes, easter-eggs, and random video game trivia he would be all ears.

Being a stay-at-home dad, for the time being, has helped me to understand the differences between my sons. It has also helped me understand my own failures to dig deeply into 1st Chronicles. Part of the difficulty of reading the book, for me, is that I have a hard time following the genealogical record. The particular details are a little overwhelming for me at times, as my own detailed lists are sometimes overwhelming for Clark (my two year old). Like Noah (my four-year-old), categorizing the genealogies, in light of Scripture’s grand-narrative, is very difficult for me. Like Ayden (my eleven-year-old), I have hard time understanding the point of the genealogies. And like all three boys, I am a sinner who is only interested in hearing what is of direct interest to me, my desires, my goals, my concerns. My Father’s words, unless I view them as personally relevant, go in one ear and come out the other.

The Difficulty With Reading Scripture is Always Moral

I don’t deny “some things in [Scripture] are hard to understand…”[1] 1st Chronicles’ list of non-anglicizable Hebrew names challenges my unilingual mind. I also can’t fully grasp how the genealogy structure fits Scripture’s overall narratological structure or Gospel-focus. However, if I thought 1st was personally relevant, I would be studying more intently. Just as it is with my children, the difficulty in reading the lists of 1st Chronicles is not primarily intellectual – it’s moral.

If I, a sinful man, am pleased with my children’s desire to listen to what is partially incomprehensible to their little minds, then how much more is God pleased with his children when they pray for guidance in understanding his Word? If I, a sinful man, can see that the problem primarily intellectual but moral, seeing as my children want my words to serve their purposes only, then how much more clearly can God see our own moral failures to hear his Word? Scripture can be intellectually challenging, but the biggest challenge is that its main concern is not ourselves but God and his glory. A tough pill to swallow. I know. But once we have swallowed it, we can go on to repent and ask our Father to explain himself to us. We can repent of our self-centered ways of listening to Scripture.

All Scripture is Profitable

With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that God’s Word always does profit us. It is always relevant to our situations. It is always what we need. What I’ve learned from the analogy of my children, however, is that Scripture is first and foremost about God and his glory. It is about Christ and his blood shed for sinners. I am one of those sinners, implicit to the Gospel declaration; I am not the center of the story. The information I give to my kids, no matter how mundane, is never purposelessly given. I have a goal in mind, whether or not my children can see that goal, or whether or not they are concerned with reaching that goal.

“All Scripture,” says Paul, “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”[2] 1st Chronicles is no exception to this declaration, not even the parts that are difficult for me or you to follow. The important thing to keep in mind when reading Scripture, then, is that it is God’s story about himself, his glory, his mercy, his grace, and his justice. And because Christ became the subject of God’s perfect justice, we Christians are now the implied subjects of his mercy and grace.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.


[1] 2nd Pet 3:16.

[2] 2nd Tim 3:16.

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