Lesson 5 – God is with Us When We’re Powerless
The writer of Chronicles, as we noted in our last lesson, was not writing an objective history of the people of God, of the Israelites, but was writing a theological history. What this means is that rather than dealing with the nitty-gritty events, he portrays everything as simplistic if-then formulas. If you worship and obey God then God will miraculously save you. If you do not worship and obey God, then God will punish you. God kings got rewarded and bad kings got punished. The writer also shapes the stories around earlier events.
2 Chronicles 20:1-30
This story is shaped around the Exodus story and the conquest story.
The people had fasted just as the people had prepared unleavened bread for the journey from Egypt. The enemies are coming from Egypt, just as Pharaoh brought his army against the Israelites. The people are helpless and outnumbered, just as the Israelites were helpless and outnumbered when pushed up against the sea. Jehoshaphat prays to God for deliverance just as Moses prayed for deliverance. The people watch as the God causes Judah’s enemies to die by their own hands (with bodies strewn everywhere) just like the people watched as God drown the Egyptians in the sea.
The people were moving into a land filled with powerful enemies. The enemies outnumbered them. Joshua prays to God. God tells Joshua how to bring down the walls of Jericho (trumpets). God delivers the people into the hands of the Israelites.
The core theology behind these two stories is that God has a plan for God’s people and so when God’s people are faithful, even when they are powerless God will protect them.
We see the faithfulness of God’s people in that they:
The people respond
This is a summary of the stories mentioned above. It is the pattern that will be used in the rest of the Old Testament. When the people are outnumbered they are to remember that God is the deliverer and that God is with them.
A reminder however that this is based on the faithfulness of God. one of the stories where this did not work out is the story at the beginning of 1 Samuel, where the people and the sons of Eli the priest (who are wicked and have not been obedient to God) carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle and are roundly defeated. Thus, the promise is always contingent on faithfulness.
This concept is problematic because faithfulness has not always led to deliverance. When the Jews were faithful they were conquered and oppressed. They faced pogroms and the Holocaust. God did not save millions who did not fight back. It is the same for Christians. Across the centuries Christians have died as martyrs and have not been delivered. The question becomes what does this really mean in the real world and not in the world of a sanitized story?