Friday, December 12, 2014

Reconciling the Abijah Accounts


I am going in a different direction from the norm here, but hopefully it will be a blessing to you.  Something struck me while I was reading 2 Chronicles.  It was an insight that provides an illustration for something that I have come to understand for a while now concerning interpretation…and it is interesting that I would find something of an Old Testament illustration to help provide insight for a New Testament principle.  This is certainly not the first time this has happened.  As I have stated in other places, if I had a dollar for all of the poor exegesis and illustrations using Noah and gopher wood, as well as Uzzah and the ark, to try to justify new covenant authority, I would be further ahead in my retirement account.  That said, the following illustration is actually in context, and concerns two distinct, but related passages. 

What we see in 2 Chronicles 13 is that Abijah becomes king of Judah, following his father, Rehoboam.  In the Chronicles account, Abijah appears to be a man of God who leads the armies of the Lord to victory over the armies of North Israel.  There are twenty-two verses displaying the heroics of what took place under Abijah’s reign.  But, something occurred to me while reading this…there are only four kings of Israel and Judah in the divided kingdom that were considered “good kings” (and all were from Judah, by the way).  They were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah.  Abijah is not on the list.  This is because we need to go to the Kings’ account concerning Abijah to get the other side of the coin.  The account in 1 Kings 15 is about a third as long as the account in 2 Chronicles.  It is here that we see that he “committed all the sins of his fathers.” There is very little information about Abijah and the war with Israel here…it is pretty succinct, and the basis of the message is – Abijah was a bad guy like his father (and most of those who came after him).

So, the question that comes into focus is – how does one reconcile these two accounts?  Many people would have to deduce that one of the stories is correct, while the other one must be in error, because there could only be one possible explanation that is correct.  Yet, I believe that this is the beauty of both accounts -- they can both be reconciled. Both stories concerning Abijah are true…it is simply that the Chronicler has a different focal point than does the author of 1 Kings.  (It is similar, in some respects, as to what we see with the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Each is accurate, but from the unique perspective of the author…even as to whether there were one or two angels at the open tomb).

One of the difficulties that came as the result of being raised in a church culture and exposed to a model of interpretation where an “either/or” deduction reigned was that it would often pin us into the corner and we would have to take a stand that only one thought could be correct.  And therefore, by the rules of deduction that were in place, the other position, by necessity, would have to be wrong.  So, it could only be gopher wood, and therefore, it could only be Matzos used for the Lord’s Supper (for example). The Chronicler offers a perspective concerning Abijah that is unique in that he is not really as interested in what Abijah is doing, as he is in what God is doing in the situation concerning the war with the kings in the divided kingdom.  It may be true that Judah was “seeking the will of the Lord” in relationship to their battle with Israel, but it would not necessarily mean that Abijah was “a righteous and holy leader for God’s people.”  Abijah himself is not as important in the Chronicles account as much as God is and what He is doing through Abijah in the situation.  It is not the first time that God would have used people with some significant struggles, who would even be at odds with Him…Jacob and Jonah are two others that come to mind.  Besides, if God did not respond to sinful people who sought Him and trusted in Him, we would all be in trouble.  So, Judah has a moment in the sun, where they seek the Lord and He responds by delivering them from a force that was twice their size…once again, a story that is repeated in the Scriptures. It is about what God can and will do with and for His people.

So, what does this mean as it relates to the new covenant?  There are accounts where it seems that there might be discrepancies.  I will offer two thoughts briefly that can be expanded at a later time.  How often a person participates in the Lord’s Supper, for example – was it daily (Acts 2), or was it once per week on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  The text in 1 Corinthians 11:17ff offers some insight, but it is not definitive as to which is should be.  It is easy to get pushed into an “either/or” scenario, when “both/and” may be quite acceptable, as well as accurate.  Paul spends the better part of the last section of Romans (particularly chapter 14) explaining how these matters can be so…that there can be a church that has members where some are vegetarians and others eat meat, (or where some meet at the building on Sunday evenings and others meet in homes) -- and it all works.  Even more challenging – are the believers in Acts 2 in the same spiritual situation as those in Acts 8 and Acts 10?  It is apparent that all are in good standing with the Lord and the church at that time…but what of today?  Many believers would say – those Christians are not acceptable…I cannot fellowship with them.  Yet, it is hard to see how we could or would not accept what those in the first century church did accept.  Furthermore, how can we “critique beyond a doubt” using “deductive methods” an event that is altogether spiritual and led by the Holy Spirit?  It is not any different today than it was then.  It is important to consider that there is more than one proper perspective that could be available and acceptable to the Lord and His body as it relates to the above matters, as well as many others…some things to study, ponder and consider.

Blessings, Don

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