Ezra, chapters 6-10

“Now make confession to Jehovah the God of your forefathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from these foreign wives.”
~Ezra 10:11

Does the Jews sending their wives away violate the Bible viewpoint of marriage?
After all, this action directly contradicts Jesus’ words: “What God has yoked together, let no man put apart,” (Matt. 19:6).
But we need to keep in mind that Mosaic Law, written well over a thousand years before Jesus was even born, allowed for divorce, providing anything “indecent” be found in the wife (Deut. 24:1).
In Jewish culture, the husband who wished to divorce his wife had to provide a divorce certificate that legally freed her up to marry again.
Man and wife were originally united as “one flesh.”
That principle was instituted “from the beginning,” (Matt. 19:3-5).
But Jesus himself explains that the divorce provision was due to the hard-heartedness characteristic of men in his own culture.
Therefore, we cannot judge the actions of the pre-Christian men, who were tasked with reestablishing their religious customs, by modern day Christian standards.
The Jews had the express mission of reinstating pure worship so that the Messiah could be born to them, as had been promised to Abraham, Jacob, and King David (Gen. 22:18; 28:14; Isa. 9:7).
That was, in part, why the Mede and Persian rulers had supported their efforts to rebuild Jerusalem (Ez. 6:3,12; 7:21).
Their associations in the surrounding pagan nations distracted them.
They were in danger of adopting their foreign wives’ idolatrous practices and once again garnering God’s disaproval.
It was under these circumstances and three months of litigating on a case by case basis that the foreign wives were eventually sent away with full custody of the children they had borne (Ez. 10:16,17,44).
Christians, on the other hand, were to be composed of all nations, not just of Israeli descent, and are not to divorce unless one is the innocent victim of a marital affair (Matt. 19:9; 28:19; 1 Pet. 3:1,7).
So while it was imperative to the survival of the Jewish religion to send away the pagan wives, Christians cannot use their stand as a precedent to excuse themselves from their marriage dues.

2 Chronicles, chapters 33-36

“[The king of the Chaldeans]
carried off captive to Babylon those who escaped the sword, […] to fulfill Jehovah’s word spoken by Jeremiah […].”

~2 Chronicles 36:20, 21

In chapter 36 we witness the rapid declive of Judah’s dynasty.
After King Josiah died in 629 b.C.E. there were no more good kings (2 Chron. 35:23-25).
Jeremiah, the prophet, was gradually subjected to worse and worse treatment as the kingdom became less and less reverent of Jehovah God (Jer. 36:26; 38:7-13).
Yet he never gave in.
He never stopped preaching the dire future that awaited those who did not repent (Jer 35:13-17).
He survived the destruction of the Holy City in 607 b.C.E. and kept serving as a prophet to his people (Jer. 40:5,6).
His determination to carry out his calling in such deteriorated circumstances serves as an inspiration to all of us struggling to actively take part in the kingdom witnessing work in a morally disintegrating world.

Learn more about Jeremiah through this free audio book.

2 Chronicles, chapters 29-32

“Then Hezekiah appointed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, each of the priests and Levites for their service […]”
~2 Chronicles 31:2

While reading this, you might ask yourself, weren’t all the priests Levites?
How is it that they were classified into two groups?
In many Bible passages the term “priests” refers specifically to males who descended from Aaron.
Though all of these priests belonged to the tribe of Levi, the term “Levites” refers to all of the other males in the tribe, the priests’ assistants.
The Levites were therefor organized into four groups:

  1. The priests, who descended  from Aaron, who descended from Kohath.
  2. The other descendants of  Kohath, who were in charge of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle.
  3. The descendants of Gershon, who were in charge of the linens within the tabernacle.
  4. The descendants of Merari, who were in charge of the framework of the tabernacle.

(Ge. 46:11; Nu. 3:25, 26, 30, 31, 36, 37).

All the Levites had to be familiar enough with Mosaic Law to teach it to others (2 Chron. 17:7-9).
Also, their tabernacle duties transferred to the temple once it was built (1 Chron. 23:24-32).
What I gathered from this reading is that whatever my personal assignment is within Jehovah’s organization, I should cherish the privilege of serving him and collaborating with brothers and sisters working in different capacities.
Our spiritual work should be free of envy or resentment because we are all working for the same God and the same cause.

2 Chronicles, chapters 25-28

“Then Uzziah was laid to rest with his forefathers, and they buried him with his forefathers, but in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said: ‘He is a leper.'”
~2 Chronicles 26:23

Kings were traditionally buried in tombstones between the rocks.
Though Uzziah had been a good king, he became haughty toward the end of his life and so God struck him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16, 19, 20).
As a leper, he lived out his days in isolation, cut off from his palace and reign (2 Chron. 26:21).
When he died, he was buried in the cemetery belonging to the kings, but not in a tombstone between the rocks.
He was buried in the ground, most likely on account of his leprosy and the Mosaic Law’s strict quarantine rules (Nu. 5:1-4).
A plaque was even found in Jerusalem containing the inscription: “Hither were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Not to be opened,” (“Uzziah 3.” Watchtower Online Library. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, June 2015. Web. Jan. 3, 2016).
Such relatively extreme measures protected the people from likewise contracting the disease.
They also highlighted the need to respect that which is holy.
God no longer strikes his earthly representatives with ailments when they sin, as he did in this rare case.
It is still important, though, to serve him with a modest attitude and a pure heart (Mic. 6:8; Jas. 1:27).
Such an attitude not only protects one’s self, but the entire congregation.

2 Chronicles, chapters 20-24

“So they buried [Jehoiada] in the City of David along with the kings, because he had done good in Israel with respect to the true God […]”
~ 2 Chronicles 24:16

Jehoiada was the high priest of Judah who had hidden his nephew from being murdered for six years.
After officially proclaiming his young nephew, Jehoash, king, Jehoiada went on to rid the land of the apostate worship of Baal (2 Chron. chapter 23).
For his zealous service toward Jehovah’s worship, he was given the honor of a king’s burial.
This is in stark contrast to the end of King Jehoash’s life.
Influenced by his comrades, Jehoash ended up promoting pagan worship, to the point that he murdered a prophet.
This prophet was Zechariah, the late Jehoiada’s son (2 Chron. 24:17-22).
For his sins, Jehoash was denied a king’s burial by his own people (2 Chron. 24:25).
These two men were ultimately defined by their actions and not by their titles.
Therefor, what we do is more important than who we are.
One cannot justify inaction or poor decision making by blaming family or one’s position in society.

2 Chronicles, chapters 10-14

“O Jehovah, it does not matter to you whether those you help are many or have no power […]”
~2 Chronicles 14:11

When the nation of Judah was attacked by Ethiopians, they were outnumbered at least 2 to 1.
King Asa did not turn to a pagan nation for help.
Instead, he relied on Jehovah:

“Help us, O Jehovah our God, for we are relying on you, and in your name we have come against this crowd.”

King Asa was convinced the best help he could get was only a prayer away because he had acted in accordance with God’s will throughout his kingship.
He knew Jehovah blesses those who serve him (2 Chron. 14:3-5).
More importantly, Asa considered it an attack not on his own sovereignty, but on Jehovah’s.
That is why he pleaded, “O Jehovah, you are our God. Do not let mortal man prevail against you,” (2 Chron. 14:11).
Jehovah intervened on their behalf and as a result, Judah was able to destroy its attackers (2 Chron. 14:12-15).
We can trust that Jehovah can and will hold his hand out to us when we face problems with solutions that are beyond us.
And when his people as a whole face a considerable threat, he defends them for the sake of his name and all it represents.
As a result, God’s people prevail even when odds are against them, so long as they demonstrate faith.

2 Chronicles, chapters 1-5

“At the moment when the trumpeters and the singers were praising and thanking Jehovah in unison, and as the sound ascended from the trumpets, the cymbals, and the other musical instruments as they were praising Jehovah, ‘for he is good; his loyal love endures forever,’ then the house, the house of Jehovah, was filled with a cloud.”
~2 Chronicles 5:13

There were about 288 trained singers at the temple inauguration  (1 Chron. 25:6,7).
Their voices had to be audible over the 120 trumpets and the cymbals they were all playing (2 Chron. 5:12).
When we sing at our meetings or assemblies, we do not worry about the instruments drowning out our voices because the electronic sound is regulated by the sound department.
This leads to a tendency to mumble our words instead of praising Jehovah with all our soul in song (Mark 12:30).
The singing aspect of our worship has always been important to God and we should embrace the opportunity to unite our voices in praise to Him, just like the Levite choir must have done in order to produce a clear voice.

1 Chronicles, chapters 26-29

The chief of the third group assigned to serve during the third month was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada the chief priest, and 24,000 were in his division.
~1 Chronicles 27:5

The reader may recall from previous passages the story of Benaiah and his loyalty toward King David’s reign (2Sa 23:20-23; 1Ki 1:8, 2:29).
He was one of David’s few confidants who did not betray him even after his death.
What I had not personally reflected upon was his family’s namesake.
His father was “the leader of the sons of Aaron,” that is to say, the Levite priests (1Ch 12:27).
Benaiah did not live off of his father’s spiritual reputation.
He made his own name before God and followed his own career in sacred service, unrelated to priestly duties.
What this teaches me is that even if my mother or father or grandparents are well known in the community for their ministry work, I still need to make my own name before God as an individual.
It is not enough to inherit values; they must also be put to good use.

1 Chronicles, chapters 21-25

[…] Ornan said to David: “Take [the site of the threshing floor] as your own, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. Here, I am providing the cattle for burnt offerings and the threshing sledge for the wood and the wheat as a grain offering. I give all of it.”
~1 Chronicles 21:23

When Jehovah’s angel told King David to build an altar at the site of Ornan’s threshing floor, which Ornan was in the middle of using, Ornan did not ask, “Why me?” (1 Chron. 21:20).
On the contrary, he selflessly and with the utmost generosity offered his belongings up as a contribution toward true worship.
King David proceeded to formalize the acquisition by monetarily reimbursing Ornan, for he did not want to half-heartedly fulfill God’s commandment (1 Chron. 21:24,25).
This site became the place around which the entire temple was eventually built by David’s son (2 Chron. 3:1).
Today, the floor may very well still exist under the Muslim Dome of the Rock (“Araunah.” Watchtower Online Library, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, June 2015. Web 16 Nov. 2015).

We have many opportunities to demonstrate a sincere, generous attitude toward those in the congregation who dedicate all their time and effort to God’s service.
For example, when we enjoy our overseers biannual visits, we are encouraged to invite them to eat or sometimes even share our home with them.
Other times we are invited to donate resources toward expanding construction projects.
If we take advantage of these opportunities, no doubt we will be pleasing Jehovah.

1 Chronicles, chapters 15-20

“Do you think that David is honoring your father by sending comforters to you? Is it not to make a thorough search and to overthrow you and to spy out the land that his servants have come to you?”
~1 Chronicles 19:3

When Hanash, the king of the Ammonites died, King David sought to comfort Hanash’s son.
However, Hanash’s son, King Hanun, received bad advice from his companions and questioned David’s motives.
This suspicion led him to disgrace David’s messengers (1 Chron. 19:4).
Fed by fear of retaliation, the Ammonites eventually waged war on Israel with the help of Syrian soldiers, 47,000 of whom died at the hands of David’s forces (1 Chron. 19:6-10, 18).
All this damage could have easily been avoided if King Hanun had been less skeptical and more grateful toward David.
This passage highlights the importance of not being hyper-critical.
It is not wise to jump to conclusions and assume that anyone reaching out a hand to me really means to harm me.
If I am always defensive and doubting others, I could bring great harm to myself and the congregation.