Chronicles has a reputation for being boring. It’s long, and it mostly repeats the stories found in Samuel and Kings. Many of our students (and we as their leaders) avoid the book thinking we’ve learned its lessons before. We imagine whatever new insights we may find are not worth the squeeze of teaching through 65 chapters, nine of which are genealogies. But Chronicles is a fascinating book that deserves your attention as you teach teenagers in your youth ministry.
The books we know as 1 and 2 Chronicles are written to a new generation of God’s people who are ready to rebuild Israel’s broken institutions. The two books are meant to be read by the young as they inherit the broken history of their past.
If this isn’t a description of the generation coming to age in our church, I don’t know what is. The teenagers we serve are often disillusioned. But the central message Chronicles gives to an up-and-coming generation is to listen to the voice of God. If the youth of Judah and today want to see God’s Kingdom come—if they want to see their broken institutions restored—they must hear God’s voice and respond.
The Forgotten Musical in Our Bibles
Listening to the voice of God begins with music. Chronicles contains more references to music, instruments, and singing than any other narrative in the Bible. The Chronicler even refers to musicians and songwriters as prophets because they serve as spokesmen for God. Kings die or thrive based on their response to God’s singing priests (1 Chron. 25:1).
Songs are present at the coronation of kings and songs invite God’s presence to fall as fire in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 15:28-29). At one point, a battalion wins an impossible battle, armed only with a song about God’s enduring love (2 Chron. 19:4-20:37). In a sense, Chronicles offers lyrics to a new generation of nation-builders. The Chronicler’s message is that as the people of God worship, God will act on their behalf to save and rescue them.
God’s Senate of Singing Priests
It’s easy to miss among the 300-something names in the opening chapters of Chronicles, but at the very center of a long genealogy stretching back to Adam are 80 verses about priests and musicians (1 Chron. 6:1-80). The author has placed God’s singers and songwriters in the center of Israel’s national story. That’s because God calls these spiritual leaders to guide his people.
The entire priesthood sang in worship and as they offered sacrifice. But there was also a special class of priestly singers whom God tasked with putting his guidance to song. The Chronicler elevates these musician-prophets by putting them in the center of Israel’s history. He teaches that the way to build God’s kingdom is by humbly listening to God through the songs of his singing priests.
The Story of Three Stray Arrows
The very first story in Chronicles (following its long genealogy) continues to prove that this new generation of nation-builders must listen to God’s voice. After a long list of names, the author immediately throws readers into the middle of a chaotic and losing battle. Israel’s first king, Saul, is grievously wounded by a stray arrow and begs his squire to end his life, before falling on his own sword. Ominously, the Chronicler tells us Saul died because he did not listen to God’s voice. Chronicles’ very first narrative shows us the result of failing to listen when God speaks—personal and ultimately national death (1 Chron. 10:13-14).
Two other kings meet the same fate as Israel’s first King. King Ahab, the ruler of Israel’s rebellious northern tribes dies the same way and for the same reason: He fails to listen to God’s prophet (2 Chron. 18:30-34).
Perhaps most tragically King Josiah, Judah’s most faithful ruler since Samuel, dies the same way as Saul and Ahab (2 Chron. 35:23-27). God had told Josiah that no matter how obedient he was, he could not prevent Judah’s exile into Babylon (2 Chron. 34:14-28). But late in life, Josiah seizes an opportunity to fortify Judah against her enemies (and against God’s planned destruction). So he dies for his misplaced nationalism and his unwillingness to listen.
Israel’s first king (Saul), northern Israel’s rebellious king (Ahab), and God’s last good king (Josiah) all die in the same way for the same sin.
Rise and Fall
Chronicles has a powerful message for our students. And in fact, many of Israel’s kings were teenagers when they took the throne. Chronicles invites our students (and us) to ask God for help and to listen when God speaks.
God is still speaking to us today through Jesus, the true King and Priest of all God’s people (Heb. 1:1-4). God continues to speak to us through his resurrected Son. The next generation will rise and fall based on their trust in his sacrifice and whether or not they will humbly listen to his commands.
But there is even better news: Jesus is the King Israel needed, the Savior none of us could ever be. Jesus listens when don’t. He leads when we would rather escape. He dies for his people when we would hide in a corner. And right now, Jesus rules forever and is guiding God’s Church to inevitable victory in an eternal kingdom.
Chronicles is an amazing book that teaches our students to listen to God’s voice, to trust that Jesus will lead his Church out of its brokenness into eternal life. So I pray you will push through the long genealogies and the intimidation factor to consider teaching it in your youth ministry.
If you’re looking for gospel-centered youth ministry curriculum, check out Rooted’s Bible-based studies on Rooted Reservoir.