Sunday, October 26
1 Chronicles 26: The office of porter, or gate-keeper (verses 1-19), was not so humble and insignificant as the name may suggest. These men, in fact, enjoyed considerable prestige as ministers of the sanctuary, serving in such functions as did not require the ministry of a priest.
Indeed, for many centuries and differing somewhat from place to place, the Christian Church revived this ministry as one of the "minor orders" and graced it with a rite of ordination. Analogous to the porters of the Old Testament, these Christian porters were charged with such responsibilities as the locking and unlocking of the church doors, the ringing of the bells for the sacred services (and therefore care of the church clocks), the maintenance of certain material elements used in those services (such as prayer books and hymnals), and the general upkeep of the sanctuary. Gradually, as these duties were taken over by others (which would always be the case in those congregations that did not have an ordained porter), the Christian order of porter eventually disappeared. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, stopped ordaining porters in the early 1970Ős.
The higher office of Levite in the Old Testament became the model for the office of deacon in the Christian church. In particular, we may note that Christian deacons, like the Jewish Levites (verses 20,24,26-28), have traditionally been charged with the oversight of the churchŐs material resources. They thus became very powerful. In some places it was not unusual for a deacon to succeed to the office of bishop.
Monday, October 27
1 Chronicles 27 : The list in this chapter identifies, not the ministers of the sanctuary, but those individuals and households who regularly ("by courses") provided King David with the material means of constructing the temple. These are called "the chief fathers and captains" (verse 1). Corresponding to the twelve months of the year and the traditional number of twelve tribes, they are divided into twelve taxation districts (verses 25-31), an arrangement that would continue under Solomon (1 Kings 4).
The constant repetition of their numbers as "twenty-four thousand" corresponds to the division of the priests into twenty-four courses of ministerial rotation, which we consider earlier. This number is also surely related to the twenty-four elders that we find around GodŐs throne in Revelation 4.
Thus, in the constantly repeated "twenty-four thousand" we should detect the influence of a sacral and hierarchical interest in the list. It would require a truly unusual miracle to guarantee that each district would have exactly the same number of male adults at exactly the same time.
Tuesday, October 28
1 Chronicles 28: David did not simply abdicate the throne in favor of Solomon; he placed that succession, rather, in a framework of tradition, so that his son would benefit from the support and counsel of "all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies" (verse 1).
The dramatic and often chaotic intrigues among DavidŐs ambitious sons, stories that fill eight chapters between 2 Samuel 13 and 1 Kings 2, are omitted entirely here in the succession narrative of 1 Chronicles. David simply announces that God picked Solomon, and that was that (verse 5). Solomon, whom the Lord adopts as His son, will build the temple (verse 6) that David was unable to complete (verse 3).
Solomon was not DavidŐs oldest son, but neither was David the oldest son of Jesse (verse 4). From the day that the LordŐs choice fell on Seth rather than Cain, He has shown scant regard for the human tradition of primogeniture.
The blueprint of the temple is ascribed to David (verses 11-12), as the blueprint of the tabernacle had been ascribed to Moses, and as Ezekiel will provide the blueprint for the second temple. In each instance, however, the design is "revealed"; that is, it is known "in the Spirit" (baruach Ńverse 12; cf. verse 19). Such constructions are modeled on the heavenly sanctuary, which Moses beheld on the mountain and which John gazed upon in the mystic visions of Patmos (cf. Hebrews 8:5; 9:1-5).
Wednesday, October 29
1 Chronicles 29: It is both interesting and profitable to compare the instructions that David gives Solomon near the end of 1 Chronicles with the instructions that this same David gives to this same Solomon in 1 Kings 2:1-9. The differences are . . . . well, striking. Similarly, the narrative of the submission of SolomonŐs brothers to their new king here (verse 24) leaves out the more colorful details found in 1 Kings 1:5-49).
The Chronicler names three literary sources for his description of the reign of David (verse 29). The only one of these three sources still extant is the Books of Samuel and 1 Kings. The ChroniclerŐs other material, we presume, must be attributed to those sources that have not otherwise come down to us. The major contribution of the Chronicler, as compared with the Books of Samuel, is all the vast material relative to DavidŐs preparation for the temple. Samuel devotes 77 verses to DavidŐs liturgical concerns, whereas here in 1 Chronicles there are 323 verses devoted to this theme. The Chronicler thus portrays David as a man of worship more than a political and military figure. In this respect David most resembles Moses.
Thursday, October 30
2 Chronicles 1: Since the Mosaic tabernacle, soon to be displaced by the temple at Jerusalem, was situated at Gibeon, all Israel resorted there to inaugurate the reign of Solomon. Clearly David had maintained the custom of offering sacrifice at Gibeon; Solomon follows this custom (verse 6).
It is surely to be noticed that Solomon maintains a great deal more composure and self-possession than is common in a dream (verses 7-10).
SolomonŐs prayer for wisdom, a request that God is pleased to grant (verse 11), justifies the BibleŐs portrayal of him as the major wise man of the Old Testament. He is thus credited with the wisdom literature in a manner analogous to the LawŐs ascription to Moses and the PsalmsŐ ascription to David. SolomonŐs wisdom is particularly directed to the proper governing of GodŐs people. His wisdom, that is to say, is political and judicial. He learns all of this from his encounter with God in prayer; he proceeds directly from worship to government (verse 13). There follows a summary of SolomonŐs remarkable transformation of IsraelŐs economy and commerce (verses 14-17). One thing that Solomon knew how to do very well was read a map. He looked at IsraelŐs geographical position, bordering two great waterways (the Mediterranean and the Red Sea), considered that Israel was the link between the great maritime powers of Phoenicia and Sheba, and drew the appropriate conclusions. His would become a reign of wealth.
Friday, October 31
Revelation 1:1-8: From the start, this most interesting book describes itself as a written prophecy (verse 3; cf. 19:10; 22:7,10,18,19). In the early Church prophetic utterance played a major role in the determination of practical matters, such as the proper direction to be taken by missionaries (Acts 16:6-7) and the choice of men to be ordained (1 Timothy 4:14). Indeed, the prophets in the New Testament are mentioned with the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:27-29; 14:1-5; Ephesians 2:20), and we even know the names of some of them (Acts 11:27-30; 15:32). The present book contains seven references to these prophets (10:7; 11:8; 16:6; 18:2024; 22:6,9). As a written prophecy, this book was intended to be read aloud to the congregation at worship (verse 3). In Holy Scripture, prophecy is conceived in terms of insight more than foresight (and, truth to tell, some of the biblical prophets foretold very little, if anything at all), but insight does often lead to foresight, so the present book also contains predictions. Such predictions were clearly intended to refer to matters soon to occur (verse 1), and John, it must be stressed, was writing for his own time. Consequently, a correct understanding of what John wrote must be based on the understanding of his first hearers and readers, the very people he had in mind when he wrote this book. Therefore, any modern interpretation of Revelation that by-passes or ignores the understanding of JohnŐs earliest audience runs the risk of becoming pure fantasy. A good rule of thumb for the interpretation of this book, then, is the simple question, "Is such and such an understanding of this or that verse of Revelation one that would have been in the mind of those who first read it?" This rule of thumb will eliminate those interpretations of Revelation that find in it all sorts of purely contemporary interests, such as the current State of Israel, the fall of the Soviet Union, the invention of helicopters, and so on. (Yes, I have read authors who found all of these things in the Book of Revelation, and much more.) The book itself was addressed to seven particular churches found in Asia Minor (verse 4). It contains visions, that is, "all things that he saw" (verse 2), an expression found fifty-four times in this book. Nonetheless, Revelation begins like an epistle Ń "grace to you and peace" (verse 4) Ń exactly like the epistles of Paul.
Saturday, November 1
The Feast of All Saints: This feast day, celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on the Sunday following Pentecost, was for a long time observed among the Western churches on various days of the year. It was not until the 9th century that November 1 became the established date, and it happened in the following way:
In 27 B.C., during the reign of Caesar Augustus (63 B.C. ř A.D. 4; see Luke 2:1), his lieutenant and son-in-law, Marcus Agrippa, constructed in Rome a temple dedicated to "all the gods." Hence its Greek name Pantheon. Rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian in the early second century, it remains to this day one of the most remarkable edifices in that city where great buildings are virtually common. A masterpiece of design and construction, the Pantheon is shaped as a half-globe, with its base walls about 20 feet thick and tapering progressively as structure rises to a dome 142 feet in diameter. It is illuminated entirely by the large skylight, or oculus, in that vault. The Pantheon still has its original and massive bronze doors and bears Agrippa's original inscription.
The building fell into disuse, however, with the decline of Roman paganism during the 5th and 6th centuries and would eventually have been destroyed except for its transformation to Christian use. (In this it was similar to a number of other pagan shrines, like the oracular spring of Apollo at Delphi, which was converted into a baptistery.) On May 13, 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon as a Christian church called "St. Mary and All the Martyrs," and to it he transferred many of the bodies of the martyrs from the catacombs. It seems divinely ironical that a structure once dedicated to "all the gods" should be re-dedicated to the Christian martyrs, since the latter had been slain for their refusal to honor those very gods.
In 835 Pope Gregory IV re-dedicated the church to "all the saints" and fixed the date of the dedication to November 1. The rest of the churches in the West followed his course, and the custom of celebrating this day in honor of all the saints is now more than a thousand years old.