Through examining the shape, storyline and major themes of Chronicles and Matthew, one can see the Gospel of Matthew was intended to be a continuation of the Chronicler’s account of Israel’s history. First, each book must be understood individually with attention given to its message and location within the biblical canon. This helps readers understand the context in redemptive history. We will also see how the Gospel of Matthew gives steam to the engine of Chronicles as the whole world—not just God’s chosen people Israel—can now climb aboard the “gospel train” on the journey to redemption. Both narratives provide a forward motion which cannot be ignored, bringing hearers and readers to a choice: “participate in this story of redemption or stay put?”
While the books of I and II Chronicles are placed after I and II Kings in most western renderings of the Old Testament canon, Chronicles, written a couple hundred years after the return from Babylonian exile by the “Chronicler,” an unknown author most likely of Jewish descent, is at the end of the Hebrew Bible. This position in the canon is important to remember in thinking not only about the contents of Chronicles itself but also what lies beyond the book in redemptive history. Redemptive history has to do with how God has worked in and through His chosen people in restoring them to a right relationship with Him.
The Shape of Chronicles
The first nine chapters of 1st Chronicles recounts the history of the nation Israel from the beginning (Adam) to the exile. This provides a narrative summary of the whole storyline of the Old Testament. The shape of Chronicles also emphasizes the coming of the messianic king. The Chronicler takes readers from Judah to David, then from David to exile. 1 Chronicles 10-29 contains stories about David, largely emphasizing the positive stories which paint a picture of David as an ideal king. In that, David is an image or type of a future messiah.
2 Chronicles tells the stories of kings in Jerusalem. David has died, and his line is emphasized—especially those kings whose obedience led to God’s blessing. In 2 Chronicles, new stories are added about unfaithful kings whose disobedience involved consequences leading up to Israel’s exile.
At the book’s conclusion, Cyrus, king of Persia, tells the Israelites they can return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The last line of the book is a segue into what is to come: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up’ “ (2 Chronicles 36:23). In the view of the Chronicler, the prophetic hopes of Israel were not fulfilled in the events of Israel’s return from exile, which can be seen in more detail in Ezra-Nehemiah. Chronicles calls God’s people to look back on their history in order to look ahead properly.
The Storyline of Chronicles
As Kimble and Speelman point out, this decree of Cyrus is not given in full in the account in Chronicles—most likely for dramatic effect. This creates a certain sense of urgency and call to action on the reader’s part. Throughout Chronicles, much attention is given to David and God’s covenant with him. The return from exile may have been the fulfillment of prophetic promises for restoration in some peoples’ minds, but given the peoples’ lack of true, pure worship of God, one can observe that clearly was not the case. “Chronicles seems to hold out a measure of hope that one is still coming who will not only bring the people back to their land, but will also transform the peoples’ hearts.”
The Themes of Chronicles
Two major themes can be observed in Chronicles: 1) The author’s hope for a messiah, and 2) The rebuilding of the temple. The covenant with David, rooted in the former covenants with Abraham and the nation Israel, makes it clear that one from the line of David will be this longed-for Messiah. In 1 Chronicles 17, David is seen lamenting over the fact that God does not have a “house” to dwell in. God sends the prophet Nathan to speak to David saying that He—the LORD—will make a house for David; that is, a lineage leading up to one who, God says, will “build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:12-14). In other words, there will be a king like no other king before who will rule in a kingdom without end. He will also serve a priestly function, building the LORD’s house—the temple. The next several chapters chronicle David’s preparations for building the temple of the LORD, and this further highlights the function of David as a priestly king—that one in his line will fulfill the Mosaic covenant. In response to God’s promise, David responds, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far? This was a small thing in Your eyes, O God; but You have spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come…” (1 Chronicles 17:16-17). In other words, this is a promise a long time coming. The train has ascended a steep hill and is about to crest—it just needs some steam.
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew was written by the apostle Matthew who collected and compiled oral tradition 40 years after Jesus. Matthew wanted to show Jesus as the biblical fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. When reading Matthew, references to the Old Testament appear in very important junctures in which Matthew was trying to emphasize Jesus’ fulfillment or filling out of Scripture. Being the first book of the New Testament, Matthew continues the storyline of the Old Testament, with a view to help everyone see that Jesus is the promised Davidic Messiah.
The Shape and Storyline of Matthew
Matthew chapters 1-3 seeks to attach Jesus’ story to the Old Testament Scriptures. The genealogy points out that Jesus is descended from the messianic line of David, son of Abraham—who would bring God’s blessing to all the nations. Jesus, being conceived of the Holy Spirit, is God Himself, or Immanuel—“God with us.” Jesus coming up out of Egypt after his parents fled with Him echoes the Exodus account, making the connection that Jesus is in fact a new, greater Moses who will deliver God’s people from bondage of sin once for all. He will also give them divine teaching.
Matthew chapters 4-7 contain Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and the beginning of His ministry, featuring the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus announces God’s kingdom: redemption for the whole world. The plan is to confront and defeat evil, restore God’s reign over His creation, and create a new family for Himself. Jesus explains that He is here to fulfill the Law and to transform the hearts of the people, enabling them to truly love God and other people.
Matthew chapters 8-10 show Jesus bringing the kingdom of God into the daily lives of the people. His healings and acts of power bring the power of God’s kingdom into hurting peoples’ lives. In chapter 10, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples so they can do what He does. He warns the disciples that they will experience acceptance by some but rejection and persecution from others; namely, Israel’s leaders who have power they don’t want to lose.
Matthew chapters 11-13 contain stories of how people have responded to Jesus’ ministry. Some are positive, outright recognizing him as messiah. Some are neutral, such as Jesus’ family and John the Baptist, who think Jesus is not who they expected from the coming Messiah. Some are negative, such as the Pharisees and Scribes who reject Jesus as a false teacher who is leading people astray. “All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons’ “ (Matt. 12:23-24). Chapter 13 is third block of teaching containing parables about the kingdom of God. This is Jesus’ commentary about stories in chapters 11 and 12—peoples’ different heart conditions.
Matthew chapters 14-16 show various interactions Jesus has with people. For those who are hurting and recognize their spiritual need, they recognize Jesus as the messiah, as He performs miracles including feeding the five thousand and four thousand later—along with healings and walking on water. In this section, the Pharisees once again test Jesus. In the middle of this section, Jesus once again provides some commentary on the Heart of Man: “…the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matt. 15:18).
Matthew 17 shows Jesus transfigured in the view of Peter, James, and John, where they also witness Moses and Elijah. This further demonstrates that Jesus was indeed the prophet to come who would restore God’s people, performing His role as High Priest and King.
Matthew 18-20 contains more of Jesus’ teaching in which He continues to exhort His disciples to have a pure, soft heart in receiving God’s kingdom like a child.
Matthew 21 is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cleansing of the temple. The marketplace atmosphere in the temple was an outward picture of the peoples’ hearts, as Jesus tells parables in Matthew 21-23 to get people to see their need to be cleansed. He is trying to get the religious proud to see they are no better than other “sinners” (Matthew 21:31).
The last several chapters in Matthew’s gospel account look ahead to future events beyond the book’s scope and sequence. Matthew 24-25 contains Jesus’ commentary on the last times—Christ’s coming, the judgment, and how to be ready. Matthew 26 tells the story of how Jesus was betrayed and He makes an important connection to God’s covenant with His people. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of the new covenant accomplished by Christ. That new covenant, as we witness in chapters 27 and 28—Jesus’ torture, death, burial and resurrection—is for all who would believe. The book ends with the Great Commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18b-20).
The Themes of Matthew
Matthew emphasizes Jesus as a teacher. In every block of narrative, Jesus provides some teaching which juxtapose those who accept Him and those who reject Him. Generally, those who accept Jesus are irreligious and unimportant in the eyes of their surrounding culture. Those who reject Jesus are the religious and proud. Another thing to keep in mind is that since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, there are Old Testament quotations at important junctures. One example of this is Jesus quoting Psalm 18 in Matthew 21:42, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the LORD and it is marvelous in our eyes.” He had just spoken a parable against the chief priests and Pharisees who were rejecting Him as messiah.
Through Jesus’ teaching and appearance with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew portrays Jesus as the one who fulfilled the Mosaic covenant. Further, He fulfills God’s promises to David to make a house for him and to Abraham that all nations would be blessed in him. The new covenant is now here, and all who would believe can take part in God’s redemptive work—as recipients and stewards. The train has reached the apex of the hill. “ALL ABOARD!” is the call!
Looking at the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is clearly the promised Davidic Messiah which the writer of Chronicles looked for. The genealogies in Chronicles connecting the covenants of Abraham and David are alluded to in Matthew’s genealogy. Jesus said, “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus came to rebuild the temple—but not the kind the writer of Chronicles anticipated. Jesus also said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). The “better Moses” whom the Chronicler anticipated in David or one of his sons has come. Jesus has now made perfect communion with and worship of God possible. Yet the story is not finished. Much like Chronicles looks to the future, demanding a response from the reader, Matthew does the same. Will you heed the call to come to the risen King Jesus who will one day establish an everlasting kingdom? If you are among His people, are you proclaiming this kingdom to everyone you meet? Staying put is not an option.
Kimble, Jeremy M. and Spellman, Ched. Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture. Kregel Academic, 2020.
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!