A sign of a healthy church is that it spends time remembering the past to sustain hope for the future.
The story of the book
1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one scroll where the author (who is unknown) has one goal. It’s to tell stories from Israel’s past in order to provide a message of hope for the future.
The first thing the author does is spend 9 chapters listing the genealogies of two family lines. He focuses on the line of the promised Messianic King from Judah to David and onward. He also focuses on the line of the priesthood, or descendants of Aaron.
They’re not exactly all that fun to read. But when you understand them, you can see the important purpose they play in communicating the main message of the book.
Then the author includes stories about David that are familiar from the book of Samuel. But they only include the positive stories. The author is intentionally doing this to portray David as the ideal king that’s an image or type of the future Messianic King from his line.
David nor any king after him has proven to be the Messianic King, but David had many qualities that reflect what the future king would be like.
The author uses these two elements – genealogies and stories about David – to reiterate that God’s promise to Abraham is still to be fulfilled in the future. This provides hope that one day what has been prophesied will come to pass – that God will fully and completely dwell on and rule the earth once again with His people.
We still live in exile
Although the Messianic King has come, things didn’t quite play out the way that was expected. The Kingdom has come, but is still yet to come. Because this is the case, we still live in exile in a sense from our true and final home where all things will be made right.
So we still touch the world. We still experience the effects of all its brokenness. It beats us up and tears us down. It makes us weary in the struggle. Therefore, we still need to sustain hope. It’s a vital ingredient to a church staying focused and energized on its purpose and mission.
Establish a regular rhythm
To sustain hope, a church needs to take time to regularly remember where it came from and what the Lord has done.
For some churches, this is built in through a shared calendar and regular practices. For example, in the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas, many Christians around the world celebrate what is called Advent.
They remember together what the arrival of Jesus meant. They look back and remember how God fulfilled His promises in the past. This provides confident hope that God will bring His work to completion in the future.
There’s also common practices like The Lord’s Supper where Christians come together to have a meal. The purpose of the meal is exactly what Jesus said when the first one occurred – “do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
There are also less formal approaches. You might simply come together to talk about how God has been faithful in the past as a reminder that His Kingdom is coming in its fullness in the future.
Whatever approach is taken, it’s important to have a regular rhythm of this exercise.
If a church’s mission is expressing the Kingdom of God on the earth, it will be a constant struggle. There is plenty of opportunity to lose hope that God is in the process of fulfilling His promises.
In the process of dealing with the world and its brokenness and chaos, we grow weak. Remembering the past provides hope that gives energy to keep going.