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Preaching on 1 Chronicles

An overview of the historical background and theology of 1 Chronicles to help you develop your sermon series and apply it to your hearers.
Preaching on 1 Chronicles
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“Don't explain your author, read him right and he explains himself.”

– Mark Twain, in Letter to Cordelia Welsh Foote, Dec. 2 1887

Mark Twain’s quip about the ability to understand an author’s writing almost seems out of place in a discussion about preaching through 1 and 2 Chronicles. Yet for two books of Scripture often overlooked as relevant material for preaching series, the challenge of preaching these books of genealogies and histories is reading them correctly even before preaching them powerfully.

Historical Background

Along with Ezra and Nehemiah, the Chronicles probably are the last books to be written in the Old Testament. The last dated event in 2 Chronicles is Cyrus’ decree to grant the Israelites (Judah) permission to return from captivity and exile in Babylon to Jerusalem (c. 538 BC; 2 Chron. 36:22-23). Thus, the book is probably written within decent proximity to the return to Jerusalem, once the editor could settle into routine life in his homeland.

Unique to 1 Chronicles is what it includes and omits. First Chronicles places great emphasis on King David. However, it minimizes David’s flaws, excluding stories like the adultery episode with Bathsheba. The reign of Saul receives only one chapter (1 Chronicles 10), whereas David’s reign receives 19 chapters (1 Chronicles 11-29). This pro-David book would have been of great encouragement to a post-exile Judah—reminding them that Lord’s faithfulness had preserved them as a people, and thus his faithfulness would establish the Davidic throne, including their promised Messiah.

Sermon Series

In keeping with the Chronicler’s emphasis on the Davidic monacrchy, I propose a six-week outline that would give a congregation a solid overview of 1 Chronicles without making congregants feel as if they are dragging themselves through twenty-nine chapters of the ancient history of Israel from Adam through David (cf. 1 Chron. 1:1; 29:29-30).

The title for this sermon series is: A Once Mighty People. This is the big idea for the Book of 1 Chronicles in my outline:

The record of the rise, growth, and decline of the might of the descendants of Israel in the face of their unfaithfulness also reveals salvation by those who acted mighty for and faithful to the Lord, especially in the person and rule of David and his offspring.

Thus, the preaching and the outline intend to declare how God’s people go from being mighty in their surounding society until the time of the death of King David. Here is a suggested series outline:

Text: 1 Chronicles 1-9
  • Title: Mighty from the Beginning to the Monarchy
  • Big Idea: The might of the church to accomplish the plan of God rests on men and women skilled in the word, who are bold and faithful before him.
  • Note: It is important to preach chapters 1-9, for the genealogies are interspersed with extended stories of people who are faithful or unfaithful in Israel. This back-and-forth literary feature of the writer is deliberate, for he emphasizes the power of those who are courageous and steadfast before God to preserve God’s people, Israel, who as a nation are unfaithful as a whole. In this opening sermon, briefly highlight each of the stories of those personalities most familiar to the hearers: Cush (1:10), Er (2:3), Jabez (4:9-10), Reuben (5:1), Azariah the priest (6:10), and the priest under Saul (9:13).
Text: 1 Chronicles 10-12
  • Title: King David’s Rise to Rule
  • Big Idea: David’s establishment as king in Israel depends on men of valor who are faithful toward him, according to the word of the Lord and the sovereign hand of God.
  • Note: The focus of the sermon looks at the role of the men of resistance in all three chapters and how their role establishes a good period of rule after a long history of bad one.
Text: 1 Chronicles 13-16
  • Title: The Ark: Re-establishing God’s Presence in the City of David
  • Big Idea: David’s attempts to establish the Ark in Jerusalem, despite challenges due to disobedience and Philistine attacks, David finds victory by his obedience to the word of the Lord.
  • Note: The obedience is evident in 1) the Lord’s exaltation of David among the nations, 2) David’s adherence to the Levitical code for carrying the Ark, and 3) David’s provisions for offering continual thanks for the Lord for his faithfulness. These are the three points to focus on in the sermon concerning the restoration of the powerful presence of God in worship.
Text: 1 Chronicles 17
  • Title: The Davidic Covenant
  • Big Idea: The Lord’s revelation of his sovereign establishment of David’s house, turns David’s attempts to build the Lord a house into humble praise of God’s greatness.
  • Note: This is a sermon that emphasizes grace: Plans of greatness succeed because of God’s hand; we bring nothing to him. It is not we who build God’s church, or cause our own spiritual growth, even though we are making the faithful efforts. We, like Paul, must say in all things, “Not I, but grace.” A sermon on this passage might say, “He will build a House for Us.”
Text: 1 Chronicles 18-20
  • Title: David, the Victorious Warrior
  • Big Idea: David’s victories over all of his enemies establishes his rule and his companions’ honoring of both God and people with wisdom and courage in battle.
  • Note: David’s ability to lead Israel with the favor of the people meant warring on their behalf in a way the pleased the Lord, and in a manner that sensitively supported his people’s needs.
Text: 1 Chronicles 21-29
  • Title: David’s Census and Plans for the House of God
  • Big Idea: David’s careful preparations for Solomon to be successful over the building of the house of God according to the Law extends from revelation of God’s wrath and mercy upon his numbering of Israel.
  • Note: God’s dealings with David guide David’s choices as he establishes plans for Solomon’s succession (1 Chron. 21:30-22:1; 23:26-27; 27:23-24; 28:10, 19; 29:19). The Levites come to the fore because David sees the importance of keeping the Levitical Code—e.g., the word of the Lord.

After you preach this overview series, you could come back a year to eighteen months later and preach through 1 Chronicles chapter by chapter, drawing upon the congregation’s general familiarity with the message of the book and its place in the story of redemptive history. After another 12 to 18-month breather, you then could preach chapter by chapter through 2 Chronicles. You and/or your preaching staff could cover the twenty-nine and thirty-six chapters of the books within two one-year preaching cycles, while still allowing for other sermon series, sermons for special days, and sermons from invited guest speakers.


It seems vitally important to convince your listeners early in the series that 1 Chronicles is worth hearing preached, and worth your people taking the time to read large swarths of these books weekly in preparation for the series. Produce a daily reading schedule through 1 Chronicles for the series—one that you can print in a bulletin weekly and post on your website. Invite the congregation to participate in making these books come alive by reading ahead the chapter(s) you will be preaching the coming week. Familiarizing themselves with many of these very unfamiliar stories will help create excitement about how these texts are relevant to them.

Since adhernace to the Law is important to the success of the kings in Chronicles, look for subtle ways in which your congregation does not embrace the authority of Scripture in their practices. If your assembly is evangelical, of course they have a doctrinal statement that embraces the infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture. But many such congregations have members whose personal autonomy pushes against obeying ministry leaders (cf. Heb. 13:7, 17), who incite the roots of division by prioritizing personal preferences (cf. Ja. 4:1-10), or who live as if there are no commands to care for the marignalized in society (cf. Matt. 25:36; Ja. 1:26).

Also, do not lose sight of 1 Chronicles as a book of history. These books are important planks in the path of the larger story of what the Lord is doing in the entire plan of salvation. As opportunity allows in a sermon and the series, tie the messages to the progressive movement of Israel and her kings toward the resolution of humanity's delimma before God and the fulfillment of all things in Christ.

Theological Themes

In a book like 1 Chronicles, in which much of the narrative focuses on the exploits of a king and a nation, it might be tempting to relate each sermon to one’s own national and Head of State concerns. However, rather than making one-to-one connections between God’s delaying with his theocratic nation and contemporary nation-states, it would be wise to see the nation of Israel as “God’s people.” Similarly, one should discern carefully whether an episode about a covenant-promised monarch-son focuses on that king as an individual male, leader, political leader, or flawed king pointing to the hope of the perfect King.

The mature and faithful Bible readers within your congregation immediately will note that 1 Chronicles downplay the faults of David and his son. Again, there is no mention of Solomon’s wives turning his heart from the Lord, and other stories from the lives of the kings seem sanitized when one compares the Chronicles to 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. You, however, should feel no need to reach into the Samuels and Kings to grab the flaws the Chronicler leaves on the editing room floor. Let your people read Scripture and hear God’s voice as given in these books: The line of David is highlighted and exalted, yet has enough flaws to keep our hopes focused on the final Davidic Son who will rule all nations with absolute goodness and glory.

Therefore, consider how each passage reveals truth about the Christ—the final and promised Son of David. Meditate on the perfections of Christ, where they are mimicked in the characters in each story, or where they are absent in the lives of the kings. Think deeply on cryptic portrayals of the grace of God in Christ’s redemption of his people in every chapter. Ask the Spirit of God to make Christ known in truth to you from each passage so that you might make him known to your audiences.

My Encounter with 1 Chronicles

We ought to be both unique and faithful by introducing our sheep to God’s revelation in 1 Chronicles. Preach a series to our people about “A Once Mighty People” and their fall from greatness to cultural captivity through disobedience to the Word of God. They will find the series enlightening and challenging. Most of all, as we give the expositions of these books, they will see that the Chronicles point to Christ and how important obeying the Word is to living a life that is pleasing God.


Every preaching series needs good commentaries, and for 1 Chronicles you will need such resources all the more. I strongly suggest these three be within your grasp.

Eugene Merrill, A Commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2015).

Richard Pratt, 1 and 2 Chronicles. A Mentor Commentary (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2006).

Martin J. Selman. 1 Chronicles. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP, 2016).

Be aware, however, that your task as pastor and preacher differs from the task of the commentary writer. Many commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament focus on cultural, legal, and literary settings of the Ancient Near East. Others give much attention to the structure of the passage, or even of the meaning of the Hebrew words behind one’s first-language translations. Such information is important to interpreting a passage correctly. However, such information in and of itself does not orient one toward the Big Idea of a passage, and neither does it consider the way in which an author utilizes narrative genre to communicate the Big Idea of a given passage.

In contrast, your task collects all of the historical, cultural, and grammatical data, along with structural and genre considerations. The inter-related workings of these elements of the passage intend to point toward one idea that unifies the entire passage. That one idea is what you are preaching—the fruit of all of your prayer and study, and the application thereof. The use of the commentaries is only the beginning of preaching God’s Word—only the beginning of bringing 1 Chronicles to life before your people.

Eric C. Redmond is associate professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and pastor of preaching and teaching at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois.

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