A flood devastates a community. Houses that were not swept away are filled knee-deep with mud. As the waters recede at last, the residents return and look at the damage. At first they're numb, then grief-stricken over their losses. Finally, they take courage and tackle the job of rebuilding, and soon a renewed community emerges from the wreckage.

That's the sort of situation that faced the Jews on their return to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylon. Their city and temple had been ransacked by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. (2Ki 25:8-12). After Persia took over Babylon, King Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return and rebuild. Nehemiah made an inspection tour and found massive destruction (Ne 2:11-17). It was enough to dishearten even the most loyal Jew.

Enter Ezra, the priest, traditionally considered the author of the Chronicles. (They were originally written as one book but later divided, probably because the single scroll was unwieldy for reading aloud in the synagogue.) Ezra was a man with a purpose. He made the journey back to Jerusalem to help rebuild the temple and restore the worship of God (Ezr 7:6-10). With everything in ruins, surrounded by unfriendly non-Jews who had been imported by Nebuchadnezzar, the people needed encouragement to begin—and finish—the work. They also needed admonitions to stay faithful to the Lord. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were apparently written to provide that encouragement and admonition.

At first glance the Chronicles don't look very encouraging! First Chronicles begins with one of those dreaded "name" lists: genealogies beginning all the way back at Adam. While it's not very interesting for us to read nine chapters of someone else's family tree, it must have been fascinating for the returning Jews to reestablish contact with their broken history.

After the genealogies, 1 Chronicles briefly sums up the life of Israel's first king, Saul, then begins a lengthy account of the life of King David. Skipping over David's sins and failures—we have to go to 2 Samuel to find those—it relates in adventure-story style the conquest of Jerusalem, triumphs of David and his warriors, the bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, and David's dying in honor and high regard. Throughout the book the Lord's hand is seen, blessing obedience and faithfulness with success.

Our circumstances are different, but we still need encouragement to continue the work God has given us. What needs to be renewed in your life? During your quiet times in 1 Chronicles, you will discover those places where you need to seek renewal—and the courage you need to begin the process. You can praise God along with David: "In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all" (1Ch 29:12).