1 & 2 Chronicles is like a review session for the Bible through Samuel and Kings, and also includes some stories of prophets we’re still yet to explore. Traditionally, these two books were positioned last in the Jewish version of the Bible. There are two main focal points for the book: The coming Messiah and the future of the Temple. As you prepare to read about some of the big ideas from 1 & 2 Chronicles, take some time to read 1 & 2 Chronicles and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of 1 & 2 Chronicles (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/1-2-chronicles/) as we dive into this week’s “Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide.”
Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- The Can’t Miss Prospect
- Our Baseball Temples
- Pleasure Through Pain
The Can’t Miss Prospect
I was 13 years old when Ken Griffey, Jr. was picked #1 overall by the Seattle Mariners. You have to remember that this was before the internet, before YouTube, and before social media. You’d get your hints and tips from publications like Baseball America and by listening carefully to game broadcasts and ESPN. By all accounts, Ken Griffey, Jr. was going to be a “can’t-miss” prospect. Our family vacation was going to intersect with Junior’s appearance at the old Comiskey Park in 1989, but he suffered an unfortunate injury just before I would get to see him play. I can’t begin to express how disappointed I was at the moment and still hold a little of that to this day!
The hope that accompanies a prospect of this magnitude cannot be understated, especially when you match that prospect with a floundering franchise like the Mariners. Born from a lawsuit against Major League Baseball stemming from the city’s first franchise, the Seattle Pilots, moving to Milwaukee after just one season, their on-field ineptitude matched their financial issues. The Mariners didn’t finish above .500 from their inaugural season in 1977 until 1991. They had never finished above third in the division until winning the AL West in 1995.
Griffey, Jr. was the point of transition. He was the centerpiece of charisma and the cornerstone for success. He triggered the golden days of the franchise from 1995-2003 when the team experienced their highest levels of success in the regular and postseason, though the franchise has still never appeared in the World Series. Not only was Griffey, Jr. the point of transition for success, he has also represented the same for a new era of Mariner futility. The team now owns the longest postseason drought in the MLB, having failed to earn a playoff spot since 2001 (Junior left the team in 2000 before returning briefly later that decade).
This idea of the “can’t-miss” prospect in baseball has to be the closest thing we can relate to the Jewish people’s longing for a promised and coming Messiah. The longing. The anticipation. The emptiness waiting to be filled. In this way, baseball franchises are like mini nations who share the same worldly desires - winning and success. For the Jewish people, their desires are similar. They want their kingdom to survive and thrive. Their hopes are rooted in the promises of God and their faith in those promises, whereas a professional sports franchise are rooted in loyalty and, sometimes, long-suffering.
The next time your favorite team is hyping a prospect who will change the fortunes of the franchise, harken back to the story of Junior’s impact on the Mariners and the heart of the Jewish people’s desire for a Messiah. Our longings in both situations are similar.
Our Baseball Temples
I’ve been lucky enough to see games or do a ballpark tour (or both) in 19 of the 30 Major League cities. These temples to our game represent such cool congregation places for communities. It is a place where so people come to share their common interest and passion for baseball. Based on my travels, I put Fenway Park as the best of the classic parks, and Coors Field as the best of the modern parks.
Back in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in Baltimore and a new wave of traditional, single-use ballparks swept baseball communities across the country. By 2012, all but two teams (Toronto and Oakland) played in these newer, more fan-friendly parks. The rejuvenation of the cities and downtown areas near the ballparks has been a part of a renaissance throughout the country.
In Jerusalem, the Temple represented the center of life. It was where people gathered for everything from commerce to religious observances throughout the year. It was where they went to feel close to God. The Temple was where He resided, the one place in the world when Heaven intersected with earth. As I mentioned in my Easter piece this week, the tearing of the veil was a symbol for God being able to move in all of mankind through the Holy Spirit after Jesus’s death and resurrection.
It seems that we need these temples. Obviously we need a stadium to play games that thousands wish to witness, and temples were needed as a place to gather. However, the idea of a temple may be more for us than it is for God. God didn’t ask for the Temple to be built, potentially because He knew that His plan was to dwell in all of us. While we adore our baseball stadiums and some of the temples built for worship, maybe we should look at ourselves and our own lives in the same context as a representative of the living God.
Pleasure Through Pain
1 & 2 Chronicles possess a number of character studies. One of those made popular by Bruce Wilkinson’s writing is Jabez. The short, simple story of Jabez appears in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10:
There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.
Jabez’s life represented pleasure through pain. God granted Jabez his prayer of expansion without trouble and pain after His mother experienced the pain of childbirth.
Looking back at World Series champions since 1995, many MLB franchises have experienced pleasure after a period of pain. The Braves, Angels, Red Sox, White Sox, Phillies, Giants, Royals, Cubs, and Astros all went through long periods of loss before experiencing the adulation of a World Series championship. Even the Marlins and Diamondbacks experienced great success in this period of time after starting as expansion franchises.
We often forget that pain is sometimes necessary to appreciate great pleasure. Now that so many teams have switched to pleasure from years of pain, we will focus on those franchises clamoring for success. Coincidentally, the Mariners and Orioles appear on the list of franchises in a World Series drought. Add the Indians, Pirates, Padres, Nationals (formerly the Expos), and the Brewers and you have a long list of teams hoping to experience the same blessing that Jabez did after a period of pain.