The reign of Hezekiah continues...
Having cleaned up his own house, so to speak, and the House of the Lord, Hezekiah reaches out to his brothers and neighbors of the northern tribes. He sends out an invitation to celebrate the Passover to those who still remained in Israel, Ephraim and Manasseh.
The Temple in Jerusalem was the proper place of worship for the three main holidays per year. Now that the House of the Lord had been restored, Hezekiah wanted all of his Hebrew family to have access to the Temple. It hadn't been observed correctly because there weren't sufficient consecrated priests, until now. It was actually being celebrated one month late.
And the couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the hand of the king, saying, "O sons of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped and are left from the hand of the king of Assyria.II Chronicles 30:6
I love this verse. Hezekiah wasn't on a power trip or trying to glorify himself, he genuinely desired for his people to return the Lord and he knew they would need to return to God's law to make that happen.
In verses 7-8, Hezekiah goes on to remind them of the the works of their "fathers" that got them into this terrible situation. "...serve the Lord your God, that His burning anger might turn away from you.
For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive, and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.II Chronicles 30:9
Look at the faithful and long suffering of the Lord. Even after everything Israel did, the Lord is still offering those who would return to Him a way out of their terrible situation and that of their family members. Truly amazing to see the depths of love of our Lord.
So how did the defeated remnant left in Israel (and Ephraim and Manasseh) respond? About as you would probably guess. We learn in verse 10 that the people laughed and mocked the couriers, despite the judgment they have seen firsthand. Gratefully, in verse 11 we learn that, "...some men from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem."
Verse 12 shows us that the hand of God moved in the hearts of the people of Judah to obey the king and princes (from the Lord).
A large group showed up for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. These people cleansed Jerusalem of altars and incense- tossed into the brook Kidron.
Verse 15 is interesting. We learn that they slaughtered the Passover lamb. And then it notes that the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves. And then returns back to the narrative of the burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. It's probably an unpopular opinion, but I think it is good to feel shame sometimes. These priests and Levites had slipped away from the Lord because of terrible kings, but they still chose to save themselves, rather than serve the Lord in tough times. I get that. We were created with these 5 senses and wants and needs. And our fear and desires can draw us to the Lord for strength and salvation, or away from the Lord for self. I've often found myself outside of the prescribed relationship with the Lord and shame can be one great tool to draw me home. To want to cleanse my Temple and once again consecrate myself before Him.
But it's important to see what happens next...after the shame.
In verse 16, they followed the Law of Moses and sprinkled the blood...then they went on to slaughter Passover lamb for everyone who was unclean- so they would all be consecrated to the Lord. Hezekiah went even further, praying that the Lord would pardon all those "...prepare their hearts to seek God..."
So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.II Chronicles 30:20
Marvel at that. Meditate of his goodness. Because the priests and Levites felt shame, they responded by returning to obedience to the Lord, which then led to them consecrating others, and then Hezekiah interceding on behalf of all of the people whose heart was right, even if their ritual was not.
This is Old Testament Jesus stuff, people. Stop and regard the blood of the Lamb and the intercession of the King bringing healing to a broken, besieged, and defeated people. So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
Do you feel shame? Are you in need of healing? Have you lost your joy and maybe even your way? Cry out to Jesus, the King who shed His blood for your sin, who can heal you and take away your shame.
Look at what happens because of this. In verse 21 those in Jerusalem for this precious time together had great joy. And the Levites and priest praised the Lord day after day with loud instruments.
It is right that we take the time to worship overtly and loudly unto the Lord when He meets us in our low places.
Hezekiah encouraged the Levites, they ate and sacrificed, and gave thanks as prescribed by the Lord for seven days. And then they decided on extending it all for another seven days! Hezekiah and the princes brought thousands of animals for the sacrifice and a large number of priests consecrated themselves.
Everyone rejoiced. Judah, Israel, and sojourners. Such that hadn't been seen since Solomon. (~215 years!!)
The Levitical priests blessed the people and the prayers made it all the way to Him in heaven!
In Chapter 29, we saw the priests cleanse the Temple.
In Chapter 30, we saw the people cleanse Jerusalem.
Starting in verse 1 of Chapter 31, we see those visitors from Israel go out to the cities in Judah bring down the pillars, cut down the Asherim, and pull down the high places and altars. Then they cleansed Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. And then they went home to their possessions in Israel.
Talk about revival. Talk about revolution. This is how it spreads, both for the good and for the evil.
Back in Jerusalem, in verse 2, Hezekiah appoints the divisions of the priest and Levites. Now that there are enough to do all of their duties. He also appointed his own resources for their specified rituals. then he asked the same of the people. From this, the tithe returned of all of the first fruits. For months, they brought in all of the tithes in heaps!From this Hezekiah and the priests blessed the Lord and His people- recognizing that the abundance was from the Lord.
They filled the house of the Lord with the blessed abundance. Verses 12-19 describe the order and hierarchy of the process to manage and share the goods, both for those of genealogical enrollment and those who were not. This is significant because it restores the governments provision to those who maintain and ministers to the Lord and the people. this had been removed during the evil kings, causing the ministers to fall away to support themselves.
And thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right, and true before the Lord his God. And every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.II Chronicles 31:20-21
Wow. It's enough to make we want to close my Bible and stop reading. It's so rare that we have multiple chapters in a row of good news and people making good choices before the Lord. It's beautiful and encouraging.
I've been in my own hard season this spring. Health problems (plural) and work concerns (plural). I'm still leaning in to the Lord. He gave me two beautiful Bible studies, one on Colossians and one on the theology of femininity, including amazing women in both. Plus my church and my church small group members, who blessed me and continue to bless me in my weakness.
I mention this because the above chapters give me hope, much needed hope.
For this reason I also suffer these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to protect what I have entrusted to Him until that day.II Timothy 1:12, NASB