The story we’re reading today isn’t very famous, but it is quite significant. In fact, in verse 26 of our passage we read this:
2 Chronicles 30.26 – There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son.
That’s saying something, when you see the way that Solomon would put on religious events. This chapter is a particularly bright moment in the dark history of the Divided Kingdom before the exile to Babylon. And it gives us a great example of revival and ministry among God’s people.
A little bit of context to get us going: This story takes place about 250 years after David was king of Israel and 700 years before Christ would be born. By this time, Israel and Judah are 2 separate nations, each ruled by a long line of kings, most of them very wicked in the eyes of the Lord.
In chapter 29, Hezekiah begins to reign in Judah. His father was an evil man who hated the Lord. He had closed up the Temple and worshiped the gods of his enemies. But now, with Hezekiah came a new wave of Godliness in Judah. Hezekiah reopened the Temple and rallied the priests to once again perform the worship of God. By the end of chapter 29 the Temple is cleansed, rededicated and once again open for spiritual business. And with this backdrop we now come to our text, which, to me, is an incredible example of 2 things.
First, this story is an incredible example of the abounding grace of God. Any notion that God is stingy or withholding or excluding is destroyed by the testimony of His graciousness in this text.
And second, this story is a good example for us of the kinds of attitudes and activities that are characteristic of a spiritually revived person and a spiritually revived group of God’s people. And, to that end, there is a lot for us to apply to our own lives.
So, beginning at verse one, here’s what we see:
2 Chronicles 30.1 – King Hezekiah now sent word to all Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters of invitation to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. He asked everyone to come to the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel.
Passover was an incredibly important event on the religious calendar of Israel. It was important to God and it was fundamental to the Law, yet, during this time of their history the people rarely observed it the way God wanted.
Once the Temple was ready for service, Hezekiah sought to re-establish Passover and the ceremonies surrounding it because it’s what the Lord wanted and because Passover was the starting point for people to understand who God is and what He had done for them, delivering them from Egypt and giving them a new life to live as His people.
Now, it’s very important that we take note of what he did here – he sent word to all Israel and Judah, even to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. Something we learn about Hezekiah is that he really had a community mindset. We frequently see him gathering people up and trying to get lots of people involved in what he was doing. He wasn’t the kind of guy to say, “I’m going to do this on my own.” Instead, he was frequently going to the people around him and saying, “Will you do this with me?” And, in this particular case, he not only went to his own countrymen, but he went out to the people of Israel in the northern kingdom as well.
This is a big deal because these 2 kingdoms were not friendly with one another. Sure, there were times when they got together to fight against a common enemy, but those times were the exception, not the rule. In fact, if you were to page back to chapter 28, you’d see that just when Hezekiah’s dad was king, Israel and Judah had had very bitter battles with one another. At one of those battles, the army of Israel killed 120,000 troops of Judah and took 200,000 women and children captive. These nations were not friends.
On top of that, Israel, the Northern Kingdom, had no interest in God. They were steeped in terrible idolatry. They were far from God as a nation and in their culture.
But, amazingly, Hezekiah was able to look above the politics of his circumstances and the spiritual desolation of these people and remember that God had a purpose and a plan not just for the 2 tribes of Judah, but for all 12 of the tribes of His people.
It reminds us that God’s view of the people around us is often very different than the view we naturally have, especially when it comes to our enemies. And, rather than grow in resentment or hatred or bias toward people, or toward those who are far from God, we’re to grow in love toward them. Rather than hurl accusation at the northern tribes, Hezekiah sent them invitation.
And what was this invitation for? It was an invitation to come to the Temple and celebrate the Passover.
It seems to be the trend among younger Christians to move away from the Lord’s house and into other, secular temples to have our community. I’ve heard it articulated more than a few times this way: “If I really want to be relevant and authentic, then I have to go down to the Pub and talk about the Gospel there.” The idea is that an unbeliever is unwilling to come to a church gathering, so I have to go down to his temple and go through some of his ceremonies to show how ‘real’ I am.
Not only is this not proving to be an effective form of evangelism, it’s not what we see in Scripture. It’s not what Hezekiah did. He invited people to come to the Temple of the Lord and experience worship. He didn’t go to their temples, worship with them, and hope they liked him enough to hear some stories about his God.
Now, can we talk about God in a pub? Sure, if you have the liberty to go there. But God says that He wants people to come to Him, and yes, WE are the Temple of the Lord wherever we go, but the Lord also says that when His people gather together, He is there present in a special way to do a special work. And, Biblically speak, historically speaking, it’s when God’s people start to draw away from the gathering together in worship that problems start to manifest themselves. That’s what happened with Israel centuries before. The kingdom split and then the northern tribes decided, “we don’t really need to gather with you guys to worship anymore, we’ll just do our own thing.” And from that decision they slipped into terrible idolatry.
We want to invite people to experience not just discussions and debates about Godly ideas, but to experience the presence of God and communion with Him as His people gather together in local assemblies.
2 Chronicles 30.2-3 – The king, his officials, and all the community of Jerusalem decided to celebrate Passover a month later than usual. They were unable to celebrate it at the prescribed time because not enough priests could be purified by then, and the people had not yet assembled at Jerusalem.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, let me take a moment to highlight how often the word ‘celebrate’ is used in our text: It’s 10 times in 1 chapter. It is the theme of this story. When we see this word in the Bible, it’s one of those deep and rich words. It means to keep, to perform, to be glad, to walk in and to feast. And for us this morning, it is the first of 3 major insights into the Christian life. We, as Christians, should be people who celebrate. When God talks to us about what He wants our relationship with Him to be like, He says that His desire is that we be defined by joy and love and a heart filled full of Him. That’s not to say that we will have easy lives or lives without hurt, but the celebratory nature of real Christianity is demonstrated for us by the apostles, who after being beaten for their faith, went away rejoicing and excited that they could suffer for the name of Christ.
Is your Christianity a celebration or a lamentation? God says that a life with Him is defined by joy and peace and fulfillment. So, if we’re not experiencing those things, then perhaps one of our wheels has gotten off the track. If you find that you’re walk with the Lord doesn’t feel like a celebration, what you can do is what Hezekiah and the people did: they simply decided to celebrate. Look at verse 2.
Living a Biblical Christian life isn’t something that happens on its own. If you want to harvest a piece of fruit from an apple tree, you have to intentionally cultivate that fruit. You’ve got to decide to plow up the soil and plant a seed and water it and care for it and prune and wait so that one day you can pluck that delicious Fuji off the branch and enjoy it. God gives us a system and a plan for how to get to the destination He wants for us in His word, and by applying what we read in the Bible, we’re able to live a celebratory Christian life and see the fruit of the Spirit harvested in us.
Now notice too here what verse 2 says, they celebrated a month later than usual. Again we see a testament to God’s very abundant grace. His grace for these imperfect people is the same as His grace for you. Romans 5 says that God’s gift of grace abounds to you in a degree much greater than your sin or your imperfection. Do we continue embracing our sin since God is so gracious? Of course not. But if you’re feeling the weight of your sin or your failure today, allow the Lord to show you how He can remove your guilt by the power of His grace and transform your life and fill you up. Why? So that you can then go and abound in grace toward others. 2nd Corinthians 8:7.
As we abound in grace we will find that there is little place for being rigid and dogmatic in how we minister to people. This law of the Passover was a rigid law. It was supposed to be celebrated annually during a particular week of the first month of the year. But Hezekiah and the people, filled with God’s grace, recognized that it would be better to celebrate a late Passover than to not have one at all. We don’t want to be the kind of Christians who would rather cancel the Passover than graciously flex in order to bring people to the Lord. God shows long-suffering to us and we’re to show the same long-suffering to others. And Hezekiah demonstrates the wonderful and Godly qualities of hanging in there, not growing wearying in well-doing and bringing people along, even when they’re not hitting the mark that we wish they would. That’s how we want to be as well.
On the flip side, let’s not be like these priests and Levites and the people who hadn’t purified themselves or presented themselves before the Lord. We’ll get more to that in a moment.
2 Chronicles 30.4 – This plan for keeping the Passover seemed right to the king and all the people.
This is very similar to a verse we read in the book of Acts:
Acts 15.25 – it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.
The same sentiment is repeated in verse 28: their plan seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to them.
The plans we’re working out right now in our life, are they things that seem right, according to the values and the commissions we receive in God’s word? Are they worldly or spiritual things?
We should be doing spiritual things. Not always waiting to do something for the Lord and not always criticizing the way other people are doing something for the Lord, but being people who are working out a plan of Godliness in our daily lives. Intentionally working out a plan to celebrate and demonstrate God’s grace and bring people along.
2 Chronicles 30.5 – So they sent a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north, inviting everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The people had not been celebrating it in great numbers as required in the Law.
They went outside their own borders to invite their enemies to come and know the Lord. You know, right now in our country and in the news, people are arguing a lot about border crossing. People have very strong opinions about outsiders coming into our borders. That’s fine to discuss, but as Christians we also want to have a second discussion with ourselves – and that’s the question of how far the Gospel is going out of the little borders of my life. Does the Good News of salvation extend past my own tongue or my own home or my own cubicle? Am I sending out a proclamation the way Hezekiah did, telling people that there’s an incredible God who wants men and women to know Him? Can it be said of me what Paul said of the Corinthians in 2nd Corinthians chapter 3, that:
2 Corinthians 3.3 – clearly YOU are an epistle of Christ.
We’re here on earth to spread the word. Let’s see how King Hezekiah’s men did it.
2 Chronicles 30.6-9 – At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah. They carried letters that said:
“O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings. Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you.
“For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and
merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.”
It was a very simple message with a very clear call to action: Repent and receive! It wasn’t a list of 10 or 50 or 100 things they needed to fix or change about themselves. It was a simple call to repent and return to the Lord so that the Lord could then pour out His mercy and grace upon them.
When people turn to God from idols, then He transforms them. He is able to make beauty from the ashes. He is the one who delivers and repurposes a human heart.
Maybe today you’re here and you are not following the Lord. Maybe you’ve never believed in God and never given your life to Jesus Christ, accepting His death on the cross as the substitute for your sin. Or maybe you are a Christian, but you’re living in sin. You’re not obeying your Savior. Either way: Will you return? Will you choose to stop abandoning the Lord and draw near to Him so that He can draw near to you?
Do you want your life changed? Do you want your family changed? Do you want hope and peace? Do you want a guarantee that when you breathe your last here on earth you will awake in eternity in heaven? Then come to Jesus. It is only Jesus who can save you. Simon Peter once wrote and said that it is God who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation.
Hezekiah’s invitation is still open today to come and know the Lord who made you.
2 Chronicles 30.10-11 – The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.
Evangelism isn’t easy, but make no mistake, we are called to a public faith. And yes, as we share the Gospel, many will reject it. Many will laugh and mock. But some will receive. The key for us as Christians is not to focus on the many and become so discouraged that we no longer live evangelistically, but to focus on the some and continue casting our nets for them.
You know, there is no perfect evangelism method. There’s a perfect message, which we’re given in the Bible, but there’s no one way that is going to work all the time for everyone. We find in Scripture that evangelism is often rejected by many. But some will respond. That’s the same thing that happened to Peter and Paul and even Jesus. The key is not the number of responses, but that we preach and then allow the Holy Spirit to do His side of the equation and work on the hearts of those who are listening.
Norman Geisler is one of the greatest apologists of the Church age. He’s written many books and thousands of pages on systematic theology and ethics and Christian philosophy and apologetics.
He explains that, as a young man, he was invited to church by some friends for an ongoing VBS-style ministry they had. Every Sunday for 8 years he went and sat and listened and left without receiving Christ. It was in his senior year of high school, after being picked up by the church bus he estimates 400 times, sitting there, listening to the Gospel, he finally repented and received the Lord and had his life transformed. Faithful servants in the Church had invited him and picked him up and prepared a lesson and prayed for him and did all these seemingly simple things that, in the end, was used by God to not only change the eternal destination for one man, but, through his ministry, build up the body of Christ in incalculable ways.
May we be faithful proclaimers of the Gospel, even when the many reject and laugh.
2 Chronicles 30.12-13 – At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord. So a huge crowd assembled at Jerusalem in mid spring to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
What we’re seeing here is a revival. As God worked through a few hearts and set in motion their faithfulness, He simultaneously awakened something spiritual in a huge crowd. It didn’t happen because Hezekiah used the best marketing techniques, but because God wanted to do something with His people and, as they were faithful, He was able to do a great work through their ministry.
So the question is this: Am I revived? In my heart and in my walk with Christ, am I moving forward or have I derailed? The Lord wants us to each be in a time of personal revival and dedication to Him and what we see in this passage is that the key to it is simply making the decision to celebrate. And once we make that decision to turn to God, then the next major action that will be happening in our lives is that we will consecrate ourselves to Him.
2 Chronicles 30.14 – They set to work and removed the pagan altars from Jerusalem. They took away all the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.
Turning to God always means turning from idols. Jacob said to his family, follow God and get rid of your idols. Joshua said to the people, turn to God and get rid of your idols. The Lord said to the Israelites in Exodus, “follow Me and get rid of your idols!”
We are imperfect people who are contending with an old, sin nature. That means that as long as we’re on this side of eternity, we’re going to have to set to work removing those things which hinder our walk with the Lord. We know what a lot of those things are because we’re told what they are in the Scripture. We talked about a few of them Wednesday night. Anger, greed, lying, lust. If you aren’t sure what needs to be removed from your life, do what David did and ask the Lord to show you. He said, “Lord, search me and know me and see if there be any wicked thing in me.” No matter how young or old you are in the Lord, no matter how weak or strong you are spiritually, we all have areas that need to be worked on. So, let’s set to work consecrating our lives to the Lord, which means we go after holiness and dedication to our Christianity.
2 Chronicles 30.15-16 – On the fourteenth day of the second month, one month later than usual, the people slaughtered the Passover lamb. This shamed the priests and Levites, so they purified themselves and brought burnt offerings to the Temple of the Lord. Then they took their places at the Temple as prescribed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. The Levites brought the sacrificial blood to the priests, who then sprinkled it on the altar.
How sad that the priests and Levites were not only failing to lead the charge to reinstate the Passover, but they weren’t even living in a way that they could participate in it. They were shamed by their lack of spirituality. And, you know, they should be ashamed. But what a great turn around we see there in verse 16 where it says that they purified themselves and “then they took their places at the Temple.”
No matter who you are, if you’re a Christian, no matter what your skills or strengths or weaknesses are, you have a place in God’s work. He has no bench players. He has assignments and projects He wants you to be a part of. Some smaller, some a little bigger. But all of us are called on the field. And if you find yourself not doing the work God has set before you to do, get back to it. Get back to the place He prepared for you and get busy again fulfilling your purpose and your mission for your King.
2 Chronicles 30.17-20 – Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.
This is so great. There’s just abundant grace every few verses. The text points out that the people from Ephraim and Manasseh and Zebulun weren’t pure and, you know what? Of COURSE they weren’t pure! They had been enemies of God, outsiders, steeped in paganism. But God wanted relationship with them and Hezekiah interceded for them and the Lord did a work in their lives.
It’s easy for us to expect people to be spiritual but fail to show them how. Hezekiah was showing people how. People who had never been to the Temple and had never celebrated passover. The king and the Levites said, “Hey, you’re not pure and this isn’t all the way by the book, but we want you to know that God is good and He pardons those who repent.” And the Lord affirmed it.
God is good and He pardons those who repent. I’d say that is not the cultural, public perception out there. The general perception of Christianity and the Church and Jesus Christ by extension, whether it’s justified or not, is that God is angry and He excludes and He demands all sorts of perfection before He’s willing to acknowledge a person. But that is not true! The truth of the Bible is that God is love and He is good and He will pardon those who repent of their sin. Micah says in his book:
“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity…and delighting in mercy?”
We want to get the word out about who God really is. The truth about God and humanity is that sin is not ok, but you are not too far from God and if you will repent, He will forgive your sins and give you everlasting life.
Isaiah says that our iniquities have separated us from God, but His hand is not too short for Him to save us. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. That’s the message we need to invite people with and tell people about.
2 Chronicles 30.21 – So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem joyously celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments.
The results of this revival was not bitterness or prejudice or legalism, but worship, gladness and joy.
2 Chronicles 30.22-23 – Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites regarding the skill they displayed as they served the Lord. The celebration continued for seven days. Peace offerings were sacrificed, and the people gave thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. The entire assembly then decided to continue the festival another seven days, so they celebrated joyfully for another week.
So, 1st they decided to celebrate, then they determined to consecrate and here we see they decided to continue what they were doing. A taste of spiritual things made this group thirsty for more.
What a wonderful thing that their schedules were subject to the Lord, rather than trying to force the Lord to be subject to their schedule. You know, as Christians, we all want to grow in our faith. We all want to be more spiritual and more excited in our walk with the Lord, but if we are too busy to do spiritual things, then something needs to change. If we think, “I want to grow in God but I couldn’t possible free up an hour in my week to come to prayer or go to church Wednesday or get involved serving,” then we’ve got to reorder some things in life. Because our gatherings together are meant to be incredibly beneficial and edifying to our lives. And we need each other. We’re to be knit together and grow together and support one another. We need each other for some of the work God wants to do in our lives.
2 Chronicles 30.24 – King Hezekiah gave the people 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats for offerings, and the officials donated 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. Meanwhile, many more priests purified themselves.
Hezekiah gives us such a great list of attitudes and activities for a Christian who wants to be about God’s business. He’s showing grace. He’s reaching out with evangelism. He’s discipling weaker believers. He’s encouraging people in their service. He’s giving to others. He’s interceding for people in prayer. You can just pick one and start going for it!
2 Chronicles 30.25-27 – The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who lived in Judah. There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son. Then the priests and Levites stood and blessed the people, and God heard their prayer from his holy dwelling in heaven.
Wouldn’t you love to be a part of something like this? A time of worship and revival and celebration of God’s grace and mercy? We may not personally see another great awakening in America. I pray we do. God is gracious and may pour out another revival here. But, even if we don’t see that kind of revival on a large scale in our communities, we certainly can experience this kind of continual celebration and consecration in our own hearts. Because the Bible says the Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
Let’s be His people and He be our God, living decidedly spiritual lives, our Temples open for business, being agents of grace and mercy and proclaimers of truth, being the people our Saviors has made us to be.