Today’s passages: 2 Chronicles, chapters 29-31; James, chapter 4
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 30:13-22 (NRSV) – Many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the festival of unleavened bread in the second month, a very large assembly. They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for offering incense they took away and threw into the Wadi Kidron. They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and they sanctified themselves and brought burnt offerings into the house of the Lord. They took their accustomed posts according to the law of Moses the man of God; the priests dashed the blood that they received from the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to make it holy to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” The Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people. The people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the festival of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, accompanied by loud instruments for the Lord. Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So the people ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing offerings of well-being and giving thanks to the Lord the God of their ancestors.
Observations: The thing that caught my attention in this passage was the fact that many of the people came to celebrate the Passover without having made the proper preparations to do so. The priests, the Levites, and King Hezekiah could have condemned them, thrown them out, and refused to allow them to worship – but they didn’t. The Levites, who had sanctified themselves prior to the festival, helped out by sacrificing the Passover lambs for the people; and Hezekiah prayed that God would pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness. Hezekiah recognized in these people the desire to seek the Lord, and to worship him, so rather than condemning them and casting them out of the Temple, he prayed for them that God would look on their hearts and forgive them. And that’s just what God did.
What difference might it make if we were quick to help people who come to worship the Lord, instead of criticizing them? What difference might it make if we prayed for them – if we looked at their hearts rather than their conduct, and asked God to do the same and forgive them? Wouldn’t people feel much more welcome coming to worship if they knew that they would be celebrated, and helped, rather than condemned? How might things be different if we actively sought ways to help people to come to God and worship him?
Applications: The Lord is reminding me today of a couple of things. First, I read a devotional this morning that talked about Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath, and Jesus saying that he is Lord of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That thought tied in with this passage from 2 Chronicles, and reminded me that God looks on our hearts, and he longs for us to come into his presence to worship him. Second, God reminded me that Jesus said that God judges our hearts – he looks at the inside, rather than the outside. Since we’re not able to do that, we shouldn’t judge each other, because appearances can be deceptive. That doesn’t mean that we ignore sin, or that we tell people that sin doesn’t matter; it simply means that we should help people who want to draw near to God to do so. God can deal with any sin issues in their lives; we need to help them come into his presence.
Prayer: Father, when we pray that your Kingdom would come, this is one of the things that we pray for – that people would seek you. When we pray that your will be done, we’re also asking you to help us to lead people into your presence. Help me today to point people to you; keep me from doing things that would push them away from you. Help me, like Hezekiah, to pray that you would pardon them when they set their hearts to seek you. Help me, like the Levites, to assist them in coming to you, so there might be no barriers between them and you. And help me to rejoice when people come to know you more. Amen.