II Chronicles 30

 

 

This chapter contains the account of Hezekiah’s arrangements after the

restoration for the observance of the Passover — arrangements more than

ordinarily interesting to notice in respect of, first, the unusual time

appointed for the celebration; and, second, the determined and brave

attempt of the good king to win again to the worship of Jerusalem (though,

as was no doubt anticipated, it subjected his royal proffers to scorn, v. 10)

the separated people of “all Israel (vs. 1-12); and further, the

celebration itself, the happy omen (v. 14) with which it opened, its

duration; and certain several other incidents attending it (vs. 13-27).

 

1 “And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to

Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the

LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.”

Hezekiah sent… wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh.

Some have sought to bring into the appearance of harmony the

two first clauses of this verse by supposing that the former clause purports

to say that Hezekiah sent messengers to all Israel and Judah, and in

particular letters in addition to Ephraim and Manasseh, the chief tribes of

the northern kingdom and the Joseph tribes. Vs. 6 and 10, however,

seem to dispose effectually of this offer of explanation; while another

explanation, that the names of the two tribes are simply to be taken as

equivalent to “all Israel,” seems true, though, in fact, it may be to advance

us no way at all. We should prefer in the difficulty, unimportant though it

is, yet one facing us, rather to assume that the verse wishes to say that

Hezekiah sent (i.e. sent messengers, which prove to be the runners,

rendered the “posts”) to all Israel and Judah, and to Ephraim, Manasseh,

and the rest of their allied tribes by implication, but not to Judah wrote

letters also which were carried by the posts (or runners). It is true that v. 6

may negate even this conjecture for getting over the difficulty, but not

necessarily so, for it only says that the posts went throughout Israel and

Judah with the letters, which they may be supposed to have dropped only

to some, not to all, and those some Israel, or Ephraim, Manasseh, and

brethren. There will have been to hand other, the usual methods of

communication with Judah, from Jerusalem its metropolis, and from its

king. The thing different from “letters” that was circulated may have been

just the “proclamation” of v. 5. It has been suggested that the now King

of Israel, Hoshea, was very probably a captive of Assyria at this exact time

(II Kings 17:4).

 

2 “For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the

congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month.”

This and the following verse are well explained by Numbers 9:6-13,

where the particular instance of the “defilement by a dead body” simply

exemplified other legitimate instances of defilement or nonsanctification

(ch. 29:5, 15, 34), and where absence on a journey similarly exemplified

other unavoidable absence.

 

3 “For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not

sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered

themselves together to Jerusalem.” At that time. The words seem like a

reminiscence of the “at that day,” twice occurring in v. 6 of Numbers 9.

But anyway the meaning is plain “at the appointed season.”

 

4 “And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.”

This verse betokens the careful consideration on the part of

king, princes, and all the congregation,” that had been given to the distinct

question, whether the exact present circumstances legitimately fell under

the description of Numbers 9:6-13; and the issue was that they decided

that they did, they “ruled the thing right” (וַיִּישַׁר הַדָבָר)

 

5 “So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all

Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep

the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they

had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.”

Of a long time. Though the idea expressed in this rendering

must, under any circumstances, attach to this passage, yet it can scarcely be

understood to be given in the one Hebrew word we have here (לָרֹב); out

of nearly a hundred and fifty occurrences of the word, and often with its

present preposition, this is the solitary occasion of its being turned into a

mark of time. The translation should read, for they had not kept it in

multitude, i.e. in proper multitudes, and in the multitude of an undivided

and holy kingdom. The force of the reference lies in the fact just stated,

that Hezekiah, ignoring all the worse precedents of now many generations,

and ignoring the iniquity of the duality of the kingdom, manfully caused his

writ to run from south to north unchecked! As it was written; i.e. in the

book of the Law of Moses. So runs the full and frequent and honored

phrase: כַּכָּתוּב בְסֵפֶר תּורַת־משֶׁה (ch. 35:26; II Kings 14:6; I Kings 2:3) 

 

6 “So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes

throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of

the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God

of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and He will return to the remnant of

you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.”

So the posts (see note on v. 1). The remnant of you…

escaped… of Assyria. Hezekiah had, no doubt, already made his account

with the fact that the injured and crushed state of the northern kingdom

might be of salutary omen for the attempt on his part to bring them to a

sense of their past sins, specially perhaps of omission. Of the calamities of

Israel, and their captivity in large part, and in the rest subjection by tribute

to Assyria, there is clear testimony in II Kings 15:29; 17:1-6.

 

7 “And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which

trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore

gave them up to desolation, as ye see.”  A strange and significant snatch

of corroborating history is to be found in I Chronicles 5:23-26.

 

8 “Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield

yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into His sanctuary, which He

hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the

fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.  9 For if ye turn again

unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion

before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into

this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not

turn away His face from you, if ye return unto Him.”  Be ye not stiff-necked

(see Deuteronomy 16, 17). Yield yourselves; literally, give the hand (see

I Chronicles 29:24; Ezra 10:19, etc.). Which He hath sanctified for ever

(see Psalm 132:13-14).

 

 

Four Reasons for Repentance (vs. 6-9)

 

The letters which Hezekiah sent throughout the cities and villages of Israel

contained an earnest exhortation to repentance; they urged upon the

inhabitants of that distressed land that, for the strongest reasons, they

should return from their idolatrous ways, and worship the true and living

God in His own temple. These considerations are fourfold:

 

  • IT IS TO THE GOD OF THEIR FATHERS THEY WERE

EXHORTED TO RETURN. “Children of Israel, turn again unto the

Lord God… of Israel (v. 6). It was not to the house of a strange deity they

were now invited; it was to the God of Israel — to Him to whom their own

ancestors bowed the knee; it was to Him who ever called Himself by the

very name they bore, in whom their illustrious father put his trust and

found his heritage. Whom should they serve but that One whom Israel

himself acknowledged as the Lord his God (Genesis 28:16-22)? To

those who have gone astray to vanities, to the pursuits of earth, to human

attachments, to perishable treasures, and who have forsaken the Divine

Source of all good and joy, we have to say, “Return unto the Lord God of

your fathers. He to whom and to whose service we invite your return is no

strange God in your house. It is He whom your father, whom your mother,

has loved and served these many years; whom (it may be) they are

worshipping and serving now in the upper sanctuary. It is their tones that

may be recognized in our voice, if you have an ear to hear, saying, ‘Return

unto our God, unto our Saviour, unto our heritage, unto our home.’”

 

  • REBELLION MEANS NOTHING BUT RUIN. “Who trespassed

against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to

desolation (v. 7). Assuming the (more probable) theory that the country

was now in the hands of the Assyrians, there was “desolation” indeed; to

most of their families (and to the best of them) captivity or bereavement; to

the nation, as such, utter subjection, humiliation, ruin. This was the penalty

of their rebellion against Jehovah, its natural and inevitable end

(Deuteronomy 29:22-28). To those who are estranged from God we

have to say, “Return unto God, for distance from Him is SPIRITUAL

RUIN!

 

Ø      It is the forfeiture of the true heritage of the human soul, the heritage it

has in the favor and the friendship of God.

Ø      It is the endurance of His most serious displeasure.

Ø      It is a spiritual bondage, the bondage of sin.

Ø      It is the beginning of death eternal.

 

  • THERE IS NO DANGER OF REPULSE. “The Lord your God is

gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you, if ye

return unto Him” (v. 9). The people of this idolatrous realm might well

ask whether they had not hopelessly separated themselves from Jehovah,

whether their rebelliousness had not gone such lengths that mercy was not

to be looked for. But Hezekiah charged them to dismiss all such fears from

their minds; their repentance would meet with a gracious response from the

forgiving God of their fathers. It is one of the strongest inducements we

have to offer to those now spiritually estranged, that their genuine

repentance, the turning of their heart toward the God of their fathers, and

their seeking His mercy in Jesus Christ the Divine Saviour, is certain to be

attended with his abundant mercy, and to he followed by their restitution to

the favour they have lost, to the home they have left, to the blessedness

they have thrown away. There is absolutely no fear of a repulse — that is a

moral impossibility; the unchangeable Word of the faithful God is the

immovable pledge that return means reconciliation.

 

  • RECONCILIATION FOR THEMSELVES MEANS MERCY FOR

THEIR RELATIONS. “Your brethren and your children shall find

compassion,” etc. (v. 9). This was their one and only hope. If God had

mercy upon Israel that was in Israel, He might, He would, recall their

brethren and children from the land of their captivity; otherwise these must

perish in “a strange land,” in the land of the enemy. Our message to men is

not unlike this; we have to say to them, “If you will consult the well-being

of those in whom you are most interested and for whom you are most

responsible; if you will care for the salvation of those nearest and dearest to

you, of your brethren and your children; then do you live the life of the

holy, do you give the best and strongest evidence that you believe in the

excellency of the service of Christ, do you turn from the transient and the

unsatisfying treasures of earth, and seek your heritage in the favor of the

heavenly Father, in the love and the friendship of the Saviour of mankind.

Therefore “yield yourselves unto God” (v. 8):

 

Ø      enter His sanctuary;

Ø      accept the overtures of His Son;

Ø      sit down at His table;

Ø      take on you His Name and His vows.”

 

10 “So the posts passed from city to city through the country of

Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them

to scorn, and mocked them.” Through… Ephraim and Manasseh.

(No doubt a part of the reason Assyria carried them captive - I Chronicles

5:23-26 – CY - 2016)  The way  in which the names of these two tribes are

here used may explain in part the use of them in brief for simple reasons of

the convenience of brevity in v. 1. They laughed them to scorn, and mocked

them. These two words speak significant description of the exact moral state

in which Israel’s tribes were now to be found. Even unto Zebulun. What of

the country lay north of Zebulun had been so wasted by Assyria that practically

Zebulun is spoken of as what was most northerly.

 

11 “Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled

themselves, and came to Jerusalem.”  Adding the tribes of Ephraim and

Issachar mentioned in v. 18, and bearing in mind the contents of our v. 7

(with note), we have really only to account for Dan, which was no longer

classed with Israel, and Naphtali and Simeon. The probable significance of

the passage is not to lay stress upon the tribes represented, but on the scattered,

though sparse, attendants at the Passover who came.

 

 

Letters to Ephraim: Generosity (vs. 1, 10-11)

 

Hezekiah now took a very bold and decided course. There had been no

direct dealings between the king or court of Judah and the people of

Ephraim (Israel) since the kingdom of David was rent in twain. If we

understand that this action was taken in the first year of his reign, while

Hoshea was on the throne of Samaria, it certainly was bold even to

audacity, and was calculated to rouse the resentment of that ruler. If,

however, we hold (with Keil and others) that it was not until the sixth year

of Hezekiah’s reign, when Shalmaneser had wrought his will with the sister

kingdom, that the great Passover was held, the measure taken by the pious

king is still one of considerable vigor and of no little generosity. We learn

therefrom:

 

  • THAT A RIGHT COURSE WILL PROVE ONE OF SPIRITUAL

ENLARGEMENT. Had not Hezekiah been a faithful servant of Jehovah,

he would not have concerned himself about the moral and spiritual

condition of Ephraim and Manasseh. He might have rejoiced in anything

that would degrade and therefore enfeeble them. But as the servant of

God, and therefore of the truth and of righteousness, he looked with

sorrow upon the separation of those tribes of Israel from the God of their

fathers, and it was “in his heart” (ch. 29:10) to take a step

that might restore them to the faith they had abandoned and to the favor

they had lost. His “heart was enlarged toward them” (II Corinthians 6:11).

There was nothing that was singular, but everything that was natural

and usual in this. Let a man determine to take the right course, to set his

whole life as well as rule his whole nature by principles which he believes

to be Divine, and for him there will be a very blessed spiritual enlargement.

He will come to see truths which had been quite out of sight, and to

cherish feelings to which he had been a stranger, and to proceed upon lines

high and far above the old levels. His life will be lifted up, himself will be

enlarged and enriched abundantly.

 

  • THAT ADVANCES TOWARDS ESTRANGED RELATIVES ARE

PECULIARLY HONOURABLE. It probably cost Hezekiah and his

counselors some considerable effort to make overtures to Israel. These

tribes had revolted from the kingdom; they had lately inflicted a most

severe and humiliating defeat upon Judah (ch. 28:6-8). It may be

taken that there existed a strong, if not an intense, animosity between those

so nearly related to and yet so distinctly divided from one another (see

John 4:9; Luke 9:52-53). Nevertheless, they were regarded and

treated as brethren. It is here where we so often fail in the illustration of

Christian principles. We can show magnanimity toward those who are afar

off, who belong to a different nation, or to another Church, or to a

separate family; but we find it hard, perhaps impossible, to make advances

toward those of our own people, of our own community, of our own

family, between whom and ourselves some estrangement has come. Truly

said the wise man, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong

city.” (Proverbs 18:19)  And wisely says our English poet that:

 

“… to be wroth with one we love

Doth work like madness in the brain.

 

“They stood aloof, the scars remaining,

Like cliffs which had been rent asunder.

(Coleridge.)

 

But there is one thing that can bring together the divided hearts and lives of

brethren — the generous heart which takes its rule of life and which gains

the spirit of its mind” from Jesus Christ.

 

  • THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE DETERRED FROM THE NOBLER

COURSE BY THE POSSIBILITY OR EVEN THE LIKELIHOOD OF

REPULSE. Hezekiah and his council faced this probability, and they

ventured, notwithstanding. Their messengers did meet with much scornful

rejection (v. 10); but on this they must have counted, and by it they were

not moved. In spite of all the mockery they encountered, they went

through the land as they proposed. If we are careful to count all the

possible consequences to ourselves, we shall never do noble deeds. The

soldier does not weigh the chances of his being wounded as he goes into

the battle; he does not mind if he goes home with some scars upon his

countenance. Nor will the good soldier of Jesus Christ.

 

  • THAT WE SHALL NOT GO UNREWARDED IF WE TAKE THIS

GENEROUS COURSE. “Nevertheless divers… humbled themselves, and

came to Jerusalem (v. 11). The mission was not altogether a failure,

even judged by its visible and calculable results. Any serious and generous

attempt to heal old wounds and restore broken friendships, or to bring

back to God those estranged from Him, will not be unrewarded.

 

o       If it does not succeed wholly, it will in part. If it does not win affection

and reopen fellowship, it may weaken resentment and make return easier

another time. It may avail with one or two, if not with all. It may succeed

in time, if not at once.

 

o       It will certainly result in some spiritual advancement on our own part.

No true act of Christian love is ever lost to the agent himself.

 

o       It will win the smile and benediction of the magnanimous Saviour.

 

12 “Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the

commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.”

Also in Judah the hand of God was. Considering the difference of preposition,

this expression can perhaps scarcely cite as its parallel Ezra 7:9. “The hand of God”

here means rather his effectual working, which effectual working produced a hearty

unanimity, that contrasted well with the bearing of the northern tribes.

 

 

 

Preparations for a Grand National Passover (vs. 1-12)

 

  • A PASSOVER DECIDED ON. (vs. 1, 5.)

 

Ø      By whom! Hezekiah, his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem,

with both of whom he had taken counsel. The important step, not adopted

without deliberation, was concurred in by the entire body of the people

(v. 4). If any in the nation held aloof, these were the priests and the

Levites (v. 15).

 

Ø      For whom? All Israel and Judah. The contemplated Passover should not

be sectional or provincial, but national. For “all Israel, from Beersheba to

Dan” — for the inhabitants of the two kingdoms, which ought never to

have been divided, and in religion at least should ever have been one.

 

Ø      On what ground?

 

o        That it was their duty to keep such a Passover. It was written in the

Law of Moses that all the congregation of Israel should eat the

Passover (Exodus 12:47); that three times a year should all the

males of the nation keep a feast unto the Lord, one of these

feasts being that of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover (ibid.

ch. 23:14-15); and that the Passover should be “sacrificed in

the place which Jehovah should choose to set his Name there”

(Deuteronomy 16:2).

 

o        That such a Passover had not been observed by them either in great

numbers (Revised Version), en masse, by the whole body of the

people (Bertheau, Keil), or for a long time (Authorized Version,

De Wette).  Certainly since the division of the kingdom they had

not observed the Passover; and even prior to that it is doubtful if

the feast had been observed by such numbers as to amount to a

national celebration. The unsettled state of the country during the

period of the judges was not favorable to the carrying out of the

Deuteronomic programme; and the same might be said

(though perhaps in a less degree) of the early years of the monarchy;

so that probably for a Paschal celebration on a truly national scale

the historian must go back to the days of Joshua immediately after

entering Canaan, and before the dispersion of the people had

commenced (Joshua 5:10-11).

 

  • THE TIME OF CELEBRATION FIXED (v. 2.)

 

Ø      In the second month.

 

o        This not the regular or legal month, which was the first, or Abib

(Exodus 12:18; Leviticus 23:5, 8), the month in which Jehovah

brought his people out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:1-2).

 

o        This, however, allowable in special circumstances, as e.g. when

through absence on a journey or ceremonial uncleanness it could

not be kept on the statutory day (Numbers 9:6-12). In the present

instance the special circumstances were that when the decision to

hold a Passover was arrived at, the 14th of Abib was too near to

admit of either the priests getting themselves sanctified in sufficient

numbers to do the necessary work, or the population of the country

gathering at Jerusalem in time to give to the feast the character of

a national celebration.

 

Ø      In the first or sixth (perhaps seventh) year of Hezekiahs reign.

 

o        In favor of the former view (Bertheau, Jamieson), it may be urged that

it is the most natural; that Hezekiah would more likely take advantage

of the widespread religious enthusiasm evoked by the purification and

rededication of the temple to appoint a Passover than delay for five if

not six years; and that the difficulty of understanding how he got

permission to send heralds through the northern kingdom may be

overcome by remembering that Hoshea, the last King of Israel, was

not so bad as his predecessors on the throne had been (II Kings 17:2),

and that Hezekiah may have obtained his consent to the proposal of

a grand Passover for all Israel and Judah (Bertheau). An obvious

objection to this is that Hezekiah’s letters represented the inhabitants

of Israel as “the remnant escaped out of the hands of the kings of

Assyria” (v. 6), and that the siege of Samaria did not commence till

Hezekiah’s fourth year (II Kings 18:9), while the only deportation

of people from the northern kingdom before that was the removal

of the trans-Jordanic tribes and Naphtalites by Tiglath-Pileser II.

(II Kings 15:29) — which would hardly have justified

the strong language of Hezekiah with reference to Israel’s depleted

condition. Another difficulty is that, as during the first years of

Hezekiah’s reign Hoshea was becoming restive under the heavy

tribute of ten talents of gold and a thousand of silver imposed on

him by Tiglath-Pileser II. (‘Records,’ etc., 5:52; Schrader,

Keiliuschriften,’ 256), and was even negotiating with So (Sabako),

King of Egypt, about throwing off the Assyrian yoke (II Kings 17:4),

it is hardly to be supposed he would readily consent to the absence

of all his male subjects at Jerusalem even for a limited time. Besides,

it is doubtful if a month was not too short a space to admit of the

king’s runners traveling from Dan to Beersheba, and of the

people assembling from all corners of the land at Jerusalem.

 

o        In favour of the second view (Keil, Caspari), that the Passover was held

after the capture of Samaria, in B.C. 720, and the deportation of its

inhabitants — according to an inscription of Sargon, 27,280 (Schrader,

Keilin-schriften,’ 272; ‘Records,’ etc., 7:28) — it may be pointed out that

after that event the situation in Israel corresponded more exactly with the

language of Hezekiah (ver. 6), and that, Israel having no more an

independent sovereign, Hezekiah may have deemed the moment opportune

for attempting a reunion of the nations.

 

  • THE INVITATIONS ISSUED (vs. 6-10)

 

Ø      In whose name they were given. In that of Hezekiah and his princes. The

absence of any reference to Hoshea points to a time subsequent to the

captivity of Israel.

 

Ø      By whom they were carried. The pests, or runners, i.e. king’s

messengers (Esther 3:13, 15; 8:14), who may have been members of

the royal body-guard (ch. 12:10).

 

Ø      To what purport they ran.

 

o        A threefold exhortation.

 

§         To turn again to Jehovah, renouncing idolatry and embracing

the religion prescribed by Moses (v. 6).

§         Not to imitate the stubborn conduct of their fathers, who had

been carried away captive (vs. 7-8).

§         To resume attendance at the sanctuary, which Jehovah had

sanctified for ever as the central place of his worship (v. 8).

 

o        A four-fold argument.

 

§         Duty. Jehovah was the Lord God of their fathers, even of

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, as the one living and true,

gracious, and covenant-keeping God, was entitled to their

allegiance (vs. 6-7).

§         Fear. If they continued rebellious, Jehovah’s anger would fall

on and consume them who were but a remnant, as already it

had fallen on and consumed their fathers.

§         Clemency. If they returned to Jehovah, Jehovah would turn

away the fierceness of His anger from them, and extend

mercy to those who had been carried away captive, causing

them to find favor in the eyes of their captors and even to

return to their own land (v. 9).

§         Hope. The certainty that they would thus be treated was

guaranteed by the fact that Jehovah, whom they had forsaken,

and to whom they were now invited to return, was a gracious

and merciful God (v. 9). Or otherwise, Hezekiah pleaded with

them to return on the grounds of national unity — Jehovah

was Israel’s God as well as Judah’s; of historic continuity —

Jehovah had been the Lord God of their fathers; of

self-interest — it was the only way to avert their total

extinction; of brotherly compassion — it was the most

effectual means of helping their exiled brethren.

 

  • THE RECEPTION ACCORDED TO THE MESSENGERS. (vs. 10-12.)

 

Ø      In Israel.

 

o        From the main body of the population, laughter and scorn. Seemingly

they ridiculed the idea of having to protect themselves from

extermination by finding a sovereign in Hezekiah and a God in

Jehovah. Tiglath-Pileser II., if the earlier date be adopted, had only

overrun and laid waste a portion of their country, the trans-Jordanic

tribes, with the land of Naphtali, and from these had carried away

not all the population, but only the principal inhabitants; while,

if the latter date be accepted as the more probable, Sargon in addition

had removed only 27,280 persons (‘Records,’ 7:28).  Hence as yet they

perceived not the necessity of either abandoning hope for the kingdom

or of repairing to Jerusalem to find a king and a God. So the

ambassadors of a greater King than Hezekiah, wandering from city to

city throughout the world and carrying to their fellows a better

invitation than Hezekiah’s runners did to Israel, are frequently met

with derision for themselves and their glad tidings; as e.g. Paul at

Athens (Acts 17:32), as Christ Himself, God’s chief Ambassador

and Plenipotentiary in the city of Jerusalem (John 1:11).

 

o        From individuals, especially in Asher, Manasseh, Zabulon (v. 11),

and Issachar (v. 8), the northern tribes contiguous to Naphtali,

cordial acceptance. These, being country-people, were meek ones,

not ashamed to humble themselves on account of their own and

their nation’s wickedness, and to embrace the opportunity of

becoming reconciled to Jehovah and their brethren in Judah.

Accordingly they spurned not the invitation addressed to them,

but “came to Jerusalem.” In like manner is the King’s

letter in the gospel oftener welcomed and accepted by unlearned

rustics than by sophisticated and wise residents in cities; and

always by the poor in spirit, who, conscious of their sin and

misery, long to be reconciled to God  (Matthew 5:3-6).

 

Ø      In Judah. The people generally responded to their sovereign’s invitation.

 

o        With unanimity. They were of one mind to do the commandment

of the king and the princes. A united heart is an invaluable

preparation for obedience, whether for individual or for state

(Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19-20).

 

o        In a spirit of obedience. They recognized the king’s and princes’

commandment to be in accordance with the word of Jehovah

(compare ch. 29:15). The Word of God, in the Old and New

Testaments, is the supreme directory for faith and practice.

“To the Law and to the testimony  (Isaiah 8:20). The Bereans

searched the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

 

o        In compliance with a heavenly impulse. That they were thus

enlightened and unanimous was owing to Divine grace;

“The hand of God was upon them” for good, as it always

is upon them that seek Him (Ezra 8:22).

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The unspeakable blessing to a land of a pious king and court.

Ø      The certainty that God will aid all who seek to extend His cause and

kingdom.

Ø      The necessity of diligence, fidelity, sympathy, and courage on the part of

all “runners” to the King of heaven.

Ø      The hopefulness with which divinely commissioned preachers may enter

on their mission — there will always be found a remnant to hear and obey.

Ø      The excellence of a humble spirit in disposing one to listen to the gospel.

 

13 “And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of

unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation.”

This verse purports to say that the total, at any rate, of the attendance on

the Passover was very large.

 

14 “And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and

all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook

Kidron.” Took away the altars… the brook Kidron (see ch. 28:24; 29:16).

 

15 “Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second

month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified

themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD.”

Were ashamed; Hebrew, גִכְלְמוּ. This word, occurring in one

conjugation or another thirty-eight times, expresses in every instance a

genuine shame. It now was the forerunner of a practical repenting. And

brought in… into; better rendered, and carried up to the house of the Lord.

 

16 “And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the

law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they

received of the hand of the Levites.” They stood in their place after their

manner (see Leviticus 1:11-13, and many other references in Leviticus).

 

17 “For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified:

therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers

for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD.”

Therefore the Levites had the charge (see Leviticus 1., etc., which

repeatedly affirms that the original directions of Moses were that the person

who brought the victim to offer it was to slay it, and to bring the blood).

 

18 “For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and

Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet

did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But

Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every

one  19 That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his

fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the

sanctuary.” So also the original Law of Moses prescribed that the

uncleansed must not eat the Passover (Numbers 9:6).

 

20 “And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.”

Healed the people. The Hebrew word here is the strict word

for physical healing, and is a slight but significant indication of the reality of

the spiritual view contemplated in Moses’ Law in this matter.

 

 

 

The One Essential Thing (vs. 17-20)

 

A very interesting and instructive incident occurred in the celebration of

this great Passover. Many who presented themselves and brought their

lamb had not gone through the prescribed purifications before engaging in

an act of sacrifice, and they were disqualified to slay the lamb. So the

Levites, under the peculiar circumstances, took this part for them. It was a

formal irregularity; it was not according to the letter of the Law; there had

been a breach of the enactment. But Hezekiah prayed God on behalf of

those who had transgressed, and his prayer was heard, and the Lord

healed the people” who had so done. There is one lesson which stands out

from the others; but before we learn that, we may gather on our way the

truths:

 

  • THAT SUBSTITUTION AND INTERCESSION HAVE THEIR

PLACE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Levites were permitted to

take the parents’ place on this occasion, and Hezekiah’s prayer for the

pardon of the irregularity was granted. We may do some things for our

fellow-men, and we do well to pray God for their enlightenment and

restoration. But it is not far that either of these two principles can be

permitted. “Every man must:

 

Ø      bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:5) of responsibility before God;

Ø      repent of his own sin;

Ø      approach his Maker in the spirit of self-surrender; and

Ø      enter by himself the kingdom of Christ.

 

The work we can do for others, though not without its value, is narrow in

its range. To every human soul it belongs to realize his position, to hearken

when Heaven is speaking, to make his final and decisive choice, to take his

place among the friends or among the foes of Jesus Christ. We may not

build on a brother’s help, nor presume even on a mother’s prayers.

 

  • THAT PRIVATION OF PRIVILEGE IS TAKEN INTO THE

DIVINE CONSIDERATION. The principal if not the only defaulters here

were the men of “Ephraim and Manasseh,” etc. (ver. 18); i.e. those who

had been living in the idolatrous kingdom of Israel, those who had been far

from the temple of Jerusalem, and had lived with little (if any) instruction in

the Divine Law. Much leniency might justly be accorded to these; and

much allowance was made for them. God requireth of us “not according to

that we have not, but according to that we have.” From those to whom but

little privilege and opportunity are given, the slighter service will be

demanded. Our God is just, considerate, gracious.

 

  • THAT SIN IS A VERY DISABLING THING. “The Lord healed the

people.” By their offence against the Law they had lost their wholeness,

their health, and needed to “be healed.” Sin is a moral sickness; it is the

disorder of the spirit; it is that which weakens, which disables, which

makes the sinner unable to be and to do what he was created to be and to

do. But the main lesson is this:

 

  • THAT THE ESSENTIAL THING IS SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY.

These transgressors were forgiven partly in virtue of Hezekiah’s prayer.

But may we not say principally because the righteous Lord discerned in

them the spirit of obedience?  They had come up to Jerusalem that they

might return unto Jehovah their God. It was in their heart to cast off their

old and evil practices, and to begin a new life of uprightness before God:

was their ceremonial irregularity to outweigh, in the estimate of the Just

One, the integrity of their heart before Him? The purpose of their soul was

toward God and toward His service: was not that to be accepted, in spite of

a legal impropriety or negligence? Certainly it was; and these men went

down to their homes in Israel justified before the Lord. It is the spirit of

obedience which our God demands of us, for which he looks in us. If that

be absent, nothing else of any kind or magnitude will suffice. If that be

present, we may be defaulters in many small particulars, but neither we nor

our offering will be refused. To have a pure, deep, fixed desire to seek and

to serve the Lord Christ — that is the one essential thing.

 

21 “And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the

feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the

Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with

loud instruments unto the LORD.”  See Exodus 12:18, and many repetitions

of the same matter, respecting the duration of the Passover and eating of

unleavened bread. With loud instruments. Some render this, “instruments

ascribing might to Jehovah.” There seems no necessity for this; and the plain

Hebrew text is “instruments of might,” i.e. strong or loud instruments.

 

22 “And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught

the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the

feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession

to the LORD God of their fathers.”  Spake comfortably; literally, to

the heart of, etc. That taught the good knowledge. This rendering is in some

error, and is awkward in not indicating the direction of the knowledge. A better

rendering (see Revised Version) will be, who were well skilled in rendering

such service to Jehovah. And perhaps the simplest rendering, “who served

with good service to Jehovah,” will be the most correct to the real meaning of the

Hebrew text (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 13:15). Making confession; i.e. the

confession or uttering forth of praise (so Psalm 75:2; 92:1; I Chronicles 16:4,

7, 35, 41; 23:30; 25:3; here ch. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 31:2).

 

23 “And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days:

and they kept other seven days with gladness.”  This and the following verse

should read as one. Hezekiah no doubt wished, by prolonging the feast and

the joy, to make the more lasting impression on the people and the more

hopeful conversion of them.

 

24 “For Hezekiah king of Judah did give to the congregation a

thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave

to the congregation a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep:

and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.”

Did give. This is an inadequate rendering. Revised Version

reads, did give for offerings; others read, “gave as an heave offering.” In

the light of ch. 35:7-9, the Revised Version rendering seems sufficient.

 

25 “And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites,

and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers

that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced.”

The strangers. Some consider this describes “proselytes from

Israel, who were non-Israelites.” But this seems a most gratuitous

supposition. The Hebrew גֵרִים does, in fact, purport only “sojourners,”

and is frequently so translated, and our next clause corroborates this view.

The interesting aspect of it is, that probably the persons described had

emigrated from their own tribes, as they longed for Jerusalem, “their chief joy.”

 

26 “So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son

of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.”  Since the time of

Solomon. The reference is to Solomon’s“Feast of Tabernacles” (ch. 7:9).

 

 

              An Ideal City: Jerusalem in the First Days of Hezekiah (v. 26)

 

  • ITS GOD WAS GRACIOUS. (v. 9.) Its people had a Divinity who

was:

 

Ø      Propitious towards their persons. He had given them one heart (v. 12).

Ø      Propitious towards their sacrifices. He accepted them, although offered

not in perfect accordance with the Law of Moses (v. 16).

Ø      Propitious towards their prayers. He heard:

 

o        the king’s intercession (v. 20),

o        the priests’ prayers (v. 27), and

o        the people’s confessions (v. 22).

 

·         ITS KING WAS RELIGIOUS, (ch. 29:2.) This was manifested by:

 

Ø      His care for the institutions of religion. Exemplified in his

purification and dedication of the temple, including his

rearrangement of the Levitical orders of musicians.

Ø      His zeal in the observances of religion. Shown by his revival

of the Passover ordinance, and the efforts made by him to

secure a national observance of the same (v. 1).

 

Ø      His possession of the spirit of religion. Besides being a man of

prayer (v. 18), he delighted to encourage others in good works

(v. 22), and evinced his own sincerity by the abundance of his

liberality (v. 24).

 

  • ITS MINISTERS WERE INDUSTRIOUS. (v. 17.)

 

Ø      In attending to their own personal sanctification. (V. 15.) This no

ministers of religion under the New Testament dispensation can afford to

neglect. He who cares nothing for the cultivation of piety in himself is not

likely to be zealous in aiming at the good of others.  (Philippians 2:3)

 

Ø      In discharging the public services of the sanctuary. Under the Hebrew

economy these services were the offering of sacrifice and the blessing of

the people (v. 27) by the priests, with the making of music by the

Levites; under the Christian economy they are chiefly the preaching of the

gospel, the conducting of worship, and the superintendence of the Church.

Where the ordinances of religion fall into abeyance and neglect, and the

ministers of religion are as heedless of the souls of others as of their own, it

is idle to expect prosperity, in either Church or state, in city or in country.

 

  • ITS INHABITANTS WERE JOYOUS. (v. 26.)

 

Ø      Exulting in JEHOVAH’S FAVOR.   Without a conviction that they

possessed this, the mere external celebration would not have filled them

with such long-continued, deep, and exuberant emotion (Psalm 33:21;

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 5:11).

 

Ø      Observing the rites of religion. In turning from the worship of idols to

serve the living God, they experienced an inward satisfaction which made

them “sing in the ways of the Lord” (Psalm 138:5).

 

Ø      Enjoying the affection of their brethren. Of one heart and mind, there

was not a jarring note in their melody. They dwelt together in peace, and

loved as brethren, each esteeming the other as better than himself, and all

preferring one another and honoring one another.

 

27 “Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their

voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place,

even unto heaven.”  The priests the Levites; i.e. the priest-Levites, and not other

Levites (Deuteronomy 17:18; Joshua 3:3). The Septuagint, therefore, is wrong

in inserting “and.” A parallel expression in the New Testament is “Men brethren”

(Acts 1:16; 2:29, etc.). The priests were those authorized to bless (Numbers 6:23-26;

I Chronicles 23:13).

 

 

The Celebration of the Passover, with its Sacred Suggestions (vs. 1-27)

 

The whole of this chapter is concerned with Hezekiah’s call of priests,

Levites, princes, and congregation of the people to observe and celebrate

with himself the grand solemnity of the Passover. From the analogy of the

precedent provided for individual cases of certain kinds of necessity

(Numbers 9:10), this celebration for the whole nation is fixed for the

fourteenth day of the second month instead of the first. This was the fourth

of the seven special occasions, of which description with detail is given us

in Scripture — the first of all in Egypt (Exodus 12.), the first in the desert

(Numbers 9.), and that of Joshua at Gilgal, after the circumcision of the

people and when the manna ceased (Joshua 5.), being the three which

preceded; and those that came after being the Passover celebrated by

Josiah (ch. 35.), by Ezra on the return from the captivity at Babylon (Ezra

6.), and that ever-memorable one, the last of our blessed Lord’s life on

earth. The Passover was the first in time of the three great annual feasts

which called together to Jerusalem all — yes, in happier times, all — from

Dan even to Beersheba, the other two being the Feasts of Pentecost and of

Tabernacles. It was also the first in the lifetime of the nation, and always

the first in solemn significance. Not only the energy and earnestness,

therefore, of Hezekiah in carrying through this celebration from first to

last, but his Diviner wisdom and piety in determining and appointing it,

may be noted, and dwelt upon in useful and suggestive detail as adapted to

modern days. That great revival, for instance — one of the greatest the

world and Church have ever seen — of modern Church-life, familiarly

known to ourselves, was rooted in, and has grown up proportioned to,

zealous attention to the sacraments, faith in them, and faithful observance

of them. This goes to the root of all a nation’s evil and malady! “If once”

thought Hezekiah — “if but once a healthy breeze could pass over this

erring and idolatrous, fevered and long-forlorn people, all might yet be

well!” At his prayer, and as the reward of his effort, the breeze came, and

swept over the land. It refreshed weary and parched wastes; and some

signs of healthiness, mingled with some signs of suspiciousness, appeared.

Perhaps all was too late; the disease too deep, and gone too far, too long!

Nevertheless, it was none the less right on the part of Hezekiah to have

tried the religious means, and used the highest of them. We may notice in

them — not as matter of historic interest in the life of another nation

merely — how, in virtue mainly of the presence of the Passover, they were

fitted to touch all that was deepest, all that haply might “remain”

(Revelation 3:2) deepest and best in the hearts of the people. For

instance, the Passover was undoubtedly:

 

  • THE VIVID MEMORIAL OF AN UNPRECEDENTED BIRTH OF A

NATION.  Nor can it be said that this was an instance of a “nation born in a

day.” It gives more point, and it is just and true, to remember, that now it

may be said of it that it was a nation born in a night! One supreme,

extraordinary effort of faith and obedience ushered that nation out of

darkness into light. It might, indeed, have been hoped that this would

stamp it for ever with the corresponding native and hereditary grand

qualities. There are senses in which it may be said that the nation had

received in yet earlier ages its existence. Certainly the promise and the

earnest of this had been fact. The germ of its existence had been in

Abraham, and God’s covenant with him. It showed to view in distinctness

and separateness at the time and in the fact of its compact corporate

descent into Egypt. There was a semblance of truth to support this, and

there would have been real truth in it, if a family could be called a nation.

Israel went into Egypt “three score and ten souls” (Genesis 46:27);

Israel came out of Egypt a nation born, that night of the Passover — a vast

separate nation, a peculiar people. Hezekiah’s celebration of the Passover,

therefore, at this time suggested to every feeling and instinct of honest

national love and pride that king, priests, and people should live worthily of

their origin, raise the fortunes and restore the glory of the nation that had

so greatly declined (v. 6).

 

  • THE VIVID MEMORIAL OF THE GREAT DELIVERANCE

WHICH GOD WROUGHT FOR HIS PEOPLE, FROM SORE

BONDAGE, UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF AN EXTRAORDINARY

NATURE. The power and the pity of God were alike demonstrated by the

rescue of the hosts of Israel from the midst of Egypt. His pity heard their

groanings, His power subdued their oppressors. Of such things as these the

people needed at this time the teaching and the inspiriting influences. Every

observance of the Passover was a commemoration and rehearsal of this

great deliverance, and suggested the long and thick succession of Divine

interpositions during a period of now nearly eight centuries.

 

  • BOTH THE OUTCOME AND THE FOUNDATION OF A

COVENANT. The Passover marked a foregoing faith and obedience on

the part of Moses, Aaron, and all the houses of the rescued, and it inferred

an unending continuance of the same, so often as they should be called for

on special occasions, as well as for the rule of every day’s life. Upon these

conditions being met on the one side, God’s great deliverance and His

continued protection took effect on the other side. Upon this practical

aspect it is evident that Hezekiah laid great stress (vs. 7-9). The

remembrance of the saving of all the firstborn of the Hebrews, by the side

of the slaying of all the firstborn of the Egyptians, both man and beast, was

fitted to be a most powerful incentive of loyalty to Him who had thus

bought a people to Himself most significantly. This was an inevitable

memory of the sprinkled blood of the Paschal lamb in every celebration.

 

  • THE FORESHADOWING OF THE ONE ETERNAL SACRIFICE.

For the devout Hebrew, the Israelite who was “an Israelite indeed,” even in

these most degenerate days of the nation, the Passover must have taken a

leading share among all other sacrifices, in teaching and shadowing forth

the good things to come;” the “better hope;” the “better covenant;” the

better sacrifices” (Hebrews 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23). The “foreshadowing”

itself was indeed plain and powerful, which used such a designation for the

central fact of all the observances of the Passover, as “my sacrifice”

(Exodus 23:18; 34:25); and nothing can be deducted from our estimate

of the meaning of such passages, and generally of the typical virtue of the

whole celebration, when we remember the language of St. Paul respecting

“Christ our Passover” (I Corinthians 5:7). The faith of the people of

Israel and their sacrament were looking forward to this Passover, as our

faith and our sacrament look back to it, and of a truth ever upward! The

suggestions that Paul awakes within us by the fullness of the last-quoted

verse, as well as the time and all the circumstance of the death of Christ,

compel us indeed to see in the entire features and services of the completed

Passover the type of our One sacrifice and our second sacrament! The

peace offering, the thank offering, the solemn dedication of ourselves, as “a

kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” the unbroken “unity of the body

(Exodus 12:46; John 19:36), the “keeping of the feast with the

unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” and all the sacred, unbounded

eucharistic enjoyments of that feast, — in a word, the need of deliverance,

the Deliverer, and our joyful acknowledgment of the same, are all outlined

for us in the Hebrew’s Passover, and according to the measure of his faith

and illumination were once all outlined for him, even in Hezekiah’s time

and celebration.

 

 

 

A National Passover at Jerusalem (vs. 13-27)

 

  • THE CELEBRATING CONGREGATION.

 

Ø      Large. “Much people; … a very great congregation” (v. 13). Though

this was usual at the chief religious festivals of the nation, probably so vast

a concourse of people as assembled at Jerusalem in answer to the king’s

invitation, in the second month of the first or seventh year of his reign (see

preceding homily), had not been witnessed since the days of Jehoiada

(ch. 23:2) or of Asa (ch. 15:9-10). Something stimulating and impressive in

the sight of a crowded city, even when its seething population drifts aimlessly

about, much more when all are swayed by a common feeling and moved by

a common impulse.

 

Ø      Mixed. Composed of:

 

o        all the congregation of Judah, i.e. of the inhabitants of the metropolis

and of the country districts of Judaea, with the priests and the Levites;

 

o        all the congregation that came out of Israel, viz. a multitude of people

from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zabulon (v. 18); and

 

o        the strangers, or proselytes who dwelt within the borders of Judah, and

those who came from Israel or the northern kingdom (v. 25).

 

Ø      United. All actuated by one purpose — that of keeping the Feast of

Unleavened Bread (v. 13), which probably none of them in their lifetime

had ever done. It was such a festival as could be rightly celebrated only by

a united people, and such as was fitted to draw closer the bonds of union

between the celebrants.

 

Ø      Resolute. Prepared to undergo any sacrifices and attempt any labors

necessary to carry the feast through with success, determined to be

hindered by nothing and no one from their great act of religious homage to

the Lord God of their fathers (vs. 19, 22).

 

Ø      Joyous. Inspired with feelings of gladness (v. 23), even “great

gladness (v. 21), and “great joy” (v. 26), which found expression in

peace offerings and penitential confessions (v. 22), accompanied by vocal

and instrumental strains, and abated not during the seven days of the feast

proper (v. 21), but sustained the people throughout seven superadded

days (v. 23). Indeed, so high ran the enthusiasm, and so overflowing

became the joy, that nothing like it had been witnessed since the days of

Solomon, when the dedication of the temple had been celebrated by a

double period of rejoicing (ch. 7:1-10). The occasion

certainly was fitted to excite gladness — the return of the nation to its

allegiance to Jehovah. So is the soul’s return to God in penitence, faith,

and holy obedience a cause of jubilation not only in heaven (Luke 15:7,10),

but also on earth (Acts 8:8); and not among spectators merely, but also in the

souls of them who return (Luke 24:52; Acts 8:39; Romans 5:11). Moreover,

the service of God and Christ should always be accompanied with gladness

(Psalm 100:2; 149:2, 5; Isaiah 12:3), as in gladness it will invariably result

(Psalm 64:10; Isaiah 48:18; 51:11; Romans 14:17; I Thessalonians 5:16).

 

  • THE CELEBRATED FESTIVAL.

 

Ø      The zeal of the people.

 

o        Necessary preparation. This consisted of two things: 

 

§         the purgation of the city from idolatry, and

§         the cleansing of themselves from defilement.

 

The first they carried out with promptitude and decision — “they

arose and took away the altars” (v. 14); and with thoroughgoing

energy and efficiency which allowed of no escape — “they took

them all away,” the altars for offering to heathen divinities, and

the altars or “vessels” for incense, which Ahaz had erected in

every corner of the city (ch. Chronicles 28:24), and cast them into

the Kidron, where already the filth of the temple had been thrown

(ch.  29:16). Never in any previous reign had there been such a

clearance of the instruments of idolatry as now occurred under

Hezekiah. The second, though not mentioned, is implied, at least,

of those who belonged to Judah (see v. 17; and compare on v. 3).

These, having had the means of self-sanctification at hand, most likely

used them; those who came from Israel having not had such means,

their want of sanctification was prayed for and overlooked (vs. 17-20).

 

o        Statutory adoration. They killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of

the second month (see on v. 2). The heads of families in Judah who

were sanctified killed their own Jambs and placed the blood in the

priests’ hands; for such as had not been cleansed according to the

purification of the sanctuary, the Levites killed the Passovers, and

delivered the blood into the hands of the priests (v. 17). These

sprinkled the blood upon the altars.

 

Ø      The behaviour of the priests and Levites.

 

o        Their sanctification of themselves. The priests and Levites were not

those of Jerusalem merely who had taken part in the dedication of the

temple, and of whom it is said (ch. 29:34) that the Levites had

been more forward to sanctify themselves than the priests, but the

whole body of the priests and Levites who had come from Judah and

Israel, among whom were many who did not immediately purify

themselves from defilement as they ought to have done on convening

at Jerusalem. Most likely at first half-hearted in the business,

afterwards through beholding the zeal of the people they were shamed

into repairing their neglect.

 

o        Their discharge of official duties. Having sanctified themselves, they

performed the statutory functions required of them in connection with

their consecration: “They brought burnt offerings into the house of

the Lord” (compare Leviticus 8:18; Numbers 8:12); or with the

Passover: “They brought the [Authorized Version] burnt offerings”

presented by the people “into the house of the Lord,” and “they

stood in their places after their order according to the Law of Moses,”

the priests sprinkling the blood upon the altar (Leviticus 16:14-19), and

the Levites, for the reason above explained, handing the blood to them.

 

Ø      The piety of the king.

 

o        The king’s prayer (vs. 18-20).

 

§         To whom addressed. “The good Lord.” Goodness an attribute

of the Divine nature (Psalm 25:8; 34:8; Nahum 1:7), in its ideal

character belonging only to Him (Matthew 19:17), infinite in

its measure (Exodus 34:6) and excellence (Psalm 36:7),

unwearied in its operation (Psalm 33:5; James 1:5), ever-

enduring in its continuance (Psalm 52:1).

 

§         For whom presented? “Every one that prepareth [Authorized

Version, or ‘setteth’ Revised Version] his heart to seek the

Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according

to the purification of the sanctuary;” i.e. for every one who

approached God with earnestness and resolution, “preparing

and setting his heart” — in the margin, “his whole heart”

(ch. 15:12; Psalm 119:2); with humility and faith, seeking

the Lord God of his fathers” thereby acknowledging he

believed in Jehovah as his rightful Lord, and had sinned in

turning aside to idolatry (Judges 10:10; I Samuel 12:10;

here, ch. 6:37; Psalm 106:6; Jeremiah 14:7); with obedience

and submission, embracing the right way of seeking God,

in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:5), at His temple (Exodus 25:8),

through the sacrificial worship by Him appointed (Hebrews

9:13) — as under the New Testament dispensation no one

can approach God acceptably except THROUGH CHRIST

(John 14:6), though with imperfection and defect in external

ceremonial — which showed that the best spirits in the

Hebrew Church had some conception of the spirituality of all

true worship of God, of the value of real heart adoration

even when accompanied by errors in form, and of the

worthlessness of the most externally correct, complete,

aesthetically beautiful, and perfect performance when

divorced from the inner homage of the heart.

 

§         What it sought. The pardon of every one who had approached

the Divine altar without complying with the Divine prescription

as to self-purification.  A sin of ignorance in case of some, in

that of others a sin of involuntary disability, it was nevertheless

a violation of the divinely appointed order, as real though not

as heinous as that of Uzziah (ch. 26:18), and as such fitted to

evoke a display of Divine anger similar to that which fell on

Uzziah.

 

§         How it fared. “The Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed

the people” (v. 20); which may signify either that symptoms

of bodily malady had begun to appear among the people, or

that Hezekiah feared they would. In either case Hezekiah’s

prayer was successful for his people, as afterwards was his

supplication for himself (ch. 32:24).  Compare the intercession

of:

 

ü      Abraham for the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:23-32),

ü      Moses for Israel (Exodus 32:31-32),

ü      David for his people (II Samuel 24:17),

ü      Daniel for Jerusalem (Daniel 9:17-19), and,

ü      Paul for his converts (Ephesians 3:14-19;

Philippians 1:3-9).

 

o        The king’s exhortation (v. 22).

 

§         The recipients of it. “All the Levites that taught the good

knowledge of the Lord” (Authorized Version), i.e. “who

were more skilled and able to instruct” others in the proper

method of worshipping Jehovah (Piscator); or, more

accurately, “all the Levites that were well skilled in the

service of Jehovah” (Revised Version), or as regards

Jehovah; i.e. “who had distinguished themselves by

intelligent playing to the honor of the Lord” (Keil).

 

§         The spirit of it. He spake comfortably, or to the heart, of all.

No doubt there were degrees of excellence amongst the

players and their music, but the king made no distinction

in his treatment of them; he spake to the hearts of all His

words of encouragement and good cheer were needed by

all, perhaps most by those least skilled who yet were doing

their best.  Leaders of men, pastors of Churches, and

such-like, sometimes forget this, and, by making

distinctions between the more gifted and the less, do injury

to both — inflate the former with pride, and cast down the

latter with discouragement.

 

o        The king’s liberality (v. 24). This was:

 

§         Munificent. Hezekiah presented to the congregation a thousand

bullocks and seven thousand sheep.

 

§         Catching. “The princes gave to the congregation a thousand

bullocks and ten thousand sheep.”

 

§         Timely. It enabled the people to carry out their good resolution to

prolong the feast for seven more days.

 

§         Appreciated. It filled the people’s hearts with gladness, and

doubtless contributed largely to entwine their affections

round the person and the throne of the king.

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The duty of not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together for

Divine worship (Hebrews 10:25).

 

Ø      The excellence of unity among the people of God (Psalm 133:1;

Acts 4:32; I Corinthians 1:10).

 

Ø      The joyous character of all true worship (I Chronicles 16:27;

Psalm 32:11; 100:1-2; Luke 24:52; Ephesians 5:18-19).

 

Ø      The acceptableness of sincere worship even when mingled with

imperfection (Acts 10:35).

 

Ø      The beauty as well as propriety of Christian liberality (Exodus 23:15,

II Corinthians 8:9).

 

 

 

Religious Enthusiasm (vs. 21-27)

 

This chapter reads as if written by an eyewitness of the scenes described,

so vivid is the account, so much color is in the picture. It was evidently a

time of very great enthusiasm, of spiritual exuberance. These are very

pleasant, and they may be very profitable occasions; but they need to be

rightly directed and well controlled. Of religious enthusiasm, we may

consider:

 

  • ITS ONLY FIRM FOUNDATION. This is a true sense of the Divine

favor. Unless God be with us, granting us His own approval, intending to

further us with His blessing, all our congratulations are ill-timed and all our

action will be fruitless. And it is needful that we know that we have His

approval. It is too often assumed in its absence. Hezekiah and his people,

with Isaiah among them, were resting in a well-grounded confidence.

Without such prophetic guidance, we must inquire of ourselves whether

our repentance and our faith are deep and real; whether we have in truth

yielded ourselves unto the Lord” (v. 8), whether we are “Christ’s

disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

 

  • ITS NATURAL ATMOSPHERE. Sacred joy. They “kept the feast…

with great gladness” (v. 21); “There was great joy in Jerusalem (v. 26).

There are many sources of happiness, reaching upwards from the most

gross to the most spiritual and refined. There is none deeper or purer, none

more elevated or enlarging, than the joy of the human spirit in the worship

and service of the Supreme. To be holding hallowed fellowship with our

Divine Father and Saviour, and to be so doing in unison with a multitude of

our Christian brethren and sisters, or to be engaged with them in doing

some earnest and faithful work, — this is a source of truest and worthiest

human joy.

 

  • ITS BEST MANIFESTATIONS.

 

Ø      In sacred song. The Levites “praised the Lord day by day” (v. 21). A

large measure of spiritual fervor finds utterance in song, happily to

ourselves and acceptably to God. There is no phase of sacred feeling

which may not find fitting expression thus.

 

Ø      In wise and kind encouragement. Hezekiah spake comfortably unto

all the Levites” (v. 22). He no doubt congratulated them on their good

spiritual estate and on their opportunity of service, and invited and

urged them to exercise their sacred functions in all fidelity. A few

words of timely encouragement from one that is in a higher position

go a long way; such words constitute a stronger inducement to duty

and devotion than many words of criticism or censure.

 

Ø      In religious instruction. That taught the good knowledge of the

Lord” (v. 22).

 

Ø      In rededication. “A great number of priests sanctified themselves.”

Some of the priests, probably many, if not most of them, had shown

slackness and had held back (ch. 29:34); they had some

reason for being ashamed (see v. 15). But in this hour of widespread

enthusiasm they came forward and made themselves ready for their

sacred functions. At such a time, much is gained if those who have

become cool in the service of their Lord, whose faith is failing and

whose zeal is dying down, re-consecrate themselves to Him, take

afresh upon them His vows, and solemnly and formally undertake

to live and labor in His cause.

 

Ø      In expansiveness. Room was found for “the strangers that came out of

the land of Israel — room in the hearts and at the tables of the people.

Nothing can be better than that our own great gladness of heart in God

should overflow to those beyond our own pale. By all means let there

be a generous expansiveness at such a time; let the stranger, let the

outsider,” let the outcast, let the “abandoned,” let those who have

come to despair of themselves, be remembered, be sought out, be

encouraged, be enlightened, be admitted and welcomed. We tread

closely in the steps of our Leader when we act thus.

 

Ø      In liberality. In the generous use of our substance (see v. 24). When

we are receiving freely of God’s good gift of sacred joy, we should

give freely of the good He has entrusted to our care.  (Matthew 10:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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