At the age of twenty-five, Hezekiah has ascended the throne of Judah in Jerusalem. He sets about cleansing the nation of idolatry and spiritual apostasy. The priests and Levites consecrate themselves and then the temple, ridding it of every unhallowed vessel and hauling away every vestige of idol worship to the Kidron Valley to be burned. When sacrifices had been offered for cleansing and for sin offerings, “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 celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly . . . had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time [i.e., the 14th day of the first month], because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 30:1-3).
One response to Hezekiah’s invitation. Let it be clear that the “invitation” had not only the authority of King Hezekiah but also, though the date had to be delayed because of Israel’s and Judah’s sin and the need for cleansing, the authority of God’s law. It is distressing, then, to read the response of a majority of those in the Northern Kingdom: “So the couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them” (v. 10). Yes, the people whom God had chosen and separated to Himself, the people upon whom He had been pleased to bestow rich and unique blessings reacted with the utmost contempt to His call for them to worship Him. A reluctant acceptance of the call would have been shameful. A stubborn refusal to come would have been worse. But these recipients of God’s mercy were not content with either of those. In their abject rebellion, they mocked God’s messengers and heaped scorn on their message from God.
It is tempting to go straight to the condition of many of the citizens of the United States today, to cite examples of the contempt our citizens and our government have exhibited toward God and His Word, and to bemoan the deplorable spiritual state of our nation. And it might be appropriate to do so. But this note is addressed to those of us who name the Name of Christ to warn us to take note of how quickly and thoroughly rebellion may take hold in the hearts of those who once lived under the authority of God’s Word. “It can’t happen to me,” we might be inclined to say smugly. But the reality is that no one is exempt from sinking to the depths of actually mocking God once he or she begins willfully to disobey God’s exhortations. God will help us when we do His will; when we refuse, we have cut the brake lines and have no guarantee of when or where the sin and its consequences will stop.
Another response to Hezekiah’s invitation. “Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (v. 13). Did Hezekiah harangue against those who came? No. He prayed, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God” (vv. 18b, 19a). Did God then berate them? No. “So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (v. 20). Then the entire assembly “ate for the appointed seven days” (v. 22). Did they return home? No. “Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days, so they celebrated the seven days with joy” (v. 23). What a blessed response.
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