A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, the Lord, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people… They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing fellowship offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy… Then the whole assembly of Judah with the priests and Levites, the whole assembly that came from Israel, the resident aliens who came from the land of Israel, and those who were living in Judah, rejoiced. There was great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for nothing like this was known since the days of Solomon son of David, the king of Israel.
Then the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, and their prayer came into his holy dwelling place in heaven. – Excerpts from 2 Chronicles 30, verses 18-27
In my devotion today, in which I am reading through the whole Bible, cover-to-cover, I came across this passage we all need desperately to hear. How often do we let shame stop us from coming to our Father? How often do we not bring people to the Great Physician because they are too sick?
God eagerly desires to draw near to any who seek Him. “You’re too far gone,” is a lie. “They don’t belong in church yet, they need to do x or stop y.” No. Come – NOW.
Judah had just spent decades in rebellion against God under Ahaz. When Hezekiah sent the messengers calling for everyone to return to the LORD, most laughed at them. But some came to celebrate Passover – at the wrong time and unclean. It talked about the shame of the Levites and the priests felt because of this.
It’s not surprising – the Levites, called by God to be his priests to a people of priests, were very aware of how “wrong” all of this was. But Hezekiah, who led the people back to the LORD greater than any king since Solomon first built the temple – understood something more important: they greatest two commandments. The people had not celebrated Passover in decades. They had abandoned God. They could not wait any longer for the proper time. They were sick – desperately. And were there consequences? Yep – Hezekiah did have to intervene, but even his intervention was in line with what the prophets had foretold – that God would love those who sought him with all their hearts. The people truly wanted to return to God, and Hezekiah knew that was what God truly wanted. They could get all the details right later. In that moment, after living in rebellion, the first thing was to run to God and bring as many people with them as they could. After all, what was God going to do – show them wrath? They were already under that! But it wasn’t even a desperation move: Hezekiah was placing his faith in God’s goodness, that he would do as promised – draw near to His people when they sought him in earnest.
The result? Their prayers reached God in his holy dwelling place in heaven. Not just heaven. Not just hearing them in the temple. God heard him in the place where his glory is on full display, where the angels constantly sing “Holy Holy Holy is the LORD!” God didn’t just show mercy and heal them – he was ecstatic – Jesus talked about the angels celebrating over just one who is lost being found. I can’t imagine the party at this moment.
And why? Because Hezekiah loved God more than the rituals. He knew they needed God. He knew the greatest two commandments on which all the others were built. It wasn’t that he didn’t care. They didn’t keep doing this. They returned to what God ordained – after being restored to a relationship with him.
Stop making yourself or others go to the family doctor to be recommended to a specialist, to a hospital for long term treatment. When people are dying, it’s straight to the ER. After you get stabilized you go back to following normal procedure. Run to God.