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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on December 17, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, December 17, 2017: Hezekiah—Ruler in The Revival; 2 Chronicles 30:13-27

Theme: God’s grace through Jesus Christ is great enough to welcome all imperfect people who sincerely seek Him.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

We come this morning to a truly remarkable passage in the Old Testament.

It’s a passage that is part of the story we have been studying over the past few weeks; that is, the story of the great revival that occurred in Jerusalem under the reign of godly King Hezekiah. And this particular passage stands out because it contains one of the most remarkable and stunning declarations of the atoning grace of God that you’ll find in the Old Testament.

I believe it is, ultimately, a ‘gospel’ declaration; because it declares the good news of God’s welcoming grace to all needy sinners who come to Him—with sincerity of heart—through faith in Jesus Christ.

This passage is found in 2 Chronicles 30.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let’s take a moment to remember the context of this amazing passage. It comes to us as part of the larger story of the great spiritual awakening that had begun under King Hezekiah’s reign. His wicked father’s reign had come to an end; and as soon as Hezekiah took the throne, he began immediately to undo the damage that his father had done to the city of Jerusalem and to the spiritual life of the Jewish people.

Hezekiah, as you may remember, began by cleaning out the temple in Jerusalem of all the idolatrous altars and articles and debris that his father had brought into it. And then, as soon as the temple was cleansed and repaired, he made atonement in it for himself and for the leaders of Jerusalem. Then, he called the priests and the Levites to consecrate themselves and to restore the ministry of offerings and worship in the temple. After a little time—as the time of the Passover Feast drew near—he and the leaders decided to postpone the Feast to the second month of the year and to invite all the people of the northern tribes of Israel and of the surrounding region of Judah to come back to the temple, and to become reconciled to the God of their fathers, and to observe the Passover that they had been neglecting for so many years.

Sadly, many people mocked at the invitation. But many others did not. And it was beginning to happen! God was moving upon the hearts of the people; and many from the northern tribes and from the outlying regions of Judah were making their way to Jerusalem to seek God’s forgiveness and to observe His appointed Passover Feast.

And that’s when we come to our passage. It tells us in 2 Chronicles 30:13;

Now many people, a very great assembly, gathered at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month (2 Chronicles 30:13).

In fact, they became convicted that they needed to follow the example of the king and begin to clean up the city of its idolatry. You see; King Hezekiah had already cleaned-up the temple area. But his wicked father—as it tells us in Chapter 28—had set up paganistic altars to false gods on every corner of the city of Jerusalem. And so, we’re told;

They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month (vv. 14-15a).

The Brook Kidron was near the Valley of Hinnom on the south-eastern side of the city. It was basically the city dump. And that’s where they threw all of these deplorable altars to the false gods that Hezekiah’s father had set up. And then, with these idolatrous altars taken out of sight and destroyed, they obeyed the command of God and sacrificed the Passover lamb.

And even the priests and the Levites, who had traveled to Jerusalem from these surrounding areas, began to feel the conviction of their own sinful neglect of God and of turning away from His good commandments. They saw how the people were becoming so serious about their devotion to God, and they felt guilty. How could they serve the people properly in ministering the Passover observance for the people if they themselves were not completely set apart to God? So, we’re told in verses 15-16;

The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought the burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. They stood in their place according to their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites (vv. 15b-16).

The custom from of old was that each head of each household was to slay the Passover lamb at home—according to the Scriptures; and then, they were to bring the blood to the priests in the temple, where the blood would be sprinkled by the priests before the altar. But as it turned out, so many people had come to Jerusalem who had not yet—themselves—become ceremonially clean before God, that the Levites had to help them slay the offering and then bring the blood for them to the priests. So; the Levites and the priests who had traveled with the people needed also to become set apart again unto God so that they could serve their people in this remarkable spiritual awakening.

But this leads us to the great problem that we find in this passage. Verses 17-18 tell us;

For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written (vv. 17-18a).

God had begun to move remarkably upon the hearts of His disobedient and sinful people. They felt the powerful conviction of their terrible neglect of Him and their disobedience to His commandments. And they came in great numbers—at the invitation of Hezekiah and the leaders of Jerusalem—to return, to be reconciled to God, and to celebrate the Feast. But they had not all offered the required sin offerings according to the law that must accompany their repentance. There had been too many people—all coming so quickly; and they had not offered the burnt offering of complete dedication that the law called for them to offer. The Feast had come and they were about to eat the Passover meal; but they were not properly cleansed and made ceremonially pure according to the law of Moses.

What should be done? Should those who were sincerely—but imperfectly—seeking God now be sent away because of the demands of the letter of the law?

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear brothers and sisters; I suggest to you that this is a type of problem that we should expect to find in a true spiritual awakening. Historically, revivals have been ‘untidy’ events; and things don’t always go according to patterns of ‘propriety’. People end up seeking God from out of the midst of situations that are not very ‘churchy’ or ‘pretty’.

I don’t know if you have ever had a chance to read the history of great revival movements in our own nation’s past or in that of Great Britain. But this is something that stands out as a common element in many great ‘spiritual awakenings’. People in great numbers came to faith in Jesus Christ in dramatic and sudden repentance. They were desperate to seek Him and to be saved from the judgment of God for their sin. But they didn’t all come first with ‘cleaned-up’ lives. They came with much of the imperfection and brokenness and outward appearance of their sinful habits and rebellious lifestyles; and it very often upset the spiritually ‘cultured’ and ‘refined’ folks of church. But what should be done in such a case? Should anyone be ‘sent away’ who is sincerely seeking God simply because they weren’t ‘ceremonially’ or ‘religiously’ clean and wholesome?

When I think of this ‘problem’, my mind goes to that dear woman who once came to Jesus and tried to touch Him. We’re told about it the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. We’re read;

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:25-28).

Did you know that, if the strict letter of the Old Testament law had been faithfully adhered to, she never should have been allowed to do that? Because of her flow of blood, the law of Moses declared her to be ceremonially ‘unclean’; and anyone that she touched would also have been ceremonially ‘unclean’.

But Jesus—the holy Son of God—didn’t send someone ahead to stop her. He didn’t avoid her touch. We’re told that she touched Jesus; and that, immediately, her flow of blood dried up, and she was healed. He turned around and asked who had touched her; and when He found her, He didn’t condemn her or scold her for making Him unclean. Instead, He old her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (v. 34). The moment she reached out to touch Jesus, she wasn’t ‘unclean’ anymore. She was welcomed—in all of her ritual uncleanness—to draw near to Him, and to make contact with Him, and to receive what she needed from Him.

People who are imperfect in their lives—broken by sin, damaged by the affects of sinful habits and practices, and even bearing upon themselves all the outward impacts of a sinful rebelliousness against God and His good ways—are nevertheless welcomed to come to Jesus Christ with sincere faith. And the moment they make contact with Him, they’re not unclean anymore. They don’t have to make themselves ‘pure’ first before they may draw near to Him. They can come to Him by faith just as they are; and He is the one who makes them ‘clean’ in His sight.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; back to our story in 2 Chronicles 30. This problem—that is, the vast numbers of imperfect worshipers who were desperately seeking to be reconciled to God—leads us to another important portion of this story; and that is the prayer that King Hezekiah prayed. It is truly a remarkable prayer—as I say, one of the greatest prayers about God’s grace you’ll find in the Old Testament. He saw all of these people coming to Jerusalem to observe the Passover; and saw how they were eating the Passover Feast without first having been made ceremonially clean according to the law. But he didn’t seek to send all of these sincere ‘God-seekers’ away. Instead, he appealed to God’s grace. Verses 18-19 tell us;

But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary” (vv. 18b-19).

What a remarkable prayer! And let’s notice some important elements in it. First, you’ll notice that Hezekiah took careful assessment of the condition of the hearts of those people who came. They weren’t coming carelessly. They had—as he said—’prepared their hearts to seek God’. They weren’t seeking just any ‘god’, either. They certainly weren’t coming to the temple to worship some of the false gods that they had formerly worshiped in their disobedience. They came to worship the Lord God of their fathers—the God who had declared themselves to them in the pages of the Scriptures—the true God of Israel. But they came with repentance and with sincerity of heart. They may not have come with everything in their lives all in order; but they came with hearts nevertheless prepared to truly seek God.

And notice that Hezekiah doesn’t ask God to simply ignore His own holy standards. He doesn’t ask God to disregard the law. He knew that God could not do that and still remain true to Himself. He doesn’t ask God to simply pour ‘cheap grace’ all over them. Instead, Hezekiah prayed that God would ‘provide atonement’ for everyone who sincerely sought Him, even though they were not cleansed “according to the purification of the sanctuary”—that is, according the law of Moses regarding the approach to God’s holy temple.

Now; stop and think. Where would that atonement come? It would not come from the sacrifices offered in the temple; because there was no time or opportunity for that. Instead, Hezekiah appealed to God to provide atonement. Without fully understanding what he was doing, I believe that Hezekiah was appealing to the greater and more permanent atonement from God that those sacrifices and offerings in the temple ultimately pointed to. He appealed to the Redeemer—the One who the Bible tells us is the true Passover Lamb.

The Bible tells us about this ultimate sacrifice in Hebrews 10. It says;

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,

But a body You have prepared for Me.

In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin

You had no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—

In the volume of the book it is written of Me—

To do Your will, O God.’”

Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Hezekiah could look ahead to the atonement for sin that God alone would provide—the atonement that the offerings in the temple merely symbolized; the true Passover Lamb; the offering of His own precious and sinless Son Jesus Christ on the cross—and appeal to that for his people.

And look at what we’re told in verse 20:

And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people (v. 20).

I believe we are to take this in a spiritual sense. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer of appeal to the atonement that He would provide; and He healed the people of their backsliding and of the guilt of their sin, and of their ceremonial uncleanness in His sight. He welcomed them as they partook of His holy feast!

What a God of grace! No one who truly seeks to be reconciled to Him should ever hold back from coming to Him by faith in Jesus Christ. They don’t need to make themselves worthy before they come. They can’t. Instead, His grace through Jesus Christ is great enough to extend a full welcome all imperfect people who sincerely seek Him!

* * * * * * * * * *

So; the problem (that is, that so many people sincerely came to celebrate Passover but who had not yet been made ceremonially clean according to the law) resulted to King Hezekiah’s prayer (that is, that God Himself would provide atonement for all those who prepared their hearts to seek Him). God heard; and now look at what happened as a result. We find praise!

Verse 21 tells us;

So the children of Israel who 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 to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments. (v. 21).

Not only was there worship; but there was instruction. The king didn’t simply allow the people—now accepted in the sight of God—to remain ignorant of what He required of them. Verse 22 tells us;

And Hezekiah gave encouragement to all the Levites who taught the good knowledge of the Lord; and they ate throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings and making confession to the Lord God of their fathers (v. 22).

And as a result of God’s gracious welcome of them, and of their renewed worship of Him, and of their increased understanding of His holy ways, they all came to a remarkable decision:

Then the whole assembly agreed to keep the feast another seven days, and they kept it another seven days with gladness. For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep, and the leaders gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep; and a great number of priests sanctified themselves. The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah (vv. 24-25).

All of those people, from all of those parts of the land that had been invited to come, were rejoicing greatly in the God of Israel. They were walking with Him with a renewed zeal. And even the priests and the Levites had renewed their commitment of obedient faith.

And look at verses 26-27;

So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 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, to heaven (vv. 26-27).

* * * * * * * * * *

Let me close by sharing one more story from the New Testament about our Lord.

In Matthew 9, we’re told the story of how the Lord Jesus met a man named Matthew. He was a tax collector—a notorious sinner in that day. But Jesus came to him as he sat at his tax office and said, “Follow Me”. Matthew immediately left everything and followed Jesus. You and I have read often from his Gospel—the Gospel of Matthew.

It wasn’t long afterward that Matthew put on a big dinner in Jesus’ honor. And he invited all of his tax collector friends to come and meet his Savior. From the standpoint of a truly ‘religious person’, it was quite a gathering of crooks and scoundrels and gangsters. They hadn’t had time to ‘clean up their act’ before meeting Jesus. But they all loved gathering around Him; and they felt welcomed by Him. I believe they discovered that He loved them and wanted them to come to Him.

But the religious leaders were upset and offended by it. We’re told—in Matthew 9:11-13;

And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:11-13).

That’s the attitude of God toward those who truly prepare their hearts to seek Him—even if they don’t have their lives all cleaned up first—even if they aren’t in absolute conformity to the letter of the law yet. He has provided an atonement for them in Jesus Christ; and He welcomes them to come to Him.

May we learn to have this same attitude toward the needy people who seek God’s love and mercy. And may we ourselves never hold back from coming to Him and being reconciled to Him—no matter how messy our lives may be—as the imperfect worshipers of a perfect Savior.

That’s truly what revival looks like!

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