|Theme: A Prayer to Uphold Right Motives
|Focus on: Hezekiah
|Reading Portion(s): 2 Chronicles 29 to 31:1, Numbers 9:1 to 12.
|– Important Background Information
|– Helps you find strength in God
|What this article teaches you
|There are times when we may not have done everything right in our pursuit of seeking God, but our hearts had the right motive in seeking Him. In such a situation we can bring our shortcomings to God in prayer and ask Him not to hold it against us. He will certainly hear such a prayer because He is a God who sees the heart and its motives.
The most important lesson here is that we need not wait for every outward arrangement to be proper in seeking God. There are many who postpone seeking God till they get the worship place ready or in very silly terms get their room cleaned and kept perfect. These are good. But they are not the most important things. The most important thing is for the heart to be ready. If its motives are right God accepts your prayers even if outward acts are not done perfectly well.
King Hezekiah was a king who loved God. His godly life helped the nation to come back to God. In this connection it has to be remembered that his father Ahaz had done a lot of evil. Ahaz, towards the end of his reign had shut the doors of the Lord’s temple and set up altars in every street corner in Jerusalem. He had also built high places in every town in Judah to burn sacrifices to other gods.
But when Hezekiah became king he began to bring about reformation in the religious life of the nation even before he concentrated on his other duties as king. In the first month (of the Jewish calendar) of the first year of his reign Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple which his father had closed. He also repaired them.
Then he brought in the priests and Levites and gathered them in an assembly. He called upon them to consecrate themselves and also consecrate the temple of God. In response to his call the priests and Levites consecrated themselves and purified the temple of God. The work was over on the sixteenth day of the month. Early the next day King Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went to the temple of the Lord.
Sin offerings and burnt offerings were sacrificed in the temple. There was also singing and music with instruments. They thus worshipped the Lord and the people brought lots of sacrifices and offerings. Thus the service of the temple was reestablished. The king and the people rejoiced at what God had done for them; because it was done so quickly.
Hezekiah lost no time in using this momentum to bring back the people to God. Even though the time fixed by God (the fourteenth day of the first month) to celebrate the Passover had elapsed; the king and the officials and the entire assembly in Jerusalem decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month. God had, as a rule, permitted the people who could not celebrate the Passover at the appointed time for certain specific reasons to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month.
Some things are worth noting here. The Passover had not been celebrated by the people for a long time. King Hezekiah had sent letters to all the people of Israel. It included the people who were then in the northern kingdom of Israel and ruled by another king. They were going to celebrate the Passover in the second month because not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem at the appointed time.
The couriers who went from town to town with the invitation were scorned and ridiculed. Such was the intensity of wickedness and idolatry in the land that the people did not care about the things of God. Yet some people from the northern kingdom humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. But the people of Judah over whom Hezekiah reigned were given unity of mind by God to carry out the plans of the king and officials.
A large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread; which is a festival that usually follows the Passover beginning on the fifteenth day and lasting for seven days. The excitement and zeal of the people at their return to God was such that they removed and cleared away the altars in Jerusalem and threw them into the Kidron Valley.
The zeal of the people was more compared to the zeal of the priests and Levites. Now they were also ashamed when they saw the zeal of the people. So they also consecrated themselves. When the time came for the Passover lambs to be slaughtered it was found that many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves. So the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean.
So, many of the people who came from the northern kingdom of Israel ate the Passover even though they had not purified themselves. This was a clear violation of God’s commands given through Moses. It could have easily brought the wrath of God upon them.
But Hezekiah prayed to God. It was a prayer specifically seeking God’s pardon for this violation of His laws. It was a very short and straightforward prayer. He asked God in His goodness to pardon everyone who had set his heart on seeking God; the God of their fathers, even though he was not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.
Hezekiah called upon God’s goodness. He knew that no merit of theirs was sufficient to earn God’s pardon. Only God could forgive them for this breach of law out of His goodness. But Hezekiah also knew that this goodness was not available to all. So he specifies that God in His goodness may forgive those who had set their hearts on seeking God.
This was because it was a situation they had not encountered before. The large number of people who had come from the northern kingdom of Israel were not ceremonially clean to keep the Passover and eat of it. But it had to be noted that they came from a land fully given over to idolatry. The land and its kings had forsaken God. Even when the messengers from Hezekiah had gone to their land inviting them to come to observe the Passover many had ridiculed and scorned them. And now this group which had gathered had come in spite of such discouragement. That itself proved that they had set their heart on seeking God.
It was important that these people were encouraged to keep seeking God. If they were not allowed to keep the Passover then for which reason they had come all the way to Jerusalem they might not try to seek God again. Such were the circumstances to which they had to return to. So Hezekiah was bold in praying for them. He was, in its truest sense, asking God to see the real motive of their hearts. He knew that God gave more importance to the motive of the heart than the mere outward observance of the Law. Hezekiah was thus asking God to encourage the people who had come to return to the God of their fathers after a long gap of time.
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people. It speaks of the fact that God heard the prayer to uphold right motives. And He accepted the people’s sacrifices and did not bring His wrath on them for failing to observe the rules and regulations concerned with the Passover.
This incident comes as a great encouragement to those who seek God with all their heart. It may happen that many things may not have been done in the right manner when one started to seek God. But God is more interested in the right motive of the heart. He is interested in someone who sets his heart to seek God. To such God’s goodness is ever available. He can seek God with a prayer to forgive him if there has occurred some omission in his outward duties and services.
By hearing the prayer of Hezekiah, God has given us eternal encouragement to keep on seeking Him with all our heart. He is a God who upholds us when the motives of our heart are right. He forgives even when we have shortcomings on the outside when our motive is to seek Him with all our heart.
We may profit in seeing the final outcome of this prayer. The people not only kept the Passover; but also the Feast of Unleavened Bread for double its time (two weeks instead of one week). There was great joy in Jerusalem among all the people who had gathered there. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people. God heard them because their prayers had reached heaven; His holy dwelling place.
When all this celebration and observances had come to an end the people were filled with a new zeal. So they went out from the presence of the Lord to the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Manasseh and Ephraim. There they destroyed the high places and altars and sacred stones and poles used for worshipping other gods and idols. It was only after this that they returned to their homes.
So we can see that Hezekiah by his reforms and prayer helped a nation and its people to come back to God. It also led to a national reformation.