by Eddie Short
2 Chronicles 30:1:13
I really like food. I’m going to go right ahead and admit it! I like eating; all kinds of food from takeaway pizza to gourmet cuisine. But what I like even more than food is sharing a meal. Whether it’s with family, friends or even new acquaintances, I think there’s something unique about eating a meal together that creates connection which goes beyond the superficial.
As we continue our series looking at the story of Hezekiah, we’ll be focussing on an occasion that involved the king gathering his people together to share a meal. But before we dive into the story, a little bit of background would be useful. For that we need to look even further back in the Old Testament to the second book of the bible, Exodus.
The Israelites, God’s chosen people, are slaves in Egypt. The people cry out to God asking Him to free them, he hears their prayers and chooses a reluctant hero, Moses, to lead them out of oppression. At God’s instruction, Moses asks Pharaoh, the king of the Egyptians, to let his people go, but Pharoah’s very blunt answer is, “no way!”.
So God sends various signs to show Pharaoh that he means business, but Pharaoh and the Egyptians won’t listen, which means God has to seriously punish them. He tells Moses to instruct each Israelite family to sacrifice a lamb and use its blood to make a mark around the door to their house. During the night God moves through Egypt punishing the Egyptians, but when he comes to a house with a marked door he ‘passes over’ and doesn’t punish the family inside. The next morning, Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go and Moses leads them out of slavery into freedom. From that point on, the Israelites celebrate the ‘Passover’ each year, a festival that remembers and thanks God for delivering them from slavery.
So, with that in mind, let’s turn to story of Hezekiah recounted in 2 Chronicles 30:1 – 13. After his father Ahaz turned his back on God and closed the temple, Hezekiah has come to power as a young man and righted his father’s wrongs. He has restored and reopened the temple and his next order of business is reinstating the celebration of the Passover. He sends out an invitation to come to Jerusalem for the feast and celebration.
This goes out not just to his own people in Judah, but to all the other tribes of Israel. Hezekiah looks beyond his own tribe, and invites all the people to be a part of the festivities, regardless of politics as well as pass hurts and disagreements.
The Passover was traditionally celebrated in the first month of the Hebrew year, but the priests weren’t prepared and the people hadn’t gathered. However, rather than being legalistic, Hezekiah was pragmatic, waiting until everyone was ready and then hosting the Passover in the second month.
The invitation that Hezekiah sends out to the other tribes of Israel receives a mixed reaction. Some people’s response is ‘scorn and ridicule’, but others from across the tribes of Israel accept Hezikiah’s gesture. People gathered together in large numbers to celebrate the Passover and the event was such a success that it was extended for an additional seven days.
However, something happened that could have disrupted the joyous celebration. Some of the people who accepted Hezekiah’s invitation to attend from other tribes didn’t know how to behave! They didn’t follow the rules of ritual cleansing, which should have precluded them from joining in with the feast. But we see in the bible account that both Hezekiah and God are more interested in what was going on in hearts of the people than strict adherence to the rules.