2226.) 2 Chronicles 36

November 13, 2017

“The Destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar” by William Brassey Hole

2 Chronicles 36   (NLT)

These last four kings are treated almost as a single unit, and indeed they have much in common. During their reigns, Judah was effectively under the control first of Egypt and then of Babylon. And, of course, they are all rebellious against the Lord.

Jehoahaz Rules in Judah

1Then the people of the land took Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him the next king in Jerusalem.

2 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months.

2 Kings 23:20 records that “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

3 Then he was deposed by the king of Egypt, who demanded that Judah pay 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold as tribute.

Jehoiakim Rules in Judah

4The king of Egypt then installed Eliakim, the brother of Jehoahaz, as the next king of Judah and Jerusalem, and he changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Then Neco took Jehoahaz to Egypt as a prisoner.

5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.

One of the main sources of information about Jehoiakim is the book of Jeremiah, which deals in much more detail with what is quickly covered here.

6 Then King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and captured it, and he bound Jehoiakim in bronze chains and led him away to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the treasures from the Temple of the Lord, and he placed them in his palace in Babylon.

8 The rest of the events in Jehoiakim’s reign, including all the evil things he did and everything found against him, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. Then his son Jehoiachin became the next king.

Jehoiachin Rules in Judah

“The Submission of Jehoiachin to Nebuchadnezzar” by William Brassey Hole

9Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. Jehoiachin did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.

10 In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon. Many treasures from the Temple of the Lord were also taken to Babylon at that time. And Nebuchadnezzar installed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, as the next king in Judah and Jerusalem.

It was under this king that the first major deportation to Babylon took place.

Zedekiah Rules in Judah

11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord. 13He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.

The book of Jeremiah depicts Zedekiah as an insecure, weak, hunted man, under pressure from his political “hawks” to resist Babylon, yet not unwilling to appeal to Jeremiah and hear his message of non-resistance.

Jeremiah 38:19-26   (NIV)

King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”

“They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the LORD by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.  But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD has revealed to me:  All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:

   “‘They misled you and overcame you—
   those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
   your friends have deserted you.’

“All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down.”

Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die.  If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’”

14 Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

This is beyond the pale — that they would do wrong in defiance of the clear knowledge of what is right.

Luke 16:31   (ESV)

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

The Fall of Jerusalem

17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. The Babylonians killed Judah’s young men, even chasing after them into the Temple. They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 The king took home to Babylon all the articles, large and small, used in the Temple of God, and the treasures from both the Lord’s Temple and from the palace of the king and his officials. 19 Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value. 20The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

Illustration by Marie Odile de Laforcade, 1991

21 So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.

“The Deportation to Babylon” by Eric de Saussure, 1968.

The ax falls! The final devastation of Judah by Babylon is one of the decisive events in the whole history of Israel, surpassing any of the other “exiles” which the Chronicler has reported in the course of his account. It was, indeed, one of the stimuli which resulted ultimately in modern Judaism, because it taught the Jews how to live without Temple or political status. Independence would not be theirs again (with the exception of the remarkable Maccabean renaissance between the decline of Greece and the rise of Rome), even though Temple and religious liberty would be regained after the return from Babylon.

The Chronicler is well aware of all this. He has allowed as much by virtue of the place given to Huldah’s prophecy (34:23ff) and to the telescoping of this final chapter, which gives to the Babylonian captivity the intensity of a climax. For his readers in the post-exilic community, all his previous demonstrations of the possibility of restoration from the utmost ignominy and distress are now brought to bear upon their own experience. The Chronicler’s desire for his people is that they rise above defeatism and see that the securing of a glorious future is within their grasp if they will only take the road of obedience.

So in the reference to the land “enjoying its Sabbaths,” the exile is interpreted as a “catching-up” period. And the decree of Cyrus permitting the Jews in Babylon to return to their homeland ends the book on a high note.

–J. G. McConville

Cyrus Allows the Exiles to Return

22In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

23 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!”

There has been discussion of the question whether the Chronicler has a messianic message. Some have said that it is intended to preserve a Temple-centred status quo. It can be no accident, however, that the Chronicler has made his chief models of obedience and open-ended possibility the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon. He leaves us no hint that he had “inside information” about a coming son of David. Yet it is clear, with hindsight, that all he promised of blessing, wealth, wisdom and the presence of God—not in a Temple but in the human heart—has been finally and dramatically realized in Jesus Christ.

–J. G. McConville

2 Corinthians 6:16   (ESV)

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

   “I will make my dwelling among them
and walk among them,

   and I will be their God,
   and they shall be my people.”

THE END OF 2 CHRONICLES

_________________________

Music:

Why must the Jews return to Jerusalem? Because the prophecy says that the Messiah will be born — not in Babylon — but in Judea! Grace is never far away!

HERE is a beautiful piece. From Vespers (All-Night Vigil), by Sergei Rachmaninoff, “Lord, Now Lettest Thou.”  A joyful funeral song, if you will.  Sung by the USSR State Academic Russian Choir; listen to the low basses on their descending scale at the end!

As written in the Book of Common Prayer, 1662:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Hole, Destruction.    http://www.orientalism-in-art.org/The-destruction-of-Jerusalem-by-nebuzar-adan-large.html
Hole, Submission.    http://www.orientalism-in-art.org/The-submission-of-Coniah-to-Nebuchadnezzar-large.html
Laforcade.    http://www.carpescriptura.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2-Chronicles-36-The-Exile-of-Babylon-by-Marie-Odile-de-Laforcade.jpg
de Saussure.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/de-saussure-jer-deportation.jpg
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2222.) 2 Chronicles 35

November 7, 2017

At the end of every Passover Seder, Jews around the world say, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

2 Chronicles 35   (NLT)

Josiah Celebrates Passover

1 Then Josiah announced that the Passover of the Lord would be celebrated in Jerusalem, and so the Passover lamb was slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2 Josiah also assigned the priests to their duties and encouraged them in their work at the Temple of the Lord. 3 He issued this order to the Levites, who were to teach all Israel and who had been set apart to serve the Lord: “Put the holy Ark in the Temple that was built by Solomon son of David, the king of Israel. You no longer need to carry it back and forth on your shoulders. Now spend your time serving the Lord your God and his people Israel. 4Report for duty according to the family divisions of your ancestors, following the directions of King David of Israel and the directions of his son Solomon.

Some scholars believe that Josiah was re-enacting the bringing of the ark to the Temple as part of Israel’s covenant renewal with the Lord; it was a symbolic gesture of re-dedication.

5 “Then stand in the sanctuary at the place appointed for your family division and help the families assigned to you as they bring their offerings to the Temple. 6 Slaughter the Passover lambs, purify yourselves, and prepare to help those who come. Follow all the directions that the Lord gave through Moses.”

One of the main features of the Passover was the sacrifice of a lamb for each household (Exodus 13:43-49). This meant a significant amount of work for the priests.

7 Then Josiah provided 30,000 lambs and young goats for the people’s Passover offerings, along with 3,000 cattle, all from the king’s own flocks and herds. 8 The king’s officials also made willing contributions to the people, priests, and Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the administrators of God’s Temple, gave the priests 2,600 lambs and young goats and 300 cattle as Passover offerings. 9 The Levite leaders—Conaniah and his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, as well as Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad—gave 5,000 lambs and young goats and 500 cattle to the Levites for their Passover offerings.

10 When everything was ready for the Passover celebration, the priests and the Levites took their places, organized by their divisions, as the king had commanded. 11 The Levites then slaughtered the Passover lambs and presented the blood to the priests, who sprinkled the blood on the altar while the Levites prepared the animals. 12 They divided the burnt offerings among the people by their family groups, so they could offer them to the Lord as prescribed in the Book of Moses. They did the same with the cattle. 13 Then they roasted the Passover lambs as prescribed; and they boiled the holy offerings in pots, kettles, and pans, and brought them out quickly so the people could eat them.

14 Afterward the Levites prepared Passover offerings for themselves and for the priests—the descendants of Aaron—because the priests had been busy from morning till night offering the burnt offerings and the fat portions. The Levites took responsibility for all these preparations.

“St. Benedict and his monks eating in the refectory” by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (1477-1549)

The clergy have worked hard all day, serving others. At last it is their turn to eat. As my mother would often pray, “We thank you for work to do, and strength with which to do it.”

_________________________

Music:

Which reminds me of another feast — God prepares food and drink for us who have been out trying to do the “good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

HERE  Matt Redman sings “Remembrance (Communion Song).”

_________________________

15 The musicians, descendants of Asaph, were in their assigned places, following the commands that had been given by David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, the king’s seer. The gatekeepers guarded the gates and did not need to leave their posts of duty, for their Passover offerings were prepared for them by their fellow Levites.

16 The entire ceremony for the Lord’s Passover was completed that day. All the burnt offerings were sacrificed on the altar of the Lord, as King Josiah had commanded. 17 All the Israelites present in Jerusalem celebrated Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. 18 Never since the time of the prophet Samuel had there been such a Passover. None of the kings of Israel had ever kept a Passover as Josiah did, involving all the priests and Levites, all the people of Jerusalem, and people from all over Judah and Israel. 19 This Passover celebration took place in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign.

Here is a huge gathering of the population in Jerusalem. It requires an effort of the imagination for us in the modern western world to picture such a scene, through if we have seen, even on film or television, an Islamic haj, we shall be on the right lines. Jerusalem in Josiah’s day was not a large city. The convergence upon it for the entire population of Judah, for the purposes of worship centred on the Temple, must have taken possession of it. Local people braced themselves for the influx, and perhaps prepared to cater for it. Then they began to arrive, family after extended family, tired from journeys of which some at least had been long especially in view of the conditions under which people travelled, though it is clear that food was going to be no problem in view of the rich provision by king, princes, and priests for the feast itself. People no doubt provided for themselves, picnic fashion, until the main event got under way.

The problems posed in such a situation, however, paled into insignificance beside the grandeur and evocative power of it all. Here the Israelite began to see, or saw again, what it was to be Israel. The peasant who worked his own piece of land for most of the year to keep his little family alive knew that he was of the greater family of God, a son of Abraham, belonging to the chosen people that now pressed upon the House that marked the presence among them of the One who had given them their land and who underwrote their whole existence. The thought and conversation of each were dominated by Passover.

That which characterizes the people of God essentially is their knowledge of his past faithfulness to them, and their hope that that knowledge is a guarantee of future security, understood by the Christian in terms of eternity. The worship and open acknowledgment of him as a people together functions today as it did in ancient Israel—though the outer form of both people and worship is necessarily different—to create and sustain that self-understanding.

–J. G. McConville

Josiah Dies in Battle

“The Death of King Josiah at Megiddo” by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917)

20 After Josiah had finished restoring the Temple, King Neco of Egypt led his army up from Egypt to do battle at Carchemish on the Euphrates River, and Josiah and his army marched out to fight him.

This was part of the geopolitical struggle between the declining Assyrian Empire and the emerging Babylonian Empire. The Assyrians made an alliance with the Egyptians to protect against the growing power of the Babylonians. One must wonder why Josiah was so committed to supporting the Assyrians . . . even when the King of Egypt tells him not to!

21But King Neco sent messengers to Josiah with this message:

“What do you want with me, king of Judah? I have no quarrel with you today! I am on my way to fight another nation, and God has told me to hurry! Do not interfere with God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”

22 But Josiah refused to listen to Neco, to whom God had indeed spoken, and he would not turn back. Instead, he disguised himself and led his army into battle on the plain of Megiddo. 23 But the enemy archers hit King Josiah with their arrows and wounded him. He cried out to his men, “Take me from the battle, for I am badly wounded!”

24 So they lifted Josiah out of his chariot and placed him in another chariot. Then they brought him back to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried there in the royal cemetery. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him. 25 The prophet Jeremiah composed funeral songs for Josiah, and to this day choirs still sing these sad songs about his death. These songs of sorrow have become a tradition and are recorded in The Book of Laments.

On account of this verse, the book of Lamentations in the Bible has traditionally been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah.

26 The rest of the events of Josiah’s reign and his acts of devotion (carried out according to what was written in the Law of the Lord), 27 from beginning to end—all are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

Now the last “good king” is dead. Nothing will stop the coming catastrophe.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Next year in Jerusalem.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/jerusalemgraphic.jpg
Passover lamb.   http://www.rapture5770-5775.com/PASSOVER%20LAMB.jpg
Bazzi.    http://cbertel.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/st-benedict-eating-with-his-monks.jpg?w=450&h=590
Hole.    http://www.orientalism-in-art.org/The-death-of-king-Josiah-at-Megiddo.html
Lamentations.   http://chinochurchofchrist.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Lamentations-jpeg-title.jpg

2191.) 2 Chronicles 34

September 25, 2017

2 Chronicles 34   (NLT)

Josiah Rules in Judah

Josiah was eight years old when he became king,

So young a king because his father had been assassinated.

and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 2He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.

3 During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then in the twelfth year he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images. 4 He ordered that the altars of Baal be demolished and that the incense altars which stood above them be broken down. He also made sure that the Asherah poles, the carved idols, and the cast images were smashed and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the pagan priests on their own altars, and so he purified Judah and Jerusalem.

The variety of idols described:  This shows how deep idolatry was in Judah. There were idols dedicated to Baal and to Asherah (2 Kings 23:4) and to all the host of heaven (2 Kings 23:5) in the very temple itself (2 Kings 23:4). From the 2 Kings account, it seems that Josiah began the cleansing reforms at the center and worked outwards.

–David Guzik

6 He did the same thing in the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, and in the regions all around them. 7 He destroyed the pagan altars and the Asherah poles, and he crushed the idols into dust. He cut down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Finally, he returned to Jerusalem.

By now, the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians.  Josiah was able to extend his reforms to those Israelites who were still remaining.

8 In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple, Josiah appointed Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of Jerusalem, and Joah son of Joahaz, the royal historian, to repair the Temple of the Lord his God. 9 They gave Hilkiah the high priest the money that had been collected by the Levites who served as gatekeepers at the Temple of God.

Josiah directs the workers to rebuild the Temple.

Josiah understood that the work of repair and rebuilding the temple needed organization and funding. He paid attention to both of these needs when he gave Hilkiah oversight over this restoration work of the temple. As a result, the work was done in an organized and faithful manner.

According to Jeremiah 1:1-2, the prophet Jeremiah was the son of this particular priest Hilkiah.  

The gifts were brought by people from Manasseh, Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, as well as from all Judah, Benjamin, and the people of Jerusalem.

10 He entrusted the money to the men assigned to supervise the restoration of the Lord’s Temple. Then they paid the workers who did the repairs and renovation of the Temple. 11 They hired carpenters and builders, who purchased finished stone for the walls and timber for the rafters and beams. They restored what earlier kings of Judah had allowed to fall into ruin.

12 The workers served faithfully under the leadership of Jahath and Obadiah, Levites of the Merarite clan, and Zechariah and Meshullam, Levites of the Kohathite clan. Other Levites, all of whom were skilled musicians, 13 were put in charge of the laborers of the various trades. Still others assisted as secretaries, officials, and gatekeepers.

Hilkiah Discovers God’s Law

14 While they were bringing out the money collected at the Lord’s Temple, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that was written by Moses. 15Hilkiah said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan.

Traditionally this scroll has been thought to be (part of) the book of Deuteronomy.  Huldah’s upcoming reference to all the curses could correspond to Deut. 27:15ff.  Josiah’s celebration of the Passover could arise from Deut. 16.

16 Shaphan took the scroll to the king and reported, “Your officials are doing everything they were assigned to do. 17 The money that was collected at the Temple of the Lord has been turned over to the supervisors and workmen.” 18 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king.

19 When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. 20 Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: 21 “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for all the remnant of Israel and Judah. Inquire about the words written in the scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger has been poured out on us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord. We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do.”

John 16:8   (NIV)

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

22 So Hilkiah and the other men went to the New Quarter of Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, the keeper of the Temple wardrobe.

We know little of this woman other than this mention here (and the similar account recorded in 2 Kings 22:14). With the apparent approval of King Josiah, Hilkiah the priest consulted this woman for spiritual guidance. It wasn’t only because of her own wisdom and spirituality; she was recognized as a prophetess and could reveal the heart and mind of God. Certain Jewish traditions indicate that a woman was chosen to speak this prophecy since she would deliver the message with compassion.

The picture of Huldah above is actually a quilt by Julie Duschack.

23 She said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken! Go back and tell the man who sent you, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this city and its people. All the curses written in the scroll that was read to the king of Judah will come true. 25 For my people have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done. My anger will be poured out on this place, and it will not be quenched.’

26 “But go to the king of Judah who sent you to seek the Lord and tell him: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the message you have just heard: 27 You were sorry and humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this city and its people. You humbled yourself and tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the Lord. 28 So I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died and been buried in peace. You yourself will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this city and its people.’”

So they took her message back to the king.

The tenor of Huldah’s words is that a judgment will fall on Judah because of her chronic sinfulness.  Because of Josiah’s eager submission to God, however, it will not come during his reign.  Josiah’s response to this word is to gather Judah for a great act of covenant renewal, determined that the people be worthy of the mercy received.

–J. G. McConville

Josiah’s Religious Reforms

29 Then the king summoned all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the Levites—all the people from the greatest to the least. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord’s Temple.

How wonderful! The king did this himself! — and especially  since he knew that the revival he was leading would be ineffectual in the long run. Even so, he wanted to do what he could with the time he had.

31 The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. He promised to obey all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll. 32And he required everyone in Jerusalem and the people of Benjamin to make a similar pledge. The people of Jerusalem did so, renewing their covenant with God, the God of their ancestors.

33 So Josiah removed all detestable idols from the entire land of Israel and required everyone to worship the Lord their God. And throughout the rest of his lifetime, they did not turn away from the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

_________________________

Music:

The power of the Word of God! Reading it, speaking it, singing it — I am not a big country music fan, but I lived for several years in the Georgia hometown (Newnan) of country music star Alan Jackson.  HERE  he is singing gospel — “Standing on the Promises of God.” I remember singing this song in a small Lutheran church in Iowa when I was the age of little King Josiah.

Standing on the promises of Christ, my King
Thru eternal ages, let His praises ring
“Glory in the highest,” I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God

Chorus

Standing, standing – Standing on the promises of God, my Savior
Standing, standing – I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail
By the Living Word of God, I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises of Christ, the LORD
Bound to Him eternally by Love’s strong cord
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises, I cannot fall
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my “All in All”
Standing on the promises of God

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
King Josiah and the Law.  http://www.nicholasjackson.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/king-josiah.jpg
Josiah directs the workers.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/josiah-directs.gif
Dead Sea Scroll.   https://images.fineartamerica.com/images/artworkimages/mediumlarge/1/the-ten-commandments-on-the-dead-sea-scrolls-c-h-apperson.jpg
Huldah quilt.   https://dailyoffice.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/huldah-figurativequilt-julieduschack-2004-500.jpg
King Josiah reads the law.   http://www.roadtodamasc.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Second_Book_of_Chronicles_Chapter_34-5_Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media.jpg

2135.) 2 Chronicles 33

July 7, 2017

2 Chronicles 33  (NLT)

Manasseh Rules in Judah

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.

This means that he was born in the last fifteen years of Hezekiah’s life, the additional fifteen years that Hezekiah prayed for (2 Kings 20:6). Those additional fifteen years brought Judah one of its worst kings.

As the Bible commentator C. Knapp said:  “Had this good king been able to foresee the wickedness of his unworthy son, he would doubtless have had no desire to recover from his sickness. Better by far die childless than beget a son such as Manasseh proved to be.”

–David Guzik

2 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 3He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father, Hezekiah, had broken down. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the powers of the heavens and worshiped them.

4 He built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord, the place where the Lord had said, “My name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 He built these altars for all the powers of the heavens in both courtyards of the Lord’s Temple. 6 Manasseh also sacrificed his own sons in the fire in the valley of Ben-Hinnom.

God never asks us to sacrifice our children to him. Instead, he sacrificed his son for us.

He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing his anger.

7 Manasseh even took a carved idol he had made and set it up in God’s Temple,

2 Kings 21:7 tells us that this idol was Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility, who was worshiped through ritual prostitution. This means that Manasseh made the temple into an idolatrous brothel, dedicated to Asherah.

the very place where God had told David and his son Solomon: “My name will be honored forever in this Temple and in Jerusalem—the city I have chosen from among all the tribes of Israel. 8 If the Israelites will be careful to obey my commands—all the laws, decrees, and regulations given through Moses—I will not send them into exile from this land that I set aside for your ancestors.” 9 But Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land.

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. 11 So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. 12 But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!


“Oh! I do not wonder at Manasseh’s sin one half so much
as I wonder at God’s mercy.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

14 After this Manasseh rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, from west of the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley to the Fish Gate, and continuing around the hill of Ophel. He built the wall very high. And he stationed his military officers in all of the fortified towns of Judah. 15 Manasseh also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the Lord’s Temple. He tore down all the altars he had built on the hill where the Temple stood and all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and he dumped them outside the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.

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Music:

Will one of my readers agree to underwrite an American tour for the Oslo Gospel Choir?!  I would love to hear them sing this song in person, and sing it with them, for (as Manasseh now knows) “there is no salvation except in the name of the Lord!”  HERE  is “His Name Will Shine.”

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17 However, the people still sacrificed at the pagan shrines, though only to the Lord their God.

18 The rest of the events of Manasseh’s reign, his prayer to God, and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel. 19 Manasseh’s prayer, the account of the way God answered him, and an account of all his sins and unfaithfulness are recorded in The Record of the Seers. It includes a list of the locations where he built pagan shrines and set up Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself and repented. 20 When Manasseh died, he was buried in his palace. Then his son Amon became the next king.

His true repentance was wonderful, but the consequences of his sin had a definite negative effect on the nation — exile to Babylonia.

2 Kings 24:3-4   (NIV)

Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.

Amon Rules in Judah

21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. 22 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Manasseh, had done. He worshiped and sacrificed to all the idols his father had made. 23But unlike his father, he did not humble himself before the Lord. Instead, Amon sinned even more.

24 Then Amon’s own officials conspired against him and assassinated him in his palace. 25 But the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon, and they made his son Josiah the next king.

In the northern kingdom, assassins usually proclaimed themselves the new rulers. Here in the southern kingdom, however, the people stood up for what was right and kept the line of David on the throne.

Psalm 89:3-4   (NIV)

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
Selah

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 113:3.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/ps113-3.gif
Manasseh sacrifices his son to Molech.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/manassah_sacrifices_tomoloch.jpg
mercy morning.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/mercymorning1.jpg

2126.) 2 Chronicles 32

June 26, 2017

“The Downfall of Sennacherib” by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

2 Chronicles 32   (NLT)

Assyria Invades Judah

1 After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. 2 When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military advisers, and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. 4They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?”

(Read more about this water project below.)

5 Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields. 6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! 8 He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

King Sennacherib of Assyria

9While King Sennacherib of Assyria was still besieging the town of Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah and all the people in the city:

10 “This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? 11 Hezekiah has said, ‘The Lord our God will rescue us from the king of Assyria.’ Surely Hezekiah is misleading you, sentencing you to death by famine and thirst! 12 Don’t you realize that Hezekiah is the very person who destroyed all the Lord’s shrines and altars? He commanded Judah and Jerusalem to worship only at the altar at the Temple and to offer sacrifices on it alone.
13 “Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power? 14 Which of their gods was able to rescue its people from the destructive power of my predecessors? What makes you think your God can rescue you from me? 15 Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you! Don’t let him fool you like this! I say it again—no god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!”

Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

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Music:

We know what King Sennacherib did not — that God our God is almighty, eternal, gracious, just, and able to rescue us to the uttermost!  HERE  Don Moen sings “There Is None Like You.”

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16 And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult. 17 The king also sent letters scorning the Lord, the God of Israel. He wrote, “Just as the gods of all the other nations failed to rescue their people from my power, so the God of Hezekiah will also fail.” 18 The Assyrian officials who brought the letters shouted this in Hebrew to the people gathered on the walls of the city, trying to terrify them so it would be easier to capture the city. 19 These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands.

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers.

Psalm 34:7 (ESV)

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword.

22 That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land. 23 From then on King Hezekiah became highly respected among all the surrounding nations, and many gifts for the Lord arrived at Jerusalem, with valuable presents for King Hezekiah, too.

Right: the angel killing the Assyrians, center: Sennacherib departs for the city of Nineveh, left: the death of Sennacherib. From an Italian Bible, c. 1300, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

24 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. 26Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime.

27 Hezekiah was very wealthy and highly honored. He built special treasury buildings for his silver, gold, precious stones, and spices, and for his shields and other valuable items. 28 He also constructed many storehouses for his grain, new wine, and olive oil; and he made many stalls for his cattle and pens for his flocks of sheep and goats. 29 He built many towns and acquired vast flocks and herds, for God had given him great wealth. 30 He blocked up the upper spring of Gihon and brought the water down through a tunnel to the west side of the City of David. And so he succeeded in everything he did.

This intrepid tourist has waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem. One of the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period, the tunnel is 1750 feet long and brings water from one side of the city to the other. The tunnel was discovered in modern times in 1838 by Edward Robinson (if you have been to Jerusalem:  the same Robinson as Robinson’s Arch, Temple Mount).

31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.

Summary of Hezekiah’s Reign

32 The rest of the events in Hezekiah’s reign and his acts of devotion are recorded in The Vision of the Prophet Isaiah Son of Amoz, which is included in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33 When Hezekiah died, he was buried in the upper area of the royal cemetery, and all Judah and Jerusalem honored him at his death. And his son Manasseh became the next king.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Rubens.    http://www.peterpaulrubens.net/images/gallery/the-defeat-of-sennacherib.jpg
King Sennacherib.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3319/3619742068_d67fcf2886.jpg
Italian Bible picture.    http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=112308&handle=li
Hezekiah’s Tunnel.    http://www.greatcommission.com/israel/HezekiahTunnelByCandleLightWithoutGuide.jpg

2124.) 2 Chronicles 31

June 22, 2017

King Hezekiah re-establishes regular worship on a proper footing, and provides for the regular income of the priests and the Levites, all according to the law of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 31   (NLT)

Hezekiah’s Religious Reforms

1When the festival ended, the Israelites who attended went to all the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and they smashed all the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and removed the pagan shrines and altars. After this, the Israelites returned to their own towns and homes.

What Hezekiah had started is now carried out by the people — and not only the people of Judah, but the people of the Northern Kingdom as well! Can you sense that the euphoria of the double Passover celebration continues as places of idolatrous worship are destroyed.

2 Hezekiah then organized the priests and Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to worship and give thanks and praise to the Lord at the gates of the Temple. 3 The king also made a personal contribution of animals for the daily morning and evening burnt offerings, the weekly Sabbath festivals, the monthly new moon festivals, and the annual festivals as prescribed in the Law of the Lord. 4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord.

5 The people of Israel responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced.

King Hezekiah did not present this as an option for the people of Judah. They were commanded to fulfill their obligations under the Law of Moses to support the priesthood through their tithes (Numbers 18:21-24).

As God said in Numbers 18:21, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel. God commanded the tithes (a giving of ten percent of one’s income) be given to the Levites for their support. This establishes the principle that the tithes belong to God (He said I have given, so they are His to give), but He gave them to the Levites.  When an Israelite failed to give their tithe, they were not robbing the Levite. They were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10), because God received the tithe from the giver, and He gave it to the Levite.

Some today think the tithe, since it went to support the Levites (who were, in a sense, government workers in ancient Israel), is covered by government taxes of today, and that free-will giving mentioned in the Old Testament answers to the New Testament emphasis on giving. We can say that the New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light, if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42).

It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic Law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the Law of Moses.

What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9).

Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest); but since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark — and starting place! For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith.

If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” — our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).

–David Guzik

6 The people who had moved to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them up in great heaps. 7 They began piling them up in late spring, and the heaps continued to grow until early autumn. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw these huge piles, they thanked the Lord and his people Israel!

9 “Where did all this come from?” Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites.

10 And Azariah the high priest, from the family of Zadok, replied, “Since the people began bringing their gifts to the Lord’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare. The Lord has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”

11 Hezekiah ordered that storerooms be prepared in the Temple of the Lord.

Hezekiah knew he had to deal responsibly with the gifts that were coming in.  He implements procedures and plans so that everything can be done decently and in order, thereby honoring both God and the generous givers.

When this was done, 12 the people faithfully brought all the tithes and gifts to the Temple. Conaniah the Levite was put in charge, assisted by his brother Shimei. 13 The supervisors under them were Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath, and Benaiah. These appointments were made by King Hezekiah and Azariah, the chief official in the Temple of God.

14 Kore son of Imnah the Levite, who was the gatekeeper at the East Gate, was put in charge of distributing the voluntary offerings given to God, the gifts, and the things that had been dedicated to the Lord. 15 His faithful assistants were Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah. They distributed the gifts among the families of priests in their towns by their divisions, dividing the gifts fairly among old and young alike. 16 They distributed the gifts to all males three years old or older, regardless of their place in the genealogical records. The distribution went to all who would come to the Lord’s Temple to perform their daily duties according to their divisions. 17 They distributed gifts to the priests who were listed by their families in the genealogical records, and to the Levites twenty years old or older who were listed according to their jobs and their divisions. 18 Food allotments were also given to the families of all those listed in the genealogical records, including their little babies, wives, sons, and daughters. For they had all been faithful in purifying themselves.

19 As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who were living in the open villages around the towns, men were appointed by name to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to all the Levites listed in the genealogical records.

20 In this way, King Hezekiah handled the distribution throughout all Judah, doing what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God. 21 In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

Matthew 6:33   (King James Version)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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Music:

HERE,  in his song, “I Refuse,” Josh Wilson encourages us to step up to the plate and do what God wants done, as Hezekiah did in this chapter.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
appreciation.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/200×150/14/27/13/1427134593121cd0cff18fe0cd09f8de.jpg
10%.   http://socialnorms.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ten-706887_1280.jpg
piles of grain.   https://thedailychapter.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/grain-piles-market-harvest.jpg
the kingdom of God.    http://cpointechurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/kingdom_of_god_795x300.jpg

2123.) 2 Chronicles 30

June 21, 2017

The Passover, or Seder, plate of today usually includes a hard-boiled egg (then going clockwise), lettuce, a roasted lamb shank,  charoset (a mixture of apples, wine, nuts, and spices), bitter herbs (often horseradish), and parsley (to dip in salt water).

2 Chronicles 30   (NLT)

Preparations for Passover

1 King Hezekiah now sent word to all Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters of invitation to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. He asked everyone to come to the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel.

The Passover is significant from the Chronicler’s point of view for two reasons. First, commemorating as it does Israel’s escape from Egypt in her earliest days as a nation (Exodus 12f.), it comes to symbolize release from the bondage of an overlord in more general ways. As he moves towards the story of the fateful Babylonian captivity, he lays stress on the fact that this need not be the end of the nation. In the Chronicler’s day, the story would have sown hope of a still future resurgence of Israel from under the yoke of Persia.

The second major point which the Chronicler makes out of Hezekiah’s Passover concerns the nature of Israel. Notice that the king’s appeal is not to Judah alone, but to “all Israel and Judah.” The point is stressed by the reference to letters written to Ephraim and Manasseh. As it was under David and Solomon, the people are invited to be united. Many of the Northern Kingdom had been taken as captives to other parts of the Assyrian Empire; for the Israelites who remained, the only possible link with their historical traditions was via Jerusalem.

–J. G. McConville

2 The king, his officials, and all the community of Jerusalem decided to celebrate Passover a month later than usual. 3They were unable to celebrate it at the prescribed time because not enough priests could be purified by then, and the people had not yet assembled at Jerusalem.

4 This plan for keeping the Passover seemed right to the king and all the people. 5 So they sent a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north, inviting everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The people had not been celebrating it in great numbers as required in the Law.

6 At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah.  They carried letters that said:

“O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings.

The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen and all that remained after exile to the Assyrians was the remnant of you who have survived. Yet Hezekiah still believed in the concept of the Children of Israel, those of all the tribes of Israel descended from the great patriarchs.

–David Guzik

(This reminds me of the many Christians in South Korea who hold all-night prayer meetings every Wednesday night to pray for their fellow Koreans in the North, who are suffering so terribly under the leadership of the last several decades. Such self-sacrificing love for their brothers and sisters whom they cannot reach in tangible ways!)

7 Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. 8 Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you.
9 “For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.”

Celebration of Passover

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Music:

As Hezekiah and his people celebrate a renewal of the Old Covenant, we can rejoice that Jesus has established a New Covenant. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is still true that “the Lord your God is gracious and merciful.”  HERE  is a beautiful Passover song — “New Covenant”  by the artist Shira. She is a grandmother from Texas.

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10 The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. 11However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.

Not the response Hezekiah had hoped for —

12 At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord. 13 So a huge crowd assembled at Jerusalem in midspring to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 14 They set to work and removed the pagan altars from Jerusalem. They took away all the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.

15 On the fourteenth day of the second month, one month later than usual, the people slaughtered the Passover lamb.

This shamed the priests and Levites, so they purified themselves and brought burnt offerings to the Temple of the Lord. 16 Then they took their places at the Temple as prescribed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. The Levites brought the sacrificial blood to the priests, who then sprinkled it on the altar.

17 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. 18 Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those 19 who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.

“It was a motley crowd which assembled, and multitudes of the people were utterly ignorant of the Divine arrangements for preparation. Hezekiah’s tenderness was manifested in the pity he felt for these people, and in the prayer he offered on their behalf.”

–G. Campbell Morgan

21 So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem joyously celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments. 22 Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites regarding the skill they displayed as they served the Lord. The celebration continued for seven days. Peace offerings were sacrificed, and the people gave thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

23 The entire assembly then decided to continue the festival another seven days, so they celebrated joyfully for another week. 24 King Hezekiah gave the people 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats for offerings, and the officials donated 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. Meanwhile, many more priests purified themselves.

Psalm 50:23   (NIV)

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son. 27 Then the priests and Levites stood and blessed the people, and God heard their prayer from his holy dwelling in heaven.

These are the words God gave the first High Priest Aaron to use when blessing the people.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Passover seder plate.    http://www.reformjudaism.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_inline_image/public/%E2%80%A2SederPlate_silh_color_preview.png?itok=WEtSf92o
lamb.    http://www.lauriedonahue.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lamb.jpg
offering plate.    http://ugospel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/church-offering-plate-300×199.jpg
“May the Lord bless you  . . . ”   calligraphy by Timothy Botts.    http://www.prestoimages.net/graphics07/1098_pd320419_1.jpg