Hebrew Highlights 108 Passover 2
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
Today we are going to look at another famous celebration of the Passover from the scriptures. We’ll read it in pieces, and I’ll comment along the way.
2CH 30:1-6, “Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. Thus the thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly. So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed. And the couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the hand of the king and his princes, even according to the command of the king, saying, "O sons of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped and are left from the hand of the kings of Assyria.”
There were various times in Israel’s history when Passover, and indeed the other feasts of the Lord were forgotten. Even the priests did not have their act together, and were not ready in their hearts to perform their sacred duties. Hezekiah came to power during one of those periods, and decided to put things right. One could say that by sending out a royal decree, King Hezekiah was forcing the issue. I prefer to look at it as an invitation to a big party by the royal household; a party in which all of the subjects were invited not only to visit Jerusalem, but to visit God, and remember His great deeds.
2CH 30:13-20, “Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very large assembly. And they arose and removed the altars which were in Jerusalem; they also removed all the incense altars and cast them into the brook Kidron. Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves and consecrated themselves, and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. And they stood at their stations after their custom, according to the law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites were over the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was unclean, in order to consecrate them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary." So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
God had every right to be angry at the people. After all, the celebration of the feasts of the Lord take up a lot of chapters in the law of the Abrahamic covenant. Yet, moved by Hezekiah’s prayer, God not only pardoned their sin, but healed their hearts as well. This Passover celebration was in a sense an unprecedented altar call, at which a large number of people repented, purified themselves, and even tore down the altars to false gods. Many evangelists today would covet bringing virtually an entire nation back to God’s ways, yet this is basically what happened. Let’s continue on with the story.
2CH 30:21-31:1, “And the sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day after day with loud instruments to the Lord. Then Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good insight in the things of the Lord. So they ate for the appointed seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord God of their fathers. Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days, so they celebrated the seven days with joy. For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. And all the assembly of Judah rejoiced, with the priests and the Levites, and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah. So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven. Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the Asherim, and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the sons of Israel returned to their cities, each to his possession.”
It’s really difficult to imagine the preparation and carrying-out of such a grand feast. Even the biggest of conferences held today would not compare to King Hezekiah’s Passover celebration. By the way, when the account reads, “there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon,” we are talking about a difference of 215 years between the reigning periods of the two kings.
One particular point here is almost humorous in its awesomeness. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not easy to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. It is fun for 2 days, tolerable for the next 2, and then becomes a pure act of obedience for the remainder of the feast. Yet the people of Israel were so blessed by the visitation of God during the celebration, that they decided to do it all over again for another 7 days. It became a 2 week prayer and praise conference, remembering God’s miracles and wonders after a long period of forgetting them. And of course, the most beautiful statement of all which winds up this passage is, “their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.” It couldn’t get any better.
Israel in our time is once again observing the Passover in great numbers. In fact, a vast majority of the population celebrate the Seder meal in one form or another. Granted, there are no bulls and sheep being sacrificed. In most cases, the meat on the table will be chicken. However, the other elements are there; the motzah, or unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the wine, etc.
Even more importantly, the deeds of God are remembered, recited, and sung with great fervor and joy. Those who sojourn in the land, the Christians, the foreign workers, and so on, celebrate together with local families, as in the days of Hezekiah. Perhaps the modern state of Israel is getting ready for a time of sanctification and healing. Perhaps next year in Jerusalem we will see many responding to the great altar call.
Carrying out God’s ancient command to celebrate the great feast of Passover is certainly a good start to preparing for a visitation by God the Father. Perhaps very soon, “their voice will be heard and their prayer will come to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.”
Chag Pessach Semeach! Happy Passover from Jerusalem.