Please read 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:1 in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
“A story surfaced from Operation Desert Storm about a soldier who got a ‘Dear John’ letter from his girl; she wrote that they were through. Worse than that, she was getting married to someone else! Adding insult to injury, she wrote, ‘Will you please return my favorite photograph of myself? I need it for my engagement picture in the paper.’
“The poor guy was devastated but not defeated. From every corner of the camp, soldiers handed over extra photos of their girlfriends. There were hundreds of photos. The jilted soldier put all the photos in a shoe box and mailed it home with a note. ‘Please find your picture,’ he wrote, ‘For the life of me, I can’t remember exactly which one you were!!’”
How’s that for making the best of a bad situation? When we think about the Passover, that’s a time when God turned evil into good. And as we’ve seen, at the center of the Passover is the lamb. In the centuries that would follow the first Passover, lambs had died for the sins of the nation.
“Inside the walls of the Temple, two lambs died every day (Exodus 28:29-31), one at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. It had been a sacrifice marked by blood, for the literal meaning of ‘sacrifice’ in Hebrew is, ‘to slit the throat.’
In addition to the twice-a-day sacrifice of lambs, there would have been countless lambs dying on the major Jewish holidays.” (Andy Cook, Lifeway.com)
So our identification of Jesus as the Passover Lamb is an important, even essential biblical image.
Rediscovering the Passover revived the devotion of God’s people.
- A quick history lesson.
Hezekiah served as king over Judah from 715-686 BC. His reign ended 100 years before the Babylonians conquered Judah. 2 Chronicles 29:1-2 tells us he took the throne at age 20 and ruled for 29 years. He had not been on the throne for a month when he reopened the temple (29:3). He brought back the priests and their assistants, the Levites, whom he commanded to purify the temple.
The temple was closed because King Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, was an idolater and a very bad king. He had ordered the temple’s furnishings removed and its doors shuttered (2 Chronicles 28:24-25).
Finally, after purifications, consecrations, and preparations, worship in the temple was restored (29:35). The Passover would be the first sacred day to be observed in the reopened temple
- What we can learn from it.
Worship is supposed to be a unifying act. (30:1, 5-11) Hezekiah invited all the tribes of Israel, even though the northern 10 tribes had already been conquered by the Assyrians and dispersed. Hezekiah may have hoped the unification of the tribes in worship would have political benefits too. Having a secondary motive in no way diminishes Hezekiah’s loyalty to God or what was accomplished in this Passover observance.
We should be eager to worship. (30:2-4) God commanded the Passover be observed on the 14th day of the first month. However, they did not have things ready at that time (the priests were not ready and not enough people had returned to Jerusalem). Rather than wait until next year, they agreed to hold the Passover in the second month.
God directed them to worship. (30:12) THE HAND OF GOD gave them UNITY OF MIND, FOLLOWING THE WORD OF GOD. Unity of mind is something to which all church folk should aspire, and it will only come as we jointly follow Jesus, the Word of God.
Worship required them to purify themselves according to the will of God. (30:13-17) Offerings were made in accordance with the Law and almost everyone complied with ritual purity. The response of the people was so enthusiastic, it made the priests and Levites feel ASHAMED at their relative apathy.
Worship brought healing. (30:18-20) Not everyone kept the Law as they should. Some of the Israelites from the north (30:11) came late and did not undergo the ritual purification. Hezekiah offered a wonderful prayer for their forgiveness and God HEALED THE PEOPLE. This shows us that sometimes ritual needs to be set aside to meet people where they are. After all, the ritual was made for the people, not the other way around. A sincere heart is a more important qualification for worship than ritual purity.
Worship requires follow-through into daily living. (30:21-22, 31:1) Those who came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover followed up with the week-long observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread too. They worshiped the Lord every day of that week. When the time of worship ended and they returned home, they continued the program to get rid of idolatry.
Worship ought to be something we enjoy and want to do. (30:23-27) THE WHOLE ASSEMBLY (23), THE ENTIRE ASSEMBLY (25) found such joy in their worship they wanted to continue it another week! There was nothing in the Law to require or even advise this; their decision to stay together was entirely voluntary. Part of their joy was the knowledge that God was pleased with their worship (27). King Solomon is mentioned here, the builder of the temple. Hezekiah, the temple rebuilder, is compared with Solomon.
Rediscovering the Passover revived the devotion of God’s people.
In 1998 Ray Boltz recorded a song entitled “Watch the Lamb.” It recounts the story of Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha. Here are the lyrics of the latter half of the song:
At first I tried to resist him then his hand reached for his sword.
So I knelt and took the cross from the Lord
I placed it on my shoulder and started down the street
The blood that he’d been shedding was running down my cheek.
They led us to Golgotha. They drove nails deep in His feet and hands.
And yet upon the cross I heard Him pray, “Father, forgive them.”
Oh, never had I seen such love in any other eyes.
“Into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” He prayed, and then He died.
I stood for what seemed like years. I’d lost all sense of time
Until I felt two tiny hands holding tight to mine.
My children stood there weeping. I heard the oldest say
“Father, please forgive us. The lamb ran away.”
“Daddy, Daddy, what did we see here?
There’s so much that we don’t understand.”
So I took them in my arms, and we turned and faced the cross
And then I said, “Dear children, Watch The Lamb.”
(Ray Boltz, 1998, Gaither Music)
Zondervan Bible Commentary,
1 & 2 Chronicles, J. Kier Howard
The Daily Study Bible Series,
I & II Chronicles, J. G. McConville.