2 chronicles

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2 chronicles

  1. 1. 2 Chronicles – Friday Night Genesis, Friday, April 5, 2013Scripture reading: Isaiah 1:2-4, 11-15I feel like I need to begin tonight with a little disclaimer. I don’t know what your religiousbackground is and what your religious experience has been, but tonight’s topic has thepotential to turn some well established ideas about God, especially ideas about the OldTestament God, on their head. So you can’t say I didn’t warn you!Now that we’re done with the small print, let us turn to the story that we’ll be looking attonight. Our story tonight begins in 2 Chronicles chapter 28 with Judah’s king Ahaz. Thereign of king Ahaz represents one of the dark chapters in Judah’s history. King Ahaz hadgone after other ‘gods’ – you know those idols made of wood, stone and metal that seemto play such a prominent role in the Old Testament. He put up a whole bunch of altars todifferent ‘gods’ all over the place, took out the holy articles from the Temple and insteadfilled the Temple with junk and then eventually closed it down altogether. Since Ahazabandoned God, there was little that God could do for him, and so Ahaz found himself ina whole lot of trouble. It seemed like he was being attacked from every possible side.Even their brothers to the north from the kingdom of Israel added to their woes by givingthem a good routing. This is what the Bible records about the attitude of king Ahaz: “Inhis time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD. He offeredsacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, “Since thegods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will helpme.” But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.” (2 Chronicles 28:22-23).So this was the situation in Judah when king Ahaz died and his son Hezekiahsucceeded him on the throne. With Hezekiah’s accession to the throne, Judah begins awhole new and exciting chapter in its history. “In the first month of the first year of hisreign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. He brought inthe priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said:“Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of theLORD, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.” (2Chronicles 29:3-5). It took the priests and Levites 16 days to clear out and consecratethe Temple so that it was usable again! I mean, can you imagine the state of things sobad that it would take a team of people working 16 days straight to get this church readyfor use again?! But they did get it ready and what followed was Hezekiah and theleaders coming together before God at the Temple with a whole lot of burnt offerings andsin offerings. And so the Bible records “So the service of the temple of the LORD wasreestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about forhis people, because it was done so quickly.” (2 Chronicles 29:35b-36).The next thing Hezekiah wanted to do was to celebrate Passover. “Hezekiah sent wordto all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them tocome to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD,the God of Israel. The king and his officials and the whole assembly in Jerusalemdecided to celebrate the Passover in the second month. They had not been able to
  2. 2. celebrate it at the regular time because not enough priests had consecrated themselvesand the people had not assembled in Jerusalem. The plan seemed right both to the kingand to the whole assembly. They decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel, fromBeersheba to Dan, calling the people to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passoverto the LORD, the God of Israel. It had not been celebrated in large numbers according towhat was written.” (2 Chronicles 30:1-5)Passover, you may remember was the commemoration of the night when God led Israelout of Egypt, when the Angel of Death saw the blood sprinkled on the door posts of theIsraelite households and passed them over. So this was a holiday that commemorated aspecific event and as such it was tied to a specific day. Clear back in Exodus, God gavespecific instructions about the Passover. “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron inEgypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell thewhole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lambfor his family, one for each household.” (Exodus 12:1-3), and then He proceeded to givethem specific instructions on how to prepare the lamb, door posts etc. In verse 14 Hethen says: “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shallcelebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14) Following thiswas more instructions on how to celebrate it and who may celebrate it. Theseinstructions were then repeated in Leviticus 23, Numbers 9 and 28 and Deuteronomy 16and every single time the time specified for the celebration of the Passover was in thefirst month.But, as we have read Hezekiah and his officials decided to celebrate the Passover in thesecond month! You may be forgiven if you expect that what follows in the story islightning bolts from heaven striking Hezekiah or at the very least a prophet coming toHezekiah to express God’s serious displeasure. Because, translated into our language,what Hezekiah was essentially proposing was equivalent to celebrating IndependenceDay on 4th of August instead of 4th of July! And since God gave them this holiday andspecific instructions when, who and how to celebrate it, would you really want to messwith that? I mean, isn’t God all about the rules and following the rules? Are there not stiffpenalties for not following the rules? There are times in the Old Testament when thatcertainly seemed to be the case!But nothing like that happened. Instead the messengers went out all over Judah andalso some tribes of Israel calling people to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And theBible records: “Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbledthemselves and went to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people togive them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, followingthe word of the LORD. A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebratethe Festival of Unleavened Bread in the second month.” (2 Chronicles 30:11-13). Thehand of God was on the people to carry out what the officials have ordered?! Whoa!Wait a minute! So the rules that God set out are being broken and instead ofcondemning, God is actually supporting it?! Like I said at the beginning, this story doesturn a lot of things upside down!
  3. 3. But things get even more mixed up. Many people were not consecrated or ceremoniallyclean. They did some fancy footwork around this by having the consecrated Levitesslaughter their Passover lambs and present their offerings. But then came the eating ofthe Passover meal. Now you couldn’t very well have a Levite eat a meal for you. Sopeople had to eat the Passover themselves. The Bible records that “Although most ofthe many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had notpurified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. ButHezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone whosets their heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of their ancestors—even if they arenot clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah andhealed the people.” (2 Chronicles 30:18-20). What followed was a huge party at thetemple that lasted a whole week. After the week was over, the people decided they hadsuch a good time praising God they would do it for another week! So two weeks ofpartying at God’s house! At the end of the two weeks “The priests and the Levites stoodto bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holydwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 30:27).So let’s recap – they celebrated the Passover at the wrong time, those who weren’tsuppose to eat the Passover ate it and then they had a two week party. And Godcondoned and blessed all this?! How is this possible?It seems that God is completely inconsistent. It was God who gave all those rules andregulations, and we spent a good deal of time laboring through them in the early booksof the Bible. We even saw a number of examples where God dealt quite severely withpeople who broke the rules. After all, isn’t sin breaking the rules? So how come that Hewas now okay with people breaking the rules and even blessed them in doing so? Theclue to unraveling this conundrum is found in our scripture reading from Isaiah 1.“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD.“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals;I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (Isaiah 1:11-14)When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of mycourts? Why, you asked for it God! You prescribed all the offerings, festivals, holidays
  4. 4. and assemblies! So why is it that all of a sudden God is sick and tired of the very thingsthat He asked for? Because it was all a charade.Your hands are full of blood! - He continues.16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” - some translations say ‘let us reason together’, says the LORD.“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:15-20)So what is ultimately important to God? Obviously, just following the rules is not it! TheIsraelites were observing the rules and going through the motions, but obviously it madeno difference in their lives. They were mistreating one another and carrying on with allkinds of evil, and then showing up at the temple, going through the motions andassumed that this made them okay with God. But what God was looking for was arelationship. A life-changing relationship. The meetings at the temple were neverintended to be just actions and phrases that were carried out by rote in order topropitiate the favor of God. They were intended to bring the people into a meaningfulrelationship with God. And as that relationship grew, the people themselves would growinto the image of the God they worshipped. In the beginning people needed a structure,a “standard way” of relating with God as it were. When our kids are young, we put houserules and structures in place to teach them how to relate with us. But the ultimate goalhere is not for them to just follow the rules. It is to enable a relationship that will growwell beyond merely observing the rules. It is the same with God and us. It is not aboutthe rules. Rules are only there to make possible a relationship that is to grow wellbeyond merely following the rules.And that is the key to understanding the apparent discrepancy between God’s actions inthe early books and His response to Hezekiah and the people celebrating the Passoveragainst the rules. In the early books, the only reason someone didn’t follow the rules wasin rebellion. It was like a little kid basically flipping the bird and saying “I’m not going todo it”. And I don’t know how you handle it, but if I had done something like that as a kid,my behind would have been a bit warmer. When Hezekiah and the people celebrated
  5. 5. Passover, there was no such sentiment. In fact, the whole point of that Passover was thereturn of Judah and Israel to God after many years of rebellion. This wasn’t a “screwyou” to God, this was a “we want to come back” to God. It was a whole different attitude!And this is what was important to God. Not that the people were breaking the rules, butthat they were coming back to Him, they were genuinely seeking to re-establish arelationship with Him. It may have been at the wrong time and in the wrong way, but itheld a lot more meaning than just going through the right motions by rote ever couldhave.This story perfectly illustrates for us the nature of sin. Sin is not so much about followingthe rules. It is about attitude. Sin is an attitude of rebellion – flipping God the bird andsaying I don’t want to, I know better, I can do better, leave me alone. Even if we followthe prescribed motions – show up to church every week, say the right phrases andprayers, but we have no interest in what God is saying, let alone in following - it meansnothing. But if we are set on seeking God, getting to know Him and following Him, evenif we are doing it clumsily, not saying the “right” things, not doing the “right” motions, Godultimately honors and values our genuineness far above any ritual.What God is saying in this story is quite simply “Come”. I am not interested in the formso much as I am interesting in the fact that you come to Me. Come and be My childrenonce again. Come and be My friends. In the years to come Hezekiah and the peoplecelebrated the various festivals according to regulations, but what was important at thattime was that they simply came back to God and rejoiced in His presence. And that wassurely worth two weeks of partying! Because once their hearts were turned towards Godand God accepted them their relationship was healed. Healed from years of neglect andoutright rebellion. Their relationship was re-established and it was this relationship thatgave meaning to the festivals that followed which were celebrated “by the book”.I’d like to encourage you tonight that God is not looking for perfect people, followingrules perfectly. He is simply saying “come”. Come any way you know how, no matterhow clumsy it may seem to you – all that God cares about is that you come to Him. Hewill accept you. He will accept and bless your genuine desire to establish or re-establishyour relationship with Him. So don’t let the rules hold you back. Just come.
  6. 6. Passover, there was no such sentiment. In fact, the whole point of that Passover was thereturn of Judah and Israel to God after many years of rebellion. This wasn’t a “screwyou” to God, this was a “we want to come back” to God. It was a whole different attitude!And this is what was important to God. Not that the people were breaking the rules, butthat they were coming back to Him, they were genuinely seeking to re-establish arelationship with Him. It may have been at the wrong time and in the wrong way, but itheld a lot more meaning than just going through the right motions by rote ever couldhave.This story perfectly illustrates for us the nature of sin. Sin is not so much about followingthe rules. It is about attitude. Sin is an attitude of rebellion – flipping God the bird andsaying I don’t want to, I know better, I can do better, leave me alone. Even if we followthe prescribed motions – show up to church every week, say the right phrases andprayers, but we have no interest in what God is saying, let alone in following - it meansnothing. But if we are set on seeking God, getting to know Him and following Him, evenif we are doing it clumsily, not saying the “right” things, not doing the “right” motions, Godultimately honors and values our genuineness far above any ritual.What God is saying in this story is quite simply “Come”. I am not interested in the formso much as I am interesting in the fact that you come to Me. Come and be My childrenonce again. Come and be My friends. In the years to come Hezekiah and the peoplecelebrated the various festivals according to regulations, but what was important at thattime was that they simply came back to God and rejoiced in His presence. And that wassurely worth two weeks of partying! Because once their hearts were turned towards Godand God accepted them their relationship was healed. Healed from years of neglect andoutright rebellion. Their relationship was re-established and it was this relationship thatgave meaning to the festivals that followed which were celebrated “by the book”.I’d like to encourage you tonight that God is not looking for perfect people, followingrules perfectly. He is simply saying “come”. Come any way you know how, no matterhow clumsy it may seem to you – all that God cares about is that you come to Him. Hewill accept you. He will accept and bless your genuine desire to establish or re-establishyour relationship with Him. So don’t let the rules hold you back. Just come.

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