>Judah had been led by many kings by the days of King Hezekiah. Some of them had followed the Lord. Some of them had not. Most who initially followed the Lord eventually turned away from Him as their reigns progressed. Many of the kings who followed the Lord had led their nation in reforms, destroying the centers of pagan worship and instructing the people to purify themselves and worship the Lord. But Hezekiah was different.
Reading through 2 Chronicles 29-31, it is obvious how extensive the pagan influence had imbedded itself in the fabric of life in the nation of Judah. According to 2 Chron 30:15, “the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought offerings to the house of the Lord.” They were ashamed because, according to 29:34, the consecrated priests were so few that they could not keep up with the sacrifices! The other Levites, who “were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests” had to step in and help out. But they all realized through this just how far they had fallen from the high establishment of their tribe’s responsibilities.
There are times when I feel like these priests and Levites. I feel like I have fallen so far away from where I am supposed to be that I am not only ashamed but am crippled in the function of my duties and responsibilities. Sometimes it seems that I can’t climb my way back up!
But there is encouragement found in this story – in fact, the encouragement is found in the very fact of the depth of their shame. In chapter 30, we find these verses: 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. 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. 2 Chron 30:18-21 (NASB)
In most of the reforms the Israelites experienced, there was a return to the right actions – offering sacrifices at the right times in the right places, a return to the Law, and a restoration of favor with God. But Hezekiah realizes something that many of his predecessors missed – action is only valid if it follows a change of heart. Hezekiah led his people to partake in the celebration of the Lord, asking the Lord to forgive them for not being purified first. He asked God to look at their hearts and allow the purification of their hearts to be sufficient until the ceremonial purifications could be performed. And God honored his request.
What an encouragement to know that today, as I learn anew or over again some of the things the Lord desires of me, I don’t have to step up and be perfectly presentable in those areas. I can start from right here, and knowing that having my heart in line with the will of God in those areas is enough – for now. The people still had to be consecrated, and I still have to follow through with actions to support the heart. But, they were and we are allowed to be considered obedient as soon as our hearts turn in that direction.
But, that’s not all! We also get to celebrate! The people didn’t have to wait until they had completed their acts of obedience. They didn’t have to follow each step of the Law first and then come back to party once they had achieved their lofty goal. They were able to celebrate immediately! A change of heart is an incredible victory. Celebrate it! Don’t wait for the action to follow – there will be another celebration for that achievement. Go ahead and celebrate the heart’s decision! And from that celebration, draw the strength, encouragement, and ability to follow the heart into obedience.