OT: 2 Chron. 30:1-31:21
Hezekiah continues his roll today, with the celebration of the Passover. And yes, it was a cool story, and I got a lot out of it. But...didn't Kings say that Josiah was the first king to celebrate the Passover? I looked it up to be sure:
"The king [Josiah] gave this order to all the people: 'Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.' Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed" (2 Kings 23:21-22).
Yeah so...about that...
Well, not to be nitpicky, but the Kings passage does say, "any such Passover." Maybe that was the first really widespread one. Even though this one seemed big in the reading, the text also made clear that many people throughout the country ridiculed the orders and didn't participate (10).
Any other thoughts? (And Dr. Camp, if you are reading this, you might as well comment and explain, b/c you'll be getting an email soon:).)
Okay, but about the story. I'm feeling very impressionistic tonight, so I'm going to record the impressions that the text made on me, which may or may not have a lot to do with the actual story:
--30:6-9--At first, I wasn't a huge fan of the wording of Hezekiah's orders. He seemed to be admonishing the people to celebrate the Passover b/c of what they would get out of it, namely that "your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land" (9). I'm not so big on following God for what you get out of it. I think that, ideally, we follow God b/c it is what we were designed to do, b/c He is our Creator and we have a natural longing for Him. We follow Him so that we can be with Him. And that's what heaven is. I kind of think that all our lovely thoughts and descriptions about the physical wonders of heaven are just a crude, earthly way of describing full communion with God. That is what we truly long for.
But then I got to chastising myself for my high and mighty thoughts about the poor Israelites whose families were carried off into captivity. If that had happened to my family, I would have celebrated a hundred Passovers to get them back. I don't fault them for seeking to get their families back. In fact, reading this passage, I found myself briefly overwhelmed by all the suffering in the world, past and present, and the atrocities that people experience. I have absolutely no grasp of that reality. (Full disclosure: this whole thought process was partly brought on by a horrific cover of Time magazine that I saw today.) It made me realize again how many people are reaching out to God to save them from drowning, while I am sitting on my secure rock of blessing. Instead of judging them, maybe I should throw them a line. Maybe that's why God put me on the rock in the first place.
--30:12--This verse says that "the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind." I wonder how God's hand worked in that instance. I wonder b/c I have often pondered lately whether or not God does that today. Specifically, I wonder if God is doing that with the idea of "the kingdom of God." That idea has been very much on my heart, and I can even pinpoint when it started. It was in the early spring of 2009, when our church had this big focus on prayer and talked a lot about the Lord's prayer. I became completely consumed with the phrase, "Your kingdom come, your will be done," and I have been obsessed with finding out about and living in God's kingdom ever since. And it seems that I am not alone in that. So many books I read these day use the terminology of "the kingdom of God, " and draw radical pictures of that kingdom that are similar to my own. And it makes me wonder if I have just been subtly influenced by them, or if the kingdom is something that God is placing on more and more people's hearts these days. So again, what does God's unity-working hand look like?
--30:18-20--This is my absolute favorite. It was pointed out to me by my one youth intern in high school, and though I loved it for years afterward, I had pretty much forgotten about it. It was fun to rediscover today. Even though the people broke God's rules and worshiped the wrong way, "Hezekiah prayed from them, saying, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God...even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary" (18-19). And God did! Huzzah! There is so much hope to be gleaned from this passage about the nature of God and about how He judges us. And it shows that earnestly seeking God is much more important than getting everything exactly right. Now, I do think that when we seek God, He leads us more and more deeply into truth, but I have also seen so many different conceptions of truth by God-fearing people that this verse gives me immense hope for all of us.
NT: Romans 15:1-22
Paul carries on the theme of unity from Romans 14. He tells us that we are supposed to serve each other, and specifically, that the strong are supposed to serve the weak (1-2).
I especially loved our highlighted verse, in which Paul prays, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5-6). First of all, that tied in beautifully to our OT passage, in which the hand of God did give the people unity so that they could glorify Him as one. And again, Romans 14 gives a beautiful blueprint of how unity can be attained in the kingdom today, despite our myriad of differences. Now, I know that not all our differences can be solved by Romans 14 (there is such a thing as heresy, after all), but at the very least, I'm sure that we can achieve powerful unity within our individual churches. I love how my church is so much of a unified family, and I look forward to seeing how that unity will continue to bring glory to God in the future.
I also love verse 13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When I was a teenager, one of my mentors in the faith wrote that verse in a note to me when I was really discouraged, and to this day, the verse never fails to cheer me up.
Thinking of Hezekiah's prayer in the OT, I was struck by how, like Hezekiah, David just blatantly throws himself on God's mercy here. He prays, "Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord." I think it is interesting that in his plea for mercy, David appeals to God's goodness, not his. He knows his hands are dirty, but he also knows that he is seeking God with all his heart, and he has the confidence to trust God for the rest. I like that concept.
Proverbs 20: 13-15
Verse 13 says, "Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare." I get what the proverb is saying, but it was not a welcome piece of advice tonight, as I am soooo sleepy right now:).