At midnight on April 13, 2005, church bells and calls to prayer rang out across Beirut, Lebanon. It was the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of a civil war that wracked the country for fifteen years. Beginning that night, the people gathered for a week of commemorative events called "a celebration of national unity," bringing together formerly opposing factions to join in a call for al-haqiqa, or "the truth."
Our reading today takes place after the civil war that led to the division between Israel and Judah. God’s people had become characterized by disunity and disobedience. King Hezekiah of Judah desired to serve and honor the Lord, and he recognized that an essential part of obedience was the observance of Passover as God had commanded.
Hezekiah invited all of Judah and Israel to come celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem as God had instructed (vv. 1, 6). The political reality meant they were two separate countries, but Hezekiah saw the spiritual truth that they were to be unified in worshiping God. Not everyone responded positively, but God worked in hearts so that it was the largest gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover since the days of Solomon (v. 26).
Next, see how God responded. This was not a perfect observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was not held at the right time (v. 3). Not all the people bothered to show up. Those that did attend had not all followed the instructions for purification, including some of the priests and Levites (v. 17–18). Yet Hezekiah asked God to be gracious, and the Lord was true to His character (vv. 9, 20). Finally, see the result of this obedience. Keeping the Passover led to spiritual renewal (v. 14). It also unleashed great joy—see how many times the words joy or rejoice appear in verses 21 through 26!
Apply the Word
Are you tempted to give up following the Lord because you can’t do it perfectly? We serve a gracious, compassionate God who extends mercy. He asks us to obey because He knows the blessings that will result—joy, unity, and spiritual vitality. If there’s an area in which you’ve been disobedient, come back to the Lord today and trust in His grace for you.