Read: 2 Chronicles 30-32 and Psalm 84
King Hezekiah was eager to reform Israel (those who were not swept away by the Assyrians) and Judah. He worked hard to get them back on track. He knew that they needed to gather in numbers in order to gain momentum — they needed what we refer to as church.
Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 Chronicles 30:1
His couriers were not well received as they spread the news of Hezekiah’s plans to gather and celebrate Passover; however, some did hear, some did understand. Eventually, large crowd gathered to celebrate the Lord’s deliverance in the Passover feast. So many, in fact, that they were not all properly consecrated–they didn’t have time to go through all of the ritual cleaning steps. Hezekiah asked God to overlook this issue for their hearts were turned toward Him and the Lord heard and healed his people.
The festival went on for 7 days and then they decided to carry on for another 7 days.
There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place. 2 Chronicles 30:26-27
Strengthened as a community of believers, they went out and destroyed the idols and Asherah poles that had become the center of worship. Together they were resolved. While individually they might be wonderful followers of the Lord, but Hezekiah knew that they needed to gather as a congregation, as a group, in order to change the evil ways of generations.
The people voluntarily brought their tithes to the temple; heaps of things!
Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, “Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.” 2 Chronicles 31:9-10
They distributed contributions among the Levites so they could focus on serving the Lord in the temple. They wanted their staff to be free from distraction, to concentrate on serving the Lord as Moses outlined.
In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21
The Assyrians are watching this transformation and began their military campaigns against Judah. Sennacherib king of Assyria thought he could sweep away Hezekiah and his people like he had successfully done with the northern kingdom, the people of Israel.
Hezekiah was confident that God was with them so he encouraged his people:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2 Chronicles 32:7-8
Sennacherib continued to attempt to defeat God’s people, but his psychological warfare was ineffective:
Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my predecessors. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!” 2 Chronicles 32:15
Hezekiah and Isaiah cried out to the Lord for help and God answered their prayers in a mighty way, he sent an angel who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king (2 Chronicles 32:21).
In just a few verses the battles are summarized, but this was hugely significant. With no mention of army vs army, the Assyrians are defeated. Hezekiah’s fame grew and so did his pride. Though we’re not privileged to many details, we simply read that his heart was proud, then he repented and the Lord relented.
There are many great lessons in today’s text. I really appreciate how Hezekiah boldly rallied the people around the celebration of the Passover. As we prepare for Easter 2017, I pray we will boldly invite people to church, to the gathering of God’s people, to hear the message of the cross. It’s not enough to sit in our homes and nod our heads in agreement, united together we need to gather and celebrate the Risen Savior.