2 Chronicles 30:23-27
23 Then the whole assembly agreed to keep the feast another seven days, and they kept it another seven days with gladness.
24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep, and the leaders gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep; and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.
25 The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah.
26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.
27 Then the priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.
The story of the Passover is repeated again and again throughout the whole Bible right up to the night before Jesus’ death. The people of God had been told to never forget what He had done for them during the Exodus from Egypt, and so the memory of the salvation of the Lord persisted among His people. Yes, at times they neglected His commandments and statutes, at times they fell into idolatry and paganism, at times they took the Lord God for granted, and at times many forgot the Passover and what it meant. But God always preserved for Himself a remnant of Israel–a powerful prophet or judge, a few thousand Levites, a king who refused to bow down to Baal–and so the Passover remained with the Israelites and their descendants right through to the modern day.
The symbolism of the Passover persists, too. It is woven throughout the history of God’s people as He has redeemed them from myriad trials and woes, and it is intrinsic to the gospel of Christ. It doesn’t take any real stretch of the imagination to see the connection between the blood of the lambs painted on the homes of the Israelites in Egypt and the blood of Christ that was shed for our sins. It doesn’t take a great theologian to see that the angel of death passing over those blood-stained doorways is exactly the same as you and I being saved from death by the blood-stained Cross of Christ. And it isn’t too much to ask that people see the significance of Christ dying on that Cross right at the end of the traditional Passover feast in Jerusalem. Yes, even we Christians must understand and appreciate the Passover and what it means for our salvation.
Knowing that we are redeemed from death by the blood of the sinless Son of God, should we not then celebrate with Hezekiah and the thousands who came to Jerusalem 2500 years ago to celebrate the first Passover in four generations? Should we not rejoice with them in our salvation? Should we not agree with them to keep the feast until we are spent and have no more energy left to express our thanks to and our joy in the Lord our God?
As the chronicler says, “since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (v.26) That is an historical fact, because the kingdom of Israel had been sundered by rebellion and pride under Solomon’s sons. Truly, Judah and the rest of Israel had not united like this Passover since the time of Solomon himself. But also, while it is true that not all of Israel joined together in peace and humility to celebrate this Passover, there were still so many celebrants and they celebrated for so long that the king himself had to provide more animals for offerings. They didn’t just stop at the normal seven days of the feast but continued ANOTHER seven days!
It amazes me that some modern church services only run forty-five minutes to an hour. Where is the time for worship? Where is the time for the reading of God’s Word? Where is the time for instruction? Where is the time for prayer? Where is the time for confession and repentance? Where is the time for prophecy? Where is the time for fellowship and joy in the Lord? On that day in the reign of Hezekiah, nearly all of Judah and a lot of people from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun, plus “sojourners”–i.e. foreigners–all gathered together in Jerusalem for the Passover, and they celebrated for TWO FULL WEEKS! And yet we would limit people to one hour! Would we so limit God?
This story about this long Passover reminds me of that wonderful scene from the book of Nehemiah, when the people who had returned from the Babylonian exile stood in the square before the Water Gate of Jerusalem and listened to Ezra reading the Word of God “from morning until midday.” (Nehemiah 8:3) A HALF A DAY just listening to the Word! THAT is real worship! THAT is real dedication to God and His Word!
Did these people not have other jobs? Did they not have crops to tend, herds to watch, homes to clean, clothes to mend, products to sell, children to teach, and trades to practice? Yes, of course they did. BUT THEY PUT GOD FIRST. They took the time and set aside their daily lives for longer than God had asked them to. They loved God for a time with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and they did not think it robbery to steal from their daily lives to give time and thanks to God. And they did this not begrudgingly, not with guilt nor shame, not with reluctance nor fear, but with great JOY.
What was the result of all this? I truly love that last verse:
2 Chronicles 30:27 (King James Version)
Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.
“Even unto heaven,” it says. Look at the prayer that Solomon spoke at the dedication of that same temple:
2 Chronicles 6:18-21
18 “But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
19 “Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You:
20 “that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place.
21 “And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.”
King Hezekiah had called for a national feast, a celebration of the Passover, and he had extended that invitation even to his supposed enemies in the kingdom of Israel. Many responded with great fervor for the Lord, and they came and they worshiped the Lord their God with joy. And their prayers went all the way to heaven and “their voice was heard.” And what did God do? He must have done what He always does when people come to Him humbly and in love: He forgave them.
God forgives. God hears our prayers when we approach Him with love and faith. When we come to Him with that “let’s just get this over with” attitude, then He won’t hear a thing we say. But if we approach Him with joy and reverence and hope, then He HEARS, even in heaven, even in His holy dwelling place.
Today, we need not make sacrifices to God to show our repentance and faith. We don’t need burnt offerings nor the blood of lambs to atone for our sins. That sacrifice has been made once for all by Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. But God loves for us to seek Him, loves when we worship and obey Him, and He listens whether we are in church or driving across town, whether we are kneeling in a sanctuary or walking down the street, so long as we ask in complete faith. God listens because we are covered by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, and He hears our prayers in His holy sanctuary because we are praying from our own heart, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to celebrate a week of Passover meals, but we can and we should celebrate our salvation, we can and should approach God with joy in the eternal life He has given us through Christ Jesus His Son.
Let there now be great joy among the people of God. Let there be a time of total separation from the world, a time of sanctification and celebration. Let there be a revival of God’s Holy Spirit in those who have heard the gospel. Let the people lose track of time in their rejoicing over their salvation. And let the prayers of the faithful–the prayers of His saints crying for the redemption of all men–reach beyond the four walls of the churches, beyond the stadiums and tents, beyond the mountaintops and the clouds above, reaching unto the heaven of heavens, even unto the holy dwelling place of the living God. “And when You hear, forgive.”
O Father in heaven, hear our plea! Hear our prayers for the salvation of unbelievers. Hear us as we share our joy in You. Hear us as we lift up holy hands and sing praises to Your name. Hear the songs we sing, the prayers we cannot express in words, the thanks we give through living the gospel of Christ in our daily lives. Hear us, O Lord, as we take joy in Your Son and the gentle yoke He has placed upon us. Hear us, precious Jesus, as we follow after You, as we seek Your glorious face, as we reach out one hand for You and another hand for our fellow who has fallen. Hear us, Holy Spirit, and come along side of us as we do the greater things needed for the kingdom of the Almighty God. Hear us, Father, and forgive. Amen.