This chapter contains the account of Hezekiah's arrangements after the restoration for the observance of the Passover—arrangements more than ordinarily interesting to notice in respect of, first, the unusual time appointed for the celebration; and, second, the determined and brave attempt of the good king to win again to the worship of Jerusalem (though, as was no doubt anticipated, it subjected his royal proffers to scorn, 2 Chronicles 30:10) the separated people of "all Israel" (2 Chronicles 30:1-12); and further, the celebration itself, the happy omen (2 Chronicles 30:14) with which it opened, its duration; and certain several other incidents attending it (2 Chronicles 30:13-27).
2 Chronicles 30:1
Hezekiah sent … wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh. Some have sought to bring into the appearance of harmony the two first clauses of this verse by supposing that the former clause purports to say that Hezekiah sent messengers to all Israel and Judah, and in particular letters in addition to Ephraim and Manasseh, the chief tribes of the northern kingdom and the Joseph tribes. Verses 6 and 10, however, seem to dispose effectually of this offer of explanation; while another explanation, that the names of the two tribes are simply to be taken as equivalent to "all Israel," seems true, though, in fact, it may be to advance us no way at all. We should prefer in the difficulty, unimportant though it is, yet one facing us, rather to assume that the verse wishes to say that Hezekiah sent (i.e. sent messengers, which prove to be the runners, rendered the "posts") to all Israel and Judah, and to Ephraim, Manasseh, and the rest of their allied tribes by implication, but not to Judah wrote letters also which were carried by the posts (or runners). It is true that verse 6 may negative even this conjecture for getting over the difficulty, but not necessarily no, for it only says that the posts went throughout Israel and Judah with the letters, which they may be supposed to have dropped only to some, not to all, and those some Israel, or Ephraim, Manasseh, and brethren. There will have been to hand other, the usual methods of communication with Judah, from Jerusalem its metropolis, and from its king. The thing different from "letters" that was circulated may have been just the "proclamation" of verse 5. It has been suggested that the now King of Israel, Hoshea, was very probably a captive of Assyria at this exact time (2 Kings 17:4).
2 Chronicles 30:2
This and the following verse are well explained by Numbers 9:6-13, where the particular instance of the "defilement by a dead body" simply exemplified other legitimate instances of defilement or non-sanctification (2 Chronicles 29:5, 2 Chronicles 29:15, 2 Chronicles 29:34), and where absence on a journey similarly exemplified other unavoidable absence.
2 Chronicles 30:3
At that time. The words seem like a reminiscence of the "at that day," twice occurring in 2 Chronicles 30:6 of Numbers 9:1-23. But anyway the meaning is plain "at the appointed season."
2 Chronicles 30:4
This verse betokens the careful consideration on the part of "king, princes, and all the congregation," that had been given to the distinct question, whether the exact present circumstances legitimately fell under the description of Numbers 9:6-13; and the issue was that they decided that they did, they "ruled the thing right" ( וַיִּישַׁר הַדָבָר)
2 Chronicles 30:5
Of a long time. Though the idea expressed in this rendering must, under any circumstances, attach to this passage, yet it can scarcely be understood to be given in the one Hebrew word we have here ( לָרֹב ); out of nearly a hundred and fifty occurrences of the word, and often with its present preposition, this is the solitary occasion of its being turned into a mark of time. The translation should read, for they had not kept it in multitude, i.e. in proper multitudes, and in the multitude of an undivided and holy kingdom. The force of the reference lies in the fact just stated, that Hezekiah, ignoring all the worse precedents of now many generations, and ignoring the iniquity of the duality of the kingdom, manfully caused his writ to run from south to north unchecked! As it was written; i.e. in the book of the Law of Moses. So runs the full and frequent and honoured phrase: כַּכָּתוּב בְסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת־משֶׁה (2 Kings 14:6; 1 Kings 2:3; Joshua 3:1-17 :34; 2 Chronicles 35:26, etc.).
2 Chronicles 30:6
So the posts (see note on 2 Chronicles 30:1). The remnant of you … escaped … of Assyria. Hezekiah had, no doubt, already made his account with the fact that the injured and crushed state of the northern kingdom might be of salutary omen for the attempt on his part to bring them to a sense of their past sins, specially perhaps of omission. Of the calamities of Israel, and their captivity in large part, and in the rest subjection by tribute to Assyria, there is clear testimony in 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:1-6.
2 Chronicles 30:7
A strange and significant snatch of corroborating history is to be found in 1 Chronicles 5:23-26.
2 Chronicles 30:8
Be ye not stiff-necked (see Deuteronomy 16:1-22, Deuteronomy 17:1-20). Yield yourselves; literally, give the hand (see 1 Chronicles 29:24; Ezra 10:19, etc.). Which he hath sanctified for ever (see Psalms 132:13, Psalms 132:14).
2 Chronicles 30:10
Through … Ephraim and Manasseh. The way in which the names of these two tribes are here used may explain in part the use of them in brief for simple reasons of the convenience of brevity in verse 1. They laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. These two words speak significant description of the exact moral state in which Israel's tribes were now to be found. Even unto Zebulun. What of the country lay north of Zebulun had been so wasted by Assyria that practically Zebulnn is spoken of as what was most northerly.
2 Chronicles 30:11
Adding the tribes of Ephraim and Issachar mentioned in 2 Chronicles 30:18, and bearing in mind the contents of our 2 Chronicles 30:7 (with note), we have really only to account for Dan, which was no longer classed with Israel, and Naphtali and Simeon. The probable significance of the passage is not to lay stress upon the tribes represented, but on the scattered, though sparse, attendants at the Passover who came.
2 Chronicles 30:12
Also in Judah the hand of God was. Considering the difference of preposition, this expression can perhaps scarcely cite as its parallel Ezra 7:9. "The hand of God" here means rather his effectual working, which effectual working produced a hearty unanimity, that contrasted well with the bearing of the northern tribes.
2 Chronicles 30:13
This verse purports to say that the total, at any rate, of the attendance on the Passover was very large.
2 Chronicles 30:14
Took away the altars … the brook Kidron (see 2 Chronicles 28:24; 2 Chronicles 29:16).
2 Chronicles 30:15
Were ashamed; Hebrew, גִכְלְמוּ . This word, occurring in one conjugation or another thirty-eight times, expresses in every instance a genuine shame. It now was the forerunner of a practical repenting. And brought in … into; better rendered, and carried up to the house of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 30:16
They stood in their place after their manner (see Le 2 Chronicles 1:11-13, and many other references in Leviticus).
2 Chronicles 30:17
Therefore the Levites had the charge (see Leviticus 1:1-17; etc; which repeatedly affirms that the original directions of Moses were that the person who brought the victim to offer it was to slay it, and to bring the blood).
2 Chronicles 30:18
So also the original Law of Moses prescribed that the uncleansed must not eat the Passover (Numbers 9:6).
2 Chronicles 30:20
Healed the people. The Hebrew word here is the strict word for physical healing, and is a slight but significant indication of the reality of the spiritual view contemplated in Moses' Law in this matter.
2 Chronicles 30:21
See Exodus 12:18, and many repetitions of the same matter, respecting the duration of the Passover and eating of unleavened bread. With loud instruments. Some render this, "instruments ascribing might to Jehovah." There seems no necessity for this; and the plain Hebrew text is "instruments of might," i.e. strong or loud instruments.
2 Chronicles 30:22
Spake comfortably; literally, to the heart of, etc. That taught the good knowledge. This rendering is in some error, and is awkward in not indicating the direction of the knowledge. A better rendering (see Revised Version) will be, who were well skilled in rendering such service to Jehovah. And perhaps the simplest rendering, "who served with good service to Jehovah," will be the most correct to the real meaning of the Hebrew text (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 13:15). Making confession; i.e. the confession or uttering forth of praise (so Psalms 75:2; Psalms 92:1; 1 Chronicles 16:4, 1 Chronicles 16:7, 1 Chronicles 16:35, 1 Chronicles 16:41; 1 Chronicles 23:30; 1 Chronicles 25:3; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 31:2).
2 Chronicles 30:23
This and the following verso should read as one. Hezekiah no doubt wished, by prolonging the feast and the joy, to make the more lasting impression on the people and the more hopeful conversion of them.
2 Chronicles 30:24
Did give. This is an inadequate rendering. Revised Version reads, did give for offerings; others read, "gave as an heave offering." In the light of our 2 Chronicles 35:7-9, the Revised Version rendering seems sufficient.
2 Chronicles 30:25
The strangers. Some consider this describes "proselytes from Israel, who were non-Israelites." But this seems a most gratuitous supposition. The Hebrew גֵרִים does, in fact, purport only "sojourners," and is frequently so translated, and our next clause corroborates this view. The interesting aspect of it is, that probably the persons described had emigrated from their own tribes, as they longed for Jerusalem, "their chief joy."
2 Chronicles 30:26
Since the time of Solomon. The reference is to Solomon's "Feast of Tabernacles" (2 Chronicles 7:9).
2 Chronicles 30:27
The priests the Levites; i.e. the priest-Levites, and not other Levites (Deuteronomy 17:18; Joshua 3:3). The Septuagint, therefore, is wrong in inserting "and." A parallel expression in the New Testament is "Men brethren" (Acts 1:16; Acts 2:29, etc.). The priests were those authorized to bless (Numbers 6:23-26; 1 Chronicles 23:13).
2 Chronicles 30:1-27
The celebration of the Passover, with its sacred suggestions.
The whole of this chapter is concerned with Hezekiah's call of priests, Levites, princes, and congregation of the people to observe and celebrate with himself the grand solemnity of the Passover. From the analogy of the precedent provided for individual cases of certain kinds of necessity (Numbers 9:10), this celebration for the whole nation is fixed for the fourteenth day of the second month instead of the first. This was the fourth of the seven special occasions, of which description with detail is given us in Scripture—the first of all in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-51.), the first in the desert (Numbers 9:1-23.), and that of Joshua at Gilgal, after the circumcision of the people and when the manna ceased (Joshua 5:1-15.), being the three which preceded; and those that came after being the Passover celebrated by Josiah (ch. 35.), by Ezra on the return from the captivity at Babylon (Ezra 6:1-22.), and that ever-memorable one, the last of our blessed Lord's life on earth. The Passover was the first in time of the three great annual feasts which called together to Jerusalem all—yes, in happier times, all—from Dan even to Beersheba, the other two being the Feasts of Pentecost and of Tabernacles. It was also the first in the lifetime of the nation, and always the first in solemn significance. Not only the energy and earnestness, therefore, of Hezekiah in carrying through this celebration from first to last, but his Diviner wisdom and piety in determining and appointing it, may be noted, and dwelt upon in useful and suggestive detail as adapted to modern days. That great revival, for instance—one of the greatest the world and Church have ever seen—of modern Church-life, familiarly known to ourselves, was rooted in, and has grown up proportioned to, zealous attention to the sacraments, faith in them, and faithful observance of them. This goes to the root of all a nation's evil and malady! "If once" thought Hezekiah—"if but once a healthy breeze could pass over this erring and idolatrous, fevered and long-forlorn people, all might yet be well!" At his prayer, and as the reward of his effort, the breeze came, and swept over the land. It refreshed weary and parched wastes; and some signs of healthiness, mingled with some signs of suspiciousness, appeared. Perhaps all was too late; the disease too deep, and gone too far, too long! Nevertheless, it was none the less right on the part of Hezekiah to have tried the religious means, and used the highest of them. We may notice in them—not as matter of historic interest in the life of another nation merely—how, in virtue mainly of the presence of the Passover, they were fitted to touch all that was deepest, all that haply might "remain" (Revelation 3:2) deepest and best in the hearts of the people. For instance, the Passover was undoubtedly—
I. THE VIVID MEMORIAL OF AN UNPRECEDENTED BIRTH OF A NATION, Nor can it be said that this was an instance of a "nation born in a day." It gives more point, and it is just and true, to remember, that now it may be said of it that it was a nation born in a night! One supreme, extraordinary effort of faith and obedience ushered that nation out of darkness into light. It might, indeed, have been hoped that this would stamp it for ever with the corresponding native and hereditary grand qualities. There are senses in which it may be said that the nation had received in yet earlier ages its existence. Certainly the promise and the earnest of this had been fact. The germ of its existence had been in Abraham, and God's covenant with him. It showed to view in distinctness and separateness at the time and in the fact of its compact corporate descent into Egypt. There was a semblance of truth to support this, and there would have been real truth in it, if a family could be called a nation. "Israel" went into Egypt "three score and ten souls" (Genesis 46:27); Israel came out of Egypt a nation born, that night of the Passover—a vast separate nation, a peculiar people. Hezekiah's celebration of the Passover, therefore, at this time suggested to every feeling and instinct of honest national love and pride that king, priests, and people should live worthily of their origin, raise the fortunes and restore the glory of the nation that had so greatly declined (verse 6).
II. THE VIVID MEMORIAL OF THE GREAT DELIVERANCE WHICH GOD WROUGHT FOR HIS PEOPLE, FROM SORE BONDAGE, UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF AN EXTRAORDINARY NATURE. The power and the pity of God were alike demonstrated by the rescue of the hosts of Israel from the midst of Egypt. His pity heard their groanings, his power subdued their oppressors. Of such things as these the people needed at this time the teaching and the inspiriting influences. Every observance of the Passover was a commemoration and rehearsal of this great deliverance, and suggested the long and thick succession of Divine interpositions during a period of now nearly eight centuries.
III. BOTH THE OUTCOME AND THE FOUNDATION OF A COVENANT. The Passover marked a foregoing faith and obedience on the part of Moses, Aaron, and all the houses of the rescued, and it inferred an unending continuance of the same, so often as they should be called for on special occasions, as well as for the rule of every day's life. Upon these conditions being met on the one side, God's great deliverance and his continued protection took effect on the other side. Upon this practical aspect it is evident that Hezekiah laid great stress (verses 7-9). The remembrance of the saving of all the firstborn of the Hebrews, by the side of the slaying of all the firstborn of the Egyptians, both man and beast, was fitted to be a most powerful incentive of loyalty to him who had thus bought a people to himself most significantly. This was an inevitable memory of the sprinkled blood of the Paschal lamb in every celebration.
IV. THE FORESHADOWING OF THE ONE ETERNAL SACRIFICE. For the devout Hebrew, the Israelite who was "an Israelite indeed," even in these most degenerate days of the nation, the Passover must have taken a leading share among all other sacrifices, in teaching and shadowing forth "the good things to come;" the "better hope;" the "better covenant;" the "better sacrifices" (Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:23). The "foreshadowing" itself was indeed plain and powerful, which used such a designation for the central fact of all the observances of the Passover, as "my sacrifice" (Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:25); and nothing can be deducted from our estimate of the meaning of such passages, and generally of the typical virtue of the whole celebration, when we remember the language of St. Paul respecting "Christ our Passover" (1 Corinthians 5:7). The faith of the people of Israel and their sacrament were looking forward to this Passover, as our faith and our sacrament look back to it, and of a truth ever upward! The suggestions that St. Paul awakes within us by the fulness of the last-quoted verse, as well as the time and all the circumstance of the death of Christ, compel us indeed to see in the entire features and services of the completed Passover the type of our One sacrifice and our second sacrament! The peace offering, the thank offering, the solemn dedication of ourselves, as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," the unbroken "unity of the body" (Exodus 12:46; John 19:36), the "keeping of the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," and all the sacred, unbounded eucharistic enjoyments of that feast,—in a word, the need of deliverance, the Deliverer, and our joyful acknowledgment of the same, are all outlined for us in the Hebrew's Passover, and according to the measure of his faith and illumination were once all outlined for him, even in Hezekiah's time and celebration.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 30:1, 2 Chronicles 30:10, 2 Chronicles 30:11
Letters to Ephraim: generosity.
Hezekiah now took a very bold and decided course. There had been no direct dealings between the king or court of Judah and the people of Ephraim (Israel) since the kingdom of David was rent in twain. If we understand that this action was taken in the first year of his reign, while Hoshea was on the throne of Samaria, it certainly was bold even to audacity, and was calculated to rouse the resentment of that ruler. If, however, we hold (with Keil and others) that it was not until the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign, when Shalmaneser had wrought his will with the sister kingdom, that the great Passover was held, the measure taken by the pious king is still one of considerable vigour and of no little generosity. We learn therefrom—
I. THAT A RIGHT COURSE WILL PROVE ONE OF SPIRITUAL ENLARGEMENT. Had not Hezekiah been a faithful servant of Jehovah, he would not have concerned himself about the moral and spiritual condition of Ephraim and Manasseh. He might have rejoiced in anything that would degrade and therefore enfeeble them. But as the servant of God, and therefore of the truth and of righteousness, he looked with sorrow upon the separation of those tribes of Israel from the God of their fathers, and it was "in his heart" (2 Chronicles 29:10) to take a step that might restore them to the faith they had abandoned and to the favour they had lost. His "heart was enlarged toward them" (2 Corinthians 6:11). There was nothing that was singular, but everything that was natural and usual in this. Let a man determine to take the right course, to set his whole life as well as rule his whole nature by principles which he believes to be Divine, and for him there will be a very blessed spiritual enlargement. He will come to see truths which had been quite out of sight, and to cherish feelings to which he had been a stranger, and to proceed upon lines high and far above the old levels. His life will be lifted up, himself will be enlarged and enriched abundantly.
II. THAT ADVANCES TOWARDS ESTRANGED RELATIVES ARE PECULIARLY HONOURABLE. It probably cost Hezekiah and his counsellors some considerable effort to make overtures to Israel. These tribes had revolted from the kingdom; they had lately inflicted a most severe and humiliating defeat upon Judah (2 Chronicles:6-8). It may be taken that there existed a strong, if not an intense, animosity between those so nearly related to and yet so distinctly divided from one another (see John 4:9; Luke 9:52, Luke 9:53). Nevertheless, they were regarded and treated as brethren. It is here where we so often fail in the illustration of Christian principles. We can show magnanimity toward those who are afar off, who belong to a different nation, or to another Church, or to a separate family; but we find it hard, perhaps impossible, to make advances toward those of our own people, of our own community, of our own family, between whom and ourselves some estrangement has come. Truly said the wise man, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city." And wisely says our English poet that
"… to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
"They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder.
But there is one thing that can bring together the divided hearts and lives of brethren—the generous heart which takes its rule of life and which gains "the spirit of its mind" from Jesus Christ.
III. THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE DETERRED FROM THE NOBLER COURSE BY THE POSSIBILITY OR EVEN THE LIKELIHOOD OF REPULSE. Hezekiah and his council faced this probability, and they ventured, notwithstanding. Their messengers did meet with much scornful rejection (verse 10); but on this they must have Counted, and by it they were not moved. In spite of all the mockery they encountered, they went through the land as they proposed. If we are careful to Count all the possible consequences to ourselves, we shall never do noble deeds. The soldier does not weigh the chances of his being wounded as he goes into the battle; he does not mind if he goes home with some sears upon his countenance. Nor will the good soldier of Jesus Christ.
IV. THAT WE SHALL NOT GO UNREWARDED IF WE TAKE THIS GENEROUS COURSE. "Nevertheless divers … humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem ' (verse 11). The mission was not altogether a failure, even judged by its visible and calculable results. Any serious and generous attempt to heal old wounds and restore broken friendships, or to bring back to God those estranged from him, will not be unrewarded.
1. If it does not succeed wholly, it will in part. If it does not win affection and reopen fellowship, it may weaken resentment and make return easier another time. It may avail with one or two, if not with all. It may succeed in time, if not at once.
2. It will certainly result in some spiritual advancement on our own part. No true act of Christian love is ever lost to the agent himself.
3. It will win the smile and benediction of the magnanimous Saviour.—C.
2 Chronicles 30:6-9
Four reasons for repentance.
The letters which Hezekiah sent throughout the cities and villages of Israel contained an earnest exhortation to repentance; they urged upon the inhabitants of that distressed land that, for the strongest reasons, they should return from their idolatrous ways, and worship the true and living God in his own temple. These considerations are fourfold.
I. IT IS TO THE GOD OF THEIR FATHERS THEY WERE EXHORTED TO RETURN. "Children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God … of Israel" (2 Chronicles 30:6). It was not to the house of a strange deity they were now invited; it was to the God of Israel—to him to whom their own ancestors bowed the knee; it was to him who ever called himself by the very name they bore, in whom their illustrious father put his trust and found his heritage. Whom should they serve but that One whom Israel himself acknowledged as the Lord his God (Genesis 28:16-22)? To those who have gone astray to vanities, to the pursuits of earth, to human attachments, to perishable treasures, and who have forsaken the Divine Source of all good and joy, we have to say, "Return unto the Lord God of your fathers. He to whom and to whose service we invite your return is no strange God in your house. It is he whom your father, whom your mother, has loved and served these many years; whom they are worshipping and serving now in the upper sanctuary. It is their tones that may be recognized in our voice, if you have an ear to hear, saying, 'Return unto our God, unto our Saviour, unto our heritage, unto our home.'"
II. REBELLION MEANS NOTHING BUT RUIN. "Who trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation" (2 Chronicles 30:7). Assuming the (more probable) theory that the country was now in the hands of the Assyrians, there was "desolation" indeed; to most of their families (and to the best of them) captivity or bereavement; to the nation, as such, utter subjection, humiliation, ruin. This was the penalty of their rebellion against Jehovah, its natural and inevitable end (Deuteronomy 29:22-28). To those who are estranged from God we have to say," Return unto God, for distance from him is spiritual ruin."
1. It is the forfeiture of the true heritage of the human soul, the heritage it has in the favour and the friendship of God.
2. It is the endurance of his most serious displeasure.
3. It is a spiritual bondage, the bondage of sin.
4. It is the beginning of death eternal.
III. THERE IS NO DANGER OF REPULSE. "The Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him" (2 Chronicles 30:9). The people of this idolatrous realm might well ask whether they had not hopelessly separated themselves from Jehovah, whether their rebelliousness had not gone such lengths that mercy was not to be looked for. But Hezekiah charged them to dismiss all such fears from their minds; their repentance would meet with a gracious response from the forgiving God of their fathers. It is one of the strongest inducements we have to offer to those now spiritually estranged, that their genuine repentance, the turning of their heart toward the God of their fathers, and their seeking his mercy in Jesus Christ the Divine Saviour, is certain to be attended with his abundant mercy, and to he followed by their restitution to the favour they have lost, to the home they have left, to the blessedness they have thrown away. There is absolutely no fear of a repulse—that is a moral impossibility; the unchangeable Word of the faithful God is the immovable pledge that return means reconciliation.
IV. RECONCILIATION FOR THEMSELVES MEANS MERCY FOR THEIR RELATIONS. "Your brethren and your children shall find compassion," etc. (2 Chronicles 30:9). This was their one and only hope. If God had mercy upon Israel that was in Israel, he might, he would, recall their brethren and children from the land of their captivity; otherwise these must perish in "a strange land," in the land of the enemy. Our message to men is not unlike this; we have to say to them, "If you will consult the well-being of those in whom you are most interested and for whom you are most responsible; if you will care for the salvation of those nearest and dearest to you, of your brethren and your children; then do you live the life of the holy, do you give the best and strongest evidence that you believe in the excellency of the service of Christ, do you turn from the transient and the unsatisfying treasures of earth, and seek your heritage in the favour of the heavenly Father, in the love and the friendship of the Saviour of mankind. Therefore "yield yourselves unto God" (2 Chronicles 30:8); enter his sanctuary; accept the overtures of his Son; sit down at his table; take on you his Name and his vows."—C.
2 Chronicles 30:17-20
The one essential thing.
A very interesting and instructive incident occurred in the celebration of this great Passover. Many who presented themselves and brought their lamb had not gone through the prescribed purifications before engaging in an act of sacrifice, and they were disqualified to slay the lamb. So the Levites, under the peculiar circumstances, took this part for them. It was a formal irregularity; it was not according to the letter of the Law; there had been a breach of the enactment. But Hezekiah prayed God on behalf of those who had transgressed, and his prayer was heard, and the Lord "healed the people" who had so done. There is one lesson which stands out from the others; but before we learn that, we may gather on our way the truths—
I. THAT SUBSTITUTION AND INTERCESSION HAVE THEIR PLACE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Levites were permitted to take the parents' place on this occasion, and Hezekiah's prayer for the pardon of the irregularity was granted. We may do some things for our fellow-men, and we do well to pray God for their enlightenment and restoration. But it is not far that either of these two principles can be permitted. "Every man must bear his own Burden" of responsibility before God; must repent of his own sin; must approach his Maker in the spirit of self-surrender; must enter by himself the kingdom of Christ. The work we can do for others, though not without its value, is narrow in its range. To every human soul it belongs to realize his position, to hearken when Heaven is speaking, to make his final and decisive choice, to take his place among the friends or among the foes of Jesus Christ. We may not build on a brother's help, nor presume even on a mother's prayers.
II. THAT PRIVATION OF PRIVILEGE IS TAKEN INTO THE DIVINE CONSIDERATION. The principal if not the only defaulters here were the men of "Ephraim and Manasseh," etc. (verse 18); i.e. those who had been living in the idolatrous kingdom of Israel, those who had been far from the temple of Jerusalem, and had lived with little (if any) instruction in the Divine Law. Much leniency might justly be accorded to these; and much allowance was made for them. God requireth of us "not according to that we have not, hut according to that we have." From those to whom hut little privilege and opportunity are given, the slighter service will be demanded. Our God is just, considerate, gracious.
III. THAT SIN IS A VERY DISABLING THING. "The Lord healed the people." By their offence against the Law they had lest their wholeness, their health, and needed to "be healed." Sin is a moral sickness; it is the disorder of the spirit; it is that which weakens, which disables, which makes the sinner unable to be and to do what he was created to be and to do. But the main lesson is this—
IV. THAT THE ESSENTIAL THING IS SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY. These transgressors were forgiven partly in virtue of Hezekiah's prayer. But may we not say principally because the righteous Lord discerned in them the spirit of obedience t They had come up to Jerusalem that they might return upon Jehovah their God. It was in their heart to cast off their old and evil practices, and to begin a new life of uprightness before God: was their ceremonial irregularity to outweigh, in the estimate of the Just One, the integrity of their heart before him? The purpose of their soul was toward God and toward his service: was not that to be accepted, in spite of a legal impropriety or negligence? Certainly it was; and these men went down to their homes in Israel justified before the Lord. It is the spirit of obedience which our God demands of us, for which he looks in us. If that be absent, nothing else of any kind or magnitude will suffice. If that be present, we may be defaulters in many small particulars, but neither we nor our offering will be refused. To have a pure, deep, fixed desire to seek and to serve the Lord Christ—that is the one essential thing.—C.
2 Chronicles 30:21-27
This chapter reads as if written by an eyewitness of the scenes described, so vivid is the account, so much colour is in the picture. It was evidently a time of very great enthusiasm, of spiritual exuberance. These are very pleasant, and they may be very profitable occasions; but they need to be rightly directed and well controlled. Of religious enthusiasm, we may consider—
I. ITS ONLY FIRM FOUNDATION. This is a true sense of the Divine favour. Unless God be with us, granting us his own approval, intending to further us with his blessing, all our congratulations are ill-timed and all our action will be fruitless. And it is needful that we know that we have his approval. It is too often assumed in its absence. Hezekiah and his people, with Isaiah among them, were resting in a well-grounded confidence. Without such prophetic guidance, we must inquire of ourselves whether our repentance and our faith are deep and real; whether we have in truth "yielded cur-selves unto the Lord" (verse 8), whether we are "Christ's disciples indeed" (John 8:31).
II. ITS NATURAL ATMOSPHERE. Sacred joy. They "kept the feast … with great gladness" (verse 21); "There was great joy in Jerusalem" (verse 26). There are many sources of happiness, reaching upwards from the most gross to the most spiritual and refined. There is none deeper or purer, none more elevated or enlarging, than the joy of the human spirit in the worship and service of the Supreme. To be holding hallowed fellowship with our Divine Father and Saviour, and to be so doing in unison with a multitude of our Christian brethren and sisters, or to be engaged with them in doing some earnest and faithful work,—this is a source of truest and worthiest human joy.
III. ITS BEST MANIFESTATIONS.
1. In sacred song. The Levites "praised the Lord day by day" (verse 21). A large measure of spiritual fervour finds utterance in song, happily to ourselves and acceptably to God. There is no phase of sacred feeling which may not find fitting expression thus.
2. In wise and kind encouragement. Hezekiah "spake comfortably unto all the Levites" (verse 22). He no doubt congratulated them on their good spiritual estate and on their opportunity of service, and invited and urged them to exercise their sacred functions in all fidelity. A few words of timely encouragement from one that is in a higher position go a long way; such words constitute a stronger inducement to duty and devotion than many words of criticism or censure.
3. In religious instruction. "That taught the good knowledge of the Lord" (verse 22).
4. In re-dedication. "A great number of priests sanctified themselves." Some of the priests, probably many, if not most of them, had shown slackness and had held back (2 Chronicles 29:34); they had some reason for being ashamed (see verse 15). But in this hour of widespread enthusiasm they came forward and made themselves ready for their sacred functions. At such a time, much is gained if those who have become cool in the service of their Lord, whose faith is failing and whose zeal is dying down, re-consecrate themselves to him, take afresh upon them his vows, and solemnly and formally undertake to live and labour in his cause.
5. In expansiveness. Room was found for "the strangers that came out of the land of Israel"—room in the hearts and at the tables of the people. Nothing can be better than that our own great gladness of heart in God should overflow to those beyond our own pale. By all means let there be a generous expansiveness at such a time; let the stranger, let the "outsider," let the outcast, let the "abandoned," let those who have come to despair of themselves, be remembered, be sought out, be encouraged, be enlightened, be admitted and welcomed. We tread closely in the steps of our Leader when we act thus.
6. In liberality. In the generous use of our substance (see verse 24). When we are receiving freely of God's good gift of sacred joy, we should give freely of the good he has entrusted to our care.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 30:1-12
Preparations for a grand national Passover.
I. A PASSOVER DECIDED ON. (2 Chronicles 30:1, 2 Chronicles 30:5.)
1. By whom! Hezekiah, his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, with both of whom he had taken counsel. The important step, not adopted without deliberation, was concurred in by the entire body of the people (2 Chronicles 30:4). If any in the nation held aloof, these were the priests and the Levites (2 Chronicles 30:15).
2. For whom? All Israel and Judah. The contemplated Passover should not be sectional or provincial, but national. For "all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan"—for the inhabitants of the two kingdoms, which ought never to have been divided, and in religion at least should ever have been one.
3. On what ground?
II. THE TIME OF CELEBRATION FIXED. (Verse 2.)
1. In the second month.
2. In the first or sixth (perhaps seventh) year of Hezekiah's reign.
III. THE INVITATIONS ISSUED. (Verses 6-10.)
1. In whose name they were given. In that of Hezekiah and his princes. The absence of any reference to Hoshea points to a time subsequent to the captivity of Israel.
2. By whom they were carried. The pests, or runners, i.e. king's messengers (Esther 3:13, Esther 3:15; Esther 8:14), who may have been members of the royal body-guard (2 Chronicles 12:10).
3. To what purport they ran.
(a) To turn again to Jehovah, renouncing idolatry and embracing the religion prescribed by Moses (verse 6).
(b) Not to imitate the stubborn conduct of their fathers, who had been carried away captive (verses 7, 8).
(c) To resume attendance at the sanctuary, which Jehovah had sanctified for ever as the central place of his worship (verse 8).
(a) Duty. Jehovah was the Lord God of their fathers, even of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, as the one living and true, gracious, and covenant-keeping God, was entitled to their allegiance (verses 6, 7).
(b) Fear. If they continued rebellious, Jehovah's anger would fall on and consume them who were but a remnant, as already it had fallen on and consumed their fathers.
(c) Clemency. If they returned to Jehovah, Jehovah would turn away the fierceness of his anger from them, and extend mercy to those who had been carried away captive, causing them to find favour in the eyes of their captors and even to return to their own land (verse 9).
(d) Hope. The certainty that they would thus be treated was guaranteed by the fact that Jehovah, whom they had forsaken, and to whom they were now invited to return, was a gracious and merciful God (verse 9). Or otherwise, Hezekiah pleaded with them to return on the grounds of national unity—Jehovah was Israel's God as well as Judah's; of historic continuity—Jehovah had been the Lord God of their fathers; of self-interest—it was the only way to avert their total extinction; of brotherly compassion—it was the most effectual means of helping their exiled brethren.
IV. THE RECEPTION ACCORDED TO THE MESSENGERS. (Verses 10-12.)
1. In Israel.
2. In Judah. The people generally responded to their sovereign's invitation.
1. The unspeakable blessing to a land of a pious king and court.
2. The certainty that God will aid all who seek to extend his cause and kingdom.
3. The necessity of diligence, fidelity, sympathy, and courage on the part of all "runners" to the King of heaven.
4. The hopefulness with which divinely commissioned preachers may enter on their mission—there will always be found a remnant to hear and obey.
5. The excellence of a humble spirit in disposing one to listen to the gospel.—W.
2 Chronicles 30:13-27
A national Passover at Jerusalem.
I. THE CELEBRATING CONGREGATION.
1. Large. "Much people; … a very great congregation" (2 Chronicles 30:13). Though this was usual at the chief religious festivals of the nation, probably so vast a concourse of people as assembled at Jerusalem in answer to the king's invitation, in the second month of the first or seventh year of his reign (see preceding homily), had not been witnessed since the days of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:2) or of Asa (2 Chronicles 15:9, 2 Chronicles 15:10). Something stimulating and impressive in the sight of a crowded city, even when its seething population drifts aimlessly about, much more when all are swayed by a common feeling and moved by a common impulse.
2. Mixed. Composed o