Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
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, 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 "They stood aloof, the scars remaining, 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 (ver. 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 ' (ver. 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.
"They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
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 (ver. 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 ' (ver. 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.
I. A PASSOVER DECIDED ON. (Vers. 1, 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 (ver. 4). If any in the nation held aloof, these were the priests and the Levites (ver. 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?
(1) That it was their duty to keep such a Passover. It was written in the Law of Moses that all the congregation of Israel should eat the Passover (Exodus 12:47); that three times a year should all the males of the nation keep a feast unto the Lord, one of these feasts being that of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover (Exodus 23:14, 15); and that the Passover should be "sacrificed in the place which Jehovah should choose to set his Name there" (Deuteronomy 16:2).
(2) That such a Passover had not been observed by them either in great numbers (Revised Version), en masse, by the whole body of the people (Bertheau, Keil), or for a long time (Authorized Version, De Wette). Certainly since the division of the kingdom they had not observed the Passover; and even prior to that it is doubtful if the feast had been observed by such numbers as to amount to a national celebration. The unsettled state of the country during the period of the judges was not favourable to the carrying out of the Deuteronomic programme; and the same might be said (though perhaps in a less degree) of the early years of the monarchy; so that probably for a Paschal celebration on a truly national scale the historian must go back to the days of Joshua immediately after entering Canaan, and before the dispersion of the people had commenced (Joshua 5:10, 11).
II. THE TIME OF CELEBRATION FIXED. (Ver. 2.)
1. In the second month.
(2) This, however, allowable in special circumstances, as e.g. when through absence on a journey or ceremonial uncleanness it could not be kept on the statutory day (Numbers 9:6-12). In the present instance the special circumstances were that when the decision to hold a Passover was arrived at, the 14th of Abib was too near to admit of either the priests getting themselves sanctified in sufficient numbers to do the necessary work, or the population of the country gathering at Jerusalem in time to give to the feast the character of a national celebration.
2. In the first or sixth (perhaps seventh) year of Hezekiah's reign.
(1) In favour of the former view (Bertheau, Jamieson), it may be urged that it is the most natural; that Hezekiah would more likely take advantage of the widespread religious enthusiasm evoked by the purification and re-dedication of the temple to appoint a Passover than delay for five if not six years; and that the difficulty of understanding how he got permission to send heralds through the northern kingdom may be overcome by remembering that Hoshea, the last King of Israel, was not so bad as his predecessors on the throne had been (2 Kings 17:2), and that Hezekiah may have obtained his consent to the proposal of a grand Passover for all Israel and Judah (Bertheau). An obvious objection to this is that Hezekiah's letters represented the inhabitants of Israel as "the remnant escaped out of the hands of the kings of Assyria" (ver. 6), and that the siege of Samaria did not commence till Hezekiah's fourth year (2 Kings 18:9), while the only deportation of people from the northern kingdom before that was the removal of the trans-Jordanic tribes and Naphtalites by Tiglath-Pileser II. (2 Kings 15:29) - which would hardly have justified the strong language of Hezekiah with reference to Israel's depleted condition. Another difficulty is that, as during the first years of Hezekiah's reign Hoshea was becoming restive under the heavy tribute of ten talents of gold and a thousand of silver imposed on him by Tiglath-Pileser II. ('Records,' etc., 5:52; Schrader, 'Keiliuschriften,' 256), and was even negotiating with So (Sabako), King of Egypt, about throwing off the Assyrian yoke (2 Kings 17:4), it is hardly to be supposed he would readily consent to the absence of all his male subjects at Jerusalem even for a limited time. Besides,. it is doubtful if a month was not too short a space to admit of the king's runners travelling from Dan to Beersheba, and of the people assembling from all corners of the land at Jerusalem.
(2) In favour of the second view (Keil, Caspari), that the Passover was held after the capture of Samaria, in B.C. 720, and the deportation of its inhabitants - according to an inscription of Sargon, 27,280 (Schrader, 'Keilin-schriften,' 272; 'Records,' etc., 7:28) - it may be pointed out that after that event the situation in Israel corresponded more exactly with the language of Hezekiah (ver. 6), and that, Israel having no more an independent sovereign, Hezekiah may have deemed the moment opportune for attempting a reunion of the nations.
III. THE INVITATIONS ISSUED. (Vers. 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.
3. To what purport they ran.
(1) A threefold exhortation.
(a) To turn again to Jehovah, renouncing idolatry and embracing the religion prescribed by Moses (ver. 6).
(b) Not to imitate the stubborn conduct of their fathers, who had been carried away captive (vers. 7, 8).
(c) To resume attendance at the sanctuary, which Jehovah had sanctified for ever as the central place of his worship (ver. 8).
(2) A four-fold argument.
(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 (vers. 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 (ver. 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 (ver. 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. (Vers. 10-12.)
1. In Israel.
(1) From the main body of the population, laughter and scorn. Seemingly they ridiculed the idea of having to protect themselves from extermination by finding a sovereign in Hezekiah and a God in Jehovah. Tiglath-Pileser II., if the earlier date be adopted, had only overrun and laid waste a portion of their country, the trans-Jordanic tribes, with the land of Naphtali, and from these had carried away not all the population, but only the principal inhabitants; while, if the latter date be accepted as the more probable, Sargon in addition had removed only 27,280 persons ('Records,' 7:28). Hence as yet they perceived not the necessity of either abandoning hope for the kingdom or of repairing to Jerusalem to find a king and a God. So the ambassadors of a greater King than Hezekiah, wandering from city to city throughout the world and carrying to their fellows a better invitation than Hezekiah's runners did to Israel, are frequently met with derision for themselves and their glad tidings; as e.g. Paul at Athens (Acts 17:32), as Christ himself, God's chief Ambassador and Plenipotentiary in the city of Jerusalem (John 1:11).
(2) From individuals, especially in Asher, Manasseh, Zabulon (ver. 11), and Issachar (ver. 8), the northern tribes contiguous to Naphtali, cordial acceptance. These, being country-people, were meek ones, not ashamed to humble themselves on account of their own and their nation's wickedness, and to embrace the opportunity of becoming reconciled to Jehovah and their brethren in Judah. Accordingly they spurned not the invitation addressed to them, but "came to Jerusalem." In like manner is the King's letter in the gospel oftener welcomed and accepted by unlearned rustics than by gay and wise residents in cities; and always by the poor in spirit, who, conscious of their sin and misery, long to be reconciled to God (Matthew 5:3-6).
2. In Judah. The people generally responded to their sovereign's invitation.
(1) With unanimity. They were of one mind to do the commandment of the king and the princes. A united heart an invaluable preparation for obedience, whether for individual or for state (Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19, 20).
(2) In a spirit of obedience. They recognized the king's and princes' commandment to be in accordance with the word of Jehovah (cf. ch. 29:15). The Word of God, in the Old and New Testaments, the supreme directory for faith and practice. "To the Law and to the testimony" (Isaiah 8:20). The Bereans searched the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
(3) In compliance with a heavenly impulse. That they were thus enlightened and unanimous was owing to Divine grace; "The hand of God was upon them" for good, as it always is upon them that seek him (Ezra 8:22). Learn:
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.
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" (ver. 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 (it may be) 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" (ver. 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" (ver. 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. (ver. 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" (ver. 8); enter his sanctuary; accept the overtures of his Son; sit down at his table; take on you his Name and his vows." - C.
I. THE CELEBRATING CONGREGATION.
1. Large. "Much people; ... a very great congregation" (ver. 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, 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 of
(1) all the congregation of Judah, i.e. of the inhabitants of the metropolis and of the country districts of Judaea, with the priests and the Levites;
(2) all the congregation that came out of Israel, viz. a multitude of people from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zabulon (ver. 18); and
(3) the strangers, or proselytes who dwelt within the borders of Judah, and those who came from Israel or the northern kingdom (ver. 25).
3. United. All actuated by one purpose - that of keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread (ver. 13), which probably none of them in their lifetime had ever done. It was such a festival as could be rightly celebrated only by a united people, and such as was fitted to draw closer the bonds of union between the celebrants.
4. Resolute. Prepared to undergo any sacrifices and attempt any labours necessary to carry the feast through with success, determined to be hindered by nothing and no one from their great act of religious homage to the Lord God of their fathers (vers. 19, 22).
5. Joyous. Inspired with feelings of gladness (ver. 23), even "great gladness" (ver. 21), and "great joy" (ver. 26), which found expression in peace offerings and penitential confessions (ver. 22), accompanied by vocal and instrumental strains, and abated not during the seven days of the feast proper (ver. 21), but sustained the people throughout seven superadded days (ver. 23). Indeed, so high ran the enthusiasm, and so overflowing became the joy, that nothing like it had been witnessed since the days of Solomon, when the dedication of the temple had been celebrated by a double period of rejoicing (2 Chronicles 7:1-10). The occasion certainly was fitted to excite gladness - the return of the nation to its allegiance to Jehovah. So is the soul's return to God in penitence, faith, and holy obedience a cause of jubilation not only in heaven (Luke 15:7, 10), but also on earth (Acts 8:8); and not among spectators merely, but also in the souls of them who return (Luke 24:52; Acts 8:39; Romans 5:11). Moreover, the service of God and Christ should always be accompanied with gladness (Psalm 100:2; Psalm 149:2, 5; Isaiah 12:3), as in gladness it will invariably result (Psalm 64:10; Isaiah 48:18; Isaiah 51:11; Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
II. THE CELEBRATED FESTIVAL.
1. The zeal of the people.
(1) Necessary preparation. This consisted of two things - the purgation of the city from idolatry, and the cleansing of themselves from defilement. The first they carried out with promptitude and decision - "they arose and took away the altars" (ver. 14); and with thoroughgoing energy and efficiency which allowed of no escape - "they took them all away," the altars for offering to heathen divinities, and the altars or "vessels" for incense, which Ahaz had erected in every corner of the city (2 Chronicles 28:24), and cast them into the Kidron, where already the filth of the temple had been thrown (2 Chronicles 29:16). Never in any previous reign had there been such a clearance of the instruments of idolatry as now occurred under Hezekiah. The second, though not mentioned, is implied, at least, of those who belonged to Judah (see ver. 17; and cf. on ver. 3). These, having had the means of self-sanctification at hand, most likely used them; those who came from Israel having not had such means, their want of sanctification was prayed for and overlooked (vers. 17-20).
(2) Statutory adoration. They killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month (see on ver. 2). The heads of families in Judah who were sanctified killed their own Jambs and placed the blood in the priests' hands; for such as had not been cleansed according to the purification of the sactuary, the Levites killed the Passovers, and delivered the blood into the hands of the priests (ver. 17). These sprinkled the blood upon the altars.
2. The behaviour of the priests and Levites.
(1) Their sanctification of themselves. The priests and Levites were not those of Jerusalem merely who had taken part in the dedication of the temple, and of whom it is said (2 Chronicles 29:34) that the Levites had been more forward to sanctify themselves than the priests, but the whole body of the priests and Levites who had come from Judah and Israel, among whom were many who did not immediately purify themselves from defilement as they ought to have done on convening at Jerusalem. Most likely at first half-hearted in the business, afterwards through beholding the zeal of the people they were shamed into repairing their neglect.
(2) Their discharge of official duties. Having sanctified themselves, they performed the statutory functions required of them in connection with their consecration: "They brought burnt offerings into the house of the Lord" (cf. Leviticus 8:18; Numbers 8:12); or with the Passover: "They brought the [Authorized Version] burnt offerings" presented by the people "into the house of the Lord," and "they stood in their places after their order according to the Law of Moses," the priests sprinkling the blood upon the altar (Leviticus 16:14-19), and the Levites, for the reason above explained, handing the blood to them.
3. The piety of the king.
(1) The king's prayer (vers. 18-20).
(a) To whom addressed. "The good Lord." Goodness an attribute of the Divine nature (Psalm 25:8; Psalm 34:8; Nahum 1:7), in its ideal character belonging only to him (Matthew 19:17), infinite in its measure (Exodus 34:6) and excellence (Psalm 36:7), unwearied in its operation (Psalm 33:5; James 1:5), ever-during in its continuance (Psalm 52:1).
(b) For whom presented? "Every one that prepareth [Authorized Version, or 'setteth' Revised Version] his heart to seek the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary;" i.e. for every one who approached God with earnestness and resolution, "preparing and setting his heart" - in the margin, "his whole heart" (2 Chronicles 15:12; Psalm 119:2); with humility and faith, seeking "the Lord God of his fathers" thereby acknowledging he believed in Jehovah as his rightful Lord, and had sinned in turning aside to idolatry (Judges 10:10; 1 Samuel 12:10; 2 Chronicles 6:37; Psalm 106:6; Jeremiah 14:7); with obedience and submission, embracing the right way of seeking God, in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:5), at his temple (Exodus 25:8), through the sacrificial worship by him appointed (Hebrews 9:13) - as under the New Testament dispensation no one can approach God acceptably except through Christ (John 14:6), though with imperfection and defect in external ceremonial - which showed that the be, t spirits in the Hebrew Church had some conception of the spirituality of all true worship of God, of the value of real heart-adoration even when accompanied by errors in form, and of the worthlessness of the most externally correct, complete, aesthetically beautiful, and perfect performance when divorced from the inner homage of the heart.
(c) What it sought. The pardon of every one who had approached the Divine altar without complying with the Divine prescription as to self-purification. A sin of ignorance in case of some, in that of others a sin of involuntary disability, it was nevertheless a violation of the divinely appointed order, as real though not as heinous as that of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:18), and as such fitted to evoke a display of Divine anger similar to that which fell on Uzziah.
(d) How it fared. "The Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people" (ver. 20); which may signify either that symptoms of bodily malady had begun to appear among the people, or that Hezekiah feared they would. In either case Hezekiah's prayer was successful for his people, as afterwards was his supplication for himself (2 Chronicles 32:24). Cf. the intercession of Abraham for the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:23-32), of Moses for Israel (Exodus 32:31, 32), of David for his people (2 Samuel 24:17), of Daniel for Jerusalem (Daniel 9:17-19), of Paul for his converts (Ephesians 3:14 19; Philippians 1:3-9).
(2) The king's exhortation (ver. 22).
(a) The recipients of it. "All the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the Lord" (Authorized Version), i.e. "who were more skilled and able to instruct" others in the proper method of worshipping Jehovah (Piscator); or, more accurately, "all the Levites that were well skilled in the service of Jehovah" (Revised Version), or as regards Jehovah; i.e. "who had distinguished themselves by intelligent playing to the honour of the Lord" (Keil).
(b) The spirit of it. He spake comfortably, or to the heart, of all. No doubt there were degrees of excellence amongst the players and their music, but the king made no distinction in his treatment of them; he spake to the hearts of all His words of encouragement and good cheer were needed by all, perhaps most by those least skilled who yet were doing their best. Leaders of men, pastors of Churches, and such-like, sometimes forget this, and, by making distinctions between the more gifted and the less, do injury to both - inflate the former with pride, and cast down the latter with discouragement.
(3) The king's liberality (ver. 24). This was:
(a) Munificent. Hezekiah presented to the congregation a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep.
(b) Catching. "The princes gave to the congregation a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep."
(c) Timely. It enabled the people to carry out their good resolution to prolong the feast for seven more days.
(d) Appreciated. It filled the people's hearts with gladness, and doubtless contributed largely to entwine their affections round the person and the throne of the king. Learn:
1. The duty of not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together for Divine worship (Hebrews 10:25).
4. The acceptableness of sincere worship even when mingled with imperfection (Acts 10:35).
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. (ver. 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, but according to that we have." From those to whom but 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.
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" (ver. 8), whether we are "Christ's disciples indeed" (John 8:31).
II. ITS NATURAL ATMOSPHERE. Sacred joy. They "kept the feast... with great gladness" (ver. 21); "There was great joy in Jerusalem" (ver. 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" (ver. 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" (ver. 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" (ver. 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 ver. 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 ver. 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.
I. ITS GOD WAS GRACIOUS. (Ver. 9.) Its people had a Divinity who was:
1. Propitious towards their persons. He had given them one heart (ver. 12).
2. Propitious towards their sacrifices. He accepted them, although offered not in perfect accordance with the Law of Moses (ver. 16).
3. Propitious towards their prayers. He heard the king's intercession (ver. 20), the priests' prayers (ver. 27), and the people's confessions (ver. 22).
II. ITS KING WAS RELIGIOUS, (2 Chronicles 29:2.) This was manifested by:
1. His care for the institutions of religion. Exemplified in his purification and dedication of the temple, including his rearrangement of the Levitical orders of musicians.
2. His zeal in the observances of religion. Shown by his revival of the Passover ordinance, and the efforts made by him to secure a national observance of the same (2 Chronicles 30:1).
3. His possession of the spirit of religion. Besides being a man of prayer (ver. 18), he delighted to encourage others in good works (ver. 22), and evinced his own sincerity by the abundance of his liberality (ver. 24).
III. ITS MINISTERS WERE INDUSTRIOUS. (Ver. 17.)
1. In attending to their own personal sanctification. (Ver. 15.) This no ministers of religion under the New Testament dispensation can afford to neglect. He who cares nothing for the cultivation of piety in himself is not likely to be zealous in aiming at the good of others.
2. 1n discharging the public services of the sanctuary. Under the Hebrew economy these services were the offering of sacrifice and the blessing of the people (ver. 27) by the priests, with the making of music by the Levites; under the Christian economy they are chiefly the preaching of the gospel, the conducting of worship, and the superintendence of the Church. Where the ordinances of religion fall into abeyance and neglect, and the ministers of religion are as heedless of the souls of others as of their own, it is idle to expect prosperity, in either Church or state, in city or in country.
IV. ITS INHABITANTS WERE JOYOUS. (Ver. 26.)
1. Exulting in Jehovah's favor. Without a conviction that they possessed this, the mere external celebration would not have filled them with such long-continued, deep, and exuberant emotion (Psalm 33:21; Isaiah 12:2; Romans 5:11).
2. Observing the rites of religion. In turning from the worship of idols to serve the living God, they experienced an inward satisfaction which made them "sing in the ways of the Lord" (Psalm 138:5).
3. Enjoying the affection of their brethren. Of one heart and mind, there was not a jarring note in their melody. They dwelt together in peace, and loved as brethren, each esteeming the other as better than himself, and all preferring one another and honouring one another. - W.