Monday, September 18, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - September 18, 2017

Today's Reading:

John 19:17-42

2 Chronicles 30

Psalm 86

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In 2 Chronicles chapter 30 we read of a wondrous second Passover (taking place on the fourteenth day of the second month, instead of on the fourteenth day of the first biblical month) - a Passover in which Yahweh healed all the people who attended (2 Chronicles 30:20). It was a Passover so wonderful that they chose to keep it for fourteen days instead of just seven. And in that time, the people experienced the great joy of a an experience that was a foretaste of Heaven!
Hezekiah ranks as one of the best of the kings of Judah. In fact, the Bible chronicler puts him in first place:

2 Kings 18:5-6 - "He trusted in Yahweh God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to Yahweh, and departed not from following Him, but kept His Commandments, which Yahweh commanded Moses".
Wow! What an inspiring testimony of a leader who honored Yahweh! What a blessing he was to the Children of Israel back then - in fact, his faithfulness to Yahweh is still blessing God's people even today! (For I am blessed and inspired by his testimony, aren't you?)
His chief claim to fame came from the early part of his reign when he brought about great reforms, especially in attempting to rid the country of idol worship...
The theme of this chapter deals with his re-institution of the Passover, which had fallen into general non-observance after the reign of Solomon approximately three centuries earlier...
Immediately upon becoming king, Hezekiah commenced a great religious reform. In eight days they had re-opened the great Temple of Solomon and cleansed it of defilement (2 Chronicles 29:1-17).
Hezekiah then proceeded to offer a burnt offering, which with the offerings of the people, totaled 600 oxen and 3,000 sheep. There were so many animals that the priests needed to draft the Levites to assist them in the ritual slaughter (2 Chronicles 29:33,34).
With the temple in order Hezekiah proceeded to send a message for the people to assemble to celebrate the Passover. He not only invited his compatriots of Judah, but the northern ten-tribe kingdom representatives through Ephraim and Manasseh. Hezekiah may have felt comfortable inviting his brethren of Israel since there was no king of the northern tribes at that time, Assyria having subjected them.
Since the cleansing of the temple was not completed until the sixteenth day of the first month (Nisan) and the Passover was due to be celebrated on the fourteenth, Hezekiah was faced with a dilemma.
Either they have to wait nearly a full year for the next Passover or celebrate it late. This would explain why he called a council to decide the matter.
Although the Law called for Passover in the first month, the judgment of God was given that in cases of uncleanness, it would be permissible to keep the ceremony the fourteenth day of the second month (Numbers 9:6-11).
The situation in Hezekiah’s day was of sufficient similarity to invoke the application of that judgment...
The proclamation was sent throughout the borders of both the northern and southern kingdoms—from Dan to Beersheba.
Since the northern tribes had already been taken captive by Assyria, the proclamation was addressed to "the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hands of the kings of Assyria." Hezekiah’s breadth of mind and scope of vision for a united kingdom were not deterred by the fact that his brethren had broken away from him. His was a liberality that reached out to all regardless of the slights and hurts of past history.
However, it was not a message of forgiveness without repentance. He was not asking them to acknowledge their wrongs to their southern brethren, he was pleading with them not to turn from Yahweh as their fathers had done. The message reassured the Israelites that if they would be faithful to their part of the reform, God would be faithful in bringing them back again into one fold...

The reaction to the invitation was mixed. Evidently the majority treated the news with scorn, but some from three tribes—Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun—were humble enough to come to the feast at Jerusalem. The trans-Jordan tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, had already passed into Assyrian captivity and the Simeonites were scattered among the cities of Judah. Thus representatives of six of the twelve tribes—Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Levi, Naphtali, and Issachar—made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so that a great number were on hand for the celebration of the feast...

The first act of preparation was the removal of the idolatrous altars which King Ahaz had erected in each of the four corners of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 28:24). The stones of these demolished altars were thrown into the creek bed of the Kidron where they would be washed away by the flowing stream.
The solemnity of the ceremony was of such a nature as to cast guilt on the priests and Levites for allowing themselves to become ceremonially unclean. Before they began offering the animals of Passover, they performed their own cleansing rituals and offered the burnt offerings prescribed by law. Thus cleansed, they performed the ceremonial sprinkling of the Passover blood.
However, many of the congregation, specifically those of the northern kingdom tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, also had not gone through the required pre-Passover cleansing. Despite this, and probably not knowing the requirements since it had been so long since the last such observance, they participated in the feast.
Again, the magnanimity of Hezekiah was shown. Rather than berating them for disobedience of the Law requirements, he prayed for them, those who would prepare their hearts to seek after God. The word for pardon in this verse is the Hebrew kophar, meaning to cover or atone. It suggests an official removing of the guilt of the sin committed.
This story makes me wonder if there might be an End-time application in the antitypical Passover. Could it be that this epic Feast will involve Yahweh's people celebrating in the first month and then reaching out to uninformed, unclean mankind for a second Passover? Hmmm.... We do know that Yahweh's followers will perform the work of intercessors and mediators, helping others to turn to Yahweh in repentance.
...It is for these that the mediator will step between and intercede on their behalf, that the atonement will cover the sins of all who then will apply themselves to learn and do the precepts of righteousness.
The response of God is that Jehovah will hearken to these prayers and will heal the uncleanness of all who seek to learn and do the will of God, walking humbly up to perfection on the "highway of holiness" (Isaiah 35:8-10).

Though sadness for past neglect cast a pallor over the feast, it did not preclude glad songs of joy, accompanied by the temple musicians. Throughout the feast, as it will be throughout the kingdom, the spiritual Levites will teach them "the good knowledge of Yahweh."
And there was great cause for joy as Yahweh heard their prayers and accepted their repentance. He healed them! What a Feast!!!!
...As the congregation was so happy to have this feast renewed, the decision was made to continue it for another week. So restored humanity will be so pleased with the results of the Messianic kingdom they will continue the celebration by rendering continued obedience, not for another week or even another thousand years, but for eternity.
The immense size of the number of the gathered Israelites is further indicated by the number of animals that were given for the feast.
The offering of the king of 1,000 bullocks and 7,000 sheep was topped by the princes (perhaps representing the ancient worthies) with their offering of 1,000 additional bullocks and 10,000 sheep.
The "great number of priests who sanctified themselves" is in addition to the ones consecrating themselves in verse 15. A text which may shed light upon this second group of priests is found in Isaiah 66:19, 20 where we read of an exodus of Jews to Israel after their final battle.
Of these returnees he prophesies in Isaiah 66:21, "And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith Yahweh."
A priest is one who offers sacrifices or prayers on behalf of others. In patriarchal times this was a function filled by the first-born as the heir-apparent to the headship of the family. The patriarch Job fulfills this duty for his "comforters" in Job 42:8-10. In this way many who hear the Word of Yahweh will assist in the priestly work of teaching others and in  offering intercessory prayers (see Revelation 22:17).
It is also noteworthy that the celebrants included not only native-born Israelis but others as well... Likewise the blessings of God’s Kingdom apply not only to the saved from literal Israel but to all the families of the earth, who together make up the full spiritual Israel of the saved.
The joy and re-dedication that attended this Passover was not an end in itself, but merely a beginning in the larger reform of Hezekiah as outlined in succeeding chapters, as he sought to remove all idolatry from Israel.
...This is for us the great lesson of this event—to constantly invoke repentance and praise for the memories of God’s past deliverance of His people to rekindle the zeal to praise and serve Him afresh.