The Subject we Hate to Hear About
Revival came to Judah and to a few from various tribes of the estranged brothers in Israel and the result was spectacular. Judah was focused on YHWH and Him alone. The pagan places of worship were destroyed. The places of fertility rites, where God and Asherah were worshipped side-by-side, was destroyed, burned and torn down.
The priests and Levites were assigned their duties according to the Word of the Lord. Care was taken, that worship was done according to the Scripture. So the daily offerings were instituted again, the appointed feasts carried out the Sabbath was observed.
The King and the people gave their gifts to the temple and to the work of God. The first and best; wheat and wine; oil and honey all was tithed and collected. For four months, during the harvest and throughout the birthing time of the flock these gifts were gathered, collected and stored. So amazing was this chief priest is overwhelmed by the gifts and reports to the King, "we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed His people and this great amount is left over."
I don't want us to miss the fact that what was read in chapter 31 is the end of the story. It is the result of what happens when God puts it in the heart of his people to be restored and renewed. It is the outcome of lives dedicated to Jesus. Let me suggest some reasons why some of us don't experience any sense of "blessing" in our lives.
We have to understand that "blessing" does NOT equate with material wealth, things, or being healed. Those MAY be signs of God's blessing but they are not the substance of it. "Blessing" is being happy. "Blessing" translates into being at peace. "Blessing" is the evidence of a life drawing contentment and certainty from Jesus rather than from life's situations. "Blessing" is evident among those who are focused on Christ out of love and awe for what He did on the cross.
Hezekiah was a God honoring King, unlike his father. In less than a month the temple that was loaded with uncleanliness and idol worship alongside of the worship of God was cleansed and restored. It was an amazing thing. Beside this, a tunnel was dug to provide Jerusalem with water in case they were besieged. , as the Northern Kingdom, Judah comes more and more under the influence, and eventual capture by Assyria, Hezekiah grows more, and more certain he was doing the right thing.
In 2 Chronicles Passover is celebrated once again. The King invites Israel and Judah to come together and to "return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria." Some do but most "scored and ridiculed them".
Do you catch the irony? Rejecting this invitation are those who already have suffered several Assyrian incursions into their nation. They were at war and their prospects weren't looking that good. Their prophets told them it was because they had turned away from God and worshipped idols. But even when confronted with the opportunity to get right with God they are too proud to seek the Lord and to admit their need for YHWH.
But those who do come find a time of worship that can only be described as life changing. It was a humbling time. The Passover took place later than usual because there weren't enough priests consecrated to the work and even once, it starts verse 15 says many of the priests and Levites were ashamed. The people are no different. Many had come unprepared and thus unclean but they still ate Passover with the rest. Hezekiah, knowing this prays to the Lord and seeks forgiveness. "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
It was a good time. Seven days the celebration went on the King encouraged those who were doing the work of the Lord, the priests and Levites. Music, feasting, prayer, and the rest was the focus of this city. At the end of the seventh day, it was decided that another party had to be held so they celebrated another week. How do we know God had "blessed" Judah? Listen to these concluding verses from chapter 30, "There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place." Implied in this is that the Lord did exactly that, He blessed the people.
How do you follow such a tangible experience? It was better than the best Fellowship Camp; birth of your first child; and 25th wedding anniversary all rolled into one. I think we start with an attitude of humility. The blessing that they received and which we are promised is found when we realize our worth, in comparison to the total holiness of God. Compare yourself to a brother or sister and you know where you stand in the family pecking order. Compare yourself to others in your chose industry or age and you can pretty much tell if you're ahead or behind the game. But compare ourselves to God and we all come out losers. God is so perfect, so immense, so wonderful that just the knowledge that we're sinners shames us like Israel's priests.
Recognize that God's mercy is just as great as His holiness. I love the fact that Hezekiah and the people got it all wrong but that God didn't mind. It wasn't celebrated the right month. The priests weren't really able to make the sacrifices. The people who ate the meal weren't ready to eat because they were unclean… yet God hears Hezekiah's prayer and doesn't punish them or destroy them. That happens because God looks on the heart not the outward appearance. We may not measure up when compared to God but God's immeasurable grace, love and mercy has the power to make us His friends and adopt us as His children.
What we see in chapter 31, the outpouring of the tithe, is in direct response to what the people had experienced. Have you ever known someone who was a runner? I had a doctor who went from a body shape like mine (round is a shape) to being a lean 5 mile a day runner. There is nothing that running can't cure. There is nothing that a good run can't fix. That is, unless you believe there is no such thing as a "good run".
Israel had gone from paying lip service to God to seeking God with their whole being. They had gone from worshipping God alongside their work, their family, their drugs, their addition, their grief, their things, their whatever else you want to put in there. They had gone from a sense of dis-ease and become at ease. They had gone from a mentality of victimization to a mentality of celebration. And their response was to give to God what he asked.
What's our experience with God done in our life? Has it prodded us to destroy and burn the idols of our lives? Have we torn down the things that get in the way of our loving Jesus? Has our love of Jesus moved us to give what God asks or do we turn a deaf ear to those demands. You know what I'm talking about don't you? Have we given to God what His Word says we are to give him—our heart, our mind, our soul and with all our strength. Have we "obeyed" Jesus' commands, which is the proof that what we say about being a Christian is really true? Have we brought the tithe into God's storehouse? They are related.
Here's your test of faith today—this table. Like the letter sent from Hezekiah it is God's invitation to come and celebrate God's mercy and love. Some may come and some may scoff. Like that Passover—it isn't perfect. Human hands prepared this and human bodies will consume it. Some of us are prepared to take and eat and others simply because they've always done it.
But this table is also a humbling place. You cannot eat and drink in a way worthy if you believe you think you've earned it. You haven't. I can't. You cannot come to this place except on our hearts knees because we aren't worthy for the blood of Christ to be poured out for us. All we can do is come, seek God's mercy and rejoice by going forth to do what he commands us. Let us come to His table.
 (2 Chron. 30:6)
 (2 Chron. 30:10)
 2 Chron. 30:18a-20
 2 Chron. 30:26-27