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The Lord Strengthens - Part 2

Isaiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:58
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A Divided Kingdom

Under the first three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, Israel existed as a united kingdom for 130 years. However, the kingdoms became divided into the North and South in 922 BC. By the time of Isaiah's ministry, the people of God had been divided for approximately 200 years, and they often were at odds with each other. Early on, the first king of the North sought to deter his people from worshipping at the Temple in Jerusalem. He set up two alternate places of worship for his people. Each contained a golden calf which was forbidden by God. 1 Kings12:28-33. During King Hezekiah's lifetime, the Southern kingdom lived under the threat of invasion from the North. The North eventually invaded and took 200,000 captives 2 Chronicles 28:8. They ultimately returned the captives.
Can you imagine the average person's attitude in the South toward their "brothers" in the North? How can different regions unite? How can a waring family be at peace? How can two become one like they were in the past? How can there be reconciliation? It can happen only by the salvation of God.

Reconciliation. Restoration of friendly relationships and of peace where before there had been hostility and alienation. Ordinarily it also includes the removal of the offense which caused the disruption of peace and harmony.

The Bible consistently reminds us that God seeks to reconcile people to himself and people to each other. The Feasts of Israel ultimately point to Jesus Christ, who is God's plan to reconcile all creation.
2 Chronicles 30:1–12 ESV
1 Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— 3 for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— 4 and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. 5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. 6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” 10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. 11 However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.

A Fundamental Festival

The Passover Celebration and the Feast of Unleavened Bread have their roots in the Exodus events. God used Moses to command Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. After nine plagues, God sent a final plague to prove His great power over Pharaoh and Egypt's gods. God sent an angel to strike down every firstborn in Egypt as judgment for their murder and slavery of the Hebrews. God commanded the people to ready themselves to leave Egypt by doing the following:
Prepare an animal to be roasted.
Take its blood and mark the entrance of their homes.
Make bread without leaven.
Eat it in haste because God would remove them from Egypt quickly.
God established the Passover Meal and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to be a yearly celebration and remembrance of their freedom from slavery. It was a teaching tool for the future generations of God's covenant faithfulness. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a one-week celebration of removing all leaven (yeast) from one's home and eating only unleavened bread.
When we read through the Old Testament, we will discover that the celebration developed into a centralized event in Jerusalem, but unfortunately, the people did not consistently keep these feasts. During times of idolatry, these celebrations were corrupted or altogether forgotten. This was the situation during King Ahaz's reign, but by God's grace within the humble heart of King Hezekiah, Judah experienced a revival. Their hearts were drawn back to God. In response, they sought to celebrate the feasts with great fervor and commitment.

Come to the House of the Lord

Although King Hezekiah was the king of Judah, he recognized that the People of God included the Northern and Southern kingdoms. There was only One God and One covenant community. They may live in different areas, come from other tribes, yet they were all descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hezekiah sought to invite all of God's people to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover as God desired them to do.
Judah experienced a tremendous move of reconciliation back to God. The Temple was cleansed and back in use. The Priests were once again offering the appropriate sacrifices for themselves and the people. The Song of the Lord echoed in the land once again from those who worshipped in the Temple. And Hezekiah sought to bring all of Israel back to this.
One may marvel at this response. Shouldn't Hezekiah be concerned about inviting the others, especially when they have been such a problem for Judah? Why make an effort to invite them? Are they not evil? Is there not "bad history" that keeps them apart? Reconciliation with God requires that we be reconciled to others.
Hezekiah sent couriers throughout all the land of the tribes of Israel with the good news to come to the house of the Lord. Verse 10 reveals that some in the North rejected the call with laughter, great disrespect, and mocking words. But some received the call to come and responded by making the journey to the Temple.
2 Chronicles 30:13–27 ESV
13 And many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very great assembly. 14 They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away and threw into the brook Kidron. 15 And they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, so that they consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings into the house of the Lord. 16 They took their accustomed posts according to the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests threw the blood that they received from the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the Lord. 18 For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. 22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers. 23 Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. 24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for offerings, and the princes gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And the priests consecrated themselves in great numbers. 25 The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.

A Consecrated Community

We should note that all this took place during the second month because they could not observe it during the first month due to the Temple not being ready. But by the second month, things were in motion to celebrate. Those who answered the call to come and celebrate came to be reconciled to God. And in that process, they discovered the common ground of worship and commitment to God. When they came together, they continued to rid the land of sinful tools and places for idolatry. After that, they set out to celebrate the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread. But some came to the celebration and were unclean.
Lexham Theological Wordbook Clean and Unclean

The biblical categories of “clean” and “unclean” relate to ritual purity and describe the condition of something relative to its suitability for being in God’s presence. Being unclean disqualifies the person or thing from sharing God’s presence. Being clean means that one is able to enter God’s presence. This sense of readiness to be in God’s presence was extended to include moral purity, as well as physical or ritual purity.

God determines what is clean or unclean, holy or unholy, and right or wrong. God had the highest standards for approaching Him. Yet He knew that the people would become unclean and provided the means by which they could once again be readied for His presence. Spiritual and physical uncleanness were corrected by:
The Lexham Bible Dictionary Theological Development

1. stopping the behavior;

2. washing with cleansing water (real or metaphorical); and

3. conducting a purification offering.

As Christians, we do not have to follow the ceremonial purity laws for our obedience because Christ has fulfilled the law for us. But we can see that we too can become "unclean" from our sin and sinful desires. We, too, need to be cleansed, and Jesus purifies us through His sacrifice upon the Cross.
1 John 1:7 ESV
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
As we study the actions of Hezekiah, we can appreciate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people from the North came to celebrate, but they were not "clean" verse 18. Hezekiah recognized this but did not stop the celebration. Rather he went before the Lord and prayed that God would pardon them. This Hebrew term is the word used for atonement. Hezekiah prayed that God would atone for the sins of those who set their hearts to seek God. And the Lord responded with "healing". God cured their uncleanness and permitted them to draw near to Him.
The Gospel reveals that we, too, are unworthy to enter the presence of God. We are unfit to have His presence in our lives. We are not able to force our way in, for we are unholy. But God has healed us by His grace through faith. We set our hearts to seek Him, we exercise faith in God. God is gracious to receive us.
The Passover and Festival of Unleavened bread may have occurred in the wrong month, but it occurred in the right place. It occurred in the hearts of those who called upon the Lord. The last verses of chapter 30 portray the scene of a mass movement to keep the celebration going. They did not want to stop celebrating the presence of the Lord and the reality of reconciliation. King Hezekiah and his princes continued to supply more resources for the festivals, and the people kept it going. What a time to be in Jerusalem. What a miracle of God's grace to bring His people back to Himself and back to each other?

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Our reconciliation continues through God's mercy and grace toward us in Jesus Christ. The words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 fit so well the story of Hezekiah.
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul reminds us that God has reconciled us back to Himself and has made us to be something new. New Creation is the language of the Gospel. The first creation of humanity is scarred by sin, but the new creation is made righteous. The old is gone, and we ought to keep reminding ourselves that our old life needs to be kept as "Out of Order". Sinful desires, thoughts, and actions can be laid at the cross where Christ forgives us and cleanses us.
But our new life in Him includes a special calling to become people who call others to be reconciled to God. Just like the people of Hezekiah's day, we who are in Christ have the responsibility to call all those who live in another kingdom to come to the Kingdom of God. Some may mock, jeer, and scorn us, but some will come. And they will find out like we have that God's grace is amazing. We are ambassadors. We may live on the same earth, but our citizenship is in Christ, whose kingdom is not of this earth.
The Gospel is God's solution not only for salvation but for bringing together those who have formerly been at war with each other. A Christian can not claim to love God and hate a fellow believer. The Holy Spirit guided the New Testament writers to constantly remind Christians about the importance of being reconciled to each other. The Church becomes the model for how God can transform the individual heart and the heart of the community. When outsiders look at the Christian Church, do they see the ministry of reconciliation? Do they see us humbling ourselves to lovingly reach out to those who are distant from us? We have much to do in this area. In our day, the world may think of us as unessential because we may have made our message of reconciliation to God unessential. May we never forget the power of the Gospel and the tremendous responsibility we have to share this message. Our world needs it.

Finding Purpose

Last week, we remembered the grace of God in the man who wrote Amazing Grace. This week, we can appreciate that God's grace is still at work, changing lives to be reconciled to Him.
In 1978, Peaches and Herb released some songs that reached high on the charts. One of those songs was "Reunited." Although the topic is reunited human love, the story of the singer Peaches' reconciliation speaks of God's glory.
Although Linda experienced much success and fame with Peaches & Herb, she knew when it was time to close that chapter in her life. She was feeling unfulfilled and not at peace.
« What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul.» (Matthew 16:26)
In search of God and direction in her life, she met her future husband, composer and music producer, Stephen Tavani. Stephen had just finished writing and producing for Motown Records sensation, Smokey Robinson, and soon began working with Peaches. While working together, they fell in love, and Stephen led Linda to the Lord. A year later, they were married.
Together, Linda and Stephen started an organization called W.O.W. International; W.O.W. meaning “Winning Our World.” Through their organization, Linda and her husband host transformative outreaches called WOW JAMS in underserved communities across the United States and around the world.  Over the years, 1.4 million people have attended these WOW JAMS; served by 158,000 volunteers who have provided 1 million hot meals, repaired 46,000 bikes, and have given thousands of haircuts, makeovers, plants, groceries, and prizes—all FREE! During these outreaches, a wonderful message of hope and love is given and an invitation to connect with God is offered.
In addition to the outreaches, Linda and her husband raised beautiful twin daughters, Nikola and Sierra, and have recorded four Gospel albums together, as Tavani.
http://lindapeaches.com/bio/
The message of God’s reconciliation is the primary message our world needs. Will you receive it? Will you share it?
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