20/7/11 2 Chronicles 29-31, James 4
S: 2 Chronicles 30:6-11 At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah. They carried letters that said: “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,t so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings. Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.” The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:17-20 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.
O: King Ahaz didn't follow the Lord and led Judah into apostasy.
Now, however, king Ahaz was dead and his on Hezekiah ruled in Judah. Hezekiah followed the Lord and ordered the cleansing and rededication of the Temple. Then they decided to celebrate the Passover nationally for the first time in years.
Hezekiah realized that the Chosen People weren't just those who lived in the surviving kingdom of Judah, but also those who were in Israel. So Hezekiah called all of them to come and worship the Lord in the Passover.
But many people, especially the northerners, had not celebrated the Passover in so long, they didn't know to do the purification rituals from the Law of Moses. Nonetheless, Hezekiah recognized their good intention and sincerity, so he prayed and asked God to forgive their lack, and God agreed.
A: God isn't legalistic. All of us have things that we get wrong in our practice of the faith. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Some Christians point out that sincerity is not sufficient -- you can be sincerely wrong. The suicide bombers are doubtless sincere -- but sincerely wrong, and they are probably burning in hell now because of that.
But the balance of that is that when people sincerely seek God, He in his mercy and grace has time and time again overlooked that and looked to their hearts, just like in this incident with the unpurified people who came to celebrate the Passover.
Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals and Charismatics have various secondary points of doctrine which contradict each other. God knows who is right on which points. However, He accepts all of us who are sincerely seeking and following Him to the best of our knowledge.
So in the same way, we must be one as He and the Father are one. (John 17:21) We must not let the secondary differences break fellowship among brothers & sisters in Christ. (Romans 14)
(The balance is Galatians 4:10-11 -- see my earlier meditation on that side of the coin.)
P: Father, I pray for unity among believers regardless of denomination -- that we may be one even as the Father and the Son are one. Where I hold prejudices against fellow believers because of differences of interpretation, help me to look at them with Your eyes. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note, the phrase I used in the title, بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم (bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm -- In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful) is recited at the beginning of all suras (chapters) of the Quran except for At Tawba (The Repentance). IMHO, the grace and mercy of God is much clearer in Christianity than in Islam, especially in the New Testament, but as we can see from today's meditation, the concept is in the Old Testament as well.