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Follow the link for The literary structure of 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11a

Last week we began the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. We saw how she was in a difficult situation – she couldn’t have children. And so her husband Elkanah married another woman who did have children. And then this rival wife tormented Hannah over this. We heard how Hannah became so troubled and overwhelmed that she couldn’t eat. So she poured out her heart to God at the tabernacle in prayer. And that she made a vow that if God would give her a son, she would give that son back to serve God forever.

She prayed boldly and persistently until she felt that God had heard her prayer – and then she went away in faith and at peace. And sure enough, not long after, God answered her cry and gave her a son, Samuel.

Which leads us to our story today –

Hannah’s gift of Samuel to God 

21The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow.

There are two things here that point to Elkanah devotion. 1) He went up each year to worship at Shiloh at the tent of meeting, which seems to be a voluntary pilgrimage beyond what is required. And 2) he paid his vow. As we saw last week vows are voluntary commitments or acts of devotion to God, beyond what is required. They often had a deal quality to them – God if you do this, then I will do this.

We don’t know what this vow was about, but perhaps it was a prayer for good crops and then an extra sacrifice to God because of good crops. Deuteronomy 23:21 says of vows – “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.”

The notation in our story of him paying his vow shows us that he was a person of integrity, who kept his commitments to God.

22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.”

 Immediately it is clarified that Hannah and Samuel did not go up to worship. She had vowed to give Samuel to serve God under a Nazarite vow for his whole life. (v. 22 – some versions include a phrase from other ancient manuscripts which says, “I will offer him as a Nazarite for all time.”)

And so there is the question of her delay. Now that she has the child; now that she is a new mom, will she have second thoughts? Lest anyone think that she would not come through on her commitment, the reasoning is explained. Samuel was probably around three months old at this time, and he would need to be weaned first. In her thinking, once the child was given, he could not come back and forth to their household and weaning was required for this kind of permanent separation.

23Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him.

 Elkanah agrees that this is fine. He has already accepted her vow to give up their son, which he could have canceled according to Numbers 30:6-8, but didn’t.

It’s unclear what Elkanah means when he says, “may the Lord establish his word.” One possibility is that God may have told them that their child would be a great prophet, and so the sense is that he is praying that God will speak through him and that Samuel’s prophetic words will be established by God, or come to pass.

This matches what is said later in 1 Samuel 3:19-20 – “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground . . . Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.” (his words/established). And this also seems to refer to Deuteronomy 18:15-18 that speaks of God sending another prophet like Moses, whose words will come true.

In the ancient world children were weaned after 3 years or even longer.  (2 Maccabees 7:27). This is different than what we are used to, but this is the time frame we are working with.

24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.

So when Samuel was a toddler, she took him to give him to the Lord. And as they brought him they gave a very generous offering, according to Numbers 15:8-10 and what is required for fulfilling a vow.

  • They gave a 3 year old bull, instead of a 1 year old, which was more valuable. (If the alternative reading of 3 bulls is used, the same point is made)
  • They gave an ephah of flower, about a bushel, instead of 3/10 of an ephah
  • They gave a full skin of wine, instead of a half hin of wine (which was just over half a gallon). So they gave perhaps a gallon or two.

26And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

After three or more years she has now come back to Eli and she reminds him of who she is. (“As you live” is a testimonial oath. He couldn’t see well (1 Samuel 3:2), so perhaps a testimonial oath was needed to confirm her identity). And she tells him that her prayer was indeed answered.

She even quotes Eli’s word to her from their previous encounter in 1:17, the Lord “has granted me my petition that I made to him.” Here next to her is her son Samuel.

Just as she named him Samuel because of a wordplay with the word for ask, this continues here. The word for “ask” can also mean lend. And so just as he came to her by asking God, so now she gives him to God as a loan forever.

Now let’s stop for a moment and think about Hannah’s gift to God:

  • This was a first born son and in that day this was the most valuable child
  • This was her only child
  •  And she didn’t know if she could have others, this one was the product of a miracle
  •  And he was given while still a small child, which must have been terribly difficult

This was an extraordinary gift and act of devotion to God!

And then our story ends –

 1:28And he (most likely Elkanah) worshiped the Lord there . . .. And then after Hannah’s praise to God, which we will come back to . . . in 2:11a it says, Then Elkanah (and presumably also Hannah) went home to Ramah.

Lessons for us

1. We should keep our commitments to God also . . . Just as Elkanah kept his vow, and especially just as Hannah kept her vow, so we are to keep our commitments that we make to God.

Whether we are talking about baptismal vows, marital vows or the kind of vows we see in this story, where we ask God to help us and if he does we commit to do something for God. Once again, Deuteronomy 23:21 says, “If you make a vow/commitment to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.” If you tell God you will do something, then you need to do it.

2. We should give generously even sacrificially to God as well . . . This shows up in the offering they brought to the tabernacle of God, which went well beyond what was required. And this certainly shows up in giving Samuel to be the Lord’s forever.

How does your giving compare to theirs?

  • Is it thoughtless and haphazard, so that we just give whatever, usually a little bit here or there. Maybe whatever might be in your wallet or purse when you show up to church? Maybe the smallest bill you have?
  • Or is it straight by the rules? You are supposed to give this much so you give that much.
  • Or is it abundant and generous, beyond what is required as an expression of love and devotion to God?

Let me end by noting that you can’t out-give God. If we look ahead in the story in 1 Samuel 2:21 we see that God gave Hannah five other children after this. Now, we don’t always get back the same thing we give, but you will never be more generous than God is. And he blesses those who give generously and sacrificially to him. Are you generous with God?

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camelAccording to Jesus it is hard for those who have more than they need to receive God’s Kingdom salvation. Indeed, it’s impossible, like trying to get a camel through the eye of a sewing needle (Luke 18:24-25). It’s impossible because what God demands is so hard for us to do. Here is what Jesus and his apostles teach about what God demands.

1. Give up greed

Jesus said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus warns us against every kind of greed. Wealth is so dangerous that we should not seek to have it (Mark 4:18-19; I Timothy 6:9). Why is this?

  • First, when we store up earthly treasures we are led to trust in them rather than God (Matthew 6:24).
  • And second, when we store up earthly treasures we are led to enjoy comforts while others suffer (Luke 16:19-31). In other words, seeking wealth leads us to hate God and our neighbor, the opposite of the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Rather than this we are to trust God for our provision (Matthew 6:25-34). We are to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5), simply praying for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). We know that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

2. Give up all you possess

Jesus said, “none of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). Here are some things to note about this command:

  • It applies to all who have possessions.
  • “Give up” can be translated “renounce.”
  • This covers “all” our possessions, not some.
  • This command primarily has a vertical focus. It has to do with our possessions and God.
  • This command is interpreted by Luke in Acts 4:32, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own.”

It means that we accept that our possessions are no longer ours. We renounce them. We give them up to God. They are God’s now. Jesus tells us why we must renounce our possessions. “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

3. Give to the needy

Jesus said, “sell your possessions and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33). Here are some things to note about this command:

  • It is addressed to all who are not themselves needy. (But sacrificial giving on the part of the needy is highly commended – Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:3).
  • This command has primarily a horizontal focus, giving our resources to the needy.
  • This has to do with our excess possessions, including our accumulated money, not necessarily all our possessions and money. In Luke 12 the context of this command is the farmer’s surplus crop. Jesus is not saying here “become needy” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14).
  • All such giving is to be done voluntarily and freely (2 Corinthians 9:7). Ananias could have kept what he pretended to give (Acts 5:4).
  • Sometimes an initial dispersion of wealth happened at conversion. Zacchaeus gave half of his possessions to the needy (Luke 19:8).
  • This giving is to be continuous, however. As Paul said, “each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn” for the purpose of meeting needs (I Corinthians 16:2). As long as there are needs we are to keep giving what we can.
  • This command is interpreted by Luke in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35. When there was a need in the community of believers, those who had would give to those who had need.
  • The giving can be done one on one, or it can be given to the common fund of the church to be distributed to the needy (Matthew 6:2; Acts 4:35; 6:1-4).

4. Who are the needy?

There are three categories of the needy:

1) Those who are needy because of God – evangelists, missionaries, pastors and those who are persecuted. These have sold all they have (Luke 18:22), or left it behind (Luke 18:28-30), or have given up earning money (Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:17-18) or have had their possessions taken from them (Hebrews 10:32-34) – all for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

2) Those who are needy among the people of God – the sick, the oppressed, widows, and orphans (James 1:27; Galatians 6:10). If we are not needy, our salvation depends upon giving to these two groups of the needy (Luke 16:19-31; 6:24). For we cannot love God and ignore a needy brother or sister (I John 3:16-17). When we do give, they will welcome us into the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:9).

3) We are also to give to those who are needy among the unbelievers (Luke 10:30-37; Galatians 6:10; Luke 6:33-36).

We are not to give to the idle, those who choose not to work. Rather we are to teach these to work hard, earn their own living and help others in need (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; I Thessalonians 4:11-12).

5. How much should we give?

There is no set requirement of how much we are to give; no percentage is given. Those who give much, however, like Barnabas, are honored (Acts 4:36-37).

Love for God and our neighbor should control our giving. Those who give out of love are willing to give sacrificially for others in genuine need. They are not concerned about percentages, but helping the needy. Paul said, “each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But remember this, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6). How much treasure do we want in heaven (Luke 12:33)?

6. Caring for family

None of this giving to the needy excludes us from our responsibilities to care for our family. It is evil to neglect this (Mark 7:8-13; I Timothy 5:3-8). Caring for family can involve storing up resources for our parents in old age (Mark 7:9-13), and for our children’s needs (2 Corinthians 12:14). Caring for family, however, should not be used as a pretext for greed so that we can live in indulgence.

7. Sharing all that we possess

Jesus said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:13). Whatever is not used to support family needs and to give to the needy is still God’s and must be used for God’s purposes. This means being hospitable and sharing what we own.This means blessing the needy with our resources. Philemon had a room for Paul to stay in when he traveled through his area (Philemon 1:22). Gaius allowed his large home to be the meeting place for the church in Corinth (Romans 16:23).

8. Doing the impossible

What God demands of us is impossible because we are evil. We store up treasures for ourselves because we do not believe that God will take care of us. We store up treasures for ourselves so that we can live in comfort while others suffer; because we think it’s alright if others suffer lack as long as we don’t.

But there is hope for us. Jesus tells us that with God all things are possible (Luke18:27). If we truly desire it, God can change our evil hearts. God can enable us to give up all our possessions and be generous with all that we have.

William S. Higgins – 2003

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

We are back to our series on Paul to the Thessalonians. Remember with me: Paul, Silas and Timothy ministered in Thessalonica, but had to leave because a mob was after them. Paul was concerned because he hadn’t finished giving these new converts all the teaching that he had intended. So he sent Timothy back to check on them. And now that Timothy has reported back to Paul, he is writing this letter in part to give them further instructions based on some concerns raised by Timothy’s report.

The first topic was sex, learning to control our own bodies in holiness and honor. Today the topic is mutual love or loving and helping each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And as well how this love can be taken advantage of and misused by some.

Our passage begins with Paul –

 

Encouraging the practice of mutual love

“9 Now concerning mutual love . . .” [Paul has talked about their love several times before this: 1:3 – their “labor of love”; 3:6 – “the good news of your faith and love”; 3:12 – “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all”] The word for love here is Philadelphia, which literally means love for one’s brothers and sisters. This word was used for the love that you are to have for your natural family. In the New Testament it is used for the love that we are to have for those who are in our faith family.

All throughout 1 Thessalonians Paul emphasizes that these new believers – Jews and Gentiles, and Gentiles of different backgrounds – are now a part of a new family because of their faith; he emphasizes that the church is a family. Indeed Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers/sisters” 19x in I Thessalonians. That’s a lot! And he refers to those who are not Christians as “outsiders” in v. 12.

In our context here in 1 Thessalonians this familial love, like in a regular family, extends beyond affection and friendship to helping each other out with material needs. [See also Hebrews 13:1-3 where “philadelphia” is used in the context of giving hospitality and helping (providing for) those in prison due to persecution.] [Philadelphia is not being used in contrast to agape. It is used in parallel to it in v. 9 – “now concerning mutual love (philadelphia) . . . you have been taught  by God to love (agape) one another.” It simply speaks of their love in a familial context.]

Paul goes on – “9Now concerning mutual love you have no need for anyone to write to you . . ..” Why no need to write? “for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” Paul is alluding here to Isaiah 54:13 – “all your sons will be taught by the LORD.” This text talks about the time of the kingdom of God. More broadly in Scripture we learn that at this time, God will be more active working amongst his people; and the Spirit will dwell in all God’s people and lead and teach them. [John 6:45 quotes Isaiah 54:13. See also Jeremiah 31:33-34; 1 John 2:20, 27]  No doubt Paul had taught them Jesus’ command to love their neighbors. But it has really taken root and the Spirit has brought this to life in their hearts.

How does he know God has taught them? They are doing it. “10for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia.”

And to love those who are not a part of your natural family or your friend network – as family; to have affection for them and to care for their needs is surely a sign of God’s work in their hearts.

They “love one another” in their own group, but also have this family love for all their fellow Christians, in all of the province of Macedonia, which included the cities of Philippi and Berea. This most likely evidenced itself in giving financial support for those in need, including food for the hungry (2 Thessalonians 3) and hospitality for those who were traveling through Thessalonica.

 “But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more.” Paul is praising them for their love and generosity; that they are helping those with needs. And essentially he is saying be even more diligent in this sharing.

Next Paul moves to –

Correcting the abuse of mutual love

Here is where we get to the problem he wants to address. It was not that they weren’t loving each other and being generous to help those in need. It was that a few were taking advantage of this mutual love and generosity. Though able to work and support themselves they were living off the generosity of others. In other words, they were “idle.”

And those who are idle; who aren’t busy with their own work and life tend to become busybodies. As we will see some got involved in other peoples’ business and were talking about other peoples’ lives and concerns. Thus they were being disruptive to the community. In chapter 5:14 Paul specifically calls them “the idle.” The word that he uses can mean both not working, but also “disruptive,” which fits well with their meddling behavior.

 “11 and (we urge you) to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” The phrase “to aspire to live quietly” speaks to how idleness leads to being a busybody. It can refer specifically to not speaking or spreading gossip, or more generally to not being disruptive in the community. 

The phrase “to mind your own affairs” can also speak to not being a busybody, that is, keep your nose out of the business of others. But it can also mean “attend to your own home and things.” That is, focus on taking care of your own needs. 

The last phrase “to work with your hands” addresses the core issue. If you are at all able, work to provide for your own needs. Don’t live off of the generosity of others. Provide for yourself and your family. [See also Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:18.]

  And just as the problem of idleness leads to the problem of being a busybody, so the solution of working to provide for your own needs solves (at least in good part) the issue of being a busybody. For if you are busy working at providing for your own needs, you will most likely not have time to be meddling. [See also 1 Timothy 5:13.]

  Now, Paul not only taught them this, as he says, “we instructed you,” he was a model for them. He says in 1 Thessalonians 2:9, “For you remember, brothers and sisters, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Paul had the right to live off of the generosity of the family of God, because he was doing the work of the kingdom. But he declined this in order to model for them how they should each work hard and provide for their own needs. [See also 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8]

“12 so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Paul expresses two concerns. First a lifestyle of idleness and meddling is a bad witness to unbelievers. We are to be a witness to a new way of life in Christ, of the transformation that he brings.

Second, unless we are disabled in some way, we are not to be dependent on the generosity of others. It’s one thing to receive help and to be blessed by your faith family in a time of crisis or need. This is what we are to do more and more for one another. But it’s another to live off of others while not working.

Idleness in 2 Thessalonians 3

Apparently this letter didn’t solve the problem, because in 2 Thessalonians Paul has to deal with it in more detail. [The word “idleness” v. 6, is the same as in 1 Thessalonians 5:14.] Here also some were “not willing to work” – 3:10. They were able, but unwilling. They were “not busy at work, but busybodies” – 3:11.

  The answer is spelled out in clear terms here: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” – 3:10. Don’t give to them anymore. With regard to being a busybody, they are “to do their work quietly and . . . earn their own living” – 3:12. [The word “quiet” is the same as in 1 Thessalonians 4:11]

I believe in these verses Paul gives us

Six challenges

– to think about and put into practice.

1. Do you see the church as your family? Your faith family? Do we have this sense of identity?

In several places in Scripture we learn that God is our Father (Matthew 6:9; 23:9) Jesus is our eldest brother; the firstborn (Romans 8:29), and we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord (Matthew 23:8).

We are not just a collection of individuals with all of our differences and different natural families. We have been melded together in Christ. And we need to embrace this identity and live it out.

2. Are you growing in your love for one another? Where do you need to grow more and more?

  • Do you need to spend more time with your brothers and sisters in the Lord?
  • Do you need to take time to show concern and love?
  • Do you need to be more involved in giving to help with the needs of brothers and sisters in the Lord?

3. Are you taking care of your own needs? If we are able, we are to take care of ourselves and our families. Let the generosity of God’s people go to those who truly need it, those who are not able to care for themselves.

4. Do you create dependence when you give to others? Every person must carry their own load; that is, be responsible for their own needs. So let this be a guideline for you as you seek to be generous, so that your giving will truly be a blessing and not a snare to those you seek to help. [Here the focus is on getting the idle to work and not be dependent. Not giving to them is only implied. In 2 Thessalonians 3 not giving is made explicit.]

5. Do you stop giving because some take advantage of you? This is precisely what is going on here. But notice, Paul doesn’t say stop giving or don’t be generous. He doesn’t say it’s OK to develop a hard heart.  He tells them to give “more and more.” There are plenty of people in real need, for whom our giving will not create dependency. And so we need to grow in our love and giving by sharing with these.

6. Are you a busybody? A meddler? A gossip, disrupting the community? Maybe you are working, but still have enough free time. And you don’t need a lot of time given the advent of facebook! If you have too much free time, busy yourself with the work of God, not the work of the evil one.

 

Where is God speaking to you today? May God work in each of us so that we are “taught by God” in all these areas to do God’s will and to be witnesses to others who don’t know Christ. 

William Higgins

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In the past year or so, we have looked at several of the stories of the kings of Judah that come from 2 Chronicles: King Asa, King Jehoshaphat, King Joash, King Uzziah and now today we begin to look at King Hezekiah. Specifically the reforms he enacted in 2 Chronicles chapters 29-31 to renew and restore God’s people.

Some basics

  • Hezekiah began to reign when he was 25 and reigned for 29 years – 29:1
  • He “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.” – 29:2

Indeed, in Chronicles he is presented as the most righteous king since David and Solomon. And he is also given the most attention since David and Solomon, 117 verses in all.

Background

The northern kingdom of Israel had just been destroyed and taken off into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC. And Judah itself was in a precarious position.

King Ahaz (Hezekiah’s father) was horribly unfaithful:

  • He practiced all manner of idolatry, including child sacrifice, and he shut the temple down
  • The results were multiple military defeats and deportations of the population. They were heading down the path of the northern kingdom.

But then comes . . .

A Time of Renewal

This begins in the heart of Hezekiah:

“For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us.” – 2 Chronicles 29:6-10

How different he is than his father!

First of all 1. He restored the temple – During his first year, in the first month of the year, he acted. “He opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them” – 29:3. (The first month seems to refer to the first month of the calendar – see 30:2-3, but this may have also been the first month of his reign)

– He then charged the priests and Levites to purify themselves – 29:5-15

– And they then proceeded to purify the temple – 29:16-19. It had been ‘trashed.’ So, they carried out the “filth” it says, and they put it in the Kidron valley, the city garbage dump.

– After 16 days the temple was rededicated – 29:20-30

  • they gave offerings to atone for sin to seek forgiveness for Judah and even all Israel
  • and they worshiped with offerings, music, singing and bowing down.

The response of the people was overwhelming – 29:31-35. They brought so many sacrifices that there weren’t enough priests consecrated to handle them, so the Levites had to help the priests.

The result of this reform is articulated in vs. 35–36 – “Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored . . . And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced” at what God had done and that it had happened so quickly.

But Hezekiah didn’t stop here, 2. He restored the celebration of Passover

This was certainly appropriate – As 30:9 makes clear. With the dominance of the Assyrian empire, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered, and many in Judah had been taken away. Passover, you remember, celebrates God as their deliverer from the empire of Egypt. This was an expression of hope and trust in God against all empires that would destroy them.

But there was a problem. Since they didn’t finish cleansing the Temple in time during the first month, which is when Passover is supposed to be celebrated (they were two days too late), they had to celebrate it in the second month – 30:2-4.  (Perhaps they were drawing on some of the provisions for individuals from Numbers 9 about celebrating Passover the next month if you were ritually unclean or not able to assemble.)

– Hezekiah sent out a letter inviting all Israel to come – 30:1; 5-10. Not just Judah, but even those who were left of the northern kingdom of Israel. He was trying to reunite all Israel again. His letter was a powerful call to repentance and renewal.

– “A very great assembly” came. Even though many in the north had scorned the invitation, some did come, and all Judah turned out – 30:11-13

– They put away the idol altars in the city of Jerusalem – 30:14, throwing them into the garbage dump of Kidron to prepare the city.

– And then they celebrated the Passover and the associated feast of unleavened bread – 30:15-16

Then there was another problem, however, many ate the Passover “otherwise than prescribed” – 30:18. That is, they were not ritually clean, especially those from the north. This was an offense that could bring serious judgment (Leviticus 15:31).

But Hezekiah prayed and the Lord answered, “’May the good Lord pardon everyone 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.’ And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people” – 30:18-19. God looked at their intention, even if it didn’t meet the letter of the law, and had mercy.

Again, the response of the people was overwhelming. After the initial seven day feast, they decided to celebrate another seven days – 30:23

The result of all this was . . .

  • Great joy – 30:25-26. For it says “Since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” Both northern Israel and the people of Judah together worshipping God in the temple.
  • God heard their prayers and blessed them – 30:27
  • As they left the city, the people cleansed the countryside of idol altars – 31:1

Finally, 3. He restored the priestly, Levitical system

– He reorganized them – 31:2

– He himself gave to support the temple – 31:3, providing regular burnt offerings

– He called the people to support the priests and Levites. As 31:4 notes, that they might be free to “give themselves to the Law of the Lord.” He called them to fulfill what Moses commanded concerning material support for the temple workers.

This part of the story may seem anti-climactic to us or mundane talking about priests and finances. But we have to understand that this was to sustain the reforms that had begun.

The priests and Levites could only continue to lead the people in faithfulness if they were supported. This was necessary to maintain the renewal that Hezekiah had begun.

And again, the response of the people was overwhelming. 2 Chronicles 31:5 says, “the people of Israel gave in abundance . . . they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.”  Notice the emphasis on the word “heaps.”

  • “heaps” – v. 6
  • “heaps” – v. 7
  • “heaps” – v. 8
  • “heaps” – v. 9

The priests and Levites ate all they could and there was still this abundance (v. 10). They are like, ‘What should we do with all these heaps?’ And so Hezekiah ordered them to build storage chambers – v. 11.

A summary of Hezekiah’s reforms

“Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.” – 2 Chronicles 31:20-21

Some Lessons on Renewal

1.We learn how to deal with sin. Hezekiah is an excellent example here.

  • You need complete honesty. He begins right away with a brutally honest assessment of their sin. He said, they “have been unfaithful and have done what is evil in the sight of the Lord.” – 29:6. This is why God’s anger againt them in judgment.
  • You need actions of repentance to make things right.

He was urgent in his actions of repentance: He started right away when he came to power and he observed Passover even though the timing was off. Within seven months it was all done. The temple restoration in the first month; the Passover restoration in the second month; and the gathering of support for the priests and Levites in the third through seventh months.

He was diligent in his actions of repentance: He did not leave it for others to do. He initiated and oversaw each step as the text makes clear at every point.

And he was thorough in his actions of repentance: He dealt with the temple itself, the Passover celebration, and the priestly system to sustain this. He moved from the temple to the city to the countryside even into northern Israel. From the inside, out.

In the same way, when we have sin in our life:

  • We need complete honesty. This is the biggest obstacle to Christian renewal. We are not honest and don’t take responsibility for our wrong actions.
  • We also need actions of repentance. And these actions need to be urgent, diligent and thorough – from the inside out covering every part of us from inner attitudes to outward behaviors.

We need all this in order to be right with God and to receive his blessing.

2. We also learn what renewal looks like. Hezekiah provides the pattern:

  • We get rid of the “filth,” and recommit to God. They got the filth out of the Temple, the city and the countryside and renewed their covenant. So, also, we need to get rid of the filth in our lives and begin again to do God’s will. When you see this happening then you know that renewal is happening.
  • We experience a renewed relationship with God. They found forgiveness from God and worshipped God in the Temple and had joy. So also, we need to find forgiveness, to be in relationship with God through prayer and worship, and to experience joy. When you see this happening then you know that renewal is happening.
  • We reach out to others. They invited the northern tribes to turn back to God. And when we are renewed, we will take a concern for others and their relationship with God. When you see this happening then you know that renewal is happening.
  • We give to God’s cause. Just as they gave many sacrifices and gave an abundance for the priests and Levites that left great heaps, So we give to the work of the kingdom. Renewal, if it is real, will affect our purses and our wallets. When you see this happening then you know that renewal is happening.

3. We learn that God is the source of renewal

First of all, it comes from God’s mercy. God wants to renew us; God is willing to forgive us when we turn and repent.

As Hezekiah said in his letter of invitation to the Passover, “For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” – 30:9. And as an example o this, the Lord was merciful on those who were unclean at Passover, but had a right heart – 30:18-19.

Second, renewal comes from God acting. Hezekiah initiated each aspect of the renewal: the temple, the Passover, and the Levitical system. But in each instance they all had to acknowledge that it was God at work:

  • The temple: With regard to the generous sacrifices of the people, “Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people” – 29:36 (NIV).
  • The Passover: “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.” – 30:12.
  • The temple support: “When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and his people Israel.” – 31:8.

God was the one doing all this, working in people’s hearts.

May God, in his mercy, so act among us, in our individual lives and in our church community, to bring us renewal and blessing. William

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