Home > Miscellaneous > Cellllllllll-e-brate good times, c’mon! (2 Chronicles 29:35-31:1)

Cellllllllll-e-brate good times, c’mon! (2 Chronicles 29:35-31:1)

Sorry this is such a long time coming! It’s been in my head for weeks, the problem is that it’s boring for me to write down and figure out how to phrase what is in my brain. Usually when I write I sit down and think and discover as I’m penning what I want to say… I think I’m going to try something new next time – promise it will be much more timely and my posts will be much more frequent.

I’m not going to copy the text, you can find a bible if you want, or, go here for an online version. I’ll try to give a brief rundown of what’s going on in this passage

This story is about the passover feast held by the Israelites soon after Hezekiah came to power as king. Just previous to this feast, Hezekiah had begun the arduous, painful, and resisted process of repenting Israel by purifying the temple. The next step, now that the temple was made pure was the celebration of the Passover. The problem was that when the time came for the feast, there weren’t even enough consecrated priests to hold the ceremony and no one had actually come to Jerusalem for it (30:3). The date for the party had been set, but no one wanted to show up. Everyone expected the Passover to be dull or expected that it simply would not occur, and so no one gathered for it. So, the king and his officials decided to make the Passover party happen a month late, even though God’s law prescribed otherwise (Leviticus 23:5). Even with an extra month to prepare, the belated party is still a huge mess.

Couriers are sent out all over Israel and Judah with a message of love, blessing, and forgiveness God in His compassion desired to express to the people of Israel if they would return to him. The “return to the Lord” made it possible for the Lord to return to them (30:6). Relational reconciliation is impossible if only one party is willing to reconcile, otherwise, there must be disparity and distance. God sends out the invitation, but He cannot be intimate with those who refuse intimacy, and so they cannot know the forgiveness, love, and blessing of his intimacy. The promise made by the message sent out to all Israel is that YHWH “will not turn his face from you if you return to him” (30:9). The image here is interesting, God facing the Israelite people, on the whole and as individuals, as they, backs turned, are walking away from Him. He is continuing to face them even as they walk away, and if they return, He will never turn his face from them. But He will only look at their backs for so long and there will come a day when their “stiff-necked” (30:8) pride gets so powerful (and therefore, depowering to the person) that they will never return, and the face of God will turn away.

We discover that even though God couldn’t be more clear about what He desires of the Israelite people and His offering of Himself, many chose to reject. The people as a whole “scorned and ridiculed” the couriers because of their message, and thereby the One who ultimately sent the message through the couriers. Only “some men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem” (30:11). There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here. Think about what the people that rejected the message of the couriers rejected. Yes, they rejected turning toward and serving God, but what did that really mean in the moment? How did YHWH ask them to live out their turning back toward Him? He wanted them to go to a party. A massive festival, with massive amounts of people, massive amounts of food, over massive periods of time. And they scorned and ridiculed. Pride, my friends. Pride. What did they have to be proud about?

It likely isn’t that they thought very highly of themselves and were incessantly arrogating themselves above others and above God. Although some might have been. But, they are described as “stiff-necked” and those that chose to go had to humble themselves in order to go. So, pride is there. It’s not the type of pride we stereotypically think about, that which manifests itself in obvious ways (you’ve probably seen it in people like me). It’s the pride that is afraid to admit that the way we’ve been doing life is wrong. That our lifepath is the incorrect one. It’s the type of pride that causes a person to choose the preservation of the self over the honoring of God. Convicted yet? No one wants to find out that they’ve been doing things completely wrong, that they’ve wasted time, or that they’re not even close to being who they should be. It’s scary and it requires a great deal of humility to turn away from old life paths because to do so is to admit the futility of those paths. I believe it is out of fear that the Israelites reacted with scorn. They were scared they were in the wrong (I suspect a part of them knew they were in the wrong) and so ridicule was a natural way to quickly get rid of the couriers and to reaffirm to themselves that the way of God was absurd, engaging in self-deception to help them live a contrary life with weaker conviction. This is their pride. This is why it was difficult to come to the party. This is why those who came had to humble themselves in order to come.

Even though just some came, it was “a very large crowd of people” (30:11). Such seems to be the kingdom at most times in history. Some, not all. Many, not most. Large crowds, but a small percentage of the whole. I’m not going to lie, I don’t get it. I have intellectual explanations, but they don’t put my soul at rest. Regardless, the concept that most will not repent seems to be true in the remnant groups of the Old Testament, the broad and narrow gates of the New Testament, and the experience of modern life. Anyway, despite the rejection of some, we have a lot of people and so we still have a parrrrtayyyyyyy. But, again, this thing is not what we’d typically think of as the ideal holy and righteous celebration of God’s redemptive work in history. It’s really screwed up.

To prep for the feast, step 1 was to remove the altars erected to other gods (30:14). This is absurd. It feels like the Israelites are only removing the items put in place to honor other gods because their old god is holding a bigger party. Immediately prior to the passover there was worship of other gods. I can picture them saying, “Quick! God’s coming! Hide the altars.” There is little sense of any honor, fear, or reverence for the God of gods, YHWH, their redeemer. It is simply a standard matter of course that when having a formal celebration for YHWH, other gods must be removed. Yesterday, they were worshipping gods of nothing but wind and confusion, and today they decided to celebrate the real God of their exodus from slavery. God seems to be okay with that. He’ll forgive their duplicity and seemingly partial hearted return.

Though they came to Jerusalem for the party, most people had not even purified themselves and still “ate the Passover, contrary to what was written” (30:18). This is interesting because there aren’t specific restrictions of purification for the passover, just general laws that bring the assumption that for participation in the Jewish communal life one mush be ceremonially clean. Also, there is God-given precedent for the ceremonially unclean (due to journey or dead bodies) to be allowed to celebrate the passover (Numbers 9:9-12). So, what is written actually does seem to allow for many cases where the ceremonially unclean are allowed to eat the Passover. It would seem that either the author was not entirely aware of what was written or they had other purposes for phrasing the verse this way. I would propose it was done for the purpose of contrasting “what was written” in verse 18 and “what was written” in verse 5. In verse 5 they were concerned about celebrating the Passover “in large numbers according to what was written.” The priority is placed upon lots of people coming and not on the quality or ceremonial cleanliness of the people who present themselves. God seems to differentially prioritize what is written and seems to be primarily concerned that people come. When people come with sincere hearts, He pardons our ceremonial ignorance and uncleanness (30:18-19) and heals us. Just come with a heart set on seeking God and the all powerful Father will take care of the details. Just come.

This is kind of a central theme of the story. Those that came to the party came right from their sin into the celebration of God’s faithfulness, it’s both incredible and scandalous. But God is scandalously merciful and works with whatever we’re willing to give him. Here, the Israelites humbled themselves enough to leave their life and come to a party (but not even enough to prepare properly!). God accepted that, healed them because of their sincerity, and let them have a weeklong party. They were going big baby. Killing bulls left and right, delicious. Singing, playing instruments, probably even some dancing. They spent a week praising God through rejoicing in His faithful redemption. I’m not quite sure what rejoicing was like in those days, but apparently it was so wonderful and powerful that everyone wanted it to go for another week . And the Lord responded, “Rock On, Kosher style.” And they did. I think our clever Daddy wanted to give them a true glimpse of who He was. The party God. The God who wants us to rejoice in what He has done because it is good beyond imagination. When the souls of the Israelites felt the truth of the goodness, love, and joy of God, they became impassioned with a desire for Him that lasted beyond the extended euphoric Feast of Unleavened bread. The sweetest part about the story is that two weeks wasn’t enough for them, they needed an afterparty – another celebratory act of passionate worship.

This is the part I’ve been wanting to get to. It’s just so cool. The afterparty consisted of everyone going to surrounding towns and literally destroying the things in their lives that used to take the place of YHWH, the I Am. After a massive celebration of who God has been for the Israelites and who He is for them now, those who attended the Passover discovered something about the True King of Israel that was not evident to them before. They felt His joy. They experienced a piece of the goodness of setting one’s thoughts on Him and setting one’s heart on pursuing Him. And it changed something in them. Something was transformed by the experience. They were no longer content to let the places of idolatry remain. Although just a couple of weeks prior the people did nothing about the high places, idols, and asherah poles polluting Israel, and likely participated in the worship of the “gods” these human constructions represented, now the people were so passionate for the name of the Lord that they destroyed everything around them erected to false gods (31:1).

It wasn’t the command of God or the threat of punishment that incited them to rid their lives and country of idolatrous practices, but the party of God. Without prophetic prompting or warning, they turned back toward God with everything they had and got rid of what used to constrain them. And, if you recall from before, this is not the entire Israelite people doing this destroying of idols in the towns, but only a faithful remnant of them. To the majority of Israel, they must look like fools. They must have been subjected to scorn and ridicule and intense anger for destroying the idols of entire towns. They were probably not the popular crowd at this point. But it didn’t matter. They saw God, rejoiced in him, and they didn’t want the goodness of the celebration to end with the feast of unleavened bread. They wanted their lives to be a celebration. Celebratory lives are purifying lives. Celebratory lives are passionate ones. Celebratory lives destroy anything that takes the place of God. Let the joy of the Lord transform you. Rejoice in the Lord always. Seriously, get this in your head and heart and soul and keep it there: Rejoice!

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Categories: Miscellaneous
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