When Hezekiah re-opened the temple, repaired its doors and commanded the priests to clean out the “filth,” excitement rippled through the nation. The Passover was coming. Israel was returning to God. But the calendar was unbendable. Hezekiah desperately wanted to celebrate the Passover and to celebrate it right, on time. He was endeavoring to meet the legal deadline, the non-negotiable date, and so were the workmen. By the sixteenth day of the first month everything had been scrubbed – cleaned and sanctified. But it was too late – two days too late for the Passover. According to the calendar, that great celebration of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt fell on the fourteenth day of the month. What a tragedy to be so near and yet so far! They missed the ‘Passover’ – the symbol of forgiveness, of a new beginning, of being under God’s protective grace, of liberation itself.
The king pondered the matter with his counselors. Would the Lord Almighty bend the rules? They determined that Passover would be held, even if it was one month late. The word went out and the people streamed towards Jerusalem. The city was alive with a spirit of hope and expectancy. They were hungry for the Lord – and the Lord was about to do good things for His people. But then, there were more rule problems. The out-of-town guests hadn’t prepared themselves properly for the Passover. The priests weren’t numerous enough to handle the needs of the altar – that’s a good problem to have, so the Levites cheerfully pitched in to help with the sacrifices. But if the people were going to participate fully in the Passover, they would have bend more rules. King Hezekiah took the plunge. “Go ahead,” commanded the king, “let them worship.” And they did, eating “the Passover otherwise than as prescribed.” They didn’t just bend the rules, they broke them. But the momentum was not in a movement away from God, but a movement toward Him. That was the purpose of the law, to tutor us all toward transformational encounters with God. The law was an act of grace; and it was grace that God allowed Hezekiah to give to these people who had strayed so far from Him. An open invitation was offered to seek His forgiveness. Grace triumphed. Mercy won.
Still, Hezekiah was being neither foolhardy nor blasphemous. He had been in touch with God. In the words of Scripture: “Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, ‘The good Lord pardon every one 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.’” The Scripture says, “The Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people.” O the power of an intercessor. As the worshippers celebrated the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread which followed, a symbol of the removal of sin, the renewal of their faith awakened such joy and gratitude that they decided to bend the rules again. They extended the feast for another seven days. Incredible. Unprecedented. “Since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.”
Here is an example of great grace on the part of God to welcome back a nation that had drifted from Him. Here is what the ministry is praying for:
Some godly national leader who dares to be politically incorrect and call the nation back to God.
A young Hezekiah generation that sees the social and moral damage they are inheriting from their fathers, and they are motivated to return to old paths.
A spiritual renewal among pastors.
A fresh wave of prophetic voices that strengthen the resolve of other leaders and call the nation back to God, whose voices resound across the land like trumpets.
The reopening of ancient wells, the rebuilding of ancient altars, the reopening of stories of past revivals and interventions by God that showed his glory.
For the nation to see that God is our only hope, that God is not dead, not like the ‘other gods,’ that Christianity is not a mere philosophy, not a religion among religions – but that our God is alive, our Savior is risen from the dead! “God, show up in America.”
For a massive return to God, a Great Awakening, a flood of conversions, the abandoning of pagan altars and ideologies – so many at the altar that ‘the Levites’ have to assist.
Prayer: God, you saved Judah. You kept them from sure defeat at the hand of the Assyrians. You sent a much stronger army home with their tails between their legs, dizzy and unclear about what had just happened to them – they were not defeated by Judah, but by your mysterious hand in behalf of the nation that was in revival. God save America. Send a revival. Show yourself alive. Do a glorious work for your namesake. Do it in our generation. In our time. Do it soon!
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.