Second Chronicles records events in the lives of the exiles recently returned from Babylon to their homeland, Israel. Amidst the physical hardships of rebuilding and the heartache of lost glory, we read that God still wanted them to celebrate the Passover. This is where you might stop and take a closer look at II Chronicles 35.
Following God’s instructions, the people celebrated, and lavishly. They pulled out all the stops as King Josiah ordered the biggest Passover celebration ever.
“No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
This must have been because they’d had a good year, things were going well for the nation, prosperity abounded, the people had been honoring the Lord God with all their hearts and obeying him in all things, therefore God had blessed them. Right? They were so happy about their successes that they decided to sacrifice more animals than ever before, prepare a bigger feast than ever before, dance more joyously and sing more songs. All was as it should be. Life was good and everyone was happy. Right?
Wrong. Let’s look at the circumstances and historical context. Not only were they suffering physical hardship, but they suffered the consequences of their unfaithfulness to God. God speaks to them through his prophet, Isaiah. In chapter 30 he declares that they are a people ashamed, humiliated. Once mighty and proud, they are now disgraced. They live in fear, at the mercy of their enemies. They were an idolatrous, wicked and disobedient people. Their nation was a lost cause. The “people of God” languished in captivity and shame.
Life was not good and neither were they. They suffered every possible consequence of abandoning the Lord their God and living their own way. Happiness was not the overriding emotion of the day. So, what was there to celebrate? Not themselves, not each other, that’s for certain. Not their situation either. What then? The Passover was observed in the midst of sin and sorrow in order to remember that God had saved them out of slavery in the past, that he was their Savior and God and no other. Real celebrations find their meaning in who God is and in what he has done, not in who we are and what we have done.
The Passover looked back to what God had done, and also gave a future hope. It is no different for us today.
Read Eph.1:7, 8.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight …”
What words and phrases indicate things we have to celebrate? What has God lavished on us? God wants us to “eagerly and lavishly celebrate the great redemption we enjoy in Christ”. And just like the Passover of Josiah’s day, it requires (as means allow) feasting, enjoying the sights, smells and taste of good food. It begs song and dance to the glory of the Savior. Our celebrating declares itself in visiting, praising and praying with others of the redeemed company.
What is the next Red Letter Day on your calendar? Are you a little anxious about the celebration? Do you wonder if so-and-so will say something mean? Or maybe your gift will fall flat, or you will be working too hard to enjoy it … Prepare yourself ahead of time. Write down Ephesians 1:7, 8 (and even 9!). Take this with you to the party. When your thoughts take an unlovely turn, step away to repent and then to ponder the grace God has lavished on you through Christ. Open your heart to receive these lavish, eternal, spiritual gifts. Turn away from your brooding over gifts that are not offered; pining for what our fallen world can never produce. Then, even if all is not as it should be, return to the party with a heart that celebrates the riches of his grace lavished upon you.