Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. . . “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left . . . . Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord. . . If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate.”
The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.
The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with resounding instruments dedicated to the Lord. . . There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. (Selections from II Chronicles 30)
What a super passage this is! I think it is perfect for going into the new year. Here are some of the great themes of this reading:
Return to the Lord. I pray that in the coming year, we all can love God more wholeheartedly, that we can get rid of all of the impurities. May this be our constant prayer:
Burn away everything that breaks Your heart
Everything that is not love
Purify my every thought
Take away everything that comes between us
Everything that is untrue
Jesus make me more like You
(“Burn Away,” sung by Meridith Andrews, written by Meredith Andrews, Jenna Cowart, Benji Cowart, Jonathan Smith)
The Lord your God is compassionate and gracious. We can focus on all of our mistakes and failings, and feel so unclean before God, hopeless even, that we will ever be what we need to be. But let us come before God with a broken and contrite heart, knowing that his compassionate arms are opened wide.
- Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
- He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. Ps 103:10
- Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lam 3:22
Some humbled themselves. How far are we willing to go to get our life on track? “I’m doing fine, I don’t really need to do that. It’s too much trouble.” That is what we say when we’re faced with a challenge to do something to grow spiritually. Last night I was messaging with an old friend from my days in Montgomery in the 80’s. I stayed with that church there a long time, saying, “I don’t need to move to Atlanta, I can do what I need to here.” But I wasn’t repenting, and I didn’t repent until I moved to Atlanta and started giving my complete life to God. Even now, I live a life that is bursting with things I’m doing for God, but I can resist fasting, having an extended prayer time, door knocking, etc.
The hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind. We need unity. I’ve tried to do something significant for the Lord by myself, or with a few people. It’s much better for the whole church to work together in an effort. I would rather see one small thing done for God in unity, than several great things with a few people doing all of the work. There is just something so encouraging and powerful about everyone taking up their oars and pulling together in the same direction.
- All the believers were one in heart and mind. Acts 4:32
- I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jer 32:39
- After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31
- I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel Phil 1:27
God, please work through your Spirit to give us unity of mind. By ourselves, we are distracted, independent and downright selfish!
Following the leaders, following the word of the Lord. Let us give wholehearted support to those who are leading us in the Lord.
There was great joy. There is nothing better than to feel that we are wholehearted for God, joining with others who are wholehearted for God, to accomplish something together for Him. At this point in our lives, even with all of the health challenges, mood challenges, job challenges and selfishness challenges, Ken and I are perhaps the happiest we have ever been. We love being a part of our church and feeling that we are members of a mission team with others who share our enthusiasm and dreams.
Let us remember that as we set goals for the new year, that it is not just a great walk with God that fills us with joy, but that deep happiness comes from being one in mind and purpose with others, having a great walk with God together.
“. . . make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Phil 2:2