Here is, I. A passover resolved upon. That annual feast was instituted as a memorial of the bringing of the children of Israel out of Egypt. It happened that the reviving of the temple service fell within the appointed days of that feast, the seventeenth day of the first month: this brought that forgotten solemnity to mind. “What shall we do,” says Hezekiah, “about the passover? It is a very comfortable ordinance, and has been long neglected. How shall we revive it? The time has elapsed for this year; we cannot go about it immediately; the congregation is thin, the people have not notice, the priests are not prepared, 2 Chron. 30:3. Must we defer it till another year?” Many, it is likely, were for deferring it; but Hezekiah considered that by that time twelve-month the good affections of the people would cool, and it would be too long to want the benefit of the ordinance; and therefore, finding a proviso in the law of Moses that particular persons who were unclean in the first month might keep the passover the fourteenth day of the second month and be accepted (Num. 9:11), he doubted not but that it might be extended to the congregation. Whereupon they resolved to keep the passover in the second month. Let the circumstance give way to the substance, and let not the thing itself be lost upon a nicety about the time. It is good striking while the iron is hot, and taking people when they are in a good mind. Delays are dangerous.
II. A proclamation issued out to give notice of this passover and to summon the people to it.
1. An invitation was sent to the ten revolted tribes to stir them up to come and attend this solemnity. Letters were written to Ephraim and Manasseh to invite them to Jerusalem to keep this passover (2 Chron. 30:1), not with any political design, to bring them back to the house of David, but with a pious design to bring them back to the Lord God of Israel. “Let them take whom they will for their king,” says Hezekiah, “so they will but take him for their God.” The matters in difference between Judah and Israel, either upon a civil or sacred account, shall not hinder but that if the people of Israel will sincerely return to the Lord their God Hezekiah will bid them as welcome to the passover as any of his own subjects. Expresses are sent post throughout all the tribes of Israel with memorials earnestly pressing the people to take this opportunity of returning to the God from whom they had revolted. Now here we have,
(1.) The contents of the circular letters that were despatched upon the occasion, in which Hezekiah discovers a great concern both for the honour of God and for the welfare of the neighbouring kingdom, the prosperity of which he seems passionately desirous of, though he not only received no toll, tribute, or custom, from it, but it had often, and not long since, been vexatious to his kingdom. This is rendering good for evil. Observe,
[1.] What it is which he presses them to (2 Chron. 30:8): “Yield yourselves unto the Lord. Before you can come into communion with him you must come into covenant with him.” Give the hand to the Lord (so the word is), that is, “Consent to take him for your God.” A bargain is confirmed by giving the hand. “Strike this bargain. Join yourselves to him in an everlasting covenant. Subscribe with the hand to be his, Isa. 44:5. Give him your hand, in token of giving him your heart. Lay your hand to his plough. Devote yourselves to his service, to work for him. Yield to him,” that is, “Come up to his terms, come under his government, stand it not out any longer against him.” “Yield to him, to be absolutely and universally at his command, at his disposal, to be, and do, and have, and suffer, whatever he pleases. In order to this, be not stiff-necked as your fathers were; let not your corrupt and wicked wills rise up in resistance of and rebellion against the will of God. Say not that you will do what you please, but resolve to do what he pleases.” There is in the carnal mind a stiffness, an obstinacy, an unaptness to comply with God. We have it from our fathers; it is bred in the bone with us. This must be conquered; and the will that had in it a spirit of contradiction must be melted into the will of God; and to his yoke the neck that was an iron sinew must be bowed and fitted. In pursuance of this resignation to God, he presses them to enter into his sanctuary, that is, to attend upon him in that place which he had chosen, to put his name there, and serve him in the ordinances which he had appointed. “The doors of the sanctuary are now opened, and you have liberty to enter; the temple service is now revived, and you are welcome to join in it.” The king says, Come; the princes and priests say, Come; whosoever will, let him come. This he calls (2 Chron. 30:6) turning to the Lord God; for they had forsaken him, and worshipped other gods. Repent now, and be converted. Thus those who through grace have turned to God themselves should do all they can to bring others back to him.
[2.] What arguments he uses to persuade them to do this. First, “You are children of Israel, and therefore stand related, stand obliged, to the God of Israel, from whom you have revolted.” Secondly, “The God you are called to return to is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a God in covenant with your first fathers, who served him and yielded themselves to him; and it was their honour and happiness that they did so.” Thirdly, “Your late fathers that forsook him and trespassed against him have been given up to desolation; their apostasy and idolatry have been their ruin, as you see (2 Chron. 30:7); let their harms be your warnings.” Fourthly, “You yourselves are but a remnant narrowly escaped out of the hands of the kings of Assyria (2 Chron. 30:6), and therefore are concerned to put yourselves under the protection of the God of your fathers, that you be not quite swallowed up.” Fifthly, “This is the only way of turning away the fierceness of God’s anger from you (2 Chron. 30:8), which will certainly consume you if you continue stiff-necked.” Lastly, “If you return to God in a way of duty, he will return to you in a way of mercy.” This he begins with (2 Chron. 30:6) and concludes with, 2 Chron. 30:9. In general, “You will find him gracious and merciful, and one that will not turn away his face from you, if you seek him, notwithstanding the provocations you have given him.” Particularly, “You may hope that he will turn again the captivity of your brethren that are carried away, and bring them back to their own land.” Could any thing be expressed more pathetically, more movingly? Could there be a better cause, or could it be better pleaded?
(2.) The entertainment which Hezekiah’s messengers and message met with. It does not appear that Hoshea, who was now king of Israel, took any umbrage from, or gave any opposition to, the dispersing of these proclamations through his kingdom, nor that he forbade his subjects to accept the invitation. He seems to have left them entirely to their liberty. They might go to Jerusalem to worship if they pleased; for, though he did evil, yet not like the kings of Israel that were before him, 2 Kgs. 17:2. He saw ruin coming upon his kingdom, and, if any of his subjects would try this expedient to prevent it, they had his full permission. But, for the people, [1.] The generality of them slighted the call and turned a deaf ear to it. The messengers went from city to city, some to one and some to another, and used pressing entreaties with the people to come up to Jerusalem to keep the passover; but they were so far from complying with the message that they abused those that brought it, laughed them to scorn, and mocked them (2 Chron. 30:10), not only refused, but refused with disdain. Tell them of the God of Abraham! they knew him not, they had other gods to serve, Baal and Ashtaroth. Tell them of the sanctuary! their high places were as good. Tell them of God’s mercy and wrath! they neither dreaded the one nor desired the other. No marvel that the king’s messengers were thus despitefully used by this apostate race when God’s messengers were so, his servants the prophets, who produced credentials from him. The destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes was now at hand. It was but two or three years after this that the king of Assyria laid siege to Samaria, which ended in the captivity of those tribes. Just before this they had not only a king of their own that permitted them to return to God’s sanctuary, but a king of Judah that earnestly invited them to do it. Had they generally accepted this invitation, it might have prevented their ruin; but their contempt of it hastened and aggravated it, and left them inexcusable. [2.] Yet there were some few that accepted the invitation. The message, though to some it was a savour of death unto death, was to others a savour of life unto life, 2 Chron. 30:11. In the worst of times God has had a remnant; so he had here, many of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun (here is no mention of any out of Ephraim, though some of that tribe are mentioned, 2 Chron. 30:18), humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem, that is, were sorry for their sins and submitted to God. Pride keeps men from yielding themselves to the Lord; when that is brought down, the work is done.
2. A command was given to the men of Judah to attend this solemnity; and they universally obeyed it, 2 Chron. 30:12. They did it with one heart, were all of a mind in it, and the hand of God gave them that one heart; for it is in the day of power that Christ’s subjects are made willing. It is God that works both to will and to do. When people, at any time, manifest an unexpected forwardness to do that which is good, we must acknowledge that hand of God in it.