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2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21; Romans 15:1-22; Psalms 25:1-15; Proverbs 20:13-15 (The Voice)

2 Chronicles 30-31

30 1-5 Since the people could not gather in Jerusalem immediately and since not enough priests were sanctified in time to celebrate the Passover holiday during the first month of his reign, Hezekiah, the leaders, and the people of Jerusalem decided to celebrate during the second month.

After restoring the temple, Hezekiah’s first opportunity to celebrate Israel’s renewed connection with God is Passover.

So he decided to send word to everyone—from Beersheba in the far south to Dan in the far north—to come to the Eternal’s temple in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover honoring the Eternal One, True God of Israel. Until Hezekiah, Judah had not celebrated as frequently as they should have.

So messengers carried letters written by the king and his leaders throughout the kingdoms.

Hezekiah’s Letter: People of Israel, return to the ways of the Eternal One, True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and He will return to those of you who escaped the conquering kings of Assyria to follow Him. Don’t be like your relatives who ignored the Eternal One, the True God of their fathers; they were destroyed and became a horrific spectacle to other nations. Do not be stubborn as they were. Obey Him, come to His sanctuary, and serve the Eternal One, your True God, so that He will not be angry with you. If you return to His ways, then your families who were exiled by the Assyrians will receive compassion and will return to their homes because the Eternal One, your True God, is gracious and compassionate and will return to you if you return to Him.

10-12 When the messengers took this message throughout the Northern Kingdom, most of the Northerners ridiculed and ignored the message. But some people from the Northern tribes of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun obeyed Hezekiah and the leaders and humbly traveled to Jerusalem just as all of the Southern Kingdom were given one mind and obeyed under the guidance of the True God via the command of the king and his officials.

13 Vast numbers of people responded to the king’s message and traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread in the second month. 14 As part of the festivities, the people destroyed the Canaanite altars in Jerusalem and threw the incense altars into the Kidron Valley.

Having purged the city and cleansed the temple, the people are ready to celebrate.

15 They slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month.

The priests and Levites humbled themselves, sanctified themselves, and brought burnt offerings to the Eternal’s temple. 16 There they attended to their assigned duties, as Moses the follower of the True God had described, sprinkling the blood of the animals which the Levites sacrificed. 17 The Levites slaughtered the Passover lambs that were offered by the unclean people in the assembly while those who had sanctified themselves slaughtered their own lambs to the Eternal. 18 Many of the people from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves as prescribed, but they were able to eat the Passover feast because Hezekiah prayed on their behalf.

Hezekiah: Eternal One, because You are good, cover their sins for 19 everyone here who has neglected to ritually cleanse himself in order to properly enter the temple of the True God, the Eternal God of our ancestors. Everyone here wants to follow You.

20 The Eternal One heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed them from the threat of disease for not approaching God as instructed. 21 So the Israelites who had traveled to Jerusalem joyously celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days while the Levites and the priests played their instruments praising the Eternal daily. 22 Hezekiah commended the Levites who had remained faithful and prudent toward the Eternal, and everyone celebrated for seven days: feasting, sacrificing peace offerings, and offering praise to the Eternal One, True God of their ancestors.

23 Everyone decided to celebrate for another seven days, and they celebrated with joy. 24 By the time the festival ended, Hezekiah, king of the Southern Kingdom, had donated 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the leaders had donated 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep for the people to sacrifice. Also many priests had sanctified themselves. 25 Everyone in Judah rejoiced: priests, Levites, Northerners who had traveled for the festival, and Northerners who had moved to Judah permanently. 26 Nothing like this celebration had happened in Jerusalem since the reign of Solomon, son of David, so the people were joyous. 27 Finally the Levitical priests concluded the festival by blessing the people. And He heard their prayer from His sacred dwelling in heaven.

Such a celebration has not happened since Solomon dedicated the temple. This celebration is reminiscent of that time in several ways: all of Israel gathers for the occasion, the king makes lavish donations for the celebration, and the festival lasts an extra week. Like Solomon, Hezekiah focuses on his nation’s relationship with God by making the temple and proper worship central to Israelite life.

31 When the Passover was finished, all the Israelites who had attended the festival left Jerusalem for the cities of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. There they continued Hezekiah’s zeal by destroying all cultic statues and carved images of Asherah. Having purged the nation of idolatrous symbols like the high places and altars, the Israelites returned to their own homes.

Meanwhile Hezekiah continued structuring the temple activities. He reorganized the divisions of priests and Levites according to their duties, such as making burnt or peace offerings, ministering, worshiping, or praising near the gates to the Eternal’s camp.

This camp is, of course, the temple, but the chronicler refers to the temple here as “the camp” to remind the people of their early connection to the Lord when their ancestors fled Egypt and followed Him in the desert.

Just as his ancestors David and Solomon did before him, Hezekiah donated a portion of his animals for the morning, evening, Sabbath, new moon, and other festival burnt offerings as the Eternal’s law requires.[a] He also commanded everyone in Jerusalem to offer a portion of their possessions to the priests and the Levites, so that each person could participate in the Eternal’s law by tithing. Once everyone had heard Hezekiah’s request, the Israelites in Jerusalem gave more than was required from their best grain, wine, oil, honey, and produce, creating a surplus of offerings. Those Israelites living in neighboring Judahite cities brought tithes and offerings of oxen, sheep, and other sacred gifts, which were cleansed and piled high for use by the Eternal One their God. The offerings continued from the third month until the seventh month when the offerings were so plentiful that they lay in stacks around the temple yard. Seeing the heaps of tithes, Hezekiah and his officers praised the Eternal and blessed the Israelites who had answered their obligations. Hezekiah wondered why all the gifts had not been offered to God, so he asked the priests and Levites what would happen to the offerings. 10 Azariah, the chief priest and a Zadokite, answered.

Azariah: The Eternal One has favored His people, and they have shown their thankfulness with immense generosity. Since the Israelites began bringing their gifts to the Eternal’s temple, there has been more than enough to eat and have plenty left over to sacrifice.

11 Having no place to put the abundance, Hezekiah commanded the priests and Levites to prepare storage rooms in the Eternal’s temple. Once the rooms were ready, 12 the people continued offering their gifts, which were organized by Conaniah (the Levite) and his brother and assistant, Shimei. 13 They supervised Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath, and Benaiah, who were all appointed overseers of the tithes by both King Hezekiah and chief priest Azariah.

14 Kore (son of Imnah the Levite and the eastern gatekeeper) distributed the freewill offerings to the True God—both the contributions to the Eternal and the most sacred gifts. 15-16 He supervised Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah in the cities of the priests, and they fairly distributed the goods to the Levites by their divisions and gave an equal amount to all men 30[b] years old and older, regardless of the size of their division or their lineage, who entered the Eternal’s temple to perform the daily duties. 17 Kore and his men also distributed goods to the priests according to their lineage and to the Levites 20 years old and older according to their duties and divisions. 18 (Included in those genealogical records were the Levites’ and priests’ wives and children who also cleansed themselves regularly to be holy before Him.)

19 Even the descendants of Aaron who lived outside the cities in the surrounding pasturelands were provided for. In each city men were designated to distribute goods to every male priest and every Levite included in a Levitical genealogy.

20 Hezekiah organized the religious practices throughout all of Judah, just as the Eternal, his True God, considered right. 21 Every idea Hezekiah had concerning the improvement of the True God’s temple was begun by his commandments and carried out by his people. And Hezekiah did all out of a dedicated heart and was rewarded for his work.

Footnotes:

  1. 31:3 Numbers 28:1–29:40
  2. 31:15-16 Hebrew, “three”
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Romans 15:1-22

Paul says he is free to eat, but he is not free to injure another in what he eats. Personal freedom must always give way to corporate responsibility. To put it another way, the gospel of love demands that we surrender individual liberties for the sake of our brothers and sisters. We see this demonstrated powerfully in the example of Jesus who gave up His life and freedom for the sake of the world. When we live by this ethic, we create a community marked by warmth and hospitality. Food, drink, and holidays may well be personal options within the Kingdom. But justice, peace, and joy are communal essentials for life in the Kingdom.

15 So now what? We who are strong are not just to satisfy our own desires. We are called to carry the weaknesses of those who are not strong. Each of us must strive to please our neighbors, pursuing their welfare so they will become strong. The Anointed One Himself is our model for this kind of living, for He did not live to please Himself. And as the Scriptures declared, “When they insult You, they insult me.”[a] You see, everything written in the days of old was recorded to give us instructions for living. We find encouragement through the Scriptures and a call to perseverance that will produce hopeful living. I pray that our God, who calls you and gives you perseverance and encouragement, will join all of you together to share one mind according to Jesus the Anointed. In this unity, you will share one voice as you glorify the one True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, our Liberating King.

So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due. For, as I am fond of saying, the Anointed One has become a servant of the Jews[b] in order to demonstrate God’s truth. Effectively this confirms the promises He made to our ancestors and causes the non-Jewish nations to glorify God for His mercy. As the Scriptures say,

For this I will praise You among the nations
    and sing praises to Your name.[c]

10 Again the Scriptures say,

Nations, celebrate with His covenant people.[d]

11 And again,

Praise the Lord, all nations.
    Raise your voices, all people; let your praises flow to God.[e]

12 Again Isaiah says,

Then, the root of Jesse will emerge—
He rises to rule all the peoples of the world
    who come to Him for guidance and direction.
In Him they place their hope.[f]

13 I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit.

14 My brothers and sisters, I am ultimately confident that you are full of goodness, knowledge, and the ability to help and instruct one another. 15 I have written to you with unflinching honesty on many topics because I do not want you to ever lose sight of the tremendous grace God has given me. 16 His grace makes me who I am, a minister of the Anointed One, Jesus, called to serve the nations.

Though Paul’s churches are made up of Jews and non-Jews, Paul’s special calling is to be God’s emissary to the nations beyond Israel, known as the Gentiles.

The good news of God is the focus of my priestly work. In effect, these nations have become an offering to God, totally acceptable, indeed made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit. 17 So in Jesus, the Anointed One, I have reason to celebrate the things I do for God. 18 I don’t want to be presumptuous, so I will restrict myself to what the Anointed has accomplished through my words and actions, which has culminated in the obedience of the nations. 19 My words and actions have been rooted in Spirit-empowered signs and miracles. The upshot is this: I have been able to preach the good news of the Anointed One in city after city from Jerusalem all the way around the Mediterranean to Illyricum. 20 I have dreamed of preaching the gospel in places where no one has ever heard of the Anointed so that I do not build on a foundation laid by anyone else. 21 But as the Scriptures say,

They will see Him even though they’ve never been told about Him;
    they will understand even though they never heard of Him.[g]

22 Because of many issues, I have not been able to visit you in the city of Rome.

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Psalm 25:1-15

Psalm 25

A song of David.

ALWAYS I will lift up my soul to You, Eternal One,
BECAUSE You are my God and I put my trust in You.
    Do not let me be humiliated.
    Do not let my enemies celebrate at my expense.
CERTAINLY none of the people who rely on You will be shamed,
    but those who are unfaithful, who intentionally deceive,
    they are the ones who will be disgraced.

DEMONSTRATE Your ways, O Eternal One.
    Teach me to understand so I can follow.
EASE me down the path of Your truth.
    FEED me Your word
    because You are the True God who has saved me.
    I wait all day long, hoping, trusting in You.

GRACIOUS Eternal One, remember Your compassion; rekindle Your concern and love,
    which have always been part of Your actions toward those who are Yours.
Do not HOLD against me the sins I committed when I was young;
    instead, deal with me according to Your mercy and love.
    Then Your goodness may be demonstrated in all the world, Eternal One.

IMMENSELY good and honorable is the Eternal;
    that’s why He teaches sinners the way.
With JUSTICE, He directs the humble in all that is right,
    and He shows them His way.
10 KIND and true are all the ways of the Eternal
    to the people who keep His covenant and His words.

11 O LORD, the Eternal, bring glory to Your name,
    and forgive my sins because they are beyond number.
12 MAY anyone who fears the Eternal
    be shown the path he should choose.

13 His soul will NOT only live in goodness,
    but his children will inherit the land.
14 ONLY those who stand in awe of the Eternal will have intimacy with Him,
    and He will reveal His covenant to them.
15 PERPETUALLY my focus takes me to the Eternal
    because He will set me free from the traps laid for me.

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Proverbs 20:13-15

13 Do not fall in love with sleep, or you will awake a poor person.
    Stay awake, get to work, and you will have more than enough food.
14 “Bad quality for a bad price,” bargains the buyer;
    but then he runs off with his prize in tow, bragging, “What a steal!”
15 Gold and rubies abound,
    but lips that utter knowledge are a rare jewel.

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The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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