The Lord gave a Law to Israel and Judah that they were obliged to obey. Included in that Law were regulations for worship. The celebration of the Passover was prominent among the rules that comprised the worship system that the Lord established for His people.
Passover was to be celebrated on the first month of the year as God had instructed Moses in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. The timing was not incidental. It was based on the Exodus from Egypt and was the time of year so many years later when Jesus, our Passover Lamb, died.
In the eighth century before the coming of the Messiah, King Hezekiah of Judah was leading his people in a great work of reformation and revival. The Passover had not been celebrated with regularity in Judah for many years. Yet the timing of the efforts of the king did not work out well for a return to the proper worship system that the Lord had ordained. The priests and the Levites could not be ready by the first month. What would the king do? More importantly, what would God, who is very serious about His Law, require of the king and the people? Amazingly, the Lord blessed His people, not based on the perfection of their outward observance, but in accord with the true desire of their hearts to serve the Lord after so many years of national apostasy.
The faithful celebrated this important festival in the second month rather than in the first. This was a decision made by an assembly of the leaders in Jerusalem, and the Lord blessed that decision. All of Israel and Judah were invited to the belated Passover. Further accommodations were made for those who were still ceremonially unclean. The feast was such a blessing that they determined to extend it for a second week.
Hezekiah’s written invitation to the people had been frank and heartfelt. The king acknowledged the guilt of those who had gone before them. He spoke openly about the Lord’s judgment that had come against them all, and urged everyone to repent and come back to the Lord. “Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to His sanctuary, which He has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that His fierce anger may turn away from you.”
The people responded to this declaration by gathering in Jerusalem for worship and the Lord blessed their obedience. God will not be mocked by pretend worship. He is very strict, but He is also very gracious and merciful. He knows our weakness, and He has made generous provision for us if we will only seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Will we have the courage that Israel and Judah had in the days of Hezekiah? Will we admit our fault, heed the call of our great King Jesus, and return to the Lord? If we will, He will not cast us away because we do not quite measure up. We will find the joy of the Lord again, and we will worship Him forever and ever.