“The Heart of Reconciliation” – 2 Chronicles 30

March 3rd, 2013

2 Chronicles 30 (2 Kings 18:5-8)

“The Heart of Reconciliation”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  — Ephesians 4:32

 

Background Information:

  • In the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign, calamity struck the northern kingdom (2 Kgs 18:9-12).  A final, abortive attempt at revolt by Israel’s last King, Hoshea (732-724 B.C.), prompted the Assyrian Shalmanesar V (727-722 B.C.) to annihilate the northern kingdom.  The capital, Samaria, fell to a lengthy siege in 722 B.C., and Israel ceased to be.  Shalmanesar’s successor, Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), deported huge chunks of the population, resettling the land with refugees from elsewhere in his empire.  These scattered Israelites vanished from history, becoming the fabled “lost tribes” of Israel.  But not even the Assyrian military machine could kill and deport everyone!  Portions of the original population remained, hidden in the hills, or trickling southward into Judah as refugees.  Surely, Hezekiah would have been interested in reaching out to this remnant of the northern tribes, and in reclaiming the territory lost to David’s house by Jeroboam’s revolt–particularly, as the attention of Assyria was focused elsewhere, due to revolts in other parts of the empire.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 217)
  • Throughout this chapter Hezekiah is hailed as a king determined to enforce the observance of the Law in his day.  As such he was a model king for the post-exilic readers of this book.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 433)
  • (v. 1) The king “sent word” throughout Judah, but also sent letters inviting Ephraim and Manasseh, i.e., Israel, to come to Jerusalem for its celebration.  Any such compliance had been prohibited during the two centuries that had followed Jeroboam’s division of the Solomonic empire (vv 5, 26; 1 Kgs 12:27-28).  But now King Hoshea’s capital in Samaria was subject to Assyrian siege (v 6; 2 Kgs 17:5), and the northern ruler was powerless to interfere.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 536)
  • (vss. 6-9) Hezekiah’s letter of invitation (2 Chr 30:6-9) primarily addresses the survivors of the former northern kingdom, “who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria” (30:6).  These are urged to reject the sin of their ancestors, “who were faithless to the LORD” (30:7).  The term rendered “faithless” in the NRSV is in 1 Chr 5:25 rendered “transgressed”; in each case, it is this faithlessness to the Lord that led to the north’s downfall.  The character of this faithlessness is made clear by its solution: “return to the LORD”–that is, “come to his sanctuary, which he has sanctified forever” (1 Chr 30:6, 8-9).  By repudiating the temple and its liturgy, the northern tribes had repudiated the Lord (see 13:8-12).  Now, by returning to the temple and worshiping the Lord in truth, they will exchange their faithlessness for faithfulness, and once more experience the blessings of the Lord’s presence.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 218)
  • (v ss. 6-9) The letter of Hezekiah is modeled after Zechariah 1:2-4, which also addresses the postexilic community (so Williamson 1982, 367-68).  There as here, the theme is return and repentance: “Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 1:3).  Note, too, that in both passages, the sins of the ancestors are to be repudiated (compare 30:8 and Zech 1:4), so that the wrath of the Lord, directed against the ancestors, might not fall upon their descendants as well (30:8; Zech 1:2).  Once more, the Chronicler finds God’s word for his own community in the words of Scripture, specifically in the prophetic word.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 219)
  • (v. 10) But the northerners–particularly those of Ephraim (cf. v 11 but also v 18)–still “scorned and ridiculed” the king’s appeal: human depravity is so total that men will resist a gospel call even when on the brink of disaster (cf. Amos 4:10; Rv 9:20).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 537)
  • (vss. 13-14) Christian readers of the passage are likely to recall other analogies.  (1) They will remember another occasion when the religious fervor of the populace before another Passover transcended that of professional clerics when another son of David came to cleanse the temple (Mt 21:1-16; Mk 11:1-18; Lk 19:28-48).  (2) They will think of another joyous festal meal in a purified city of God (Mt 26:29; Rv 19:6-18; 21:1-10, 22-27; 22:12-15).  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 246)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . Why is Hezekiah able to reconcile what has been fractured for over 200 years?   What does 2 Chronicles teach us about reconciliation?  What can we learn from Jesus Who is the heart of reconciliation?

 

Answer:  Because Hezekiah desires to please God, God was with Hezekiah in a powerful way.  God desires shalom (perfect reconciliation) in both heaven and earth.  Hezekiah strives to achieve shalom in a multitude of dimensions.  This also pleases God.  Jesus is the Ultimate Hezekiah in that everything, in heaven and earth, are reconciled by Jesus’ death on the cross.   We need to look to Jesus to empower us towards reconciliation to promote shalom.

 

Reconciliation is bringing again into unity, harmony, or agreement what has been alienated.  According to Biblical teaching, there is need for reconciliation between God and man because of the alienation between them which has its source in human sin and the righteous aversion to it and hatred of it on the part of God.  The Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the means of reconciliation through the death of His Son Jesus Christ.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 44)

 

If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation

 

The Word for the Day is . . . forgive

 

Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you.  — Archibald Hart

 

Forgiveness is letting go.  Untying the knot that binds us to another who has hurt us.  — Gary Smalley

 

What does 2 Chronicles teach us about reconciliation?:

I.  Hezekiah desired for ALL the children of Abraham to be reconciled to the Lord. (2 Chr 30:1-12; see also: Ex 34:6; Dt 30:2-5; Isa 55:7; Mic 7:18; Jer 4:1; 2 Pt 3:9)

 

Why was Hezekiah not content to reform only Judah?  Why send out the call to Israel?  He was taking quite a risk of being misunderstood and rejected.  The answer must simply be that he did it because the heart that knows the most perfect peace in the forgiveness of sins is filled at the same time with a restless yearning to help others find this same peace.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 347)

 

His entire sermon of repentance, however, was based on the certainty that the Lord is “gracious and compassionate” (v 9).  How else could he be so sure that the Lord would not turn away if the people of the North repented (v 9)?  When we urge someone to turn back to God, we are presupposing that the foundational will of God is to pardon the sinner, to heal the wounded, to help the helpless.  We who see our Father’s heart revealed in Christ hold to this truth as something made even more certain.  Under the old covenant, Hezekiah could also hold out to Israel the hope that if they returned to the Lord, their children would “be shown compassion by their captors and…come back to this land” (v 9; compare with Solomon’s prayer in 6:36-39).  From this proclamation it is clear that Hezekiah had envisioned far more than a single Passover celebration.  In fact, the Passover is not even mentioned anywhere in the invitation.  Hezekiah’s emphasis is entirely on returning to the Lord by worshiping him in his sanctuary.  Hezekiah hoped that God’s Word would work a complete repentance and renewal of those who were left in the North.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 349)

 

Hezekiah’s naming his son Manasseh, after a leading northern tribe, impressively indicates his interest in the citizens of the old northern state, halfway through his reign.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 385)

 

The central theme of this letter is return and repentance; the Hebrew word rendered “turn” and “return” in the English text) recurs again and again.  The Chronicler’s community had experienced the truth of God’s promise of return from exile.  But now they, like Hezekiah’s community, need to respond to God’s faithfulness with faithfulness, by returning to the temple and its ancient liturgy.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 219)

 

The Chronicler wanted his readers to know from the outset that Hezekiah’s Passover celebration was devoted to the reunification of the nation.  The motif of national reunification appears several times in this chapter (see 30:5-6, 10-12).  Moreover, this theme links this chapter with the preceding narrative.  In 29:24 the Chronicler twice pointed out that Hezekiah’s preparation of the temple included sacrifices for the sins of all the tribes.  In 30:1 Hezekiah put the temple to use in the Passover and he invited the whole nation to attend.

This connection was critical to the efforts of the original post-exilic readers.  Re-establishing temple service was to be joined with a desire for national reunification in their day as well.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 432)

 

II.  When both alienated parties endeavor to be reconciled to God they must, by definition; ultimately be reconciled to each other  (2 Chr 30:12-14, 21, 23-25; see also Eph 2:11-22)

 

There can be no doubt:  Hezekiah wanted to reunite with brothers who had long been separated from their true king, from the true God, and from God’s true place of worship.  His goal was not political union but rather spiritual reconciliation.  The king wanted to call the North back to Jerusalem and its temple so that North and South together could celebrate the Passover.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 345-46)

 

Thus in the Chronicler’s presentation there is nothing here that cannot apply to Judah as much as Israel, for she too was given over to desolation (v 7), came under God’s fierce anger (v 8), was partly led captive (v 9; see on 28:5), and, on the basis of 28:20f., could even be called the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria (v 6).  These letters, therefore, provide further helpful evidence of the reuniting under Hezekiah of the formerly divided people.  (H.G.M. Williamson, The New Century Bible Commentary, 1 & 2 Chr, 366-67)

 

This section lays stress not only on a common faith in the same God but on a vertical continuity from generation to generation, which the present generation was to take seriously by playing their part as links in the chain of faith.  The Lord is the God of their common ancestors, “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (v 6), the “God of their fathers” (vv 7, 22; cf. “God of his fathers,” v 19) and now “your God” (v 9).  The challenge rings out to live up to the claims of God and to honor the roots of their common faith by worshiping together.  Hezekiah is the Chronicler’s hero in refusing to write off the northerners as apostates but recognizing them as brothers and sisters in the faith who were to be welcomed in the name of God.  The owning of the same God made unity a desirable potential and an essential principle.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 384)

 

In his mind’s eye the Chronicler surveys the joyful scene of southerners and northerners, priests and Levites, and Gentile proselytes who had traveled from the north or resided in Judah.  Pilgrims all and prodigals many, their differences transcended in the worship of their one Lord; they were a mirror of reconciliation.  The Chronicler craved such ecumenical healing of religious divisions in his own day.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 390)

 

The people acted with “one accord” (30:12); the Chronicler is fond of emphasizing the undivided loyalty of the people toward pious kings (cf. 1 Chr 12:39 [38]).  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 245)

 

III.  Our holy and righteous God demonstrates the wonders of His grace in facilitating reconciliation with sinners (2 Chr 30:17-20; Rom 5:8-11; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Eph 2:14-16; Col 1:22)

 

God will forgive anyone anything except for those who don’t forgive anyone anything.  — Steve Brown

 

The presence of many who were not ritually clean–for what reason is not precisely explained, perhaps for lack of time–meant that they were eating the Passover in an unfit condition.  But this problem was met by the intercession of Hezekiah–a function which reminds us of Solomon–in which he asked that genuineness of approach to God should enable them to receive pardon from God.  The prayer was heard and God HEALED THE PEOPLE, that is, he did not bring upon them the disaster which was held to be inevitable in a case where men approached the deity in an unfit state.  The Chronicler is here voicing a principle of fundamental importance.  He is not in any sense underestimating the importance of proper ritual–for with this he is much concerned; he is indicating that God himself has the power to override the normal requirements of ritual, and that the genuineness and wholeheartedness of man’s response is acceptable to God.  (Peter R. Ackroyd, 1 & 2 Chr, Ezra, Neh, 185-86)

 

Now Hezekiah’s plea in their emergency situation is that the principle of 7:14 be honored.  Here were those who had humbled themselves, turned back to God, and were seeking His face, and so fitted into the category of the golden text of 7:14.  Would God proceed to do His part by forgiving their ritual sin?  Indeed, He would and did.  He “listened to”–literally “heard,” as in 7:14–Hezekiah “and healed the” unqualified “people” (v 20).  The Chronicler uses the final verb as a reflection of his primary text, which he sees here gloriously fulfilled.  He has to stretch the bounds of language to squeeze it into the passage, just as he did in his final case of “left” (or “forsook”) in 28:25.  He uses it evidently to refer to some objective evidence of God’s affirmative answer.  Improper participation should have resulted in a covenant curse on the lines of the lists in Lv 26 or Dt 28 (cf. 1 Cor 11:29-30); instead, God leaves them unharmed.  For the Chronicler the incident is a beautiful illustration of the temple dispensation at work, in that God graciously gives a second chance when the first is missed with regret.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 389)

 

Many of the laity who came from outside Jerusalem had not consecrated themselves either (30:17).  For this reason, extraordinary measures were taken.  Levites had to kill the Passover lambs.  Normally, the laity were to slaughter their own Passover lambs on the evening of Passover (see Dt 16:5-6; Ex 12:3-6, 21).  The Levites, however, protected the sanctity of the feast by slaughtering the lambs for them.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 437)

 

Most of the many people who came from the northern regions had not been purified, but they ate…contrary to what was written (30:18).  30:20 explains that these people had become sick (compare 1 Cor 11:27-30).  In response to this crisis, Hezekiah prayed for them (30:18).  Instead of condemning or excluding the northern Israelites for their violation, Hezekiah interceded on their behalf.  The king’s prayer constitutes one of many examples in Chronicles of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer in action (see 6:29-31).  In times of sickness, Israel was to offer prayers in and toward the temple (see 6:29).  Hezekiah appealed to the mercy of God and asked that he forgive the violation of each one who sets his heart on seeking God…even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary (30:19).  Here the Chronicler touched on the important theme of “seeking” God.  Sincere repentance and devotion are implied by the term.  Although Hezekiah was concerned with the details of worship regulations (see 30:5, 18; 31:3), it is apparent that the king recognized that the heart of the worshipers from the North was more important than mere external conformity to the rules of the sanctuary (30:19; see Lv 15:31).  This focus on the heart fit well with the Chronicler’s concern elsewhere with motivations and desires.  It also fit well with the concern of God; the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people (30:20).  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 437-38)

 

We notice a tension here between a literally strict adherence to the Law of Moses and an obedience according to the spirit of love.  This subject will resurface later in the chapter.  One should never imagine that the literal requirements of the law were unimportant to the Chronicler (see 1 Chr 13:9-14, for example).  After all, “what was written” (v 5) was not the word of man, but the word of God.  However, the Chronicler here recognized that there were times when a picky literalism could stand in the way of God’s clear intent overall.  King Hezekiah and his counselors wanted to celebrate a real Passover, with great numbers of people flocking from all over Israel to the one place where God had placed his Name.  This is what God had commanded in the first place.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 346-47)

 

Disaster was averted in this case by the righteous king praying on behalf of his people.  In words that seem to be an echo of Solomon’s prayer on the day of the temple’s dedication, Hezekiah said, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God–the LORD, the God of his fathers–even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary” (vv 18, 19; see 6:21, 25, 27, 29, 30, 39).  Hezekiah was asking the Lord to consider the people’s faith as more important in this case than their lack of outward, ceremonial purity.  He was confident that the Lord “who is good” would listen in heaven to prayer directed towards his sanctuary on earth.  Nor was the king mistaken in his confidence.  Just as the LORD had responded to Solomon, so likewise here he “heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (v 20; see 7:14).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 354)

 

Hezekiah’s letter holds out hope to those who have escaped the wrath of God meted out through Assyrian kings by offering them the possibility of reunion with those exiled in Mesopotamia to return to the worship of God in the Jerusalem sanctuary (30:9).  The appeal to the Lord, who “is gracious and compassionate” (30:9), seems to allude once again to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, beseeching God to induce Israel’s conquerors to show mercy on his people should they sin and be overtaken by their enemies (cf. 1 Kgs 8:50).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 586)

 

The Chronicler makes an important theological observation that intent of heart and acts of repentance, when combined with intercessory prayer, override the letter of the law when it comes to the worship of God (30:18-19; cf. Isa 1:15-19; Mic 6:8).  Williamson aptly observes that the report of Hezekiah’s Passover (esp. 2 Chr 30:18-20) completes the allusion to a key portion of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple (7:14).  The leaders and the people have “returned” to God (30:9) and “humbled” themselves (30:11), and King Hezekiah himself has “prayed” for God’s forgiveness.  The result is answered prayer in the form of God’s “healing” of the people (30:20).  The “healing” in this context should be understood as spiritual restoration and social reconciliation, as the covenant relationship with God has been renewed and elements of the northern and southern tribes are reunited in true worship.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 587)

 

For God Himself in His persistent grace sets aside the cause of alienation, makes provision for forgiveness of the offense, wins the grateful love of those who have broken the relationship, and enables sinners who were at odds with Him to become “at one” with Him again.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 55)

 

What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence—“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him”—but ours.  God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 52)

 

IV.  Shalom can never be a reality until we are reconciled to one another (2 Chr 30:23-26; see also: 2 Chr 29:8-10; Mt 5:23-24; Jn 17)

 

A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.  -Ruth Bell Graham

 

Where unforgiveness reigns, as essayist Lance Morrow has pointed out, a Newtonian law comes into play: For every atrocity there must be an equal and opposite atrocity. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 114)

 

When true revival breaks out, God often gives new songs, as happens here.  Studying the Word of God also becomes a focus again.  The energy is so amazing that they extend their celebration, and Hezekiah gives out of his own possessions unto the Lord (30:21-24).

When your eyes are focused on the Lord, you can’t help but rejoice.  You have the right perspective on life (30:25-27).  (Dr. Tremper Longman, Quicknotes, 1 Chr Thru Job, 97)

 

This rejoicing was connected with the Levites and priests performing their musical duties (30:21).  The text even notes that Hezekiah encouraged the Levites for their faithful service in the celebration (30:22).  As in other portions of his history, the Chronicler emphasized the joy of worship as it was expressed in music.  This picture of celebration was designed to encourage his readers by demonstrating the positive effects of Hezekiah’s efforts.  If they wanted to rise to these heights of joy, they must devote themselves to the reunification of Israel at the temple much like Hezekiah did in his day.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 439)

 

The joy experienced by those participating in festival affords the Chronicler a further opportunity to compare King Hezekiah with the Davidic and Solominic ideal (30:26).  No doubt, there is a less than subtle message about the relationship between right worship and answered prayer for the Chronicler’s audience (30:27).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 588)

 

Furthermore, the alienation involves more than a sense of estrangement on man’s part.  This can be seen from Christ’s teaching in Mt 5:23, 24.  Christ commanded one who brings his gift to the altar and there remembers that his brother has a grievance against him to postpone making his offering until he has been reconciled to his brother.  This command cannot be taken to mean simply that the one offering his gift should replace an attitude of animosity toward his brother with one of good will; for this he would not have to leave the altar.  It means that he should remove whatever is the ground for his brother’s complaint against him.  He should bring a change into the situation which occasioned alienation between them, so that he and his brother can again be in harmony.  Christ teaches, therefore, that whatever is behind the alienation should be removed before the worshiper presents his sacrifice.  Likewise in the relationship between God and man, it is not simply a question of an attitude on man’s part that must be changed.  What must be changed is the condition of alienation which has arisen because of sin.  If this alienation is to be removed, the ground of the alienation, namely, the guilt of sin, which deserves the divine wrath, condemnation, and curse, must be removed.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 45)

 

He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself. (George Herbert as quoted by Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 82)

 

To Err is Human…

…to forgive is a valuable gift to yourself, according to Stanford University psychologist Carl Thoresen.  His team has built a six-session group treatment to help people forgive.  A study of 259 adults who took part saw stress, anger and symptoms such as headaches and stomach upsets go way down, compared with a control group.  Positive effects remained six months later.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning offenses, or even reconciling with the offender, Thoresen says.  It means giving up the right to be angry.  The program emphasizes:

  • Shifting rigid personal “rules” for how people should behave to “preferences,” and accepting no adult can control another.
  • Seeing the hurtful incident from a neutral viewpoint.
  • Moving from blame to understanding, and then moving on. (Marilyn Elias in USA Today;  Reader’s Digest, Jan 2002, 188)

 

To forgive is to set the prisoner free, and then discover the prisoner was you.

 

In the words of Lewis Smedes:

Vengeance is a passion to get even.  It is a hot desire to give back as much pain as someone gave you. . . The problem with revenge is that it never gets what it wants; it never evens the score.   Fairness never comes.  The chain reaction set off by every act of vengeance always takes its unhindered course.  It tries both the injured and the injurer to an escalator of pain.  Both are stuck on the escalator as long as parity is demanded, and the escalator never stops, never lets anyone off.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 115)

 

If everyone followed the “eye for an eye” principle of justice, observed Gandhi, eventually the whole world would go blind.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 116)

 

Magnanimous forgiveness, such as that offered Valjean by the bishop (Les Miserables), allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party.  Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:

When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it.  You disengage that person from his hurtful act.  You recreate him.  At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong.  The next moment you change that identity.  He is remade in your memory.

You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you.  You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you.  Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs.  You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.

Smedes adds many cautions.  Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong.  If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 102-03)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What can we learn from Jesus Who is the heart of reconciliation?:

A-  Jesus debunked legalism because it is death to reconciliation.  (Nm 9:10-11; Mt 23:23; Jn 7:22-23; 9:14-16; Rom 2:17-29; 3:19-31; ch 4; 7:1-13; 8:1-4; 10:4; Gal 2:11-21; Ch 3; Gal 5:4; Eph 2:14-18; Phil 3:2-9Col 2:8-12; Heb 7:18-19)

 

Love asks: How much can I give?   Legalism asks: How little can I give?

 

Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they CANNOT do and what drives them to Christ.

 

God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism…There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)

 

One of the most serious problems facing the orthodox Christian church today is the problem of legalism.  One of the most serious problems facing the church in Paul’s day was the problem of legalism.  In every day it is the same.   Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes his power for vital worship and vibrant service.  Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession.  The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of the Lord becomes a synonym of a gloomy kill-joy.  The Christian under law is a miserable parody of the real thing.  (S. Lewis Johnson, “The Paralysis of Legalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra, no. 478 [April - June 1963], 109)

 

I took some comfort in the fact that the church in the first century was already on a seesaw, tilting now toward perfectionistic legalism and now toward raucous antinomianism. …The church, in other words, should be both: a people who strive toward holiness and yet relax in grace, a people who condemn themselves but not others, a people who depend on God and not themselves. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 222)

 

Leo Tolstoy, who battled legalism all his life, understood the weaknesses of a religion based on externals.  The title of one of his books says it well: The Kingdom of God Is Within You.  According to Tolstoy, all religious systems tend to promote external rules, or moralism.  In contrast, Jesus refused to define a set of rules that his followers could then fulfill with a sense of satisfaction.  One can never “arrive” in light of such sweeping commands as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 197)

 

If Jesus’ critique of legalism was not devastating enough, the apostle Paul added another fundamental complaint.  Legalism fails miserably at the one thing it is supposed to do: encourage obedience.  In a strange twist, a system of strict laws actually puts new ideas of lawbreaking in a person’s mind.  Paul explains, “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”  In a demonstration of this principle, some surveys show that people raised in teetotaling denominations are three times as likely to become alcoholics. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  206)

 

To the degree that we feel we are on legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded.  A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 108)

 

Hezekiah’s prayer, and the Lord’s favorable response, strike a blow against rigid legalism.  Clearly, it is more important to set one’s heart to seek God than it is to be in a state of scrupulous ritual purity.  Similarly, Micah asks “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Mic 6:8).  In his teaching, Jesus as well placed “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” above ritual law (Mt 23:23).  So, for Jesus, meeting human need by healing on the Sabbath was more important than strict adherence to the regulations of the rabbis (so, for example, Mk 3:1-6).

Particularly instructive in this regard is Paul’s treatment of the question of eating food offered to idols, an issue which divided the early church.  According to Acts 15:20, abstaining “from things polluted by idols” was part of that bare minimum of Jewish law which all believers, Jew and Gentile alike, were bound to follow.  Similarly, the John of Revelation held that those who ate food sacrificed to idols separated themselves from Christ (Rv 2:14, 20).  Other Christians, however, reasoned that since there was only one true God, the idols were mere statues; food sacrificed to them was no different than any other kind of food (see 1 Cor 8:1-6).  Paul refused to settle the matter legalistically, either way.  He argued that the food itself was not the issue; what really mattered was sensitivity to one another in the body of Christ.  If the faith of “weaker” Christians is threatened when they see other believers eating food sacrificed to idols, then the “stronger” Christians need to abstain (1 Cor 8:7-13).

Today, the church is divided by other questions and controversies.  Yet, we still are tempted to appeal to legalism, whether in our reading of Scripture or in our application of community standards, to resolve our differences–even though such an appeal rarely resolves anything.  We need to remember that Scripture itself rejects this narrow, rigid standard.  How much better, like Hezekiah, to trust in God’s grace to cover our lack of scrupulosity, and to recall that devotion to the Lord is our first, and highest, calling.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 221)

 

. . . in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith.  By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am.  By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out.  I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 93)

 

Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son makes a similar point.  The prodigal son had no leg to stand on, no possible basis for spiritual pride.  By any measure of spiritual competition he had failed, and now he had nothing to lean against but grace.  God’s love and forgiveness extended equally to the virtuous elder brother, of course, but that son, too busy comparing himself to his irresponsible sibling, was blinded to the truth about himself.  In the words of Henri Nouwen, “The lostness of the resentful ‘saint’ is so hard to reach precisely because it is so closely wedded to the desire to be good and virtuous.”  Nouwen confesses:

I know, from my own life, how diligently I have tried to be good, acceptable, likable, and a worthy example for others.  There was always the conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of sin and the constant fear of giving in to temptation.  But with all of that there came a seriousness, a moralistic intensity — and even a touch of fanaticism — that made it increasingly difficult to feel at home in my Father’s house.  I became less free, less spontaneous, less playful. . . .

The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there.  Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being.

The spiritual games we play, many of which begin with the best of motives, can perversely lead us away from God, because they lead us away from grace.  Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace.  And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 205-06)

 

B-  Jesus hates selfishness and pride because they are obstacles to reconciliation.   (Prv 3:34; 16:5, 18; 18:12; 21:4; 29:23;  Mt 6:7-18; 18:21-25; Mk 4:1-20; 11:25; Lk 17:3-4; Col 3:5-14; Jas 4:6-7; 1 Pt 5:5-6)

 

“We don’t want to forgive others because it makes us even, not superior.”  — Steve Brown

 

“If you want to know the problem in any organization, look for the ego.  There is no forgiveness where there is ego.

 

Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side.  (Paul Tournier quoted in Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 42)

 

No true forgiveness comes apart from repentance and acceptance of the atoning work of Christ.  (William L. Playfair, M.D.; The Useful Lie, 106)

 

It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel superior to him or her.  (Timothy Keller; The Prodigal God, 55)

 

Self-righteous service fractures community.  True service, on the other hand, builds community.  (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service”)

 

God’s purposes can never be accomplished if we react to our own pain by inflicting pain on others.  Nor can we continue growing as the people of God if we seek vengeance on others.  That spoils our reconciliation, not only with them, but also with God and with ourselves.  To curse our persecutors is surely always more destructive to us than to them.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 229)

 

There is a direct correlation between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of self-knowledge.  When you know yourself, you will forgive.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 184)

 

“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder.  Because the latter (namely murder) may be an impulse in the heat of the moment where as the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart” (a sermon by Alister Begg entitled Measure for Measure – Part 1; 33:30 into the sermon )

 

Not willing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.   —Mark Gungor.

 

It is true that false teaching divides the body of Christ.  Far too often, however, the visible church has shown itself quick to divide but slow to come together again.  Anger and ego too easily become engaged in issues where we may differ, leading us to jump to judgment and to be dismissive of those we had once called brothers and sisters.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 347-48)

 

If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception.  We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit.  We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves.  Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ (Mt 7:1-5).   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 75)

 

“To be an unforgiving Christian is an oxymoron”.  (Greg Laurie on Vol 43 – side 1 Pastor to Pastor)

 

Did you ever think that when you became a Christian you made an announcement to the world that you are screwed up, desperately needy and weak, and horribly sinful?   Jesus didn’t come for well people . . .  He is only the Great Physician for really sick people.  That’s why we ran to him.  And Luther said that the definition of sanctification is “getting used to being forgiven.”  (Steve Brown July 2007 Newsletter )

 

C-  Jesus alone was willing to pay the price of forgiveness that facilitates reconciliation to obtain shalom.  (Rom 5:1-11; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Gal 5:4; Eph 1:7-10; Col 1:22; 1 Jn 1:9; 2:12)

 

“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.”   (Jesus of Nazareth video – 12 minutes into tape 3).

 

In your old days and before this “living” thing had happened to you, your immediate reaction would have been to decide to do good works and to say, “I am going to turn over a new leaf.  I am going to do this, that and the other.”  But the moment there is true repentance, all that stops.  You renounce your own works, you admit that there is no good thing in you, that all your righteousness is as “filthy rags,” and that obviously there is no point in your deciding to live a better life, or, by a great effort of the will, to serve God, because all you do will still be polluted and therefore useless.

So you do not do that.  You renounce your good works, your self-reliance, and every attempt at self-justification.  This a part of the obedience of faith.  You accept the pronouncement of the Scriptures that none of us can ever justify ourselves before God, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20).  You accept it completely, and you prove it in action by not attempting to do anything to save yourself.

Then you accept the teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His way of salvation.  You accept, you believe this message concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as your Sin-bearer, as the One sent by God to reconcile you to God.  And not only that, you are ready to confess this.  You are ready to acknowledge that He is thus your Savior and your Lord, that He has bought you with a price, that you are not your own, that you have no right to yourself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 10, 336-37)

 

People fail to realize that wherever there is forgiveness there’s a payment.  For example, let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home.  I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey.  Daddy loves you and forgives you.”  Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.”  Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?”  The fact is, I do.  There’s always a price in forgiveness.  Let’s say somebody insults you in front of others and later you graciously say, “I forgive you.”  Who bears the price of the insult?  You do.

This is what God has done.  God has said, “I forgive you.”  But he was willing to pay the price himself through the cross.  (Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, 115-16)

 

Forgiveness is the fragrance the petal of the flower sheds on the heel that crushes it. — Mark Twain

 

Forgiveness is forgiving others the debt others owe you.   When someone has done you wrong it is usually because they owe you something and have failed to keep up their end of the bargain.  To forgive is to let that debt go.  To say in your mind, I am not going to expect them to make it right.  I no longer hold their debt (failure to treat you as you should be treated) against them.  I will treat them as if they did not owe me anything.  That is how we can forgive and yet at the same time, realize that they are prone to be a sinful debtor and therefore we do not ignorantly make ourselves vulnerable to their sin again in the future.

 

Forgiveness is difficult, costly, and painful.  To forgive means that the innocent one carries his own wrath at the sin of the offending one and resolves his indignation through love!  A refusal to forgive means that we keep the offending person as “beholden” to us, as obligated or indebted to us.  To forgive means that we release the other person, that we accept the loss that has come to us from their offense, and let them go free.  In forgiving we actually carry our own wrath at their sin and resolve this through love, refusing to make them feel our wrath and extending to them acceptance, love, and fellowship.  God has done just this in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, absorbing our hostility into Himself, carrying His own wrath at our sin, and speaking back the word of acceptance.  “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, nor counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).  This verse makes reconciliation central to the meaning and the message of grace. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 28)

 

True forgiveness always entails suffering.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 101)

 

When reconciliation has its full Biblical meaning of salvation, the alienation it removes is clearly the result of sin (Isa 59:12).  This is apparent from 2 Cor 5:19, where reconciliation is brought into connection with God’s not imputing trespasses.  In more than one place in Paul’s letters reconciliation appears as the parallel and equivalent of justification (Rom 5:9, 10; 2 Cor 3:9; 5:18).  This is not strange because the means of reconciliation is the death of God’s Son (Rom 5:10).  The purpose of sacrificial death is expiation.  The death of Jesus Christ and the imputation of His righteousness to the sinner is grounds for removing the cause of alienation between God and man, namely, the guilt of sin.

But “reconciliation” has a broader meaning than “justification.”  The word katallagē derives from the socio-economic sphere (cf. 1 Cor 7:11).  It speaks in general of the restoration of a proper relationship between two parties.  It refers broadly to overcoming an enmity, without specifying how this enmity is removed.  In Paul’s writings the word katallagē is contrasted many times with “enmity” and “alienation” (Rom 5:10; Eph 2:14f.; Col 1:22).  In the positive sense it has the meaning of “peace” (Rom 5:1, 10; Eph 2:15f.; Col 1:20f.).  The removal of the reason for alienation brings about a condition of peace between the warring parties.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 44)

 

Well may the Accuser roar of sins that I have done, I know them all and thousands more.  Jehovah knoweth none.”  (From a hymn taken from sermon entitled: “The Great Escape” by Tim Keller 31: into the sermon.)

 

Once again we begin to see not only reflections of David and Solomon but also the cast shadow of the promised Messiah.  Hezekiah, a true shepherd of Israel, brought unity to his people through the Word.  As such he served to encourage the people of the Chronicler’s day to hope for the Messiah who would one day come to unite all God’s people under his rule.  Under him there would truly be “one flock and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16; see also Jer 31:10; Ez 34:12, 23).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 350)

 

THE ATONEMENT:

An atonement is a reconciliation of alienated parties, the restoration of a broken relationship.  Atonement is accomplished by making amends, blotting out offenses, and giving satisfaction for wrongs done.

According to scripture every person sins and needs to make atonement, but lacks the power and resources for doing so.  We have offended our Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jer. 44:4; Hab. 1:13) and to punish it (Ps 5:4-6; Rom 1:18; 2:5-9).  Those who have sinned cannot be accepted by and do not have fellowship with God unless atonement is made.  Since there is sin in even the best actions of sinful creatures, anything we do in the hope of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation, for the “sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Prv 15:8).  There is no way to establish one’s own righteousness before God (Job 15:46-16; Is. 64:6; Rom 10:2, 3); it simply cannot be done.

But against this background of human hopelessness, Scripture reveals the grace and mercy of God, who Himself provides the atonement that sin has made necessary.  God’s amazing grace is the focus of Biblical faith; from Genesis to Revelation it shines out with breathtaking glory.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He set up as part of the covenant relationship a system of sacrifices that had at its heart the shedding of the blood of animals “to make atonement for your souls” (Lv 17;11).  These sacrifices were “typical”; that is, as “types” they pointed forward to something better.  Sins were forgiven when sacrifices were faithfully offered, but it was not the blood of animals that blotted out sins (Heb 10:4).  It was the blood of the “antitype,” Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross atoned for sins already committed, as well as sins that would be committed afterwards (Rom 3:25, 26; 4:3-8; Heb 9:11-15).

According to the NT, Christ’s blood was shed as a sacrifice (Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; Rv 1:5).  Christ redeemed His people by means of a ransom; His death was the price that freed us from guilt and from enslavement to sin (Rom 3:24; Gal 4:4, 5; Col 1:14).  In Christ’s death, God reconciled us to Himself, overcoming His own hostility that our sins provoked (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19; Col 1:20-22).  The Cross propitiated God.  That is to say, it quenched His wrath against us by expiating our sins, and so removing them from His sight (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10).  The Cross had this effect because in His suffering Christ assumed our identity and endured the retributive judgment due to us, that is, “the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13).  He suffered as our substitute, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to His cross as the list of crimes for which He died (Col 2:14; cf. Mt 27:37; Isa 53:4-6; Lk 22:37).  (Luder Whitlock, Jr., New Geneva Study Bible, 1772)

 

Broken marriages begin to mend and communication is reestablished when one of the partners is willing to make a breakthrough and say, “Lord, begin with me. I am the one who needs to change, to love more deeply and more wisely.” Even if you think your spouse is 100% wrong, when you stand in the presence of Christ you will begin to see that you, too, have shortcomings. You will discern where you have failed to accept responsibility for the marital relationship, and you will be able to say, “God, change me.” The Christian is committed to follow Christ who went all the way in love, all the time. So, for a start, stop demanding that your partner change his ways. Let God start changing you. (Lionel Whitston, Homemade, April, 1990)

 

Worship point:   Your worship will be en – thusiastic in direct proportion to your understanding of the great price God in Christ was willing to pay for you to be reconciled back to Himself.

 

In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”?  We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)

 

THE CHRISTIAN’S PERSONAL IDENTITY:

I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen! (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)

 

The inclusive sense of “reconciliation,” as it is used regarding salvation, that is, overcoming of enmity and alienation, is reflected in what it has in view, namely, the restoration of peace between God and man.  Thus Paul can exult, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

The Bible teaching is that peace is brought about by the death of Christ.  We are reconciled in the body of His flesh through death (Col 1:22).  Rom 5:10 speaks of having been reconciled by the death of Christ.  Col 1:20 speaks of God’s having made peace through the blood of Christ’s cross.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 44)

 

You can’t forgive until you have been forgiven and only then can you forgive to the degree that you have been forgiven.  — Matthew 18:32-33

 

Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 NIV)

 

“If the God of life does not respond to the culture of death (21st century western civilization – abortion) with judgment, then God is not God.   If God does not honor the blood of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham , the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.

But, you may object: Is not the God of the Bible forgiving?

He is!  But, the unrepentant refuse forgiveness.  Forgiveness being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received.  How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive, except unforgiveness; nothing to judge but judgementalism; nothing lacking but self-esteem?  How can a Pharisee or a pop-psychologist be saved?

But, you might object: Is not the God of the Bible compassionate?

He is!   But, He is not compassionate to Molech and Baal and Ashtoreth, and to the Canaanites who cause their children to pass through the fire.  Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice, the god of your demands, the god of your religious preferences.  But, not the God of the Bible.  Read the Book.  Look at the data. (Peter Kreeft in a lecture given entitled “Culture War” 11:17 into the lecture)

 

“I believe that Christians spend too much time trying to do God’s will and too little time accepting God’s love.  If you don’t feel forgiven, accepted and loved by God, don’t try to help Him, because your help will simply hinder.  God doesn’t need your help.  He needs you to know that you are forgiven and free.”  (Steve Brown, Living Free, 75)

 

If you look at your past and are depressed, it means that you are listening to the devil.  But if you look at the past and say: “Unfortunately it is true I was blinded by the god of this world, but thank God His grace was more abundant, He was more than sufficient and His love and mercy came upon me in such a way that it is all forgiven, I am a new man’, then all is well.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 75)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to be reconciled to those who have alienated themselves from you or those you have alienated from yourself.  But, never forget you will pay a price for this reconciliation.   Endeavor to, by faith,  discover how God deems the price that must be paid well worth the investment to acquire shalom.

 

A man can as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.  —Thomas Watson

 

Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.  -Charles Spurgeon

 

Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love.  To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us.  Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies.  If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test.  Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam.  We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love.  Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment.  Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God’s answer for your pain.  God gives you a way out: love!   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 68-69)

 

Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God.  You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) And allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God.  You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them.  Love is your only choice.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 70)

 

 

Quotes to Note:

The words of Hezekiah certainly spoke clearly to the Chronicler’s post-exilic readers.  In many respects, they stood in very similar circumstances.  They had suffered at the hands of foreign powers; many of their relatives remained outside the land; they had the opportunity to give temple worship its rightful place again.  If they would only return to the Lord in their day, then the promises of divine blessing, including the ingathering of those remaining outside the land, would be theirs.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 435)

 

The decisive sign of returning to God was to “enter His” perennial “sanctuary” (v 8).  For the northerners it means going against a current which had been flowing for two centuries in a contrary direction; it meant abandoning an entrenched position within the overall framework of a common faith.  Ecumenicity always involves the surrender of that which is emotionally dear and the challenge to re-examine cherished convictions and consider whether we ourselves are not in some respects “a bundle of prejudices,” to use Charles Lamb’s telling phrase.  To put God first means to check for authenticity the images of God enshrined in our minds and hearts.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 387)

 

Opposition to the united festival and to Hezekiah’s new broom of reform lay not only among the northerners but at home in the minds of some of the temple staff, as v 3 had hinted.  There were priests and even Levites who stood aloof, until their hardness of heart was melted by the sheer devotion of the massed pilgrims.  There are often scruples in the minds of God’s servants, scruples which only a demonstration of true spirituality in the lives of other believers can succeed in overcoming.  Here the religious authorities had to run to keep up with the zeal of the laity.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 388)

 

The abrupt shift from King Hezekiah to the people as agents of the religious reforms is instructive.  As Selman has noted, this is yet another lesson in worship renewal designed to encourage the Chronicler’s audience “to restore faithful patterns of worship for themselves.”  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 589)

 

Especially under the influence of Sören Kierkegaard and Karl Marx, the idea of alienation and estrangement has become a major theme of contemporary philosophy, theology, and literature.  This accounts in great measure for the importance that the doctrine of reconciliation has assumed in current theological thought.  The notion is often secularized, however, referring only to a reconciliation of one with his own deeper nature.  Even in contemporary theology this secularizing tendency is present.  Its peculiar tendencies do not allow contemporary theology to view reconciliation in its proper relationship to the sacrificial death of Christ, expiation, and the imputation of righteousness, all of which are essential to the Biblical doctrine.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, 45)

 

 

Jesus:

The Heart of Reconciliation

 

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