2 Chronicles 30:18-19 - 18 For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying "May the good Lord pardon 19 everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary."
All of these people had previously been worshiping idols (something God strictly prohibits...if you don't believe me, check out the 10 commandments). ;) They should have been properly purified or cleansed through a ritualistic process. However, due to a reform that Hezekiah had implemented, a great amount of people were very zealous, or passionate, about worshiping the God of their fathers, the only true God. To go through the ritual of purification would have taken a grand amount of time and may have squashed the zealousness of the people. Who wants to squash a zealousness for God?? So Hezekiah prayed that the people who's hearts were truly seeking God would be pardoned.
The first thing that jumps out at me here is this: following ritual was NOT of the utmost importance. Had they followed ritual the reform may not have been as grand or lasted as long - "they were loth to forbid them...lest they should discourage new converts, and send those away complaining whom they desired to send away rejoicing" (Henry). There are different rituals in each denomination today, some more serious than others. The important thing to remember is this: "ritual institutions must give way, not only to public necessity, but to a public benefit and advantage" (Henry). Is it really beneficial to exclude people from communion (or any other 'ritual' for that matter)? Is it even remotely our job to judge those who participate?
I also notice that it was Hezekiah who said the prayer. He took notice of his people - he saw their passion and he prayed for them - "It is the duty of those that have the charge of others, not only to look to themselves, but to those also that are under their charge, to see wherein they are wanting, and to pray for them, as Hezekiah here" (Henry). The Hebrew word for 'prayed' here is palal, meaning "to intervene, interpose, pray" (Strong's H6419). Hezekiah saw a need and he intervened on the people's behalf. We should always be observing those under our charge, noticing what they need, and intervening for them! Prayer is a powerful thing and it is here for our taking. Who knows what would happen if I prayed for everyone in my care once a week! Or what about once a day?!?
Here's the thing though: It wouldn't have made a difference that these people, despite their uncleanliness, were allowed to participate or that Hezekiah prayed over them IF their hearts had not been in the right place. Over and over again we see just how important the condition of the heart is - "the inward man [must] be engaged," we must "make heart work of it. All is nothing without this" (Wesley, emphasis added). I love Wesley's phrase there: "heart work." Everything we do for the Lord should be "heart work."
Bringing this all together, it is important to remember that we cannot know the condition of someone's heart, that is only for God. This means that, like the doorman, it is our responsibility to open the door for each and every person that comes by (openness and prayer). It is their responsibility (and choice) to walk through.
I challenge you today to open the door.
- Ritual and rules are good - but don't let them be the reason someone is not included...especially when it comes to spiritual matters.
- And pray! Keep intervening for those under your charge, whether you are sure about the condition of their heart or not...every individual could always use a little prayer throughout the day - everyone is struggling with something.