I have had a tendency lately to write EXTREMELY long posts. lol I am going to try to break this one up into several parts and see if that works better.
I have posted earlier about how I have been praying for insight and deeper understanding during this study. I hesitate to use words or phrases like “God showed me” this or “God told me to do” such and such. They are so overused in our Christian culture. I get the image of God sitting next to me on a couch and pointing out things with His finger. That’s so not how it works. At least not for me. lol That would be MUCH easier. In fact, I will be totally honest. I tend to roll my eyes when I hear people used those phrases – most people anyway. If Billy Graham said that God had shown him something or told him something, I would TOTALLY believe him. 🙂 The cranky co-worker who spends the majority of her time gossiping about others? Not so much.
At the same time, I don’t want to use phrases like “I” found or “I” discovered, because “I” didn’t. I really don’t know of any other words to use, though, so I will probably stick with talking about connections I have made.
Anyway, I believe that God can cause little thoughts to pop into our minds and make us remember snippets of passages we have heard in the past that we hadn’t thought of in years, or even thought of once since hearing it. This is what happens for me, anyway. I will be reading a passage or an explanation of a passage, and something will just pop into my head. Whether God actually sticks the thought in there in that precise moment or just enables the brain He blessed me with to wake up enough to remember something I once heard or read is irrelevant. The point is the connection gets made. And the key to making the connections is to actually pick up the Word and look for them.
So, last night was our weekly class time for Psalms of Ascent. We had just finished our first week of study. We had completed Psalm 120, 121, and the first of two lessons on 122 – the one that tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I posted about some connections found as a result of verses 5 and 6 in my previous entry. And, honestly, I thought I was done with that one and ready to finish the final lesson on it and move on. Apparently, there was much more to discover.
In the video that accompanied this week’s meeting, Beth spent the majority of time talking about how songs (or psalms) are the language our souls speak. She gave several illustrations of how God uses songs and singing as a way of expressing Himself and she notes that Jesus and the disciples sang psalms in Matthew 26:30. But we will get to that in another post. 😉
So I come home from our Wednesday night meeting and decide that I have just enough time to read a few chapters in my “read through the Bible in some such length of time” plan. I am in 2 Chronicles. Last night I was on Chapter 30. The title at the top of this chapter in my Bible (I was reading out of the NIV this time) – Hezekiah Celebrates the Passover.
Basically, the Israelites hadn’t celebrated the Passover in a long time, so Hezekiah sent word throughout all Judah and Israel for everyone to come to Jerusalem and observe the Passover.
What’s the big deal? I didn’t realize it either until I started reading. Verse 21 practically jumped off the page.
21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests sang to the LORD every day, accompanied by the LORD’s instruments of praise.
I realized that Passover and the Feast of Unleaved Bread were connected. We started our study in the Psalms of Ascent by learning about the background for these Psalms. They were sung by Jews as they made the pilgrimage from their homes to Jerusalem, mainly during the Three Great Feasts, the first of which was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. All the people who traveled to Jerusalem for this feast were probably singing the Psalms of Ascent on their journeys. Passover occurs the night before the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. Passover, of course, marks the time when God “passed over” all the houses marked with the blood of a lamb without blemish (Exodus 12:5) when the Israelites were in Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was instituted the following day after Pharoah let the Israelites go in response to the 10th plague – the death of the firstborn – as a remembrance for when the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 13). More on that later, too. (See Wikipedia for more info on these feasts.)
So, I stopped and went back and re-read the chapter from the beginning, more slowly this time. Two other sections of the passage struck me. The first is in verses 18-20.
18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone
19 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.”
20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
Passover was instituted in Exodus 12 prior to the plague of the death of the firstborn. Passover regulations were given by God in verses 43 – 49. If you have ever read the laws in Leviticus, you will realize how extraordinary this was. If you didn’t keep the law, you could not be reconciled to God. There were very strict rules as to who could and could not participate in the feasts and why. This passage tell us many of the people were unclean, but had partaken anyway. That was a HUGE no-no. Hezekiah interceded on their behalf and prayed for God to forgive those who were seeking Him with their hearts. And God healed the people. He did what they could not do or had not done for themselves. Sound familiar? This is a pre-Christ instance of God reconciling the people to Himself outside the letter of the law. God, by grace, reconciled the people despite their disobedience to the law. It is a picture of what He would do for all of us through Christ.
Just a little more background on Psalm 122 before I get to what struck me next. In doing my homework lesson for Psalm 122 on Tuesday night, Beth also pointed out Ephesians 2:11-22 and asked us how it paralleled this Psalm, paying specific attention to mention of “aliens” or “foreigners.” Psalm 122:3-4 says:
3 Jerusalem, built as a city [should be],
solidly joined together,
4 where the tribes, the tribes of the LORD, go up
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
(This is an ordinance for Israel.)
Ephesians 2:11-14 says:
Ephesians 2:11-22 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)Unity in Christ11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” done by hand in the flesh.12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, with no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.
So her point was that before Christ, the “peace of Jerusalem,” we were alienated from God. But through Christ, we have become part of the family and now have hope, via the grace of God. That was cool, but I was so caught up in my “discovery” that Jesus was the Peace of Jerusalem (duh!) that I couldn’t grasp this other connection (I’m getting there – I promise) at the same time. So God waited another day to slap me in the face with it. lol
Back to II Chronicles 30. Verses 25-27 say:
2 Chronicles 30:25-27 (New International Version)25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled from Israel, including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah.26 There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.27 The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.