Based on: 2 Chronicles 30
It must have been a tremendous gathering of people – a worship service that covered the whole city of Jerusalem. They came from all over Judah and Israel to celebrate the Passover, to praise God for what he had done and for what he promised to do. Let’s take a look at this inspiring and encouraging display of unity among those people in the land of Israel. We will see that in order to have unity among each other we must first have unity with God. Then we will see how this unity has blessings for us.
To help us understand what is happening here in 2 Chronicles 30 we need to review a little history. A few hundred years before this Passover celebration the kingdom of Israel was split between the 10 tribes of Israel in the North and Judah and Benjamin in the South.
The ruler of the ten tribes in the North didn’t want his people worshiping in Jerusalem in the South, because the people might become “united” again. Contrary to God’s commands he changed the place of worship, the dates of the festivals, and even the way they worshiped.
I’m sure many in Israel thought this was OK since they were still worshiping the one true God, but some took the next step and forsook the true God altogether. (In truth we see the same thing today. People worship God in the way they want and not necessarily the way God wants them to. That kind of worship sometimes leads people away from God altogether.)
Now we come to the time when Hezekiah is made king in the land of Judah. Hezekiah is trying to lead people back to a worship of the true God – a difficult task. Israel had been unfaithful to God and his predecessor in Judah had discouraged worship of the true God.
We can certainly admire King Hezekiah for what he is trying to do. He isn’t trying to create political unity between Judah and the Israelites to the north. He is concerned for their souls. He is concerned that the people have unity with God.
In the invitation Hezekiah sends out, you can see he understands that before the people can worship together in unity they must submit to God’s Word and God’s way of worship. Listen to some of his words, "Return to the Lord. . . . Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the Lord . . . . Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the Lord.”
Only after saying all of that does he say, “Come to the sanctuary." Hezekiah doesn’t want anyone who is not willing to submit to God’s Word to come to God’s temple in Jerusalem – for the Passover or any other worship there.
Hezekiah knows the true unity with God results in a changed life that shows its faithfulness to God and his word. When Hezekiah says, "Come to the sanctuary," he is telling them to leave behind their own way of worshiping God and worship God the way he told you to.
King Hezekiah is not interested in simply in an outward show of unity where people came together to worship and yet are not in agreement regarding God’s Word. He doesn’t tell just anyone to come down from Israel and share this Passover with them. He knows that is not unity.
There are people today that think they can each have their own ideas about God and still worship together. Someone gave me this clipping out of the newspaper. It is an advertisement for a church. It starts off suggesting, "Maybe you’re uncomfortable with someone else’s idea of God." Later it suggests that their church is a place where you can, "search for your own truth and meaning." If everyone has their own idea of God, then where is their unity? What is the common ground that binds them together?
Our unity is not based on human opinion – our own ideas about God. That would be a very unstable unity. No, our unity is based on God’s Word – the things God himself reveals to us about himself. This unity comes from God. It is true now, just as it was at the time of Hezekiah. As the writer of 2 Chronicles states, “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.”
As you come to this church you enjoy the unity you have with the one true God but because God’s Word is the standard for all we preach and teach, just like king Hezekiah. By being a member of this church you say, "I believe what this church teaches."
Now as we hear that preaching and teaching, we grow in faith and knowledge of God’s Word and of our salvation through Jesus Christ. As we grow in that unity with God our unity with each other also grows.
The very definition of the word unity means that we have something in common. It is more than just a agreeing to worship together in spite of our differences. That is a very shallow unity. No, our unity is based on some very definite things that we know about, that God has revealed to us in the Bible. We know God created the universe in six days. We know God has given us his commands, his will for the way we live our lives. We also know that we have sinned against those commands. Yet, God rescued us from our sins when Jesus Christ lived a perfect life on this earth and suffered the punishment of hell on the cross.
As members of this congregation we have that unity, we share that common faith. Not only do we have that unity with each other, but we share that unity with Martin Luther, with the disciples, with King Hezekiah and with everyone who shares those same beliefs.
When we come together to worship our Lord we can explore the richness of God’s Word and all the ways in which it communicates what God has done for us. Also when we come together we can use that Word to encourage each other and build each other up.
When we join in the Lord’s Supper you know that the person next to you shares the same faith you do and that your brother or sister in Christ is receiving forgiveness for their sins just as you are.
When we hold a funeral service here we take a look at the person’s life here on this earth, but our primary focus is the future that God gave the person through Jesus Christ. By being a member of this church they confess their faith in the teachings of Scripture that tell us the Jesus one eternal life for us.
When we come together to do the work God has given us we are all directed by that common purpose given to us in God’s Word.
The people of Judah and Israel at the time of Hezekiah were eager to celebrate the Passover. So eager, in fact, and so excited to celebrate the Passover and enjoy that unity with God, that they couldn’t stop after one week of celebration, but they had to celebrate for two weeks. What if we had a two week worship service? One day we will celebrate our unity with those Old Testament believers, but our celebration will last more than two weeks. It will last forever.