I have been reading and rereading the two books of Chronicles, somewhat reluctantly, if I’m being honest. Isn’t Chronicles just a summary of the books of Kings? Harrumph.
Yet here I am reading along, minding my own business, being rather sulky and whatnot, when just like that, in 2 Chronicles 29, “the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly.” And here, quite unexpectedly, God pulls me up on my way again.
It turns out that the reign of Hezekiah has all kinds of glorious redemptive history gems, too much to write about in one post. If you are willing, take some time to read chapters 29-31 a few times over and see what grabs you. The emphasis on Passover, for instance, calls the Exodus to mind. And look at this lovely picture of heaven just here, after Judah and all sojourners among them had celebrated the Passover feast, not only for the appointed seven days but for another seven days:
So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.
Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.
2 Chronicles 30:26-27
Now when all this was finished (31:1), Hezekiah led the people of God in kingdom work. They tore down the idols, the high places and the altars. They reinstated the priesthood, “for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister and to give thanks and to praise in the gates of the camp of the LORD” (v. 2).
And then God brings us alongside a beautiful, eschatological vision of abundant giving, the “tithe of sacred gifts,” which began in the third month and was finished by the seventh month (31:7). In this part of the story of Hezekiah, God has blessed His people with grain, new wine, oil, honey and all the produce of the field. And out of what God gives, the people give, they give, the people give so freely out of what God has given that the priests have enough to eat with plenty left over.
In fact, the text tells us twice, so we know God wants us to pay close attention! God has provided for His people so generously that a great quantity is left over. Enough for the priests and Levites to distribute to all of the cities of the priests, “for the whole assembly” (2 Chron. 31:13-21).
And here’s where I leave 2 Chronicles behind, on to where this story is carrying us. Beyond the exile of Judah that would come not long after this. Beyond their return from exile. Beyond 400 years of waiting for God’s voice, of waiting for the Messiah.
On we go, until we reach the place where Jesus begins His ministry. Where He sends His 12 disciples to gather the people for a new Exodus. Where He tells them to travel light as the Israelites did (Exod 12:11, Mark 6:7-11). Where like Moses, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee with His disciples to a desolate place (Mark 6:30-32).
Here, in Jewish territory, a crowd like sheep without a shepherd begins to gather. And having compassion for them, Jesus teaches them many things until it’s quite late, until they are all quite hungry. Knowing their need, He commands this crowd of His chosen people to sit down by groups, reclining as if at a king’s banquet, “on the green grass,” a sign of wilderness transformed (Mark 6:39). Likewise, a few chapters later, this time in Gentile territory, Jesus meets another famished crowd, and directs them to sit on the ground and rest (Mark 8:6).
In both these places, first with Jews and then Gentiles, Jesus takes the meagre gifts of food which the people have offered, and He blesses it and gives it to His disciples. In both places, all the people ate, and all were satisfied. So it was, just as in Hezekiah’s day, that out of what God had given the people, out of what they returned to Him, there was enough for everyone and plenty left over, a sign of safe passage through the wilderness, of tomorrow’s bread given today.
In 2 Chronicles and in the ministry of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles, God opens our eyes to His glorious giving. He calls us back to His Promise of rescuing love which He renewed when Israel left Egypt. He carries us forward to Jesus’s victory over the grave on the third day. He renews His promise to nourish His people through this period of waiting. And He reminds us of His promise to gather His people and bring us safely home to the place of rest which Jesus now prepares.
In the life of Hezekiah as in the life of Jesus, we encounter salvation and victory over sin and death. And when Jesus Christ has brought all the nations to Himself, just as in Hezekiah’s day, the thing will come about suddenly. In that moment, we will meet that glorious day of seven, the Heavenly Sabbath that awaits those who put their trust in God.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet;
for the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
1 Cor. 15:51-52