Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 21-23
Today’s Reflection: 2 Kings 23:21-23
21) And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22) For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. 23) But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.
Every now and then you come across something in the Bible that just stops you short. This text did that for me. As we’ve read through the books of the kings of Israel and Judah we’ve seen that most of them were wicked and disobedient, chasing after wealth and fame, indulging in their lusts, and worshiping false gods and idols. But Saul was righteous at the beginning of his reign, David was righteous for most of his reign, and Solomon was righteous until near the end of his reign. It’s hard to believe that even these three never commanded the proper observance of the Passover—the feast day commemorating the defining moment that began the children of Israel’s steady progress to becoming a nation. Furthermore it’s hard to believe that God never made this failure an issue—David is still regarded as ‘perfect’ in all of his ways before God, except in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba (1 Kings 15:5), no mention of Passover observance or the lack of it. Why?
Is it possible that Passover just wasn’t that important? Not likely. Passover was a significant part of Israel’s history and the law, Passover observance would again become a cornerstone of Israel’s ceremonial calendar and Jesus linked His mission of salvation symbolically to Passover at the last supper (1 Corinthians 5:7). What is more likely is that Passover just wasn’t the top priority at the time.
God’s primary purpose is to restore the relationship between Him and mankind that has become broken due to the sins of man. This relationship between God and Israel had become increasingly strained throughout the era of the Judges. Israel repeatedly turned away from God, committed acts of idol worship, and became oppressed by enemy nations. After suffering for a while, Israel would remember how God had freed them through the Passover and cry out to Him. Then God would send a judge to free them from their oppressors. Then after a period of obedience Israel would again turn away from God and the cycle would repeat. By the end of this era, every man in Israel was doing as he thought right, with little regard for God’s law (Judges 21:25).
God then used the era of the Kings to attempt to rebuild His relationship with Israel. Through His relationships with Saul, David and Solomon, God showed the importance of trusting God, seeing Him as the source of all power, provision and protection, to show the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. It would seem these foundational principles needed to be re-established first before reinstituting all aspects of the law, including the observance of feast days like Passover—something that wouldn’t happen until many generations later in Judah under King Josiah.
What we should understand from this is that God’s view of our faithfulness towards Him isn’t an absolute, but is based on the context of what we understand, when we come to understand it, and where we are within mankind’s overall journey of understanding God. King David wasn’t considered unfaithful because he didn’t command Israel to keep the Passover, but King Josiah would have been unfaithful had he failed to do so in Judah. What we see here isn’t a changing God or a changing law, but different contextually appropriate applications of the same law by the same God. God’s mercy (withholding punishment we do deserve) and His grace (favour that we do not deserve) factor heavily into this divine flexibility.
Here are a couple of things to consider as we contemplate how God works in the lives of man:
1) Don’t judge: Regarding fellow believers, because we may not know the context behind how a person expresses their faith in God, we should be careful not to pass judgment on them. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act if we see something we believe is wrong. If you share an understanding of God’s Word and laws with someone else and see them breaking that law, then you are charged with holding them accountable to that understanding. If God places you in a position to stop someone from physically or emotionally hurting someone else ‘in the name of God’ I believe you have been called to do so. Even in these instances we should be careful not to condemn a person or to attribute motivations to their actions.
2) Focus on relationship rather than religious rules: The application of God’s laws as you understand them may or may not apply to someone else’s context at a particular time. This is why it is necessary to stay connected to God. The Holy Spirit provides guidance to us as to what is relevant, to whom, at what point in time, and how to act.
3) Be open to the spiritual understanding of others: Because someone else’s experience with God is different than yours doesn’t mean it is wrong. In fact their journey may show greater faith or aspects of a relationship with God you are not aware of—and blessings you may be missing out on. We shouldn’t dwell on or practice everything that claims to be of God, but should follow the instruction of His Word: test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Note: We should also apply this teaching to our own pastors, churches, and favourite spiritual authors, rather than just blindly accept what they have to say. We may find much in our own trusted spiritual leadership that doesn’t align with God’s Word.