Hezekiah’s Path to Unity
When we see fragmentation and division of believers, what Godly principles may we find to heal the breach and glorify our Heavenly Father as one?
Faithful men and women have always turned to God’s wisdom to identify and apply righteous principles to their steps. David concluded, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psa 119:105)
When the way is unclear, and the pathway seems blocked, we must turn to Divine principles to move forward. When we see fragmentation and division of believers, what Godly principles may we find to heal the breach and glorify our Heavenly Father as one?
King Hezekiah began his reforms on the first month and the first day of the month of his reign. At just age twenty-five, he had a clear vision for the reform he wished to lead and proceeded with great urgency. In just sixteen days, he overturned the neglect and desecration of God’s house done by his father, King Ahaz, which had occurred over sixteen years.
His initial focus was on the restoration of the Temple. His father had gathered and cut the vessels of the house in pieces, shut up the doors, built altars in every corner of Jerusalem, and encouraged burning incense to other Gods. (2 Chr 28:24-25).
Besides cleaning up the filthiness from the holy place, Hezekiah was intensely concerned with the restoration of the people. First, the Levites needed to be reinstated, as they would be the ones to lead the worship. The work of the sanctification of the house came before the people themselves were sanctified.
But Hezekiah’s reform was not only about the Temple, Jerusalem, or even Judah. He sought unity with all of Israel. He invited all tribes, from the south to the north, from “Beersheba even to Dan,” to join Judah in keeping the Passover. (2 Chr 30:5).
It was a noble call to brethren long dispossessed in the north to join together in a unity of fellowship. He called them to abandon their old ways and historical failures and join with Judah as a righteous people in worship. To become a righteous people in worship, all had to go through a cleansing process. Hezekiah knew north and south tribes would be stronger people together than apart and that it would please the LORD.
Surely, Hezekiah must have known this would be a long shot at best. Most people in the north didn’t want to keep the Passover, and many had long ago forgotten the Holy One of Israel. Yet, the appeal was broadly made, not only to those he anticipated would attend (Judah) but to all tribes.
Hezekiah’s appeal was not well received.
Predictably, Hezekiah’s appeal was not well received. This king, who was honestly pursuing righteousness, was laughed at, scorned, and mocked (30:10). To come to Judah to worship in Jerusalem was counter to their historical identity, dating back to the time of Jeroboam. But some heard the appeal and were moved to come to Jerusalem. “Divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.” (2 Chr 30:11). Verse 18 includes the tribe of Ephraim as one that joined them also.
But some heard the appeal and were moved to come to Jerusalem.
The Scriptural record doesn’t describe the disappointment Hezekiah felt from the mocking and scorning he received from the other tribes. The limited results couldn’t have been what he had hoped for. But Hezekiah seems to accept those who were willing-hearted rather than obsessing over those who did not respond.
The keeping of Passover was held a month late on “the fourteenth day of the second month.” (v. 15). This was permitted under the Law, allowing for those who were unclean because of touching a dead body, or were on a journey far off. (Num 9:10-11). This delay appears to have been done in this case because the priests were not yet sanctified, and they felt ashamed of not being ready. (2 Chr 30:15).
Still, many were not yet sanctified, especially the large mass of their northern brethren from Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, and Zebulun. The temple was ready for Passover. The priests now were. Many of the people of Judah were. But these brethren who came desiring unity were not. What to do?
What Hezekiah did was pray.
The good LORD pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. (2 Chr 30:18-19).
The conditions of Hezekiah’s wonderful appeal for unity were not perfect. A man of lesser faith might have delayed the celebration, or worse yet, go ahead without the LORD’s blessing. This lesson is important to all seeking unity. Conditions will rarely be perfect. Timing may not be ideal. But the faithful take these inconsistencies and conundrums before God in prayer.
In one of the most beautiful verses in our Bible, the LORD “hearkened” to the prayer of Hezekiah, and He “healed the people.” The Hebrew word for “healed” is raphah, which means to mend or stitch together. It is the same word used by Isaiah, where we are told “the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:5).
What a marvelous phrase! The LORD “healed the people.” What was impossible under the Law, God did more than permit; he stitched these willing parties together. The Law would have technically prohibited their worship, but God looked into their willing hearts and saw the promise of unity between brethren.
The excitement of unity was so profound that the people invoked a practice from the time of Solomon (1 Kgs 8:65), extending the Passover celebration for an additional week. Beyond this, we are told that even more, this unity attracted the “strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and dwelt in Judah.” (2 Chr 30:25).
When unity occurs, excitement permeates all aspects of spiritual life. It creates trust and confidence between brothers and sisters. It nurtures good works and removes harmful barriers, especially for our young people. It may even bring those who are detached from the community back to fellowship.
When unity occurs, excitement permeates all aspects of spiritual life.
After this memorable Passover celebration, there was a commitment to destroy the images, groves, and high places in the land. In “all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, they utterly destroyed them all.” (2 Chr 31:1). Later in Josiah’s reign, the cleansing of images, groves, and high places continued in Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and Naphtali. (2 Chr 34:6). It’s clear the initial work for unity was very successful, but it required ongoing due diligence in the years to come to keep the people holy and separate from false gods.
The very connective tissue of unity is God healing us, stitching us together. When He does this, the conditions need not be perfect, but hearts need to be true. We, too, need to be “menders.” Paul wrote in Galatians,
The word “restore” is instructive. It is the word katartizo, which means to mend or repair. The same Greek word describes how the disciples were “mending” their nets by the seaside. (Matt 4:21). The word katartizo is used in Greek medical literature to set a bone. It is done gently and carefully, with longsuffering and patience to repair rather than discard.
As we look at unity in these Last Days, let’s remember the important counsel from the time of Hezekiah.
- Include unity in your personal vision of work in the truth.
- Put aside historical disconnections and seek to heal breaches that may have existed for decades.
- Lay the groundwork for unity by sanctifying yourself and being a dedicated, prayerful ecclesia; remember that all of us are only righteous through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Invite all without concern over how the appeal will be received. Accept those who respond as being who the LORD has provided. Work with them. No matter how small the size.
- Make prayer a leading part of unity work. Pray God will heal us all, stitching together what we cannot. Rely on His wisdom, not our own.
- Celebrate unity when it occurs. It is well worth taking the extra week as they did in Hezekiah’s time!
- Communicate broadly when unity is achieved, through God’s grace. It may attract some who might otherwise have had no interest. Unity attracts people to God!
There are moments when I would love to have seen the majesty of the Scriptures unfold. To marvel at the beauty of the Garden. To see the great deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea. To sit at the feet of our Lord during his sermons. I would have loved to have been in Jerusalem when it was said,
Unity wasn’t possible for the tribes who had laughed and scorned Hezekiah’s appeal. Unity wasn’t possible for those who rejected the God of Israel. But for those seeking Him, those doing so with pure and contrite hearts, they received a blessing that would shape their lives.
Will we humble ourselves to respond to his appeal?
The unity King Hezekiah appealed for over 2,500 years ago was later made possible by his greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord petitioned his Father for the unity of believers through the truth. His prayer was that we might “be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21). Will we humble ourselves to respond to his appeal?
As David wrote,
It may be that the optimum conditions for achieving unity is when brothers and sisters thirst for it, when they see it as “precious ointment” or the “dew of Hermon.” But it begins with someone reaching out, as King Hezekiah did.
May we all put unity on our personal and ecclesial agenda. Fellowship is not of human origin. God designed, introduced, and made it possible through our Lord. Any unity must start from Aaron’s head and work its way down the beard. From top to bottom. Let’s trust that He is the one who has the answers. May God heal us all.