God – Gracious in the Old Testament?

2 Chronicles 30:18-20
18For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good LORD pardon everyone 19who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.’ 20And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”

One of the popular criticisms that folks today make of the Old Testament is that it depicts a cruel God who rules with an iron fist. This is, of course, contrasted with the New Testament “fluffy lamb” – namely Jesus – who loves everyone. There are even “Christians” who have sought to throw the OT out and hang on to just the NT documents (consider the “German Christians” who went apostate in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power).

This view, which lacks cohesion between both testaments, cannot be held onto when one actually reads the Bible. This passage is a perfect example.

Context
Here in 2 Chronicles 30 King Hezekiah has taken over the monarchy of the southern kingdom, Judah. At this point in Israel’s history, the nation has been split in two – Israel up north and Judah down south. In a daring move, Hezekiah invites not only people from his kingdom to participate in the reinstating of the Passover, but also the people of the northern kingdom! Many of them, unfortunately, “scorned and mocked” Hezekiah’s invitation (v. 10b). Still it was not a total loss, some did respond and made the trek to Jerusalem in order to commit their hearts back to the LORD.

Those who did make the journey must have realized their desperate need to be restored to their true God. The northern kingdom had been exceedingly unfaithful to Him and had been experiencing severe oppression by the nation of Assyria. Those who made it to Jerusalem had escaped this oppression. In their faithlessness, they had not been keeping up with ceremonial law and were thus considered unclean which would deem them unfit to participate in the Passover observance and celebration.

God’s Grace Apart from Works
The beautiful part of this passage comes right after Hezekiah’s prayer where the chronicler writes, “And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” The king knew these Israelites were unfit to be restored to God because of their failure to observe the law. He also knew that their only hope of restoration would be through God’s cleansing, not their own works. In order to show His lovingkindness, God grants Hezekiah’s request. The LORD effectively teaches Israel (and us) that the heart is of supreme importance to God. He knows that if the heart is changed, the actions will follow.

Preparing the Way for the True Cleanser
Not only does this passage show us God’s character (he delights to pardon), but it prepares the way for the One who would once and for all accomplish mankind’s cleansing. Jesus’ coming and His substitution for sinners would show us decisively that God “desires mercy and not sacrifice” (see Hos. 6:6 and Mt. 9:13). He knows our inability to uphold the standards which He laid out in the law. And so, He has made the sacrifice in order that we may obtain His mercy. He has provided the law-abider to stand in place of the law-breakers. This is the grace we must put all of our trust in if we wish to be changed in the heart and be restored to our Maker.

If you’re a skeptic who thinks God is some bully in the sky, won’t you reconsider? The just judgment which He has rendered against humans, He has bore in Himself so that we can be saved.

If you know Christ already, I pray that you would sink deeper into His love by seeing more and more, all the He has done for you! He has proved over and over His love for you. Taste it once again and continue to be changed!

May the Lord grant to all of you a greater understanding of His pardoning grace!

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