For a multitude of the people, [even] many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification [rules] of the sanctuary.” So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
2 Chronicles 30:18-20
This morning’s verses stood out to me as an example of how gracious God is. I know that some would see it differently — God forgiving people who did not seek Him in the way He told them to seek Him does not sound gracious to everyone — but it is tremendously gracious. See, God is perfect. This means that His prescribed avenue of approach to Him is the perfect way to come to God. It also means that the way He prescribes is the right way. There may be other avenues that God chooses to use to get us to Him, but those are not the right way and they certainly are not the perfect way.
The Law is not flexible. It can be kept or broken, but it does not bend. God, on the other hand, is able to forgive; to be gracious. The Law is God’s standard of perfection. That’s it. To be perfect, a person must keep The Law, not only outwardly but in the secret nooks and crannies of the heart. Only One person has ever managed it and we crucified Him. It is that very crucifixion that made grace possible.
This morning’s verses got to me. You have Judah, the kingdom that is still intact, celebrating the Passover. But Hezekiah did not stop with his kingdom. He sent an invitation to those who were still left in the northern kingdom. The northern kingdom had been, by and large, carried captive to Assyria. Hezekiah invites those who were left to come and celebrate Passover and seek God. Many refused. Some came. Those who came had been so long gone from fellowship and good, solid teaching in the ways of God that they had no clue how to get themselves ready for a feast like Passover. They came to seek God. Hezekiah sees this heart in them, knows that they did not know any better, and prays that God would pardon them for not doing things the prescribed way. And God does precisely that.
God, too, looks at people’s hearts. God knew full well that those people did not know what they should do, but came in search of Him and His presence and His goodness in their lives. And that, I think, is what touched my heart this morning. God’s Law gives only one way that is acceptable. God’s grace makes allowance for a heart that desires Him and fails to meet the requirements of The Law. C.S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity, that a Christian is not a man who never goes astray, but is a man who, when he goes astray, is able to get up and dust himself off and get back on with following God through repentance. We none of us ever approach God perfectly, but God searches for hearts that crave Him. That craving is good and perfect. Our approach will seldom, if ever, be so.