Sunday, 10 April 2022

Passover on Steroids - 2 Chronicles 35

This week we look at Josiah, who is another reformer. Over the recent kings we have looked at, we have seen a ping-pong effect of bad kings interleaved with reforming kings like Hezekiah and now Josiah. The reformers call people back to God, and use the Passover celebration as a way of doing that. To understand why we need to travel back 700 years earlier to the time of Moses

In that time the people were in slavery in Egypt. Pharoah was a tyrant, and Moses was anointed by God to confront him (and thereby confront the powers) and liberate the people. This would be a 'people forming' experience for them. The power encounter was brutal, with plague after plague affecting the land, leading to the climax of the death of firstborn sons. In that culture to lose your firstborn son was to lose your succession and continuation of your family - God was effectively making a statement to Pharoah that he would be cut off.

Yet while there would be death across the land, not every firstborn son would actually die. God instructed the Hebrew families to have a special feast, killing a lamb (the 'passover lamb') and eating it that night. They were to eat in a hurry, prepared to leave, and to daub some of the lamb's blood on their door frame. For that night God would see the houses marked by blood, and 'pass over' them, not striking the firstborn son of the household. So all the families that participated would have God's protection, they would have succession, released and liberated to leave the past behind and discover a life of worship.

This is why reformers like Josiah used the passover - it took them back to the roots of who they were: God's liberated people, ready again to live in His promises. Josiah did it in style: a collective feast with over 30,000 animals - a passover 'on steroids'! Yet there was still a problem. We all know we can go to a big event, have a significant experience, even a spiritual experience with the crowd, but then go home returning to life as if nothing has changed. Read on in 2 Chronicles and you will see things get worse and the people are taken off into exile, away from God's presence, as if slaves once again. Now God is merciful and limits the physical exile to 70 yeas, but back in the land they never feel truly restored. However prophet after prophet drop hints and clues that a bigger restoration is to come.

So lets now jump forward from Josiah ~600 years to the time of Jesus. He is God's Son, His firstborn and only Son, who is born, grows and starts ministering. Another guy, called John the Baptist, has been telling people to get themselves ready for God's coming. When he first sees Jesus he calls out: "Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world". Jesus demonstrates the Kingdom and releases people, but this triggers another power encounter. The system of the day cannot accept Jesus and want him dead. Jesus knows this and sits down for one last meal ... which happens to be the passover meal!

At the meal they have the lamb, as well as things like bitter herbs, bread and wine. Jesus does something interesting - he seems to make the meal his own, redefining it via the bread and the wine as 'his body' and 'his blood'. Within hours he is arrested, taken, and killed on the cross.

So the firstborn Son of God is now dead: the succession, the hopes and dreams are now laid in a tomb!

But he does not stay dead - as he promised within 3 days he is alive. God has confronted the powers of death by allowing His son to go through death and show there is life, there is liberation, there is purpose for His people that death and decay cannot block. This is a purpose that can form a people, that can be life-changing, a purpose that can last. For all who put their trust in Jesus the curse of death and decay passes over them and they have life!

Hezekiah had a great passover gathering, but it did not last. Josiah had an even greater one, but it did not last. What about us in our following of Jesus? Do we have a great celebration gathering ... but it doesn't last? Or do we live a transformed life following Him, with His resurrection life brought into the now, where we see change in ourselves, and (because this cannot be contained) see change in those around us? Hence the key question and challenge:

[OUT] How does the death & resurrection of Jesus burn in your heart for change in you and those around you?
Challenge: Establish regular rhythms calling on God for change in those around you

We are not looking for events on steroids which have mass numbers, but rather for depth of change in our lives, and living out that change to be an influence to others. That is why we talk about 'Whole Life Discipleship' - following Jesus that affects our relationship to God, to each other, and others around us. Lives that are following Him, with daily ongoing transformation, reaching out with the fire of God in our soul.

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