Then Hezekiah invited all of Israel and Judah, with personal letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, to come to The Temple of God in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to Israel's God.
The king and his officials and the congregation in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate Passover in the second month.
They hadn't been able to celebrate it at the regular time because not enough of the priests were yet personally prepared and the people hadn't had time to gather in Jerusalem.
Under these circumstances, the revised date was approved by both king and people
and they sent out the invitation from one end of the country to the other, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north: "Come and celebrate the Passover to Israel's God in Jerusalem." No one living had ever celebrated it properly.
The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitations from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah. The invitation read: "O Israelites! Come back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria.
Don't repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on God, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin - you can see the ruins all around you.
Don't be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp God's outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve God, your God. You'll no longer be in danger of his hot anger.
If you come back to God, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home. Your God is gracious and kind and won't snub you - come back and he'll welcome you with open arms."
So the couriers set out, going from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far north as Zebulun. But the people poked fun at them, treated them as a joke.
But not all; some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun weren't too proud to accept the invitation and come to Jerusalem.
It was better in Judah - God worked powerfully among them to make it unanimous, responding to the orders sent out by the king and his officials, orders backed up by the word of God.
It turned out that there was a tremendous crowd of people when the time came in the second month to celebrate the Passover (sometimes called the Feast of Unraised Bread).
they all decided to keep going for another seven days! So they just kept on celebrating, and as joyfully as they began.
Hezekiah king of Judah gave 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for the congregation's worship; the officials gave an additional 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And there turned out to be plenty of consecrated priests - qualified and well-prepared.
The whole congregation of Judah, the priests and Levites, the congregation that came in from Israel, and the resident aliens from both Israel and Judah, were all in on the joyous celebration.
Jerusalem was bursting with joy - nothing like this had taken place in Jerusalem since Solomon son of David king of Israel had built and dedicated The Temple.
The priests and Levites had the last word: they stood and blessed the people. And God listened, listened as the ascending sound of their prayers entered his holy heaven.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)