Hezekiah sent a message to all of the people of Israel and Judah. He also wrote letters to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. He invited everyone to come to the LORD's temple in Jerusalem. He wanted them to celebrate the Passover Feast in honor of the Lord. He is the God of Israel.
The king, his officials and the whole community in Jerusalem decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month.
They hadn't been able to celebrate it at the regular time. That's because there weren't enough priests who had set themselves apart to the Lord. Also, the people hadn't gathered together in Jerusalem.
The plan seemed good to the king and the whole community.
They decided to send a message all through Israel. It was sent out from Beersheba all the way to Dan. The message invited the people to come to Jerusalem. It invited them to celebrate the Passover in honor of the Lord, the God of Israel. The Passover hadn't been celebrated by large numbers of people for a long time. It hadn't been done in keeping with what was written in the law.
Messengers went all through Israel and Judah. They carried letters from the king and his officials. The king had ordered them to do that. The letters said, "People of Israel, return to the Lord. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Return to him. Then he will return to you who are left in the land. You have escaped from the power of the kings of Assyria.
"Don't be like the rest of your people and relatives. They weren't faithful to the Lord, the God of their people. That's why he punished them. He made them look so bad that everyone was shocked when they saw them. You can see it for yourselves.
"Don't be stubborn. Don't be as your people were. Obey the Lord. Come to the temple. He has set it apart to himself forever. Serve the LORD your God. Then he'll turn his burning anger away from you.
"Suppose you return to the Lord. Then those who captured your relatives and children will be kind to them. In fact, your relatives and children will come back to this land. The LORD your God is kind and tender. He won't turn away from you if you return to him."
The messengers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh. They went all the way to Zebulun. But the people made fun of them. They laughed at them.
In spite of that, some men from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun made themselves low in the LORD's sight. They went to Jerusalem.
God's powerful hand helped the people of Judah. He helped them agree with one another. So they did what the king and his officials had ordered. They did what the LORD told them to do.
A very large crowd of people gathered together in Jerusalem. They went there to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It took place in the second month.
They removed the altars in Jerusalem. They cleared away the altars for burning incense. They threw all of the altars into the Kidron Valley.
They killed the Passover lamb on the 14th day of the second month. The priests and Levites were filled with shame. They set themselves apart to the Lord. They brought burnt offerings to his temple.
Then they went to their regular positions. They did it just as the Law of Moses, the man of God, required. The Levites gave the blood of the animals to the priests. The priests sprinkled it on the altar.
Many people in the crowd hadn't set themselves apart to the Lord. They weren't "clean." They couldn't set their lambs apart to him. So the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all of them.
Many people came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun. Most of them hadn't made themselves pure and clean. But they still ate the Passover meal. That was against what was written in the law. But Hezekiah prayed for them. He said, "The LORD is good. May he forgive everyone
who wants to worship God with all his heart. God is the Lord, the God of their people. May he forgive them even if they aren't 'clean' in keeping with the rules of the temple."
The LORD answered Hezekiah's prayer. He healed the people.
The people of Israel who were in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They celebrated for seven days with great joy. The Levites and priests sang to the LORD every day. Their singing was accompanied by musical instruments. The instruments were used to praise the Lord.
Hezekiah spoke words that gave hope to all of the Levites. They understood how to serve the LORD well. For the seven days of the Feast they ate the share that was given to them. They also sacrificed friendship offerings. They praised the Lord, the God of their people.
Then the whole community agreed to celebrate the Feast for seven more days. So for another seven days they celebrated with joy.
Hezekiah, the king of Judah, provided 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats for the community. The officials provided 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats for them. A large number of priests set themselves apart to the Lord.
The entire community of Judah was filled with joy. So were the priests and Levites. And so were all of the people who had gathered together from Israel. That included the outsiders who had come from Israel. It also included those who lived in Judah.
There was great joy in Jerusalem. There hadn't been anything like it in Israel since the days of Solomon, the son of David. Solomon had been king of Israel.
The priests and Levites gave their blessing to the people. God heard them. Their prayer reached all the way to heaven. It's the holy place where he lives.