Legalism; May 28, 2021

2 Chron 30:18-20 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God–the Lord, the God of his fathers–even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

Here we have a clear Old Testament example of overcoming legalism. God’s rules are always for our benefit, so we ignore them to our loss and even our peril. However, God is always most interested in our hearts, and Hezekiah was quite right to recognize the attitude of the people’s hearts. Particularly those who had come to Jerusalem from the northern 10 tribes, from the remnant that Assyria had left behind, hadn’t been in a proper religious environment for generations, actually. For that matter, even the priest and Levites in Jerusalem had been slack prior to this. God had moved through King Hezekiah and brought a beautiful revival that inspires people to this day. Hezekiah asked for and received a special exemption from the Lord for the people, and He granted it. We are surrounded with so much lawlessness that sometimes we are tempted to legalism, but that is forgetting that God is a God of grace. As John Newton discovered when his slave ship was sinking, God’s grace is indeed amazing. Everyone who truly “sets his heart on seeking God” receives the response that God spoke through Jeremiah some years after the events of this story: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) We get all tied up in rules and regulations and traditions and techniques, when God is simply after our whole heart.

I have had a very recent exercise in this truth. On the 23rd – Pentecost Sunday – we had Communion, as we do every 4th Sunday. I usually make it very clear that the elements are for those who have declared their commitment to Christ by following Him in baptism, but I felt moved to make an exception, and I opened the invitation to those who had made the commitment and would follow Christ in baptism. We had two people present who had “sat out” the elements many times in the past, but they both came forward to receive, proclaiming that Jesus was their Lord. Needless to say, I was very grateful for the Lord’s guidance! Each of the two has specific circumstances that impact the timing of their baptism, but their commitment was open and unforced. I know that rules are for our benefit, but I also know that legalism can enslave and be downright deadly.

Father, thank You for the many ways You are moving in, among, around, and through us. Help us recognize You, particularly when You are outside of the patterns we are used to, so that we may follow You fully and participate in what You are doing, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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