Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Reading 1 - 2Ch 30
It was the time of the great reformation which the zeal of Hezekiah had set going. The appeal had gone out to all the tribes of Israel, regardless of boundaries or political loyalties, that they come up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover after the manner of their fathers. And although the messengers of the king had met with much derision and contempt, there were also many in the region of Galilee who responded and came with gladness to join in their new surge of godliness.
But there were hindrances of many kinds, with the result that it was not found possible to hold the Feast at the normal time -- the fourteenth of the first month. However, the Law of Moses provided for a second celebration a month later (a kind of supplementary Breaking of Bread!) for the benefit of those who were unclean through contact with the dead or who were away on a journey when the proper time came round. Strictly speaking, neither of these "exceptive clauses" applied to these late-comers from the north. Even less were they a valid excuse for the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
Nevertheless the Feast went forward in the second month with zeal and rejoicing. It was not that king or priests or people were ignorant of what the Law laid down. There was no disposition to cover up or evade the technical infringement with any kind of clever argument. Rather, the issue became quite simply this: 'Is it better for us and more to the honor and glory of God that we keep the Passover with an irregularity of procedure, or that we do not keep it at all this year?' Faced with this alternative -- especially in such circumstances -- the proper decision was obvious.
Yet it was not to be denied that some commandment of the Law was infringed. Had they desisted altogether, still the Law said that the Passover must be kept. Had they kept it in the second month, then they were found guilty of appropriating to themselves the concessions of Num 9:10 which clearly did not apply in their case. Also, many of those coming from the north were not ceremonially purified to keep the Passover (2Ch 30:18). Here the Law was infringed again in unmistakable fashion. Yet the Feast was kept, "for Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary', and the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people."
None would dispute that, infringements and irregularities aside, Hezekiah and the people did the right thing -- or, rather, the best thing possible -- in the circumstances.
This kind of tension between two conflicting laws and principles of God's appointing, both of which apply in a given case, is not uncommon. It happened under the Law of Moses, as for example the dilemma of circumcision on the eight day when it chanced to fall on a Sabbath; Jesus entered into several controversies between the traditional interpretations of the Sabbath law and his own greater law of loving service to mankind.
Similar situations are not unusual in the life of the disciple today. If a young Christadelphian is commanded by his unbelieving parents to miss the Breaking of Bread so as to accompany them on a visit to an aged relative, which commandment does he break: "Do this in remembrance of me", or "Honour thy father and thy mother"?
Is it right to buy some magazine which will further one's study of the Signs of the Times if this means giving indirect support to some unrighteous cause which that publication happens to advocate?
Should an ecclesia spend thousands of dollars on the purchase of a fine organ to enhance its worship and praise of God if a quarter of its members believe that this money should be devoted instead, say, to the Bible Mission?
We begin to see now the bearing of the foregoing considerations on the vexed question of fellowship. Without any doubt, division and fragmentation arise because brethren resolve in different irreconcilable fashion yet another conflict of principles:
'Here is the beginning of apostasy,' says one; 'I cannot with clear conscience belong to a community which tolerates such denials of truth; no matter what the cost, the Faith must be kept pure.' And he gathers round him some of like persuasion and goes away to make a fresh, clean start -- until the day when a like situation recurs once more, and then the process begins all over again.
Says another: 'Here is teaching which grieves me very much and which may well show itself ultimately to be destructive of our Faith. I do not like it. I am worried by it. Then I must do all in my power to counteract it. Since my brethren who are in a better position than I to exercise a good influence do nothing about it, ought I not to withdraw for the sake of purity of the Faith? But then, there is also my responsibility to the rest who do not assess the situation as urgently as I do. These sheep, what shall they do? Have I no duty to them, to nurture and guide and warn them?'