Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. . . . So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” II Chronicles 30:1, 6-9 ESV
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God? Joel 2:12-14 ESV
Esther was an Amish girl, and she lived in a community that did things in the old ways. They were strict about how they dressed and how they lived. Her older brother, Dan, didn’t want to keep on living in the Amish ways, and so he left his home and his family. Because he had left the Amish community, he was shunned by his family and friends. That meant that they weren’t supposed to talk to him or even nod to him. He wrote a letter to his father, but his father burned it in the stove. After awhile Dan missed his family, and he was sorry he had left. He saw the good things about the community, about the way they cared for each other and helped each other. He talked to his sister Esther secretly, and Esther begged him to come home on Christmas Eve. She knew that candles would be lit in the windows of her home, and that the Amish people would welcome anyone who came to them on Christmas Eve. She believed that if Dan came home on Christmas Eve, her father would forgive him and bring him back into the family.
When Hezekiah became the king of the southern kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom had been taken into captivity. Most of the people of the northern kingdom had been forced to go far away and resettle in a new place. The Assyrian empire had brought other people to live in their land. But there were still a few of the people of Israel left in the northern kingdom. Hezekiah planned to celebrate the Passover with his people of Judah, and he sent messengers to the northern kingdom. They begged the people who were left in the north to come home for the Passover celebration. Hezekiah told them through his messengers that if they would come back to God, he would forgive them and help them. The Passover would become a time when God would welcome his people home, even though they had turned away from him and gone their own way.
We don’t have to wait for a special holiday to come to our Heavenly Father. We sin and turn away from him every day, but he sent Jesus, our Savior, to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. We can come home to God every day for forgiveness and help, and we can be sure that he will always give us his love and care for Jesus’ sake. He sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us close to him and help us to follow his ways, and he will someday bring us to our heavenly home, where we will live with him forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love, and for always welcoming us home to be with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sorensen, Virginia Plain Girl New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955.