Life outside of first-century Judaism was rooted in idolatry. Many Gentile believers probably found breaking completely with idolatry to be a major hurdle. Their new faith required them to remove themselves from everything with which they had been familiar…
If the Galatian Gentiles were returning to anything, it would have been pagan celebrations which they had recently left and not to Jewish festivals with which they had no previous familiarity. Why would they want to return to former pagan ways? Nanos points out that because these Gentiles were not proselytes or candidates for conversion, they would not have been “protected from their pagan civic responsibilities by the authority of Jewish communal identity.” Therefore they would have had to face consequences, often harsh, for not participating in these required pagan festivities. More than just the practice of a religion, participation in the pagan holy days was their civic duty to the state. Rather than suffer for the cross, the Galatians were tempted either to convert, taking on the legally protected status of Jews, or to simply fulfill their duty by going through the motions of the pagan rituals.
In the absence of any of their former holidays and special occasions, Gentile believers would naturally want to participate with the rest of Israel in the festivals of the Torah. As with Shabbat, absence of any festivals or holy days would have created a serious spiritual vacuum. If they did not celebrate the feasts of the Torah, what would they celebrate? Gentiles in Messiah had been “brought near” to the covenants and promises of Israel which included its festival calendar. A natural outcome of that inclusion was to want to take on, at some level, the observance of the Jewish festivals. As is evident in the book of Acts, these Gentile believers attended synagogue and were consequently celebrating the holy days in some form simply by their attendance at services. We find evidence of this participation throughout the New Testament as well as in church history. A few examples will suffice for Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. – Toby Janicki, God-Fearers
It’s kind of interesting to think about how the early church would have celebrated the Jewish Feasts from a Messianic perspective… Or at least I think so… Today, we conclude with the life of King Hezekiah…
After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. 2 When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military advisers, and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. 4 They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?” (II Chron 32:1-4 NLT).
The Assyrians had already taken the ten Tribes into captivity, and now King Sennacherib’s heart was lifted up to take Judah also. In this, he overstepped himself, for he had been commissioned by the LORD to overtake the ten Tribes only. In this point, Hezekiah had already given King Sennacherib great quantities of gold and silver to stop the invasion. Not only were these attempts to bribe unpleasing to Jehovah God, but they were unsuccessful as well.
Hezekiah stopped the fountain which is now known as the “Virgin’s Fount” on the east of Ophel. Through the conduit he made (II Kings 20:20), the water from this fount was brought down to the lower Gihon, or the Pool of Siloam. The King of Judah took all possible means to make himself, the people, and the city strong to withstand the invaders and maintain life.
Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields. 6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! 8 He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people (II Chron 32:5-8 NLT).
Hezekiah encouraged the people to have Faith that Jehovah God is greater than any mere men or army of mere men or philosophy of mere man, for that matter.
While King Sennacherib of Assyria was still besieging the town of Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah and all the people in the city: 10 “This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? 11 Hezekiah has said, ‘The Lord our God will rescue us from the king of Assyria.’ Surely Hezekiah is misleading you, sentencing you to death by famine and thirst! 12 Don’t you realize that Hezekiah is the very person who destroyed all the Lord’s shrines and altars? He commanded Judah and Jerusalem to worship only at the altar at the Temple and to offer sacrifices on it alone (II Chron 32:9-12 NLT).
The emissaries of Sennacherib appealed to the people instead of to Hezekiah and his ministers of state, thinking to undermine their morale. Sennacherib’s men misinterpreted what they knew of Scripture. The Written Word commanded that there should be only one Altar in Israel; it was the design of man that there be many. Some things never change, do they?
“Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power? 14 Which of their gods was able to rescue its people from the destructive power of my predecessors? What makes you think your God can rescue you from me? 15 Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you! Don’t let him fool you like this! I say it again—no god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” (II Chron 32:13-15 NLT).
The emissaries boasted that their god was more powerful than all others, so they claimed it was vain to expect Jehovah to rescue the people, especially since He did not rescue their brethren in Samaria.
And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult. 17 The king also sent letters scorning the Lord, the God of Israel. He wrote, “Just as the gods of all the other nations failed to rescue their people from my power, so the God of Hezekiah will also fail.” 18 The Assyrian officials who brought the letters shouted this in Hebrew to the people gathered on the walls of the city, trying to terrify them so it would be easier to capture the city. 19 These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands (II Chron 32:16-19 NLT).
Jehovah God was displeased with his servant Hezekiah being spoken against. Over and over again, Sennacherib’s men grossly insulted Jehovah God. To be compared to the gods of other people, which were merely “the work of the hands of man,” not only showed the ignorance of Sennacherib, but as well brought the blasphemy to a higher pitch.
Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So ennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. 22 That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land. 23 From then on King Hezekiah became highly respected among all the surrounding nations, and many gifts for the Lord arrived at Jerusalem, with valuable presents for King Hezekiah, too (II Chron 31:20-23 NLT).
With only one Angel, the LORD struck down 185,000 Assyrians in one night, and as a result, Sennacherib returned to Nineveh in disgrace. History records that he did not venture again even toward Judah, and some years later, he was murdered by his own sons.
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime (II Chron 31:24-26 NLT).
The miraculous sign was the sundial going backwards ten degrees, which was clearly a miracle of unprecedented proportions. The Earth literally went back on its axis, rotation, which brought about a “long day” (II Kings 20:8-11).
Hezekiah became lifted up in pride as a result of praise and prosperity. He flaunted his material riches to the Bablyonians (II Kings 20:12-15) instead of the riches of the God of Israel, Who is the Provider of all. But he did repent, and the LORD healed him, giving him fifteen more years of life (II Kings 20:1-7).
Hezekiah was very wealthy and highly honored. He built special treasury buildings for his silver, gold, precious stones, and spices, and for his shields and other valuable items. 28 He also constructed many storehouses for his grain, new wine, and olive oil; and he made many stalls for his cattle and pens for his flocks of sheep and goats. 29 He built many towns and acquired vast flocks and herds, for God had given him great wealth. 30 He blocked up the upper spring of Gihon and brought the water down through a tunnel to the west side of the City of David. And so he succeeded in everything he did. 31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart (II Chron 31:27-31 NLT).
Even the most dedicated of men, will turn aside if God withdraws even for a moment. As the Prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).
The rest of the events in Hezekiah’s reign and his acts of devotion are recorded in The Vision of the Prophet Isaiah Son of Amoz, which is included in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33 When Hezekiah died, he was buried in the upper area of the royal cemetery, and all Judah and Jerusalem honored him at his death. And his son Manasseh became the next king (II Chron 31:32-33 NLT).
Concerning Hezekiah’s burial, it is interesting to note that such was not said of any man before or after this. It appears that he was buried next to David’s tomb. He was one of the Godliest kings who ever reigned over Judah.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, and kingdoms were moved: He uttered His Voice, and Earth melted. The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge. Come, behold the Works of the LORD, what desolations He had made in the Earth. He makes wars to cease unto the end of the Earth: He breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder: He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the Earth. The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (Psalm 46:5-11 KJV).