Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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God has never been the stickler for rules that man is. This is because His rules are intended for our good, not to provide Him with earthly status. When men make rules, they do it for themselves, to accomplish what they want for themselves. When God gives a commandment, it is for our blessing and guidance. The author of Hebrews pointed out this difference of purpose when he wrote, "We have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:9-10).
Because God's commandments are for our good, He is able to bend them when keeping one of His commandments would cause us harm. When the religious zealots of his day rebuked Jesus' hungry disciples for plucking corn and eating it as they passed by a field on a Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that when David was in danger and was hungry, God allowed him to eat holy bread that the Law forbade him to eat (Mt. 12:1-4). He also pointed out to them that sometimes even God's own priests were forced to break one of God's commandments in order to keep another (Mt. 12:5-6). Then, he concluded by telling them that God is more interested in mercy than in ritual correctness (Mt. 12:7-8).
Moses plainly commanded the Israelites to purify themselves before keeping the Passover of the Lord. Later in Israel's history, the nation was so backslidden that the people did not even know that simple rule, and when King Hezekiah had called for a nation-wide repentance and celebration of the Passover, he learned that some of them "had not cleansed themselves, yet they did eat the Passover otherwise than it was written" (2Chron. 30:18a). When the righteous king learned that the people were ritually unprepared for that holy day, and yet had eaten the Passover contrary to the Law, "Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepares his heart to seek God, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary" (2Chron. 30:18b-19). In response, not only did God not curse the His ignorant people for this transgression of His Law, the Lord also "healed the people" (2Chron. 30:20).
God's demonstration of compassion and understanding in this situation created such joy and gladness among His people that when the seven-day Passover feast was ended, they all stayed in Jerusalem another seven days just to rejoice in their God. "So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon the son of David was there not the like in Jerusalem" (2Chron. 30:23-27). When God's people learn more of Him, they always rejoice.
Hezekiah went on to restore the knowledge of God to the people in the land of Judah. He sent teachers of the Law throughout the land so that when it was time to celebrate the next Passover, the children of God would be prepared. The year following this revival, anyone in Judah unprepared for that holy day was unprepared because of stubbornness, not because of ignorance, and the curse of God rested on them.
God is merciful beyond reckoning, but He is nobody's fool.