2 Chronicles 30
After Hezekiah repaired the temple, he called the Israelites together to celebrate the Passover—something that hadn’t been done for a long, long time. It was a grand celebration—with music and feasting and thousands of sacrifices. The people were having such a great time that, at the end of the prescribed seven days, they decided to extend the celebration for another seven days. There was one slight problem, however: "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 their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." (vs 18-20)
God had set forth very strict rules regarding the temple and the sanctuary services—especially the feasts. But even though this was the first time the Passover was being celebrated in a long time, all the rules weren’t being followed. The people who participated in the feast were supposed to be ceremonially clean. They were supposed to have gone through certain rituals of purification, even before entering the temple. But they hadn’t. They ate the Passover feast while they were unclean, which was in direct contradiction to what God had commanded.
Yet, when Hezekiah prayed to the Lord about the situation, he discovered that God cares more about attitudes than He does about rules. What mattered most to God was that the people were willing to come to the temple and participate in worship. The fact that they missed a purification ritual didn’t matter to God any more than the father in the story of the Prodigal Son cared that his son came home smelling like pigs.
Our hearts have always been more important to God than "the rules." If you have trouble believing that, take God’s own word for it. At the beginning of the book of Isaiah, He basically told the Israelites that following all the rules meant nothing if their hearts were absent: "'The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?' says the Lord. 'I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.'" (Isa 1:11-14)
All of those things—the sacrifices, the offerings, the incense, and the festivals—were things God had asked for. In fact, He had set down very strict rules about how they were to be carried out and conducted. Yet, when it was clear that the Israelites cared more about checking off a list of rules than they did about having a relationship with God, God needed to make it clear to them that He cares more about attitudes than rules.
That was true of Him then, and it’s still true of Him today. Set your heart on seeking the Lord and trust Him to guide you into an understanding of what He requires. What matters most to Him is your attitude.