It's easy for us to become so distracted by the mud on someone's feet that we neglect to consider his or her heart. But for Hezekiah, the heart was the primary concern.
Hezekiah knew that the people of Israel wouldn't have come this far if their hearts weren't set on the Passover. He knew they wouldn't have put up with the journey if they didn't believe something profound about the experience to come at the end. He knew that their hearts were caught up in hope - the hope of establishing a connection with the Lord Himself, the God they had heard so much about from so many for so long. He knew their eyes were caught in wonder at the sight of the Lord's Temple, and their hearts were wrapped in anticipation of what the Passover meant. It meant that this Lord chose them.
Hezekiah knew their hearts were pure, and that's how he was able to look past all the mud on their feet and offer an honest and sincere prayer for them before the Lord.
This seems...so much harder for us for some reason.
We're distracted by the mud. Honestly, we are. We are lulled into a sense of false superiority by our own experiences, and this gives us the haughtiness to think that we have not only the right, but the ability, to judge someone else's story.
It's why we say things about others like, "Well, it's their own fault. If they really wanted a better life, they'd make better choices." Or "They're always going to be poor; they just don't manage their money well." Or "If they wanted to work, they'd have a job by now. Everyone is hiring! Just go work somewhere!" Or...the list goes on and on. We look at someone else's life, caked in mud, and we don't understand why they don't just pick up one of a thousand hoses we think are at their disposal and wash it all off. We don't know why they don't just make themselves clean.
I mean, it's not that hard. Right?
Except that it is. At least, it can be. You can't just walk around picking up hoses. Someone, somewhere, has to make sure there's water in them for you.
Many who don't have a job either don't have the health to keep a job or can't get a foot in the door somewhere. Yes, places are hiring, but that doesn't mean they are hiring everyone. Some have a past they can't get away from. Some have families they have to take care of. Once you get a job and commit yourself to being away from your family for many hours a day, in many cases, you have to then pay someone to care for your family for you (sick elders, young children), and if you're not making enough money to pay for that care, then you're shooting yourself in the foot and for what? Because society thinks better of you if you have a 'job' - and caring for your home isn't considered a 'job.' Society isn't thinking about your heart; they're only looking at your mud.
Or think of someone wrapped in addiction. If you've never been addicted to anything, you can't understand what this does to your life. It's easy to sit in your comfortable home and think that if someone doesn't want to be addicted, they just have to stop picking up the bottle or the needle. It's just that easy....except it isn't. Except there are very real pains in persons' lives that go away with that substance, and if you don't have the capabilities to deal with the pains (physical or emotional/mental or even, in some cases, spiritual), that pain sets you into a debilitating panic. It's overwhelming. You can't just 'get over it.' You need something to take the edge off, or you feel like you're dying all the time. It's not so easy as just 'choosing' not to do it. That's the mud talking. The heart, however...
The heart wants all kinds of things that the flesh can't pull off, for whatever reason. And we have to stop thinking that just because we've figured out our own flesh, we've figured out everyone else's. We have to stop judging others by the measure of our own life, even if we've been through similar things. Even if we've fought similar battles. Even if we think we understand, we have to realize that we don't. Especially, and I can't emphasize this enough, if we have never actually talked on a meaningful level with the person whose mud we're judging.
We all have this natural inclination to think the best of ourselves. We know our own hearts, and we know how purely we go after the things that we want. We know how purely we try to do good things. We know how earnest we are in our efforts. Yet for some reason, we look at our efforts and look at someone else's mud, and we think they aren't even trying. We not only think that, we know that. Somehow. We just don't give them the benefit of the doubt...ever. We don't care if their hearts are pure. If their hearts were that pure, we reason, they wouldn't have so much mud.
But what if we turned that on its head? What if we understood that the mud on someone's feet was the result of a pure heart? After all, these men journeyed from Israel through all that dirt because their hearts were pure. Because they had a firm belief in what the Passover would mean for them. Because they carried all the hope in the world in their hearts. So what about their feet?
We have to start believing the best in others. We have to start looking at more than the mud. We have to start understanding what brought them here in the first place, how they came to be dragging themselves into this Temple, dirt and all, to begin with. We have to believe in and trust their motivations, and we have to seize upon their hope.
That's the thing - their hope. When Hezekiah prayed for the Lord's acceptance of these unclean men, he did them the greatest blessing. He took their hope...and he carried it the last little bit for them. He took them straight to the heart of where they longed to be, mud and all. He brought them not only into the Temple courtyard, but into the presence of God and he confirmed for them that their journey had not been in vain. They were here, right where they'd hoped to be, and it was everything they imagined...and more.
We have to be that kind of person for others. We have to be that kind of pray-er for others. We have to be that kind of believer for others. We have to carry their hope with them. As a people of God, we have to. For we are the ones that know the way into the Most Holy places. May we be a people who bring others with us.