by Mike Ratliff
Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. (2 Chronicles 29:1-7 ESV)
We must admit that the spiritual condition of the 21st Century Church in this country and in most of the West is generally or mostly apostate. Thankfully, God always has His remnant of faithful believers even in the worst apostate periods. Over the last several posts we have been looking at righteousness, repentance, sanctification, Antinomianism, and the nature of salvation. The resistance to some of these teachings has been quite eye-opening. There are some who see any call to walk righteously as hypocritical because they associate it with self-righteousness. Is walking in right behaviour hypocritical?
God is calling the Church (His true believers) to repentance. What we must never forget is that it is God who calls us to obey Him as He gives us the heart to do so. Let’s look at an Old Testament example. King Hezekiah’s father was Ahaz who was apostate.
In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD–this same King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the LORD, the God of his fathers. Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son reigned in his place. (2 Chronicles 28:22-27 ESV)
Ahaz led the Kingdom of Judah into apostasy. The more God judged him and the people, the worse he became. He even went so far as to shut up the Temple and plundered it. Do we have a parallel here with what is going on in the Church today? We have men such as Brian McLaren who says, when referring to Christianity, “Everything must change.” Of course, his changes are all based in Christian Liberalism, which is not Christian at all. No, it is just a form of secular humanism. McLaren believes that all Christians should read books by John Dominic Crossan who says that Jesus wasn’t ressurected, but was buried in a shallow grave by the Roman soldiers and wild dogs probably ate his body.
Then there is Rick Warren. Warren claims to be orthodox in his beliefs, but when confronted with why he does not preach the whole Gospel he responds in such a way that reveals that he does not see that as necessary. I pray that you did follow that link and read the article by Ken Silva. Because in it we see that Rick Warren is calling for a second Reformation based on actions rather than beliefs. Is this what the Church needs? I have heard Rick Warren speak on this. His contention is that Churches that are confessional in nature tend to become the “Frozen Chosen.” His contention is that the gospel needs to be lite and the doing needs to be hyper. This type of “Reformation” of the church makes the Sunday morning worship service at your local church into a continual evangelical push by formatting it in such a way so as to make it as non-threatening as possible by appealing to the flesh.
Let’s look at how God works in restoring and reviving His people. If you haven’t read it, please read the passage I placed at the top of this post from 2 Chronicles 29:1-7. In this we see Hezekiah cleansing the temple and repairing the damage his father had done. Ahaz had brought desolation to Temple worship and cause the people of Judah to become apostate with him. God brought His judgment to bear on them. Hezekiah, lead by the Lord, addressed the problem directly.
Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. My sons, do not now be negligent, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.” (2 Chronicles 29:8-11 ESV)
Where did God lead Hezekiah to start the revival? It started at the Temple. The Temple was the place the Jews were to worship God. There was a specific form of worship prescribed in the Law that was to be administered by the Priests and Levites. Because of Ahaz’s apostasy, this had ceased. Now, Ahaz is dead and his son Hezekiah, lead by the Lord, is restoring true worship and service of God. My brethren, this is where it must start for us as well. If we try to reform our ways by simply stopping certain sins then that is just externalism. If we want to kill the sin that so easily ensnares us then we must start by cleansing our selves before the Lord, seeking Him, worshiping Him, and devoting our lives to Him first. If we will do this then God will take action within our hearts.
Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah; and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. They gathered their brothers and consecrated themselves and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD. The priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it and carried it out to the brook Kidron. They began to consecrate on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. Then for eight days they consecrated the house of the LORD, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. Then they went in to Hezekiah the king and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the showbread and all its utensils. All the utensils that King Ahaz discarded in his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and consecrated, and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 29:12-19 ESV)
The Priests and Levites cleansed the temple. Proper, prescribed worship of the Lord is now possible because the contamination and residue of sin has been removed from the Temple. What is the parallel for us here? Our Lord died in the cross and rose from the dead to fulfill the Law. Temple worship is no longer how we serve God. Instead, we worship our Saviour directly and come boldly to the throne of grace for petition and intercession. We no longer need priests and blood sacrifices. However, that does not mean that we can take “grace” for granted and serve Him on our own terms. The apostates do that. No, we must come to Him on His terms. He is our mediator between us and the Father. What about our service, our worship, et cetera? We are commanded to not forsake the gathering of the saints. Paul, in planting churches, always set up elders to lead, teach, and preach to the saints in their care. If you look at how these churches operated, you will see that the gathering of the saints was not an evangelical push, but a coming together for spiritual healing, worship, and exhortation. The evangelism took place day by day on the streets and in the workplace.
The rest of 2 Chronicles 29 (vv20-36) describes Hezekiah’s restoration of proper temple worship. I suggest that you read that from your own Bible. In it you will see that Hezekiah changed nothing from what was prescribed by God. There was no Reformation based on a new way of doing things. Instead, he restored the worship back to what it was supposed to be. Our parallel would be for each of us to worship God in Spirit and TRUTH. This means that we worship Him for His sake and for His glory alone, not ours. We don’t worship God so we can feel good or have goosebumps. No, we worship Him for who He is with a grateful heart.
Temple worship has been restored. Hezekiah is now going one step further with God. He is going to keep the Passover. Please read the following very carefully.
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. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month– for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem– and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. 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.” So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 30:1-11 ESV)
Hezekiah wrote letters to all Israel to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Don’t forget that this is after Samaria has been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The reference to Ephraim and Manasseh is speaking of all of the tribes of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River that are not part of the Kingdom of Judah. What was the response of “most” of these people? They laughed the messengers to scorn and mocked them. This was in response to that part of the message from Hezekiah speaking of the stiff-necked attitude of their fathers. This is in reference to pride. Hezekiah’s message is that the people humble themselves, come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover. Some, however, did humble themselves and respond to the call of God to come and worship Him in Spirit and Truth. This is normal folks. This is how the Gospel works as well. Only a few “hear” and repent. Didn’t our Lord say that the gate is narrow and few that be who find it?
The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD. And many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very great assembly. They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away and threw into the Kidron Valley. And they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, so that they consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. They took their accustomed posts according to the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests threw the blood that they received from the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the LORD. For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers. Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. For Hezekiah king of Judah gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for offerings, and the princes gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And the priests consecrated themselves in great numbers. The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven. (2 Chronicles 30:12-27 ESV)
When I read this I see Grace, abundant grace, that God pours out on those who seek Him. He pardons the unclean. He is so good to us my brethren. Are any of us worthy of our salvation? Notice that it is God who gave the people the heart to do what the king and princes commanded by the word of the Lord. This is a very clear example of How God works through the preaching of His Word.
Now is this an example of a “new Reformation” based on doing rather than belief or is it an example of a Revival in the restoration of what God has commanded for His people to do in serving, and worshiping Him? My brethren, the only doing that brings God glory comes from our obedience to His commands as we submit to Him in our humility. The only way we can do good is by His grace.
Take a good look at the Christian leaders who are so popular with the masses. Are they leading their followers into humble service of worshiping God in Spirit and Truth or are they just preaching a man-loving, man-pleasing message to tickle their ears? Those doing the latter are apostate and they are leading their people into further apostasy. However, some of you reading this have had your heart pricked by the moving of the Holy Spirit to forsake your fleshly, man-focused ways and move into God-focused, humble service and devotion to Him. Start where Hezekiah did. Get your heart cleansed and healed by God Himself as you repent and draw near unto Him. He will restore what the locusts have eaten my brethren if we will obey Him this way.
Soli Deo Gloria