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Kings of Judah

Hezekiah, Part 1

II Chronicles  29-31

Lesson audio


At the time Hezekiah becomes king, the land of Judah was a complete mess. 2nd Chronicles 28 details how his father, Ahaz, was invaded on all sides, captives taken, tribute paid – and nothing worked. Ahaz stubbornly clung to evil all his life, and the land was a wreck by the time he died. It is into this situation that the young Hezekiah comes to the throne.

Rededicating the Temple

(2nd Chronicles 29)

What’s the problem here?

It is tempting to answer that question by listing the woes of the land. Lots of people had been hauled off as slaves. It was not uncommon to leave the men to work the land, hauling off the women and children as slaves. Think of the humiliation of tilling your land to give the fruits to your conqueror, while he enjoyed the sexual pleasures of the wife you would never see again. Tribute bankrupted the nation.

But these are not the problem. The problem is the unfaithfulness of the land of Judah. Ahaz actually burnt his own children in the fire of Molech, and worshiped every God but the Lord – and encouraged the people to do likewise.

It is worth noting: none of this is Hezekiah’s fault. Today, with our emphasis on individual rights, we would see this as a situation where Hezekiah could claim to be righteous; this is dad’s problem. You might think Hezekiah would complain to God, “what did I do to deserve this?” He doesn’t. The problem is unrighteousness; as the leader of the nation, it is his responsibility to take action on this.

Steps in reform

First things first: the reform begins at the Temple, the center of the worship of the Lord. Hezekiah reforms from the inside out.

He does so in three steps:

2 Chronicles 29:15-19 NIV (15) When they had assembled their brothers and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the LORD, as the king had ordered, following the word of the LORD. (16) The priests went into the sanctuary of the LORD to purify it. They brought out to the courtyard of the LORD's temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the LORD. The Levites took it and carried it out to the Kidron Valley. (17) They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the LORD. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the LORD itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month. (18) Then they went in to King Hezekiah and reported: "We have purified the entire temple of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table for setting out the consecrated bread, with all its articles. (19) We have prepared and consecrated all the articles that King Ahaz removed in his unfaithfulness while he was king. They are now in front of the LORD's altar."

Notice the order:

  • First comes consecration. There is work to be done, and those to whom it is given must be wholeheartedly given to the Lord. Nothing else will do.
  • Next comes the cleansing of the Temple. It is hard work, but they must get the house of God in order first; all else will depend on this.
  • Then, and only then, do they begin the renewed worship of the Lord.

If you read on, you will see that this is cause for a great celebration. It is a celebration full of sacrifice. When zeal arises, this is not a barrier but an opportunity.

Lessons for America

The parallels to our day are hard to overlook. Let’s consider these points:

  • The problem is NOT the president, or the economy, or the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. The problem is the spiritual decay of the American people. (You think not? Go to Craigslist and look under “erotic services.” Open solicitation of prostitution with no real fear of police.)
  • The problems starts with us. We need to clean up the church, and restore her to what she should be. This is a tall order, but necessary.[1]
  • We need to repent of our national sins in the process. Someone has to go to God and ask forgiveness for what we, as a nation, have done. And it isn’t going to be the heathen doing it.

When we can sacrifice with joy for this, you’ll know we have begun. Meanwhile, …

Celebrating the Passover

(2nd Chronicles 30)

The importance of the Passover

Passover, for the Christian, is the forerunner of the Lord’s Supper. We need to see what part it played in Hezekiah’s reform:

  • Passover is the definition of the Jewish nation. Here is the moment when the Jews go from being just a collection of tribes to a nation. It is, if you will, the primary root of the Jewish nation.
  • Passover is the offer that God made for salvation. That formative moment centers around the idea that God passes over the sins of this group of people, but strikes down those around them.
  • Note, please, the symbolic importance. It is the most important of the Jewish festivals; it represents the return to righteousness, not a “bold new direction.”
The invitation

Having proclaimed the Passover, Hezekiah now takes an interesting step: he issues the invitation to all the Jews, not just the tribes in Judah. There is no sense that only the people in the right kingdom can be invited. God’s providence is seen in this; the northern kingdom has very little time left, and God is rescuing from them the remnant of the faithful.

It is not a call to a potluck dinner; it is a call to repentance. They know what is right; they have the example before them of one who is leading the way in righteousness – the only question is whether or not they will follow that call.

Most don’t:

2 Chronicles 30:10-11 NIV (10) The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but the people scorned and ridiculed them. (11) Nevertheless, some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.

Lessons for America

This is a model for us:

  • We are not proclaiming a “new morality” or “bold new direction.”[2] We are to proclaim what is righteous, and call people to repent. We are to present the core of the Gospel, salvation by grace. We are to call people to the repentant life, and joy in the Lord.
  • We are to make this call to all who will listen – and expect that many of them, if not most, will reject it. No matter; our job is to proclaim the Gospel, not count attendance.[3]
  • Rejoice in those who return; they are the harbingers of victory to come.

Cleansing the Land

(2nd Chronicles 31)

The cleanup phase

You must note that until this chapter there has been no significant reform among those who weren’t already somewhat committed to God. This phase expands the reform to all the people.

  • Note that this implies a great deal of power in the righteous. The moral authority of righteousness has been reestablished, and now begins to work on the typical citizen of the kingdom.
  • The civil authority acts in support of this – providing moral leadership and the support of civil law.
  • The result is the destruction of what is evil. Note that: the destruction of altars to the false gods and the worship of evil.
The giving of the people

The key characteristic of this phase of cleaning up is the willingness of God’s people to give.

  • By their sense of duty they bring in the tithes – a tenth of their income. By the Old Testament commandments, this was used to feed the priests and Levites, plus the poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien.
  • In addition to the tithes, the people bring in freewill offerings. It is not duty, but joy, that makes this happen.
  • The result is that there is more than enough. As witness:

2 Chronicles 31:5-11 NIV (5) As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. (6) The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps. (7) They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. (8) When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel. (9) Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; (10) and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over." (11) Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done.

Lessons for America
  • As in the past, civil law should support moral order.
  • As in the past, the church should be the source of blessing for the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan.
  • As in the past, we should both tithe as commanded and bring offerings in joy and gratitude to God.

In the meanwhile, let the lower lights be burning.

[1] Where do I start in listing the things that need to be cleaned up?

[2] Nor, for that matter, “change.”

[3] As my daughter so eloquently puts it, “Butts in seats do not equal souls in heaven.”

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