A Radical Shift For A Nation

Hezekiah made a radical difference when he came to power as King of Judah in 715BC. He really turned the nation upside down. The House of Prayer (the Temple) had been closed for 16 years; the doors had literally been nailed shut. 2 Chronicles 29 tells the story of the cleansing and rededication of The Temple, but chapters 29 to 31 give us a description of an incredible revival that took place in the Nation. The reason this is of enormous interest to us is that the church carries a pattern of the Hezekiah revival - we are on a journey that we could map out in these chapters.

The nation only went as well as their priesthood and there were only brief periods when kings and priests functioned in the way God intended. When nation went downhill the key was the priesthood; when they held their place the kingdom prospered.

Here are a few interesting points about Hezekiah:

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old: Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah at the very end of the Kingdom of Israel. Three years after the start of his reign the Assyrian armies set siege to Samaria, and three years after that the northern kingdom was conquered. The sad fate of the northern kingdom was a valuable lesson to Hezekiah. He saw first hand what happened when the people of God rejected the Lord and his word, and worshipped other gods.

He reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem: Hezekiah was one of the better kings of Judah, and thus had a long and mostly blessed reign. No doubt his mother Abijah was a godly and important influence on his life; she was the daughter of Zechariah, probably the person mentioned by the Isaiah (Isaiah 8:2) as a “faithful witness”. This possible friendship of his mother with the prophet, combined with the certainty that up to this time he had been under the influence of Isaiah’s ministry, may account for Hezekiah’s action on coming to the throne.

He did what was right in the sight of the LORD: Hezekiah was one of Judah’s most zealous reformers, even prohibiting worship on the high places (2 Kings 18:4). These were popular altars for sacrifice set up as the worshipper desired, not according to God’s direction. God was never happy about this practice, but none of the other good kings ever found the courage to forbid it. Hezekiah did.

He was blessed because he walked with the Lord: 2 Kings 18:5 makes this remarkable statement about Hezekiah: “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.”

Reopening the Temple – Ushering in God’s Presence

In his first month of service, King Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple and repaired them (verse 3). This was as much a physical act as it was a spiritual act. It wasn’t simply architectural or engineering in nature; this was a symbol of worship of the Lord. Ultimately, by doing this first deed, Hezekiah was demonstrating a desire to usher back in the presence of God, to be open once again to the Spirit of the Lord. The Nation needed God, and so he decided it would start with him. This is top-down spiritual restoration that would affect not only him and his family, not only his nation at the present, but the nation of Israel in the future. That is a really high calling!

In the years before his reign, the people of Judah had turned away from the Lord and done evil. They had snuffed out the lamps in the Temple, stopped offering sacrifices to God, and had closed up the doors. The Temple had not been in use as it should have been (verses 5-8). And like that empty Temple, his ancestors had empty hearts, unfilled by the presence of God, unwilling to communicate with the God of the Universe. Hezekiah stood in the gap for his people by saying “Yes, Lord, I want to open up the highway once again to You, My God.”

There is a very distinct parallel to each of us today in this passage of Scripture because if we are Christians, then our bodies are called the “temple of the Holy Spirit” or the “temple of the Living God” or just the “temple of God” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

Our hearts should house the living God - so we need to take that first step of repairing the door to our hearts. Let’s get serious about our walk with the Lord. Let’s make a covenant, as Hezekiah did (verse 10) that we will clear the path for the Lord of Hosts to enter in and show us what to do.

Purifying the Temple – Remove Your Idols

Deep cleaning is more than doing an exterior wipe-down. And purifying a Temple is more than getting out a feather duster and flicking the dust off. You have to get the ground-in dirt out.

The Temple in the nation of Judah had become a junk room, an unused storage room filled with ungodly things. Hezekiah had a pretty overwhelming task before him. Realigning a nation back toward God meant calling in a specialised cleaning service, which in those days were the priests or Levites. They were the only ones who could do the job because they had obediently kept themselves pure in the sight of God. It was their job to sanctify the sanctuary of the Lord and usher the people back to worship (Exodus 28:40-29:9). They were set apart by God to do this spiritual act of service.

These Levites were told to go in and take out the defiled things (verse 4-5). They also went one step further and made sure that every item that should be there in the Temple was there and that each piece was clean and ready for use (verse 18-19).

What about you and me? Have you ever tried to clean up your act by yourself? You know you have sinned against God and you want to make things right again, so you try to rid yourself of bad habits or stop doing those addictive behaviors. It might work for a while, but eventually you find yourself unable to keep up. The problem is that you are in this same state that Paul mentions, and that is that the things you do you don’t want to do, and the things you don’t want to do you do (Romans 7:21). But there is an answer, and it is also found in that same passage from Paul: “. . . but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, the One who can save me from my evil ways (Romans 7:25).

We need the Holy Spirit - we don’t need to call in the Levites, as Hezekiah did. We just need one priest, a high priest, the High Priest. I am talking about Jesus, and he knows just how to clean out our temples (see Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:27; 8:1; 9:11).

Jesus can restore back to the temple of our hearts a right spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, which are the fruits of the Spirit. He can rid us of all bitterness, rage, anger, and the like when we ask for his empowering presence. He will help us to once again clothe ourselves with compassion and humility.  

Through focused effort combined with spiritual help from his Levite laborers, Hezekiah was able to get the Temple up and running again in only 16 days (verse17). God can and does work his grace in our lives when we need it most. You can almost sense that the nation of Judah was surprised that the work got completed that fast. “And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced greatly because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly” (verse 36, NLT)

Rededicating Yourself to God – Make It Holy and Make it Public

The morning after Hezekiah got the word that the job was done, he set out to visit the Temple of the Lord. Hezekiah’s quick response was very important. A spiritual house that has been swept clean of defilement will not stay clean without a dedication to God. Those spaces of purity and holiness are going to get refilled with junk before long (see Matthew 12:43-45 for an example). It’s imperative that we ask that the Holy Spirit fill our cleansed vessels so that evil cannot re-enter. It is imperative that we daily dedicate ourselves to the Lord and offer our bodies, our temples, as instruments of righteousness.

Hezekiah didn’t go on this journey alone? He went with the city officials for the dedication ceremony of the Temple (verse 20). The idea was not just to assess the newly restored Temple. It was more than some grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Hezekiah took this next step as his very holy and very public proclamation of worship to the Living God. Hezekiah could have had a private ceremony. He could have kept his newfound passion for the Lord hidden until it was politically correct. He could have claimed that his relationship with God was “strictly personal” and stayed tight-lipped about it. Instead, he set out with a select few governmental leaders. Everyone in that entourage knew exactly how King Hezekiah felt about God. Not only that, but the group was to participate in worshipping the Lord. They took with them animals that the priests would sacrifice to atone for the sin of the nation (verses 20-24). This was an important task.

Sin offerings were offered on the altar in the Temple. And as the burnt offerings were presented, the Levites and priests played their musical instruments, and songs of praise to the Lord were offered. After the offerings were finished, everyone in that assembly bowed before God and continued in praise and worship (verses 25-30).

God is pleased when we proclaim Christ in our lives, as Hezekiah and his officials did. I think of that verse in Matthew 10:32 that says, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven”.

Rededication must equal realignment with Christ. We take ourselves off of the throne and put Christ back into his high place as King of our lives. We do not look to ourselves to save us. We look to the blood of Jesus. We look to Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection, and His power to cancel out our sins and save us from the wrath of God.

The remarkable response of the people was proof that God had prepared them. There could never be such a response unless God was at work among his people, and this was evidence of that kind of     work. It was a very great change that the people, who shortly before this, were so ready to comply with wicked Ahaz in his idolatrous orders, were now so free and ready in God’s service; it was clearly the work of the Lord changing their hearts by his Holy Spirit. Two consequences followed from these offerings. The first was to acknowledge that only God had made it all possible (2 Chronicles 29:36; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:18). The second was that everyone rejoiced (2 Chronicles 29:36), in complete contrast with the situation in which they had begun.

Assessing Where You Are Today

As you contemplate this passage of Scripture, what is the state of your heart? Does it need repairing? Does it need to be gutted? Ask the Lord God to help you discover what defilements in your own heart need to go. Ask Him how you can rededicate your life to holy service to him. And ask God how you can proclaim the great things he has done so that all the world can see and glorify him. When people set their hearts on God, many things are possible. A whole nation, a whole people could be cleansed when a single man makes himself available for God’s purpose.