Saturday, May 21, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 104. King Hezekiah of Judah, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 104
King Hezekiah Of Judah
Part 2

King Hezekiah is a godly king, a man who follows the Lord, and the first thing him does after becoming king is reopen the temple.

2 CHRONICLES 29:3-24
I think it tells us the most important thing we need to know about Hezekiah's character that the first thing he did after becoming king is to reopen the temple. His father had shut the doors and had even taken articles from the temple to use in his service to foreign gods. But as soon as he ascends to the throne, Hezekiah brings back the worship of the one true God and, as we saw yesterday, rid the land of all the other altars. "In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: 'Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook Him. They turned their faces away from the Lord's dwelling place and turned their backs on Him." (2 Chronicles 29:3-6) As we learned during the reign of Hezekiah's father, even the priesthood went astray. The high priest Uriah actually built a pagan altar for King Ahaz. So it's not just the temple that needs to be cleansed and consecrated; the priests need their hearts cleansed and consecrated too.

Hezekiah continues listing the sins of his father and the sins of the fathers of the people of Judah, "They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. Therefore, the anger of the Lord has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; He has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that His fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him, to minister before Him and to burn incense." (2 Chronicles 29:7-11) The words of Hezekiah are words of true repentance. He admits to the sins of his own family and the sins of the nation. He agrees that the Lord is righteous in judging them for their sins. He intends to renew the covenant with the Lord and bring the people back into fellowship with Him. John the Baptist spoke of "fruit in keeping with repentance" when he warned the religious leaders in Israel of the wrath to come if they and the nation did not repent. The fruit of repentance is evidence of a changed heart. It's the actions that prove a person has been made right with God. When we come to Christ, He changes us. Everyone around us can see the changes in our attitudes and behaviors. This is fruit of repentance. Hezekiah is displaying this fruit by honoring the Lord with his actions.

Hezekiah's zeal lights a fire in the hearts of the priests. He reminds them of their calling, that the Lord has chosen the tribe of Levi to serve Him as priests. This calling is an honor these men should feel blessed to perform. "Then these Levites set to work: from the Kohathites, Mahath the son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah; from the Merarites, Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehalellel; from the Gershonites, Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah; from the descendants of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; from the descendants of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah, from the descendants of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; from the descendants of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel." (2 Chronicles 29:12-14) It only took one man to inspire a revival in Judah. Being the king, he had a broader influence over the people than each of us may have, but we each have influence in our families, in our workplaces, in our circle of friends, and in our communities. If those around us see how excited we are about serving the Lord, who knows what great things we might inspire them to do for the Lord?

"When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord. 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. 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 month." (2 Chronicles 29:15-17) The priests waste no time in carrying out the king's orders. They are in a hurry, not just because he is the king, but because he has restored something in them they had lost. They had lost their purpose in life. They were never intended to serve at the altars of false gods, though some of them likely did during the reigns of the wicked kings. The ones who did not found themselves without anything to do after King Ahaz shut the doors of the temple. It's very depressing to live life without a purpose. But when the Lord is at the center of our lives, we will never have to face that. There will be times of trouble and disappointment in life. There will be times of tragedy in life. But as long as we hold firmly to the One who holds us, we will always have a reason for living. We will always have a reason to get up each morning and serve the One who gave His life for us. 

"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. 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.'" (2 Chronicles 29:18-19) These men don't fear naming the sins of Hezekiah's father because Hezekiah himself has named his father's sins.

"Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered all the city officials together and went up to the temple of the Lord. They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven male lambs and seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, the descendants of Aaron, to offer those on the altar of the Lord. So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests took the blood and splashed it against the altar; next they slaughtered the rams and splashed their blood against the altar; then they slaughtered the lambs and splashed their blood against the altar. The goats for the sin offering were brought before the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them. The priests then slaughtered the goats and presented their blood on the altar for a sin offering to atone for all Israel, because the king had ordered the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel." (2 Chronicles 29:20-24) I and many of my readers are animal lovers and we find it disturbing to think of these animal sacrifices. I am thankful that, because Christ gave Himself for us, we no longer have to perform these services. But we must remember that God would have been righteous and holy if He had commanded the blood of the people to be splashed against the altar, rather than the blood of sacrificial animals. It is mankind who sinned. It is mankind who owes a death for sin. But until Christ came, the Lord allowed these animals to stand in man's place. He was not willing to wipe humans out because of sin and so He provided a substitute. But as the author of the book of Hebrews points out, it was not possible for the blood of animals to permanently take away the sins of man. These offerings had to be made time after time, year after year, because these animals did not possess the power to cover sins forever. Because mankind owes a death for sins, it took a Man to make an offering to cover sins forever, but it couldn't be just any man. It had to be a perfect Man. It had to be God Himself, the only holy and righteous One. Only His blood possesses the power to make us clean forever before a holy God.

The people lay their hands on the goats of the atonement offering, signifying that their sins are being transferred to these innocent animals, symbolizing the fact that the blood of these animals is accepted by a merciful God in place of the blood of man. This is a solemn moment and I believe God intends us to be disturbed by animal sacrifice. I believe He intended the people of Judah and Israel to be disturbed by it. They needed to understand that the innocent was taking the place of the guilty. They needed to feel the gravity of innocent blood being shed in place of the blood of the sinner. Before the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, He too was touched by many hands. He was touched during his life by those who loved Him and by those who hated Him. During His trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, He was touched by both Jews and Gentiles. He was beaten by both Jews and Gentiles. He was rejected by both Jews and Gentiles. This signifies the transference of the sins of all nations onto Him. The innocent was going to the cross for the guilty. The blood of the innocent was being shed for sinners. He was dying for every nation and tribe so that whoever comes to Him in faith can be made clean forever in the sight of a holy God.

We will continue our study of the dedication of the temple tomorrow, for it's quite lengthy. Hezekiah has made a good start as King of Judah. He has done the best thing he could possibly do for the nation. One man stood up and started a revival. What might you or I be able to start in our workplaces or in our neighborhoods if people see how excited we are about our relationship with Jesus? How might we be able to encourage people to find their purpose in Him? We can never lose everything as long as we have Jesus. He didn't promise us an easy life but He promised us a life with purpose. When we have that fire burning in our hearts that King Hezekiah had, we have purpose. We have hope. We have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and press on, no matter what is against us. And that purpose will ignite a fire in the hearts of those around us, just as it ignited a fire in the hearts of the priests. People are dying for lack of love, dying for lack of hope, dying because they feel life has no purpose. Let's go out today and be the light of Christ in a dark world.

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