Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 107. King Hezekiah Of Judah, Part 5

Prophets And Kings
Day 107
King Hezekiah Of Judah
Part 5

We study the provisions for the priests today.

2 CHRONICLES 31:1-21
Today's passage takes place right after the Passover celebration we studied yesterday. "When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and Ephraim and Manasseh. After they had destroyed all of them, the Israelites returned to their own towns and to their own property." (2 Chronicles 31:1) We already learned that Hezekiah had removed the idolatrous things from Jerusalem and now the people of Judah destroy the pagan altars in the outer reaches of the kingdom. The Israelites who came to the Passover do likewise in their own territories of Ephraim and Manasseh. 

"Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions---each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites---to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord's dwelling." (2 Chronicles 31:2) King David had set the priesthood up into divisions, with twenty-four courses of priests to serve on a rotating schedule. But the system broke down over the years as the nation fell into sin. Now Hezekiah reinstates the divisions and the courses of priests.

"The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals as written in the Law of the Lord. He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The people 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. They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed His people Israel." (2 Chronicles 31:3-8) The priests, by God's law, were intended to make their living from their service at the temple. They were to receive portions of everything brought to the temple. But since the temple has been shut for some time, they are starting over with nothing. Hezekiah sets the example for the people by being the first to give. He brings offerings from his own household and urges the people to do likewise. 

"Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 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.'" (2 Chronicles 31:9-10) The people are so willing to give that there is more than enough, so much that it has begun to pile up in large heaps. This is what the Lord does with willing hearts! He blesses the willing heart. He blesses the work of the hands of people with willing hearts.

"Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the Lord, and this was done. Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts. Konaniah, a Levite, was the overseer in charge of these things, and his brother Shemei was next in rank. Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath and Benaiah were assistants of Konaniah and Shemei his brother. All these served by appointment of King Hezekiah and Azariah the official in charge of the temple of God." (2 Chronicles 31:11-13) Just because we have plenty doesn't mean we should be wasteful. God is not wasteful and neither is Hezekiah. He commands the storerooms to be made ready for organizing the offerings. The contributions likely aren't thrown inside the storerooms in a heap as they were outside but are probably neatly arranged in an orderly system so that whatever needs to be brought out can be found easily. 

"Kore son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the East Gate, was in charge of the freewill offerings given to God, distributing the contributions made to the Lord and also the consecrated gifts. Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah and Shekaniah assisted him faithfully in the towns of the priests, distributing to their fellow priests according to their divisions, old and young alike." (2 Chronicles 31:14-15) These men are faithful to their duties and receive the honor of having their names written in the holy Bible. Hezekiah put Kore in charge of the freewill offerings because Kore is a man who can be trusted. And we are told that the other men "assisted him faithfully". We are living too late in history to have our names written in the holy Bible but we can be sure our God sees everything we do in faith. He sees it when we carry out our duties dependably and honestly. He sees it when we do what's right even when we have an opportunity to do what's wrong. 

"In addition, they distributed to the males three years old or more whose names were in the genealogical records---all who would enter the temple of the Lord to perform the daily duties of their various tasks, according to their responsibilities and their divisions. And they distributed to the priests enrolled by their families in the genealogical records and likewise to the Levites twenty years old or more, according to their responsibilities and their divisions. They included all the little ones, the wives, and the sons and daughters of the whole community listed in these genealogical records. For they were faithful in consecrating themselves." (2 Chronicles 31:16-18) The genealogies are used to calculate which families are of the Levites so the offerings can be distributed to them. God didn't give the Levites a portion of the promised land; instead He gave them a portion of the temple offerings. This is their livelihood. This is how they provide for their wives and children and keep their households going. God did this so the priests could devote their lives to studying the word of God and to ministering in the temple and to ministering to the people. He did not want them distracted by having to make a living on the side. 

"As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who lived on the farmlands around their towns or in any other towns, men were designated by name to distribute portions to every male among them and to all who were recorded in the genealogies of the Levites." (2 Chronicles 31:19) Hezekiah sets up a very orderly system for this distribution, both in the city and in the country, setting men in charge of the distribution in all the districts of Judah.

"This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered." (2 Chronicles 31:20-21) I wish we had leaders like this today who seek the face of the Lord above all else, who minister to the citizens in ways that are right in the Lord's eyes. We see quite a contrast between King Hezekiah and most of today's political figures. 

Hezekiah sought the Lord with his whole heart and the Lord rewarded him by making all his work to prosper. Through this godly king, the Lord brought about a revival in Judah, healing the hearts of the people and causing their blessings to overflow. What wonderful words are written about this king. And we can be like him. We can follow his example. The Scriptures tell us that Hezekiah:
1. Did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. We too can do this. In Christ, we can live lives that are good and right and faithful in the eyes of our God.
2. Hezekiah served the Lord in the temple and was obedient to His laws and commands. Hezekiah knew the word of God. We must know it before we can obey it. He was a doer of the word and not a hearer only, the type of character the Lord's brother James commended in James 1:22.
3. He sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. Every day Hezekiah sought the Lord. He had a heart like David's, a heart that said, "You God, are my God; earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole body longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1) David's heart thirsted for the Lord like a man thirsting for water in the desert. Hezekiah's heart thirsted in the same way. The most important thing to him was knowing God and, because he knew God, everything he did for the Lord was done wholeheartedly. 

Hezekiah was a mortal human being just like us. He wasn't perfect. He wasn't able to save his own soul. He was confronted with the same trials and temptations we all are confronted with. But he made God his main priority in life. He looked to the One who could make him right, to the One who could save his soul, to the One who could deliver him from troubles. And because of this he receives the honor of being presented to us as a good and godly king, a king like David, a man after God's own heart. We can be men and women after God's own heart. We can follow in Hezekiah's footsteps. We can be known by our God as faithful servants, men and women with the courage to stand for something in this dark world, men and women who seek His face above all else. 

So far Hezekiah has enjoyed a time of prosperity, It's easy to sing the praises of the Lord in the good times but the test of our faith is whether we can sing His praises in the bad times. Trouble is about to come against Judah and Hezekiah will do what his whole life has prepared him to do: stand firm in his faith in the Lord. 

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