If you remember last Thursday night's study about King Ahaz, you 'll recall that he was horrible in every respect: Sacrificing his own children to Molech, worshipping idols, cutting into pieces the utensils of the temple and ultimately closing its doors (2Chron. 28:24), and generally getting the nation of Judah into all kinds of trouble. But he finally died, and now his son Hezekiah is king. The difference between father and son in this case is night and day...
After such a bad king, it's nice to get a good guy on the throne again. What will his priorities be? Well, you can usually tell what a person's priorities are by what they do first. A person who seeks the Lord in the morning is making God a priority. A person who checks the sports scores first thing of the day has made sports a priority. But King Hezekiah - in the first month of his first year - opened the doors of the house of the Lord. His first order of business was to restore the worship in God's temple.
King Hezekiah called the priests and Levites together in the temple to see what a wreck it had become during the last generation, under the last administration. It was time to cleanse the temple and themselves.
Their fathers had been unfaithful and evil, but Hezekiah wouldn't tolerate that happening again. He said that this was going to be a new generation, dedicated to the Lord. He explained that the suffering of their nation had been because God had been showing them His wrath. This renewal and revival was the only way to turn away God's anger.
These three verses list the Levites who arose to take leadership positions in making sure Hezekiah's orders were followed.
These leaders got the Levites together, first consecrating themselves, and then cleansing the temple. It would seem that under King Ahaz, the temple had been used as a big storehouse or junkyard. It was a complete mess, requiring all of these men 16 days to completely clean it out. The courtyard alone took over a week, as did the temple building itself.
All of this trash was carried by the Levites to the Kid-RONE Valley, east of the Temple Mount.
There was also lots to repair. You see, before King Ahaz had shut down the temple completely, he had done his own version of remodeling. It was during his trip to form an alliance with the king of Assyria that Ahaz got the idea for reconfiguring the temple.
2Kings 16:10-18 Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship. So Urijah the priest built an altar; according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, thus Urijah the priest made it, before the coming of King Ahaz from Damascus. When the king came from Damascus, the king saw the altar; then the king approached the altar and went up to it, and burned his burnt offering and his meal offering, and poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. The bronze altar, which was before the LORD, he brought from the front of the house, from between his altar and the house of the LORD, and he put it on the north side of his altar. Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, "Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening meal offering and the king's burnt offering and his meal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land and their meal offering and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. But the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by." So Urijah the priest did according to all that King Ahaz commanded. Then King Ahaz cut off the borders of the stands, and removed the laver from them; he also took down the sea from the bronze oxen which were under it and put it on a pavement of stone. The covered way for the sabbath which they had built in the house, and the outer entry of the king, he removed from the house of the LORD because of the king of Assyria.
The temple had been terrible trashed before being completely closed down.
Once they were finished, the Priests and Levites told King Hezekiah what had been done. The house was cleansed, the altar was ready to sacrifice on, the table was ready to receive the showbread, and all of the utensils which had been cut up or thrown out had been re-created and replaced. Everything in the temple was ready to have services again.
Once again, we see King Hezekiah as a man of godly priorities. He got up early in the morning to go up to the house of the Lord. He and the princes of Jerusalem brought sacrifices to offer on the altar. These sacrifices were to cleanse the altar and to make atonement for - cover the sin of - the people.
Next, King Hezekiah stationed the singers and musicians to lead worship, both during and after the sacrifices.
2Chr. 29:30 ...So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.
I think it is interesting that they sang with "the words of David and Asaph." Apparently, they didn't have sheet music to keep the melodies, but they did have the psalms written down. And so they would have to come up with new songs for the old words. I believe that this is what the Apostle Paul may have been referring to when he said to the Ephesians,
Eph. 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord
The words have been provided for us, but the melody is going to have to come from our hearts.
When all of the people of Judah brought their sacrifices, there was a big problem. These priests were inexperienced, and the temple was newly opened. It was like a lunchtime rush on a brand new restaurant with a skeleton crew of untrained cooks and waitresses! They were overwhelmed!
There weren't enough priests to take care of all the burnt offerings, and so the Levites helped them in the work. What qualified them to do this? Their conscientiousness towards consecration. In other words, they were more concerned with their personal holiness than even the priests were, and so they were ready before the priests were!
This is a good reminder to us that it isn't so much a matter of your professional position, but of your personal preparation. God isn't wanting degreed doctors so much as He desires devoted disciples.
This restoration of the temple came about so quickly, and it was cause for rejoicing. Now, I want us to consider something:
1Cor. 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
We are the temple. But unfortunately, just like the temple in those days, many among us have been used for unclean purposes, and ultimately closed down, being left in disarray.
I believe God wants to do the same work today that He accomplished in the days of King Hezekiah - a complete restoration and rededication of the temple. It can happen suddenly, as long as we are willing to do the work. Let's look at what was done, to find a repeatable model for restoring the temple.
First came the acknowledgment that the temple had been defiled and left in disrepair. Then, there was a desire to see it restored. This is the first step in any laborious process: recognize the need, and have the initiative to do something about it. King Hezekiah had this desire, and so he opened the doors. No one is going to be able to cleanse their temple without first opening up and saying, "I am a total mess and need to be changed."
Once we've opened up to the project, we need to be cleansed and consecrated. That means carrying out the unclean things. It took eight days for the courts to be cleared, and another eight for the inner temple. We must get rid of that which is unclean, both inside and out. What is in our lives that is unclean? Have we fallen into an unrighteous relationship? It needs to be put in the trash. Have we begun to think upon things that aren't pleasing to God? We need to be...
2Cor. 10:5 ...taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
Now, it did take them quite a bit of time to accomplish this work. After all, it is work. But the great thing about that is it took them 8 days for each. In the Scriptures, eight is the number of new beginnings. If we want a fresh start, we're going to have to put in the time and effort.
Notice too that they offered sacrifice upon the altar. We know that Jesus Christ is our sacrifice, and the way sin is dealt with upon the altar for us is through confession.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The next thing they did was light the lamp. How do we light our lamp? Jesus saiid,
Matt. 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Once you've cleansed the inside and the out, and confessed your sin, you begin to shine your light through good works.
Next, they lit the altar of incense. In the Scriptures, incense is symbolic of intercessory prayer, praying for others. David said to the Lord,
Psa. 141:2 May my prayer be counted as incense before You...
And in the book of Revelation, the golden bowls full of incense were the prayers of the saints. So we cleanse ourselves inside and out, confess our sin, and begin to shine our light outwardly. Then we begin to burn the incense of intercessory prayer inwardly: start praying for others.
After these things, they cleanse the table of showbread. This was the bread which spoke of God's provision for His people. When our temple is defiled, our desires are corrupt. We may pray for things, but the motivation for provision is often ungodly.
To cleanse the table, we renew our perspective on God's provision. We stop praying selfishly and start praying for provision wisely.
James told us,
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
When our table of showbread is cleansed, our perspective is changed.
Once these things are accomplished, we can really begin to worship, to sing joyfully to the Lord again. And out of the abundance of this is where our thanksgiving and offerings will come from. May today begin the cleansing of the temple for all who are in need of it!