In our last two studies, we saw King Hezekiah restore the temple to operation, and then invited both the nations of Judah and Israel to celebrate the Passover together for the first time since King Solomon's day.
Now, as we pick up in chapter 31 of 2Chronicles, we see that the 15 days of celebration has finished, but the revival happening among the Jews has not...
When the Jews arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover, they had removed all of the incense altars and thrown them out in the brook Kidron (2Chron. 30:14). Now, they go out to the other cities and begin to destroy the altars, high places, and pillars throughout the rest of Judah and even in parts of Israel.
One of the idols which King Hezekiah destroyed during this time should be quite familiar to you, although you may not know that it had become an idol.
In Numbers 21, we read of the Israelites complaining in the wilderness because they didn't like the manna which God was providing. As a result, the Lord judged them -
Num. 21:6-9 The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
God had done an amazing thing - although the judgment was from Him, so too was the salvation from the judgment. As instructed, Moses made the bronze serpent. It was put on a wooden cross-piece and anyone who looked at it lived.
Unfortunately, as the years passed, the Jews had begun to look at the statue rather than the God who had done the miracle. They gave it a name, and began to burn incense before it.
During this time of revival among the Jews, King Hezekiah...
2Kings 18:4 ...broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
What is so interesting to me is the cycle of human religion. You see, Jesus said in John chapter 3 that...
John 3:14-15 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life."
The bronze serpent in the wilderness had represented sin being judged. When Jesus was lifted up on the cross, sin was judged.
When the people looked to the serpent in the wilderness, they were healed from the judgment. In the same way, when we look to Jesus on the cross, we are saved from God's judgment on sin.
But what has humanity done to this wonderful picture? Turned it into an image. Icons and statues of Jesus flood churches around the world. People bow down to them, burn incense before them, and light candles in front of them. Man's tendency towards idolatry has once again manifested itself by taking something wonderful and making it abominable.
How we need a King Hezekiah today, who will say, "Enough of this idolatry!"
King Hezekiah also made sure that the house of God operated the way the Word of God said it should. He appointed the priests to do the work which God had assigned to them in His Law.\
The Levites were also assigned, with their modified job descriptions. Remember, it was King David who recognized that God had established His name in Jerusalem, and that the tabernacle would no longer need to be carried from place to place (1Chron. 23:26). The job description of the Levites was going to change a bit. They were still to serve the priests, but in slightly different ways. There was no more tearing down and transporting to do. But there was still plenty of work.
And so King Hezekiah divided the priests and Levites into the divisions of assignments and shifts that David had established, which we saw this described in detail back in 1Chronicles 23.
The priests and Levites were fulfilling their biblical duties, and Hezekiah commands that the people fulfill their biblical duty to them - they were to give their tithes and offerings to support them.
For some reason, this is a problem to some religious people. And yet the Bible shows us in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that those who serve the Lord with their lives are entitled to be supported by those they minister to.
Numbers 18 details for us God giving the people's sacrifices to God to the priests. God said,
Num. 18:12 "...those which they give to the LORD, I give them to you."
And for the Levites, He said,
Num. 18:21 "To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting."
Paul asked the Corinthians,
1Cor. 9:13-14 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
The Old Testament priestly system was carried into the New Testament days for those who preach the gospel.
This support is for the purpose of undivided devotion and service.
In regards to the priesthood, sure, a man can teach a Bible study and still work full time. I did that for many years. But there is a divided devotion there, studying as you can, always knowing that it's not as complete as it should be.
And in regards to service, it is the difference between availability to minister and impossibly unavailable.
Now, one thing I find very interesting: Hezekiah's offerings are recorded in the Scripture. Remember that one of the reasons the Jews extended Passover and Unleavened Bread for another week was because,
2Chr. 30:24 ...Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep...
And when he commanded the people to give, he led by example, for we read,
2Chr. 31:3 He also appointed the king's portion of his goods for the burnt offerings, namely, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the fixed festivals, as it is written in the law of the LORD.
He wasn't a "do as I say, not as I do," leader. He was leading by example. No one could ever launch the accusation, "Hey, he's telling us to tithe, but he doesn't tithe himself!"
The Jews were faithful to bring in their tithes, and there was more than enough to provide for the priests and Levites. So much, in fact, that there was an abundance that needed to be stored.
It really is amazing how much money there is to support the work of a ministry when everyone served by that ministry is faithful to give. I was running the numbers the other day, (and being super-conservative, by the way) discovered that if each family who attends here regularly tithed ten percent of their income, we would be able to continue to have our staff, ministry programs, missions, property improvements, etc., and STILL have the mortgage on this entire building project paid off in less than FOUR years!
It's no wonder, then, that when all of the people were faithful to bring in their tithes, the heaps kept getting bigger and bigger, and officers had to be put in charge of overseeing the huge amounts.
These verses describe how all of the priests and Levites were given their portions, whether they were working in the temple at that time or not, as well as including a long list of the men who were assigned the oversight of that task.
The Law recognized that the priests and Levites were ministering wherever they were, not just in the temple. Whether they were in the house of God, the pasture lands, or the cities, they were worthy of being supported.
There are many pastors I know who are called to frequent traveling ministries. They are often out of town, teaching at conferences, speaking at other churches, ministering overseas, or meeting with prominent people to offer discipleship, accountibility, or biblical guidance.
Sometimes their churches resent this. They sometimes get into an attitude of, "We pay him to minister to US!" But biblically, the example is that we must be willing to share our ministers with others who need to be ministered to. And they are still worthy of our support.
Hezekiah ruled using the Word of God as his guide - not just in Jerusalem, but throughout all of his kingdom. Paul the apostle said that
Eph. 5:9 ...the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth
Hezekiah was walking in the light, and his actions showed it. How do we know if we're walking in the light? By what kind of fruit we're bearing. Jesus said,
Matt. 7:16-20 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits."
Is the fruit of your life goodness, righteousness, and truth? I was very convicted yesterday over a situation. About 2 in the afternoon, I realized that I had scheduled an eye doctor appointment at 9 in the morning! My brain immediately began thinking of excuses. Of lies that I could tell to explain why I'd missed the appointment! After a few seconds of that, I thought, "What am I doing? Preparing to lie?" I called and told the truth: "I forgot."
Our fleshly nature is always so close, and ready to strike. We need to walk in the light, and be good, righteous, and truthful! King Hezekiah's life has been a good example of this.
Notice too that he was a finisher. Everything Hezekiah began, he did. Being flakey is not righteous. Someone who volunteers and says, "I'll do this" - but doesn't follow through - isn't being righteous.
Last Sunday morning, we were reminded of a son who said,
Matt. 21:30 ...'I will, sir'; but he did not go.
That son was not doing God's will. Ask yourself, "What commitments have I made that remain unfinished?" Make those a priority, before committing to more things. Psalm 15 tells us that a righteous man...
Psa. 15:4 ...swears to his own hurt...
When you are righteous, you fulfill commitments and finish what you started, especially in the service of the house of God (2Chron. 31:21).
When we hear messages like this, we are likely to be convicted. We say, "Okay, I guess I gotta do that. It's a bummer, but it's my obligation." But King Hezekiah was not doing any of these righteous deeds begrudgingly. It says he did them "with all his heart."
The first time the Bible mentions doing something with all your heart, it says,
Deut. 4:29 "...seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul."
That is the key to doing things with all your heart - do them seeking God. If you'll notice, that's how Hezekiah did it:
2Chr. 31:21 Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart...
Finally, we see that when he did what was good, right, and true, when he finished what he began, when he did these things with all his heart, seeking God, he prospered.
Who doesn't want prosperity today? I do, and you do. No one wants to fail. No one wants to lose. That is why the "prosperity teachers" are so popular: everyone wants to prosper!
But the key to prosperity is not in the "name it and claim it" teachings. It is in the "seek God with your whole heart, walk in the light, live righteously" teachings. That is where prosperity comes from.
Let's close tonight with the words of Psalm one...
Psa. 1:1-6 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nnor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.