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HEZEKIAH MADE KING
Hezekiah took the place of Ahaz in reigning over Judah at the age of 25 years. His mother's name, Abijah, is told us. She must have been a far different character than her husband, because her son did what was right in the sight of the Lord, in sharp contrast to his father's wickedness (v.2). Though his father was an exceptionally bad example, Hezekiah did not follow that example, and every individual should realise that he does not have to go in his father's ungodly footsteps. The grandfather of Hezekiah (Uzziah) had been a comparatively faithful man, but we are not told that Hezekiah did according to all that Uzziah had done, but according to all that his father David had done. Thus David was his example, the first king of God's choice in Israel. Let us remember too that we ought to follow the example of the Lord Jesus, and not to be satisfied with any lesser example.
HEZEKIAH'S REGARD FOR THE HOUSE OF GOD
At the very beginning of Hezekiah's reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them (v.3). Thus he quickly reversed what his father Ahaz had done. Respect for God's house is respect for God Himself. Today, we also should desire the truth of the house of God, which is the truth of the Assembly, to be available to the people of God. Not that the doors were taken away: they were opened and repaired to perform their proper function of allowing in what should be in and keeping out what should be out.
Having opened the doors of the temple, Hezekiah then gathered the priests and Levites who were designated by God to do the work of the temple. Ahaz had stopped this by his arrogant actions. But Hezekiah was no weakling. He told the priests and Levites to first sanctify themselves, then sanctify the house of the Lord and carry out the rubbish that had been accumulated in the sanctuary (vv.4-5). Not only had Ahaz taken away the vessels of the temple, but he had replaced them with rubbish. Such too has been the guilt of present-day religion. Despising the sacred truths of the Word of God, leaders have not only got rid of these, but have introduced rubbish in their, place, the rubbish of human substitutes for godliness and obedience to the Word of God.
Hezekiah met the evil squarely and decidedly. He said, "Our fathers have trespassed and done in the eyes of the Lord our God, they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him" (v.6). He spoke also of their having shut the doors, put out the lamps and ceased to burn incense or offer burnt offerings in this one place that God had set apart for this purpose. It is striking that he realised the enormity of the evil of his fathers and that this had to be corrected. He clearly saw what his father had failed to see, that the great evil that had come on Judah was because of their disobedience to God (v.8). He expected Judah to see this also. Many men of Judah had died by warfare and many mothers and children had been taken captive (v.9).
Therefore Hezekiah advocated a positive return to the Lord, calling upon Judah to agree to a covenant (v.10). This was consistent with Israel's being under law, though it would be wrong today, for covenants have nothing to do with the Church of God. Under grace God has shown that He wants no promises from man, for the Old Testament has proven Israel (and therefore all mankind) to be so sinful that they cannot keep their promises. How much better to obey God without promising to do so than to promise and fail!
But Hezekiah desired a true return to God on Judah's part, and he urged the priests and Levites to not be negligent in their duties, for the Lord had chosen them to stand before Him, to serve Him and to burn incense to Him. Both priests and Levites should serve Him, though only the priests were to burn incense.
How good it is to see the response of these men! Fourteen Levites are mentioned by name as instrumental in gathering their brethren and being sanctified to do the work of cleansing the temple (vv.12-15). Servants of the Lord today too should be diligent to minister the Word of God faithfully, that the Word may have its proper effect in cleansing away the rubbish of human inventions and opinions.
Only the priests could go into the innermost part of the house of the Lord, which they did, clean-sing it and bringing out all that debris that they found there, to the court, from which the Levites took it and carried it to the Brook Kidron (v.16). Having begun on the inside of the house, they came to the vestibule on the eighth day, but required another eight days to finish the entire work, including the court, evidently (v.17). They then reported to King Hezekiah that they had cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with its articles and the table of showbread with its articles. Also all the articles that King Ahaz had thrown out they had restored and sanctified. Of course those treasures that Ahaz had given to the King of Assyria (ch.28:21) could not have been included in the restoration.
THE TEMPLE WORSHIP RESTORED
The temple being prepared, Hezekiah gathered the rulers of Jerusalem with the object of immediately offering sacrifices to the Lord. They brought seven (a complete number) of each of four different animals to be offered. The bulls speak of the strength of the offering of the Lord Jesus. The rams symbolise the devotion of that one offering. The lambs picture the submission of His offering, and the male goats signify the substitutionary character of His offering. Indeed, all of these together cannot fully picture the wonder of the one sacrifice of Christ (v.21).
The bulls were killed, then the rams and the lambs, the priests sprinkling the blood of these on the altar (v.22). These three were evidently burnt offerings, though the goats are designated as sin offerings (v.23). The burnt offerings came first, and infer much more than the sin offerings; for they speak of the glory that God receives from the offering of Christ, which is a much more important matter than the blessing we receive. The sin offering aspect of that sacrifice is nevertheless vitally important too, for without this our sins could never be forgiven and we delivered from the power of sin. Notice that they laid their hands on the sin offerings before offering them, indicating their personal identification with the value of Christ's sacrifice to atone for their guilt (v.23). But Hezekiah knew that both the burnt offering and the sin offering were necessary (v.24).
Hezekiah also placed Levites who were musicians, with cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, in the house of the Lord, and also priests with trumpets (vv.25-26). This was in accordance with the command of David. This music speaks of the joy of the Lord, which is to be a very real accompaniment to worship. In the Church of God today there are those who are anxious to make use of musical instruments in worship also, and of course they consider that since instruments were used in Israel's worship, they ought to be also in the worship of the New Testament saints. But actually, this instrumental music is only symbolical of the joy of believers in worshipping God "in spirit and in truth" (Ja 4:23), just as all the sacrifices of Israel were pictures of the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. How wrong it would be for us today to sacrifice animals to God! When the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord's supper with His disciples, we read of no musical instruments, but they did sing a hymn (Mark 14:26). What the Father desires of His saints today is not formal worship, but worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began." Surely this tells us that when God is honoured by the sacrifice of Christ (of which the burnt offering speaks) then there is reason for the saints to respond with the song of the Lord. There is far more joy in the burnt offering aspect of the sacrifice of Christ than there is in the sin offering aspect, for while we may be profoundly thankful that by the sacrifice of Christ our sins have been forgiven, yet it is only when we realise that God has been glorified in that sacrifice that our hearts really expand with rejoicing. But all the assembly worshiped (v.28) at least formally, continuing till the burnt offering was finished, and indeed beyond this (vv.28-29).
Hezekiah and other leaders then commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord, using the psalms of David and Asaph for this. They did so with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped. This was a remarkable result of the godly leading of Hezekiah. Today we need no such commandment, but may be led by the Spirit of God. Knowing the great glory and grace of the Lord Jesus, we surely desire to praise Him.
The freewill offerings of Judah continued for some time, the burnt offerings amounting to 70 bulls, 100 rams and 200 lambs, as well as offerings of consecration totalling 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep (vv.32-33). There were not enough priests to do all the work of skinning the offerings, so the Levites helped them. Some of the priests had not sanctified themselves, being not as diligent as the Levites in this matter. Does this not remind us that we too often lack willingness to carry out priestly duties of true worship? We may be more inclined to serve (as Levites) than to worship (as priests). But Hezekiah and all the people greatly rejoiced in the goodness of God so preparing them at this time.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 29". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany