November 25, 2015.
Daily Reading: II Chronicles 29-32.
Background: II Chronicles 25-28.
Concepts and Connections.
Hezekiah’s reform: As we get to the reign of Hezekiah we will see one of the greatest religious reforms in Judah during the time of the divided kingdom. Hezekiah’s reign is recorded in more detail than many of the other minor kings and can be found in II Kings 16-20 and also in Isaiah 36-39. He begins the reform here by cleaning out the house of the Lord, calling the priests and the Levites to go in and remove the filth that accumulated as their father’s had shut the doors of the vestibule and ceases offing the daily sacrifices and worship. He tells the people that this evil, the forsaking of the Lord, is why the wrath of the Lord had bee brought upon them, making them an object of horror. But it was in his heart to make a covenant with the Lord and restore Judah to the worship and will of the Lord. Thus he charges the Levites here to clean up and restart temple worship to the Lord God of Israel. The Levites arose and went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it and burned all the unclean things that were in there in the brook Kidron. Beginning on the first day of the month, they consecrated the hose of the Lord until the sixteenth day. They cleansed what was there and made read the things that were discarded in the reign of Ahaz (see previous chapter).
After the house of the Lord was restored, Hezekiah reinstated the worship that was to be done in it. He brought bulls, rams, lambs and goats to be offered as a sin offering for the kingdom and the priests offered them for all of Israel, according to the law (see Leviticus 4). Hezekiah also stationed the Levites who were supposed to be in charge of the music in the house of the Lord with their musical instruments, according to the commandment of the Lord through David and His prophets (see I Chronicles 23, 25). The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and when the offering was begun, they began to sing songs to the Lord with their instruments. The whole assembly worshiped the Lord, with glad songs of praise and bowing down. Hezekiah then called for people to bring sacrifices and thank offerings, so much so that the priest who had concentrated themselves already were too few to flay all the burnt offerings, and thus their bothers helped them. The service of the house of the Lord was restored and Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced. Restoration had come.
The passover: After the temple was restored and temple worship was reinstated, Hezekiah calls for the children of Israel to keep the passover, something they had not kept regularly throughout the years as they were supposed to (see Exodus 12, Leviticus 23 and Numbers 9). Hezekiah does something really interesting here, in that he does not call for just Judah to keep the passover, but for all of Israel and Judah to keep it. He sends couriers into Israel to implore them to come to Jerusalem and keep the passover. He charges them not to be like their fathers who were stubborn and rebellious, but rather to humble themselves before the Lord, that the Lord might relent from the wrath they He had brought upon them (they had fallen into the hands of the Assyrians by the word of the Lord for their iniquity, see II Kings 15). Most of the people of Israel mocked the couriers to score, but there were some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun that did indeed heed the word of Hezekiah and humble themselves to come and keep the passover. The altars that had been erected throughout the land were removed and burned. The passover had to be kept in the second month because the priests had not cleansed themselves yet in the first month (see Numbers 9:10-11). When they sacrificed the passover lamb, however, there were many in the assembly who had not cleansed themselves properly, especially those who had just come from Israel. We can learn something about intent from Hezekiah’s prayer and the Lords answer here. Hezekiah prays for the people who had not cleansed themselves according to the law yet, but had set their hearts on seeking the Lord. The Lord heard his prayer and healed the people, indicating that the intent of our hearts is very important to God, even superseding the letter of the Law. This is not to say the Law could be abandoned and disregarded by any means, but rather that the Lord desires mercy over sacrifice (see Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 12:1-8). The feast of the passover was kept by the assembly for another seven days with gladness, with much rejoicing and mighty singing. Their voice and prayer came to the Lord’s holy habitation in heaven. What a wonderful time this would have been for God’s people.
Further reform of Hezekiah: Continuing on in the spirit of reform, all those who were present at the passover went out into the cites of Judah and tore down and broke all the false gods and idols that had accumulated in the land when the people acted wickedly. Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests according to their service, just as David had done (see I Chronicles 23-24). He brought his portion to the house of the Lord according to the Law and charged the people to do the same. They brought forth their tithes freely, and there was an abundance of contribution to the Lord. Thus, the chambers in the house were prepared to store the contributions and he appointed chief officers in charge of different contribution and services. The priests and their families were enrolled to their positions and set in their proper places. Hezekiah did all this that was right in the sight of the Lord and brought about a great reform for the people. Though other kings had gone through reform in Judah, it seems that Hezekiah out does them all since the divided kingdom, and his heart is fully set on serving the Lord throughout this great reform. Every work that he did was according to the law and the commandments, and the Lord prospered him in his endeavors. May we ever seek to have the heart that Hezekiah portrays here.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 9-10.
Let us revive and reform.