When Hezekiah became king he reversed what his father Ahaz had been doing and started to lead the nation of Judah back to worshipping God. He was 25 when he became king and his first recorded act, in the first month of his reign, was to put God’s temple in order. This required quite a bit of work in several areas.
First there was the physical building of the temple. Through many years of neglect it was in need of repair. Following this it needed to be consecrated, cleansed of anything that would make it ceremonially unclean. Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had set up idols to be worshipped in the temple and had even moved God’s altar from its central position to be replaced with one to a pagan god. Anything that had been associated with idolatry needed to be removed. What they hadn’t been doing – offering incense and burnt offerings to God – needed to begin to happen again.
Hezekiah recruited those who had been set aside by God to serve in the temple: the priests and Levites. They, too, had been neglecting their duties to God and serving idols. They immediately went to work.
“They assembled their brothers and consecrated themselves. Then they went in to purify the Lord’s temple, just as the king had ordered, in accordance with the word of the Lord. The priests then entered the Lord’s temple to purify it; they brought out to the courtyard of the Lord’s temple every ceremonially unclean thing they discovered inside. The Levites took them out to the Kidron Valley. On the first day of the first month they began consecrating; by the eighth day of the month they reached the porch of the Lord’s temple. For eight more days they consecrated the Lord’s temple. On the sixteenth day of the first month they were finished.” (2 Chronicles 29:15-17 NET)
For over two weeks they worked on just getting the paraphernalia associated with idolatry out of God’s temple. But it wasn’t enough to just get rid of it by dumping it outside the walls of Jerusalem in the Kidron Valley – they needed to put back what they should have been doing.
The day after they were finished Hezekiah brought sacrifices for a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary and Judah. These were offered “to make atonement for all Israel” (2 Chronicles 29:20-24).
Following this they restored the worship of God with the various sacrifices and singing. There were so many animals brought to be offered that there were not enough priests to do it all – the Levites had to help. All of this was to restore the worship of God.
“There was a large number of burnt sacrifices, as well as fat from the peace offerings and drink offerings that accompanied the burnt sacrifices. So the service of the Lord’s temple was reinstituted. Hezekiah and all the people were happy about what God had done for them, for it had been done quickly.” (2 Chronicles 29:35-36)
He then commanded the people to observe the Passover. Even though it was a month late, because there were not enough priests consecrated to do it as they were cleansing the temple, “The Lord responded favourably to Hezekiah and forgave the people” (2 Chronicles 30:20).
What is sad in all of this is this statement: “There was a great celebration in Jerusalem, unlike anything that had occurred in Jerusalem since the time of King Solomon son of David of Israel” (2 Chronicles 30:26).
What happens when we wander away from God? Usually we start doing things we shouldn’t and not doing what God wants us to do. To get back to God we need to get rid of what is sinful and replace it with what God wants of us. Included in this is getting back to worshipping God as we read the Christians did at the first. When we do this we can once again serve God as his people.
Photo by Jon Galloway at Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem, January 2018.
Readings for next week: Isaiah 32-36; 2 Chronicles 29-31; 2 Kings 18
How to restore God’s church today? Read The Right Kind of Christianity, by Forthright Press.