A Covenant to Keep

“Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. 3 He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them. 4 And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, 5 And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. 6 For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs. 7 Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. 8 Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes. 9 For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us. 11 My sons, be not now negligent: for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him, and burn incense” (2 Chron. 29:1–11).

Hezekiah, King of Judah, lived in one of the most exciting periods of human history. New nations were beginning to emerge. The first Olympian Games were held in 776 BC. From these games the Greeks date their history. Rome was said to have been founded in 753 BC. Assyria once a powerful world empire was declining reflected in part by the open opposition of Egypt. Strategically located between Egypt and Assyria was the small kingdom of Judah which meant that the nation’s position was very precarious. In order to survive, Judah needed not only good but godly rulers.

For many years now Judah did not have a godly king. The nation was cursed to have a cruel sovereign in the person of Ahaz. (735-715 BC) During the dark days of this depraved despot, Ahaz went so far as to permit the barbaric rituals of the Moabites to exist which included burning children in thefire (2 Chron. 28:3).

Sin was turned into shame as Ahaz led the nation in personal perversion. He sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places and on the hills, and under every green tree (2 Kings 16:3, 4).

In all of this Ahaz turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the gods of Syria and worshipped them (2 Chron. 28:23).  Ahaz turned from the Temple of Solomon to build up the shrines of dead deities. In his spiritual apostasy, Ahaz cut the Temple vessels in pieces. He closed the doors of the glorious institution as he made new altars for people in every corner of Jerusalem to burn incense (2 Chron. 28:24, 25). 

After the death of Ahaz, the bible says that his body was not allowed to be brought into the sepulchres of the kings because of his great wickedness (2 Chron. 28:27).  In light of this, it is all the more remarkable to read of the goodness and righteousness of his son and successor, Hezekiah.

We are never amazed when children of godless parents grow up full of corruption and cruelty. It is to be expected for the lifestyle of the parent is often reflected in the next generation. However, it is a pleasant surprise when the children are better than their parents in morals and religious practices. And it can only be attributed to God’s sovereign grace.

The Lord chooses individuals. He marks them. He calls them. He regenerates them, and He says, “These souls are mine.” Hezekiah was a chosen vessel and because of that he was rescued from certain destruction. Had he followed his father, he would have gone astray. There are certain parents that you know and that I know who, like Ahaz of old, are leading their own children away

From the Temple, the church, and the God of their forefathers into moral, intellectual, and spiritual uncertainty. Nevertheless, the graciousness of God can still rescue the children as Hezekiah was taken from Ahaz and put on the path of virtue. God gave Hezekiah a new heart reflected in his first official act as king.

In the first year of his reign (724 BC) in the first month, Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the Lord thereby publicly telling others what his priorities were. Like Joshua of old, Hezekiah was shouting for the nation of Judah to hear,  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And beyond that he was saying, “As for me and my nation, we will serve the Lord.”

Hezekiah was inviting people to leave the false altars his father had built in the countryside of Judah. Hezekiah was opening the doors of the House of the Lord which had been closed for too long. He wanted people to come back and worship the true God in sincerity and in truth. The doors of the Temple were symbolic of the person of Jesus Christ who would one day come and stand before them to say, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). Rev. Ivan H. Hagedorn reminds us that, “Throughout our lives, doors open and close. A door is an entrance and an exit. Through doors we go in or out. We can stand before the doors of the Church. We may enter in, or we may stay out.”

Hezekiah entered into the Church and saw immediately that the doors were in need of repair. It would not be easyto repair the Temple doors for they were of massive size andweight. But the task had to be done without regard to cost,energy, or effect because of the eternal significance involved. The temporal was a mere reflection of spiritualrealities. Once God ordains that something be done then it must be done and the price must be paid. God’s people havealways been happy to pay the price.

When David first picked out the spot where the Temple was to be built, the place was nothing but a barren-threshing floor owned by a man named Araunah. David went to Araunah to buy the threshing floor in order to build an altar unto the Lord. There was a plague in Israel and people were dying.

“And Araunah said unto David, Let my Lord the king take and offer up what seemth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood… And the king [David] said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (2 Sam. 24:21-22, 24).

Like David, Hezekiah wanted to pay the price to worship the Lord. To that end he brought the priests and the Levites and gathered them together in the East Street. Once the religious leaders were gathered Hezekiah set forth a realistic evaluation of the spiritual state of the Church and what should be done. Simply enough, there was to be a measure of personal holiness (29:5) as the house of the Lord was physically cleansed.

There was a need for personal cleansing and confession of sins for the religious leaders were not innocent. Ahaz, as king, might have led the nation into spiritual apostasy but he did so with the consent of Urijah the priest. Now it was time to renounce the past and return to the paths of righteousness as a specific transgression was mourned over.

There was the sin of unfaithfulness. “Our Fathers have trespassed, said Hezekiah, and done that which is evil in the eyes of the Lord our God” (2 Chron. 29:6).  What evil was done according to the king? Individuals had forsaken the Lord, and had turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord. (2 Chron. 29:6). That was the sin of the saints in the sixth century BC.

By way of personal application, every professing child of God in the 21th century needs to be confronted with 2 Chronicles 29:6 to discern if they have forsaken or are in the process of forsaking the Lord and turning away their face from the Church. There is no Scriptural comfort for willful transgression of this nature apart from returning to God.

Hezekiah wounded the consciences of the people of Judah but he also offered healing for the soul. The healing would take place upon a return to the place of righteousness.

“Come back to God,” cried Hezekiah. “Come back to the Temple.” “Come back to gospel duties and delights.”

If the Temple lamps have gone out, let them be relit (2 Chron. 29:7) which means let the gospel be preached. Go into the highways and byways and seek individuals. Then souls will be saved.

If prayers have ceased so that no heavenly incense is going upwards, let the prayers begin.

If there are no burnt offerings, let them be given. But let the offerings be given willfully, cheerfully, and without mental reservations. Support those ministries that God has called into existence and placed upon the heart. But do not give to a ministry only enough money to seek or keep a place of honor for such was the sin of Ananias. Freely Christians have received, freely they should give.  Let every person sacrifice unto the Lord with their resources to time, talents and treasures. Jesus said where our money is there will our heart be also.  

There is good reason to worship the Lord. There are always tragic consequences for neglect and decay of religion.

Hezekiah observed some of the wages of sin that were earned by the citizens of Judah (2 Chron. 29:8-9). The wrath of God was revealed from heaven in crop failures, sickness and disease. There were military failures. Children and family members were placed in harm’s way. Family units disintegrated—much like the homes in America. A recent study revealed that 4 out of ten children will grow up in a home without a father present.

None of these events had to happen to Israel but they did because God will not be mocked. The way of transgression is hard. Matthew Henry notes that, “Those that by their negligence in the service of God think to mock God, and put a cheat upon Him, do but deceive themselves, and put a damning cheat upon their own souls.” Hezekiah did not want to be guilty of deceiving the Lord or to have his nation live a lie like other nations with coins that say “In God we Trust” while the government of the land banishes God from social consciousness. Therefore he would remember and he would remind the people that God is a covenant keeping God. Hezekiah wanted to enter into a covenant with the Lord God of Israel and he invited the people to join him. For their part the people would open the doors of the house of the Lord, repair the facilities, initiate and maintain divinely ordained worship services and love the Lord God of Israel.

Hezekiah does not presume to detail the obligations that the Lord might agree to but He does recognize a general principle. God will do good to those who love Him and obey Him. To excite and encourage the people, Hezekiah reminds them that they have been chosen to stand before God to serve Him and to worship before Him.

Today the Church needs to be reminded that God has chosen it to stand before Him in diverse communities, to serve Him, and to worship Him all the days that life is given. To some God has given His people a physical Temple or structure to restore. But the physical cleansing is designed to remind the saints there is a cleansing of the heart that needs to be done too.

As doors of a particular sanctuary are reopened, as worship services is re-instituted, as the debris that has accumulated is taken out, may the Lord be petitioned to make His people holy. There is a covenant to keep.

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