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CLEANING HOUSE – 2 Chronicles 29:1-19

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on November 12, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, November 12, 2017; Hezekiah—Ruler in The Revival; 2 Chronicles 29:1-19

Theme: Revival must begin with cleansing our lives of the rubble of sin through the power of Jesus.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Let me begin this morning by making a marvelous affirmation concerning those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. In spite of what you and I—in our currently imperfect state of being—may think of ourselves, we are declared by God’s word to be nothing less than His temple.

I don’t mean by that the kind of thing that people sometimes mean—simply that we are very special; such as when people talk about being careful of what they eat because they are a ‘temple’ in some sentimental sort of sense of the word. Rather, I mean that currently on planet earth, the God of Israel no longer has a physical building called the ‘temple’ such as He did in the previous era of the Old Testament time; and that instead, He has taken up residence in you and me as His redeemed people in Jesus Christ—set apart by Him to be His dwelling place on earth. We, dear fellow believers, are His spiritual temple!—and, as far as He is concerned, a very holy and sacred place indeed!

And what’s more, God cares very much about what we allow to happen in His temple. He is jealous for the holiness of His sacred dwelling place—that is, us. He does not take it as a matter of indifference whenever we allow anything in to His temple that defiles it or hinders His freedom of access to every part of it.

May I show you that this is so? You’ll find it clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. The apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthians about sin in their midst—specifically, the sin of sectarianism and division within the body of Christ. And Paul told them;

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

* * * * * * * * * * *

This great truth of our identity in Christ has been coming to my mind very much lately.

We have begun to consider the story of King Hezekiah from 2 Chronicles 28-32; and specifically, the great revival that God brought about through him and the lessons that we can learn about seeking revival in our own time. Last week, we considered the terrible times of apostasy that preceded that revival; times that were brought about through Hezekiah’s wicked father, King Ahaz. Ahaz spent the sixteen years of his reign dragging the people of Judah down into unspeakable levels of immorality, and idolatry and rebellion against God.

We’re told in 2 Chronicles 28:23-25 of how far down he went in his apostasy. He even went down to the point of defiling and closing up the physical temple—the house of God. We’re told that

he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers (2 Chronicles 28:23-25).

It’s with a sense of relief that we’re told that his reign came to an end; “Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place” (v. 27). Hezekiah was a godly man—the polar opposite of his wicked and unfaithful father. And as we read on in his story, we find that the very first thing Hezekiah did was to clean up the temple that his father had so dreadfully defiled. That’s how the great revival that occurred under his reign had begun.

And here, I believe, is a lesson for those of us who have been praying for revival in our time. We often make the mistake of looking around us, and hoping for revival to begin with other people. We who are followers of Jesus pray for revival in our nation, or our city, or our church—and we should. We look around us and pray for revival to occur in the lives of those around us who are sinful and rebellious against God and who do not listen to Him—and we should do that as well. But that’s not the place that we should begin. The place to begin is in cleaning out ‘the temple’—which is us! It begins with each of us individually coming to God and saying, “Lord, I am your dwelling place. I am your temple. I am a member of Your holy household—the church. What is it in me that needs to go? What is it about my life that displeases you? How is it that I can sanctify myself as your dwelling place? What is it that you want cleaned out of Your holy temple?”

Perhaps you’re familiar with the great old hymn, ‘Search Me, O God’. It was written by J. Edwin Orr, who was a great historian of revival. You know that song, don’t you? “Search me, O God, and know my heart today …” It’s taken from the words of repentance that are found in Psalm 51. And there’s a line in that song that goes like this:

O Holy Ghost,
Revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival,
Start the work in me.

And dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe that’s where the focus of our efforts in praying for revival must begin. Revival must begin with the follower of Jesus that you and I see every day in the mirror. Revival must begin with a thorough cleansing of the temple—the dwelling place of God—meaning you and me.

I believe that that’s the great lesson that we find in 2 Chronicles 29:1-19; which is the next great event in the story of this great king of the revival, King Hezekiah. Let’s walk through it together.

* * * * * * * * * *

Chapter 29 starts off with the beginning of King Hezekiah’s reign. His father had died, and he had now assumed the throne. And we’re told,

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done (2 Chronicles 29:1-2).

You’ll remember that, as we pointed out last week, the moral ‘plumb line’ by which all the kings of Judah who were ‘good’ kings (which constituted about half of them) was their great ancestor King David. And Hezekiah himself was measured by that plumb line favorably. He walked in the ways of King David.

And you might wonder how such a thing could be; especially given the very ungodly character of his father. Well; you’ll notice that we’re told about his mother, Abijah; and with her, we’re also told about his maternal grandfather Zechariah. This man Zechariah was a good and godly influence on Hezekiah’s royal great-grandfather King Uzziah. Uzziah was a king who honored the God of Israel; and if you were to look backwards to 2 Chronicles 26:5, you’ll find this statement: that Uzziah “sought God in the days of Zechariah who had understanding in the visions of God.” (This, by the way, is not the same Zechariah whose book of prophecies we find in the Old Testament—because that Zechariah only ministered after the Babylonian captivity. This is a completely different Zechariah.)

This man Zechariah apparently had a godly influence on Hezekiah’s great-grandfather Uzziah. And I suspect that he also had an influence on Hezekiah’s godly grandfather King Jotham. And it would appear that Zechariah’s daughter Abijah (or Abi, as she’s called elsewhere in the Bible) had married King Ahaz; and that she gave birth to Ahaz’s son Hezekiah. But somewhere along the way, the influence of Zechariah had come to an end; because Ahaz was a profoundly ungodly and God-rejecting man. I wonder, however, if Zechariah’s influence had nevertheless reached Hezekiah through his mother—the daughter of Zechariah.

And that’s so, what a good reminder it is of the blessing we bring when we bear a godly influence —through our words and our actions and our example—on our children, or our grandchildren, or our nieces or nephews. God may use that godly influence, even during times of great cultural unfaithfulness, to raise up someone who will be one of God’s instruments of revival in a future generation.

* * * * * * * * * *

So; King Hezekiah came to the throne at the age of twenty-five. And it may be that during his whole growing up years, he agonized under the terrible apostasy of his wicked father—covenanting before God that he himself would seek His ways, in spite of his father’s waywardness; promising that if he himself came to the throne, he would do whatever was in his power to restore what had been lost of God’s worship in Jerusalem.

That day finally came; and as we see, Hezekiah wasted no time! Look at what we’re told in the verses that follow:

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them (v. 3).

Apparently, wicked King Ahaz not only shut the doors of the temple, but had brought damage to them in the process. The doors were the entry way to the temple—though which access was provided for the people to come to God. And so, Hezekiah saw to it that those doors were immediately repaired and reopened. What a symbolic act that was! What hope it must have immediately given to those who truly feared God!

And there was more. It must have been that during the terrible sixteen-year reign of Ahaz, the temple itself was severely abused. It had been made into a place in which pagan worship occurred; and after a while, it became filled with junk and garbage and rubble. So look at what Hezekiah does next;

Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil 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. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity” (vv. 4-9).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; I ask you to consider this carefully. How often do we look at all the troubles that are going on in our world and in our culture and in our nation—the loss of morality, the financial difficulties, the strains we feel with other nations, the rise in crime, the increasing levels of hatred among various groups in our culture, the loss of a sense of the value of human life, the dreadful loss of decency—and then turn to blame our politicians, or our education system, or the entertainment industry. Could it be that the whole time long, we’ve been placing the blame in the wrong place? Could it be, dear fellow believers, that the blame is really our own?—that we have allowed the temple of God to be defiled and filled with the rubble of this world?—that the place to begin in making things right everywhere else is to clean up His house?—us?

Could it be that—in spite of what this world may think—our own spiritual condition before God, as the temple of God on earth, is far more determinative of the condition of the culture around us than we realize?

I notice that the thing that Hezekiah commanded of the Levites—the priestly tribe of Israel who were the God-appointed custodians of the temple—was that they first sanctify themselves; and then, that they sanctify the house of God. The work of restoration didn’t begin with the brick and mortar building called the temple. It began instead with the Levites themselves repenting of their sin and neglect, and setting themselves apart—in a fresh way—unto God. And as an example, we find that Hezekiah even set himself apart unto God in this way. Verses 10-11 tell us that he says;

“Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense” (vv. 10-11).

The restoration of the land and the city was not through political means, or through social reforms, or through cleaning up culture. It was through a spiritual reform. And it wasn’t that the appeal needed first to be made to the sinners and rebellious people to repent, but rather to the godly and God-fearing—to the priests and the Levites and even to godly King Hezekiah. They said, as it were; “Send a revival … start the work in us.” What a great lesson this ought to be to you and me!

It would seem that just as judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17), so does revival.

* * * * * * * * * * *

And note what happened after that. We’re told in verses 12-14 that several of the key leaders of the Levites—leaders from each of the family-lines of the Levitical tribe, along with other key leaders among the priests—rose up immediately in answer to the king’s call. Verse 15 tells us;

And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord (v. 15).

The work was hard. There had been, after all, sixteen years of neglect and abuse to the house of God. But the work was done with great diligence; because, as verse 15 said, they recognized that it was not only the commandment of the king they were obeying, but also the words of the Lord. Verse 16 tells us;

Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the Lord to the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron (v. 16).

Note carefully where they began. They went into the ‘inner part’ of the house of God—that is, the Holy Place—and cleansed it. How grievous it must have been that this most sacred place of the temple, that place where God met with His people, had been so trashed and defiled! But they took the debris out of that inner place first; and took it all out into the court of the temple area. It must have been horrifying to put on display all the things that had been there; but it was all brought out into the open—like a big, gigantic public confession. Nothing was hidden. And then, it was carried out to the Kidron Valley area—south west of the temple, near the garbage dump of the city in the Valley of Hinnom.

And isn’t there a great lesson for us in this? True cleansing of our own lives and hearts in spiritual renewal and awakening must begin in the right place—not on the superficial level; not merely on the outside, where mere man sees; but in the deepest level of our inner being, where God—who sees all things—wants to be at home in our hearts.

Jesus once told the Pharisees,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25-28).

In our own work of pursuing the cleaning God’s temple—that is, ourselves—we mustn’t begin with the superficial places, where just man sees. We must not begin with a mere outward ‘make-over’. Instead, we must begin were most people don’t want to begin—that is, at the deepest inner level of our being. We need to first cleanse the ‘inner part of the house of God’, and bring the debris out into the open, and dispose of it once and for all.

And then—and only then—after the inner cleansing of the temple occurred, those priests began to work outwardly. Verse 17 tells us;

Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. So they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished (v. 17).

After the inner place was cleansed, they worked outwardly. After eight days, they cleaned the temple area of the debris and rubble all the way to the outward porch of the temple area; and then, after another eight days, they finished the work—having begun with the inner place, working outwardly to the vestibule, and then to the whole temple.

Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offerings with all its articles, and the table of the showbread with all its articles. Moreover all the articles which King Ahaz in his reign had cast aside in his transgression we have prepared and sanctified; and there they are, before the altar of the Lord” (vv. 18-19).

At last, the work of cleansing the temple was completed. That work was absolutely necessary. It was an essential predicate to revival. And it’s then, as we read on, that Hezekiah responded. Verse 20 tells us,

“Then King Hezekiah rose early, gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord” (v. 20).

And thus begins one of the greatest worship celebrations in all of the record of Scripture! Revival had begun.

* * * * * * * * * * *

And I hope that you and I can see the lesson in this. Revival must begin by cleansing out the rubble of sin and worldliness and rebellion from the house of God. That means you and me—personally. We need to do a thorough searching of our inner selves, and get rid of those things that don’t belong: sinful attitudes, sinful resentments, sinful relationships, sinful passions and lusts, sinful forms of entertainment, sinful habits, sinful neglects. All things that displease our God must be removed from His holy temple—starting from the inner-most level, and working outward to the whole of life.

But let’s remember: this is not something that we can do by our own power. We absolutely must do this in obedient reverence toward the Father, with complete trust in the atoning sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, and through the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit—and all in accord with the testimony of His revealed word.

The apostle Paul put it this way to the Corinthian believers—who were the dwelling place of God; but who, by the way, had a great deal of rubble that needed to be cleaned out;

O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”

Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 6:11-7:1).

It’s hard work to cleanse the temple. But with trust in God, let’s begin the work! Our very resolve to experience personal revival in this way is, itself, the first step toward true revival.

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