Friday, August 18, 2017

Manasseh’s Choice

Every individual has to decide for themselves whether they are Going to serve God or not.  Hezekiah’s father had been a wicked king who closed up the temple and promoted idolatry.  Hezekiah was exactly the opposite, doing his best to serve God in every case.  His son Manasseh chose to emulate his Grandfather, Ahaz, Rather than his father, as II Chronicles 33:1-9 explains. 

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.  For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.  Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.  And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.  And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:  Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.  So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.”

Manasseh out did even his grandfather, chasing false religions.   The more outlandish and weirid they were the more involved he became, rebuilding all the altars and places of worship had set up.   Instead of closing up the Temple, he set up altars to other gods in the courtyards, and set up an inside, in the place God had reserved for himself.  He even went so far as to sacrifice some of his children in th fire to Molech and followed the horoscope, the almanac, and different astrologers.  Under his leadership, Judah and Jerusalem were even more ungodly than the heathen they had replaced.   

God intervened to get Manasseh’s attention, as II Chronicles 33:10-13.  “And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.  Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.  And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.” 

Manasseh ignored God’s warnings, so He sent the Assyrians against him.  They carried him away to Babylon in chains.  At the time Babylon was just a minor province of the Assyrian Empire.  Being a hostage and slave shook Manasseh up, and he began to seek the Lord, asking forgiveness for his sin.  God is a forgiving God, and forgave him, freeing him to return to Jerusalem. 

Manasseh’s repentance was sincere as II Chronicles 33:14-17 makes very clear.  “Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.  And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.  And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.  Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.”

After his conversion, Manasseh did everything he could to undo the evil he had done, destroying the altars he had rebuilt, and removing the altars and the idol from the Temple.   He banned the other religions, and re-established the worship of God according to God’s commands.  Unfortunately, he was never able to completely eliminate the false doctrines.  Though they were worshipping God, the people did not always do it according to God’s command, going to the high places and groves, rather than to the Temple as God had commanded. 

God is a forgiving God, able to forgive and bless even those who have deliberately rejected him.  Manasseh was blessed with a fifty five year reign.  Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn’t eliminate all the consequences of sin, and while the people turned to God, they clung to some aspects of the false religions, worshipping God in ways he had forbidden.   His son Amon never turned to God, as II Chronicles 33:20-25 shows. 

“So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.  Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem.  But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them; And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.  And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house.  But the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.”

Amon learned Manasseh’s ways as a child, and unlike the rest of Judah, he clung to the example his father had originally set.  Many times those who have been closest to us, our children are the hardest to reach because they have learned to copy us too well.  They may choose to continue to follow the path we set for them.  The consequences of our choices can have serious effects on those we love.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Spiritual Pride

Hezekiah had done everything in his power to please God, and had trusted God to deliver him from the Assyrians.  When he got sick he had prayed and God healed him, promising him fifteen more years of life.  He was able to improve great many things in the land, and because he had been so richly blessed, Hezekiah became spiritually proud of what they had accomplished, as II Chronicles 32:25-tells us.  “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.  Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”  Instead of giving God the glory, they began to take credit for what had happened because they were so spiritual.   

A common mistake Christians make is getting proud of what we are doing for God and how spiritual we are, forgetting that the accomplishments are not the result of our goodness.  Isaiah 64:6 tells us, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…”  We did not earn his blessings, he blessed us because he loved us.  We need to repent and Give God all the glory.  Hezekiah and Judah did repented, but god sent a test so that Hezekiah might realize how easily such pride can cause us problems, as II Chronicles 32:31 tells us.  “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”   

II Kings 20:12-13 describes what happened.  “At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.  And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and showed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.”

It was a mark of respect for the King of Babylon to send gifts and enquire about Hezekiah’s health. Hezekiah responded by showing everything God had given him and what they had accomplished, because he was proud of them.  After all, Babylon was six hundred miles away, and was not a very important city, posing little threat at the time.   What use could they make of what he showed them?

“Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee?

And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.

And he said, What have they seen in thine house?

And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.

And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.  Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.  And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (II Kings 20:14-18)

While Babylon posed little threat at the time, Isaiah warned that in the future, they would conquer Judah, making slaves of Hezekiah’s descendants.  Hezekiah had just shown them all the riches they could obtain when they did come.  As we know from history Babylon destroyed Jerusalem just about a hundred thirty years later, fulfilling the prophecy.  Hezekiah had just given away all the secrets and given additional reasons for attacking Judah.  Fortunately, the Babylonians could not use the information right away. 

Hezekiah was relieved that the attack would not come in his day as II Kings 20:19 states.   Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” 

Fat too often our spiritual pride leads us to do foolish things that may have serious repercussions.  For example, we may get the idea we can do things ourselves, and end up going against God’s word, allowing false teachers into the church so that in the future they can destroy it.   We also may unintentionally cause others to feel inferior by bragging about how God has blessed us or take the glory for ourselves, encouraging others to follow us, rather than God.   While we think the pride is spiritual, it is in fact sin.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Sun Backed Up

Hezekiah had set out to serve God, and God had blessed him.  When the Assyrians threatened, he had trusted God and seen the Assyrians wiped out.  This was not the end of his problems however.  II Kings 20:1 describes another challenge to his faith.  “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.” 

After all his efforts to please God, it Had to be a shock to be told that he was just going to die.   Worse yet, the message came directly from God through his prophet so there was no possibility the doctor was mistaken.   II Kings 20:2-3 describes Hezekiah’s response.  “Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.”  Hezekiah asked God to take into account how he had served him for all those years, weeping that his life was to end so soon. 

“And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.  And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” (II Kings 20:4-6)

Many times we feel that God is going to do what he has planned and that our prayers will not have much influence,  but James 5:16 tells us, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  While it is true that our prayers will not change his overall plan, God will frequently adjust the details to fit the desires of his children.   When Hezekiah prayed, God changed his plan, promising Hezekiah fifteen more years of life. 

“And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?

And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.

And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” (II Kings 20:7-11)

As proof that Hezekiah would live fifteen more years, God caused the sun to go backward by forty minutes on the sundial of Ahaz, making the day an extra forty minutes longer because Hezekiah asked him to.  Imagine the consternation this would cause astronomers and timekeepers everywhere.  It was something that had never happened before, yet God caused it to show Hezekiah he was answering his prayers.   

We may not know the impact our prayers had until we get to heaven.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hezekiah’s Victory Over The Assyrians

Hezekiah had turned his heart wholly to serve the Lord and had led Judah and many in Israel to serve the Lord as well, and God caused everything he did to prosper.  Right in the middle of this, II Chronicles 32:1 tells us, “After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.”  The Assyrians had begun their big push to take over the Known world under Sennacherib, even going so far as to attack Egypt and pre4sent day Turkey.  Under Hezekiah, Judah was a very prosperous country, and Sennacherib decided to take it for himself.   It would be far more valuable than Israel or western Jordan, because God was blessing Hezekiah.    

“And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him.  So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?  Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.

And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” (II Chronicles 32:2-8)

At the time, Assyria had one of the world’s biggest armies.  Hezekiah blocked off the springs of water and diverted the rivers so that there would not be enough water to support the Assyrian army.  He also strengthened the city’s defenses, repairing the walls and preparing ammunition.   He spent time training his troops and preparing the people mentally, reminding them that God had promised to defend tham against the attacks.  Because they had served the Lord for several years and had developed a strong faith in God, the people trusted Hezekiah’s assurances. 

Looking for an easy victory, Sennacherib sent a small force to intimidate the Jews, warning them that if they didn’t surrender, he would destroy them like he had the countries around them.  Knowing the Jews trust in God he reminded them that none of the other countries Gods had been able to save them, and Hezekiah had gotten rid of all those gods, so that they would have even less help.  They better not believe Hezekiah when he said God would help them.  II Chronicles 32:9-19 describes the Assyrian efforts to intimidate them. 

“After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?  Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?  Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?

Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand?  Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand?  Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?  And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah.

He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.  Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews' speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city.  And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.” 

There was nothing Judah could do to protect themselves against such a powerful force, and everyone was scared.  II Chronicles 32:20-23 tells us that Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet prayed and God intervened.  “And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.  And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.” II Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 36-37 give more detailed accounts of the story, but ultimately, God wiped out the Assyrian forces and Sennacherib was killed in a miraculous manner.  Other countries sought Judah and Hezekiah’s support after the Assyrians were defeated.    

Just as God allowed Hezekiah and Judah to be attacked by an overpowering force, He allows those who serve him whole heartedly today to deal with problems far larger than they can bear.  Many times, modern Christians Quote the first part of I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”  When problems come they are horrified that the problems are so much bigger than they can  deal with, and many give up, convinced God has broken his promise.  They don’t understand that the promise was nto that God would never allow them to face anything to big for them to handle, but that he would always provide victory in the problems.  The whole verse says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Judah could not deal with the Assyrians, but when they trusted God and obeyed him, he did.   We may not be able to handle our struggles, but when we trust God and obey him, he will take care of them.   We do not need to fear what will happen, although like Hezekiah we may have some trepidation at times.    Knowing this is true, we ought not turn to the world for help in gaining the victory.  I Corinthians 10:14 tells us, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”  God doesn’t need any help.  It really wasn’t Hezekiah’s victory, it was God’s, and it really isn’t our victory, but God’s.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hezekiah’s Leadership

Hezekiah had chosen to go in the opposite direction of that taken by his father.  Where Ahaz had tried to discourage the people from serving god, closing the Temple and scattering the priests, Hezekiah reopened the Temple, cleaning it out and putting the priests back to work.  He chose to celebrate the Passover as God had commanded, and led the people to get right with God.  Israel and Judah had not celebrated God’s blessings in such a way since Solomon’s time.  They did not stop with the Passover, however, as II Chronicles 31:1-3 tells us. 

“Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.

And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.  He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.” 

Hezekiah had set the example by cleaning out the Temple and th people followed by cleaning out the idols and places of false worship throughout the land.  Hezekiah continued to develop qualified men to take the different positions in the Temple and worship service.  Still leading by example, he took responsibility for seeing that the needed sacrifices for the daily offerings, the special Sabbath offerings, the special offerings on the first of the month and those for special events were provided from his own wealth.  Only after he had done his share did he ask others to give as well, as II Chronicles 31:4-5 explains. 

“Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.  And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.” 

While Hezekiah was covering the costs of the day to day ministry, he asked the people to pay the priest’s wages.  He recognized the importance of the people paying their pastor’s wages, because it encourages the people who give, making them understand they play a an important role in the ministry, while encouraging the pastors that the people appreciate the work they do.  As a result, the people grew spiritually, and also gave abundantly.  They could understand that the priests and Levites needed to be paid for their work.  Even people who had not been requested to give began to give, according to II Chronicles 31:5-10.

“And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.  In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.

And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.  Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.  And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.” 

When people feel something is worthwhile, and that their efforts to help are appreciated and valuable, they have no qualms about getting involved in the work or contributing.  They tend to devote themselves to whatever cause is involved.  If they begin to feel that their input and efforts are not of much importance however, or fail to see the value of the cause itself, they have little incentive to become more involved, either in learning and participation, or in giving to support the cause.  These principles apply whether one is talking about building a church, or some other kind of organization. 

Whether or not the application of these principles will result in spiritual growth depends largely on the attitudes of the leaders.  A leader who is focused on developing a closer relationship with the Lord can use these principles to help his people draw closer to the Lord, while one who is focused on enhancing his reputation by building a larger organization will focus attention on the organization rather than the spiritual walk.   Superficially, the two may appear almost the same, but closer examination shows they are very different. 

Hezekiah was focused on pleasing his God, in every area, as we see in II Chronicles 31:20-21.  “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”  Other kings had devoted their efforts to expanding the kingdom, or destroying their enemies, but Hezekiah focused on doing what God wanted with his whole heart.  As a result, God blessed him, so that he prospered in everything he did.   

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hezekiah’s Obedience

Hezekiah chose to do exactly the opposite of what his father had done, following God to a degree none of the other Kings of Judah since David had done.  Exodus 12 described the institution of the Passover and feast of unleavened bread.  As Exodus 12:14-15 tells us, the Jews were to celebrate it every year.   “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.   Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”  Anyone who refused to partake of it was to be cut off from Israel, literally to lose their citizenship.  For many years, Judah had not bothered to keep the Passover.  Hezekiah determined to keep the Passover, as II Chronicles 30:1-3 describes.

“And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.  For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month.  For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem.  And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.

Leviticus 23:5 was very specific about the date of the Passover.  “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover.”  Fortunately, God had made on exception to this date, as Numbers 9:9-11 tells us.  “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.  The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”  If a person had come into contact with a dead body, or was otherwise unclean and unfit to take the Passover on the proper date, he could take it a month later.  Because the temple had been closed during Ahaz’s reign, neither the priest, nor the people had kept the necessary sacrifices to be clean according to the law.  Hezekiah and the priests decided they should all spend the extra month making sure everyone was clean and celebrate the Passover on that alternate date.   Hezekiah sent out notices to that effect throughout all Israel and Judah, as II Chronicles 30:5-9 tells us. 

“So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.  So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.  And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see.  

Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.  For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.” 

Hezekiah encouraged everyone in both Israel and Judah to keep the Passover so they could receive the blessings God had promised.  Most of the people in Israel blew them off, clinging to Jeroboam’s teachings but a few listened to Hezekiah’s warning.   The people of Judah got behind the idea and committed to serve God as II Chronicles 30:10-12 tells us.  “So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.  Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.  Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.”

As a result of Hezekiah’s choice to follow God completely huge numbers turned to God, according to II Chronicles 30:13-20.  “And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation.  And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron.  Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD.

And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites.  For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD.  For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.

 And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.   And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.  And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD God of their fathers.

And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.  For Hezekiah king of Judah did give to the congregation a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave to the congregation a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep: and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.   So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.  Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.”  There had not been such a concerted effort to worship God and remember his blessings since Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, almost three hundred years before. 

Hezekiah didn’t stop with just praying and worshipping God,  He went back in the Law to find out what God had commanded and kept it because he truly loved God, as John 14:21 tells us.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”   If we want to experience God’s blessings to the fullest, we will have find out what he wants and obey him fully, instead of just doing what we think is right.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hezekiah Renews Judah’s Commitment to God

One of the things we learn from history is that people tend to follow the example of their parents and the culture around them, simply because it is what they are familiar with.  Jehoash’s descendants were no exception with his son, grandson, and great grandson following God’s teaching part of the time.  His great great grandson, Ahaz chose not to follow that pattern, following every false religion around, as described in II Chronicles 28:1-4.   “Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father: For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.  He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.” 

Fortunately children have the ability to choose whether to follow their parents example or not.  Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah was exactly the opposite of his father, according to II Chronicles 29:1-2.  “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.  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.” 

Hezekiah would prove to be one of the best Kings Israel ever had, doing his best to follow God’s laws like his ancestor David.  Under his father, the temple had been closed up and allowed to deteriorate, and the worship of God had largely been forgotten.  Hezekiah reopened the temple, and reinstituted the worship of God, renewing the covenant Israel had made with God. II Chronicles 19:3-11 describes his explanation to the people. 

“He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.  And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, 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.  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.  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.

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.  For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.  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.  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.”

The Levites and priests rallied around Hezekiah, getting right with God themselves and reestablishing the worship of God as the covenant specified.  II Chronicles 29:12-23 describes the efforts.  “Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites: and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehalelel: and of the Gershonites; Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah: And of the sons of Elizaphan; Shimri, and Jeiel: and of the sons of Asaph; Zechariah, and Mattaniah: And of the sons of Heman; Jehiel, and Shimei: and of the sons of Jeduthun; Shemaiah, and Uzziel.

And they gathered their brethren, and sanctified themselves, and came, according to the commandment of the king, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD.  And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron.  Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.

Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the showbread table, with all the vessels thereof.  Moreover all the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.

Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.  And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the LORD.  So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar: likewise, when they had killed the rams, they sprinkled the blood upon the altar: they killed also the lambs, and they sprinkled the blood upon the altar.  And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them: And the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.

And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets.  And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.  And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.  And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped.  Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.”

Where Jehoash had half-heartedly served the Lord because Jehoiada was guiding him, Hezekiah was serving god because he wanted to.  As a result, the people turned to God fully, unlike they had done for Jehoash.  They no longer worshipped other Gods or sacrificed in the high places. 

If we are to have a serious impact on those around us for God, we will have to be like Hezekiah, devoting ourselves completely to God and his commands, and correcting the things our predecessors have done wrong, rather than just following their footsteps.  God willing, tomorrow we will look at some of the other things Hezekiah did.