Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rediscovering God’s Law

II Kings 22:8- 20, II Chronicles 34:14-31

“And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.” (II Chronicles 34:14) 

“And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.” (II Kings 22:8)

Judah had depended solely on people’s memories of what they were to do since at least the start of Amon’s reign, twenty years before and maybe clear back to Hezekiah’s reign.  The High Priest himself was surprised to find a copy of the law and thought the king should have it.  He gave it to Shaphan, a man who could read to give to the king.  Shaphan read it before delivering it to Josiah.

“And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. 

And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.” (II Kings 22:9-10) 

After reporting on the progress of the temple restoration, Shaphan described Hilkiah’s discovery and read it to Josiah.

“And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 

And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying, Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.” (II Kings 22:11-13)

When they read what the law said, Josiah was really upset.  He realized that for generations they had been sincerely keeping part of the law, while totally unaware of other things it required.  They were like a lot of churches today, who sincerely practice their traditional religion and doctrine, who no longer study all the scripture.

When they read the whole scripture, he realized how superficial their practices were and how deserving of judgment they were.  He sent the priests and scribes to someone who knew God intimately to find out what God would want them to do about the past disobedience.

“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.” (II Kings 22:14)

The High Priest and religious leaders went to find Huldah, an unofficial person who had personal contact with God to find out what God wanted.  Frequently, religious leaders, like everyone else, get away from God.  She was living right there in Jerusalem, but few people were paying attention to her.  It is unclear whether the college referred to the group known as the sons of the prophets of not.

“And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.” (II Kings 22:15-17)

She told them that the sin of Judah would still have to be paid for, and that all the warnings God had given would still come to pass.  There was nothing to stop God’s judgment.  Justice still required that the penalty for sin be paid.   God cannot just allow people to get by with their sin, and no amount of animal sacrifices could take it away.

“But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. 

Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.” (II Kings 22:18-20)

Even though Josiah had been willing to listen and change, the judgment was still going to come upon Judah for their ongoing sin, but it would not happen in Josiah’s day.  He would die at peace and not see the judgment to come.  Other people’s actions would not deprive him of God’s blessings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Josiah Begins To Follow God

II Kings 22:1-7, II Chronicles 34:1-14

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (II Kings 22:1-2)

Josiah was Hezekiah’s great grandson.  His grandfather had initially rebelled against God, but later turned to him.  His father rebelled and was killed at about twenty four years of age.  The murderers were executed and the people made Amon’s eight year old son king.

Josiah would become another of the great kings of  Judah, seeking the Lord like his great Grandfather, starting from an early age.  Unlike Joash, he did not seem to have a priest like Jehoiada to guide him.  Apparently his mother had a major impact on his desire to serve God, guiding him until he was mature enough to make his own decisions.

“For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. 

And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.  And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.” (II Chronicles 34:3-5)

When he was sixteen, Josiah really became interested in God, studying his commands.  About the age of twenty, he began to actively promote the worship of God and eliminate the other religions.

He actively destroyed the idols that his father had made,  and cut down the groves of trees for nature worship, grinding them up and sprinkling the powder over the graves of their worshipers.   He killed the priests of those religions and burned their bodies on their altars, Eliminating false religion in Jerusalem and Judah.

“And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.  And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.” (II Chronicles 34:6-7)

The nation of Israel had been replaced with a mixed group from Assyria,  Judah had been a tributary of Assyria since Manasseh’s day, and when he cleaned out idolatry from Judah, Josiah went on into the main part of Israel doing the same thing.  Apparently the Assyrians were not upset by his actions, perhaps remembering what had happened when they ignored God themselves.  Later he would return for more thorough cleansing.

“And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house, Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.” (II Kings 22:3-6)

Buildings deteriorate with use, and the temple was more than two hundred years old.  It had been stripped of much of the gold and silver to pay off the Assyrians under Manasseh and Amon, both of whom had also modified it for worship of other gods.  Six years after he had begun to lead Judah back to worshiping only God, Josiah began a restoration of the temple to it’s original state.

Since the time of Joash, they had kept a chest at the door of the temple to collect people’s offerings for the maintenance of the Temple.  Nearly everyone who came tot eh temple donated whether from Judah or not.  Several times the money had been used to pay the tribute, but it had been accumulating since Josiah became king.  Josiah asked for a report as to how much was available for that purpose, so that it could be given the various tradesmen as needed.

“And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem. 

And they put it in the hand of the workmen that had the oversight of the house of the LORD, and they gave it to the workmen that wrought in the house of the LORD, to repair and amend the house: Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed.” (II Chronicles 34:9-11)

“Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.” (II Kings 22:7)

Because truth and honesty were such important moral values in Jewish society, it was not important to require an accounting of the tradesmen, because they had an established reputation for honesty.  It becomes an issue where people value truth less than profit.  

“And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of music. 

Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters.” (II Chronicles 34:13)

Levites from the various branches of the family organized and oversaw the restoration, seeing that materials were delivered and coordinating the different workmen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Amon’s Reign

II Kings 21:19- 26, II Chronicles 33:21-25

“Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did. 

And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them: And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.” (II Kings 21:19-22) 

Manasseh had ignored how God blessed Hezekiah and had gone against God, reinstituting the idols and nature worship Hezekiah had eliminated, and converting the nation to false religion.  As a result he had been taken to Babylon as a prisoner.  While there, he changed his mind and turned to the Lord.   He spent the last several years of his life serving God, destroying the idols he had made and trying to turn Judah back to God.  His reign was blessed even though they were subject to Assyrian rule.

Amon ignored his fathers experience, encouraging the idolatry and nature worship Manasseh had spent the last few years of his life trying to destroy.   In just two years time he had gone as far as Manasseh had ever gone.

“And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.” (II Chronicles 33:23)

Amon had heard the stories of his father’s captivity and seen how God blessed him when he turned to God.  He could not claim ignorance, either of his sin, or of the benefits of serving God.  His actions were deliberate and God only put up with his behavior for two years.

“And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.” (II Kings 21:23)

Leadership's attitude establishes the attitude of the followers, and after just two years, his personal servants rebelled against him and murdered him at home.

“And 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.” (II Kings 21:24)

The rebellion was just by Amon’s own servants and was not popularly supported.  The people executed the conspirators and made Josiah king in his place.

“Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?  And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.” (II Kings 21:25-26)

Amon was buried in the same garden as Manasseh, rather than in the royal cemetery with the great kings, but he was not as hated as some had been.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Manasseh’s Latter Reign

II Kings 21:17-18, II Chronicles 33:14-18

“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.” (II Chronicles 33:12-13) 

In prison in Babylon, Manasseh finally turned back to God, asking forgiveness, and praying.  God answered those prayers, and enabled him to return to Jerusalem.  Instead of being the God of his ancesters, he made God his own.  Though he had grown up in a godly home, like many children raised in religious homes, he had never had a personal relationship with God.

“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. ” (II Chronicles 33:14)

Returning from Babylon, Manasseh reinforced the fortifications around Jerusalem, and raising the walls of the garrison at Ophel high enough to give the defenders an advantage in case of attack.  He also put experienced officers in charge of all the fortifications across Judah, rather than leaving them in control of political leaders.

“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.” (II Chronicles 33:15-16) 

In the early part of his reign, Manasseh had tried to stamp out all worship of God, turning the temple into a house of idolatry and abandoning all the original implements devoted to God.  After his return from Babylon, he reversed the process, removing all the idols, repairing the temple and restoring the old worship of God that his father had practiced.  He commanded the people to serve God.

“Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.” (II Chronicles 33:17)

Like many of the kings in Judah before him, Manasseh ordered the people to serve God, and as happened in every case, they just went underground with the idolatry and false religion.  Making rules to force people to do what is right usually results in an attitude of rebellion instead.  The only king who hadn’t had this problem was Hezekiah, who, rather than issuing and order, met with the people and sought a commitment from them.  It is the difference between a leader and a dictator.

 “Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (II Kings 21:17) 

“His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him, and all his sins, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.” (II Chronicles 33:19)

Far more detailed official records were kept, as were numerous writings of various prophets during the period, but most are not included in scripture as they have little relevance to other peoples or to God's plan.

“And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.” (II Kings 21:18) 

Rather than being buried in the official royal cemetery or one of the private cemeteries, Manasseh was buried in his own yard.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Manasseh’s Early Reign

II Kings 21:1-16 , II Chronicles 33:1-13

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah. 

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.  For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.” (II Kings 21:1-3) 

Ahaz had been one of the worst kings Judah had ever had.  His son Hezekiah had been the best, destroying idolatry and leading the entire nation to turn back to God.  Manasseh decided to copy his grandfather rather than his father, and restored the old high places for nature worship and began to practice astrology again, doing the very things that had caused God to destroy the original inhabitants of Israel.

“And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.  And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.  And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 

And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.” (II Kings 21:4-8)

The temple had been built and chosen by God as a place that was wholly dedicated to him.  Like Ahaz, Manasseh converted the temple from a place to worship God to a heathen temple for the worship of astrology and nature.  In addition, he sacrificed his own children to Baal and consulted mediums and practitioners of various forms of witchcraft.  It was totally disrespectful toward God.

“And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.” (II Chronicles 33:10) 

“But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel. 

And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. 

And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.  And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.” (II Kings 21:9-15)

When God sent prophets to warn them, the people didn’t listen, and Manasseh led them even farther into sin until they worse than the Amorites had ever been.  As a result God said he was going to destroy Jerusalem like he had Samaria,  It would be so bad it would make the hearer’s ears hurt, and Jerusalem would be wiped out like a person would wipe a spot off a dish.

Jeremiah 15:4-6 gives additional details.  “And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.  For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?  Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.”

“Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (II Kings 21:16) 

Idolatry and witchcraft were not enough to satisfy Manasseh.  He also had people who didn’t agree with him or go along with what he wanted murdered to get his way.  There was no freedom of speech or protection from the government.

“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.” (II Chronicles 33:11)

For a while it looked as if God might fulfil his promise of total destruction of Jerusalem immediately.  The Assyrians came up and arrested Manasseh, carrying him away in handcuffs 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.” (II Chronicles 33:12-13)

In prison in Babylon, Manasseh finally recognized what the prophets had tried to tell him and turned to God, asking forgiveness and to be allowed to go back to Judah.  God heard the prayers, and just as he had done when Ahab asked forgiveness, delayed the fulfillment of his prophecy.  Manasseh was allowed to return to Jerusalem.  As a result Manasseh recognized God as God.  It would change the rest of his reign.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hezekiah’s Pride

II Kings 20:12-21, II Chronicles 32:25-30

“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.” (II Kings 20:12)

Assyria had started massive expansion which peaked under Tiglathpileser III about 730 BC.  Although they continued to expand under Shalmenezer, they were over extended and when Sennacherib was forced to withdraw to Nineveh to rebuild his army, the Assyrian Empire went into serious decline, finally collapsing when Ashurbanipal was died in 627 BC.  About the time Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, the Babylonians began to try to break away from Assyria.

Since Judah was the only country not controlled by Assyria, Berodachbaladan wished to ally himself with them in his efforts to break Assyria’s hold.  Hezekiah’s sickness offered and excuse for initiating contact, and Berodachbaladan sent messengers with a letter to Hezekiah.

“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.” (II Kings 20:13)

Flattered by the attention, and eager to show off his power and wealth, Hezekiah revealed everything to the messengers, from the storehouses of the temple and treasury to their newest technologies and manufacturing.  He even showed off their newest weapons and strategies.  Unfortunately, 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.” 

“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 was just trying to break away from Assuria at the time, God had revealed that in the future, they would conquer the Assyrian Empire, and the things Hezekiah had shown them would be remembered, providing an incentive for coming back to conquer Judah.   When that happened, Judah would be conquered and the rulers carried away as slaves, although the entire population would not be replaces as the Assyrians had done in Israel.    

“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.” (II Chronicles 32:26)

Realizing what his pride had led to, Hezekiah repented, as well as the people, and God’s anger was turned away.  Please notice that compared to the other kings of Judah, Hezekiah’s sin of pride was pretty minimal, but still important.  Even the most minor sin has serious consequences.

II Chronicles 32:31 stresses that God basically stepped away to let Hezekiah make his own decision and demonstrate how serious he was about serving God.   “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.”   Sometimes God has to do something like this for us to understand just how weak and ungodly we are.  God already knew.

“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?” (II Kings 20:19)

Rather than beating himself up for being so foolish or worrying about the future, Hezekiah wisely chose to rejoice that God was blessing him during his life.  Far too many people miss present blessings borrowing tomorrow’s troubles today.

“And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. 

Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.  This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.” (II Chronicles 32:27-30)

God continued to bless Hezekiah for his faithfulness.  He had to build warehouses to store his gold, silver, and precious stones.  He collected entire warehouses of different spices, many of which were worth more than their weight in gold.  He had warehouses full of weapons, and for collectible items, besides ones for storing excess crops.  He also built various farming and ranching centers, and rerouted the Gihon river to provide a more dependable source of water for Jerusalem.  He built a storage pond or pool and an aqueduct to fill it so water would be readily available.

“And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?  And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.” (II Kings 20:20-21)

“And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.” (II Chronicles 32:33)

Judah had refused to even let several of their rulers be buried in the Royal cemetery.  Hezekian was so highly respected that he was buried right close to David in a place of honor, and the entire nation turned out to honor him at the funeral.  What a difference from the kings of Israel that they didn’t even bother to bury.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Sundial Goes Backward

II Kings 19:37b-20:11  II Chronicles 32:24-25

“…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.” (II Kings 19:37b) 

About the time Sennacherib was threatening Judah, Hezekiah became sick of some type of an infection resembling a boil and was almost to die.  Isaiah the prophet sent him a message that he needed to designate the next king and take care of unfinished business because he was going to die at only thirty nine or forty years of age.

“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.” (II Kings 20:2-3) 

Upset at the thought of dying so young after trying to serve God, Hezekiah prayed, asking god to remember how completely he’d served him and how he had gotten Judah to turn back to him.

“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)

Isaiah had not even made it to the front gate before God responded to Hezekiah’s prayer.  Because of his prayer, he would take a dramatic turn for the better,  and three days later would be recovered to such degree that he would be able to attend services at the temple.  He was also promised an additional fifteen years of life, and in addition, the promise that God would prevent the Assyrians from conquering the city.

“And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.” (II Kings 20:7)

God had instructed Isaiah to place a lump of figs on the infection site, and he had the servants do so,  The infection began to shrink almost immediately.  While we know that natural sugars such as those found in dried figs are frequently powerful antibacterial agents, and the dried figs  would tend to absorb the pus from the wounds, the healing was far more rapid than such factors would normally produce.

“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?” (II Kings 20:8)

God had specified that if prophet was truly from God, he was to give a short term prophecy of some minor future event.  If that event did not occur, then clearly the prophet was not from God and they were to ignore the main prophecy.  Wanting to be sure the promise of fifteen more years was really from God, and could be depended on, Hezekiah asked what sign Isaiah had for him.

“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? 

And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” (II Kings 20:9-10) 

Isaiah said that God had given Hezekiah a choice, whether the shadow on the sundial would suddenly advance about forty minutes, or would jump backward by about forty minutes.  Since the sun always moves in the same direction. Hezekiah thought it would be more noticeable if it went the opposite diection.

“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 20:11)

When Isaiah prayed, God caused the shadow on the sundial Hezekiah’s father had constructed to go backward forty minutes, a significant chande which cannot be explained by natural causes.  Some historians have claimed that the event is also recorded in Egyptian records, but I have not verified their claim.

“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.” (II Chronicles 32:25)

Like many other people have done, after seeing the Assyrian army withdrawn and being healed of potentially fatal disease, Hezekiah became proud and forgot to give God the praise and glory he deserved, bringing himself and the nation into judgment by God.  Basically he treated what had happened as something God owed him because of his pride.  II Corinthians 10:17 commands, “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Protects Jerusalem

II Kings 19:20-37a, II Chronicles 32:21-23

“Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.” (II Kings 19:20) 

Forced to turn his attention to stopping the invading Ethiopian army, Sennacherib had to break off his attempt to conquer Judah.  In an effort to maintain psychological pressure, he sent a message to Hezekiah warning him that he’d be back as soon as he’d whipped the Ethiopians.  Troubled by his comments, Hezekiah had prayed about it.  God told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah he had heard his prayer against Sennacherib.

“This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. 

Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.  By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.  I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.” (II Kings 19:21-24) 

Sennacherib had approached Judah like some gang leader who has decided to take a girl for himself.   He thinks she ought to want him just for his power, but if she doesn’t, she will submit because she is afraid not to.   After all, he’s made a point that her boyfriend can’t do anything to save her and will hurt if she resists, and he’s always got his way before.  The only real difference between most gang wars and wars between countries is the size of the gangs involved.

“Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.  Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the house tops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.” (II Kings 19:25-26) 

In his pride, Sennacherib has ignored who God is and that he created the world.  He had enabled Assyria to conquer Israel and the other countries because they would not do what was right and God had taken away their strength.  Assyria’s success wasn’t the result of their superiority, in spite of what they thought.

“But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.  Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.” (II Kings 19:27-28)

God knows who they are and where they live, and exactly what it will take to get them where he wants them.  Because of their blasphemy and hatred, he’s going to do things tha will make them go bacto where they came from.

“And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof. 

And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.  For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.” (II Kings 19:29-31)

Assyria had prevented their planting and caring for their crops, and they had eaten their stored grain.  As a sign, God would cause enough to grow wild, to feed them throughout the remainder of that year.  The following year enough would come up voluntarily to feed them and give seed for the third year.  They would not have to stay in the cities for protection while Assyria fought the Ethiopians, but could resume their normal lives.

“Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.  By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.  For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.” (II Kings 19:32-34) 

God himself would defend Jerusalem, and the Assyrian army would never attack.  They wouldn’t build any fortifications, or shoot an arrow over the wall.  God was going to do things to force Sennacherib to return to Nineveh to his capitol.

"And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (II Kings 19:35)

“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.” (II Chronicles 32:21a) 

That same night, a hundred eighty five thousand of the officers and elite Assyrian troops died of unknown causes.  With his best troops and officers gone and no explanation of their death, Sennacherib was forced to break off his engagement with the Ethiopians.

“So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.” (II Kings 19:36) 

“…So he returned with shame of face to his own land…” (II Chronicles 32:21b)

Think what an embarrassment it must have been for greatest army in the world to have to break off their fight with the Ethiopians in their own territory and withdraw to Nineveh, near present day Mosul in Iraq to rebuild their army.

“And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” (II Kings 19:37a)

Sennacherib had boasted that God could not save Judah from him and his gods.  His own god, Nisroch was unable to save his life from God.  As Isaiah had prophesied, he was murdered by his own children in the city where he should have been the safest.  The sons that murdered him escaped northward into Armenia and his son Esarhaddon took the throne.

“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 Chronicles 32:22-23)

This left Judah as the only country in the region which had not been conquered by Assyria.  Hezekiah was highly respected and his friendship sought as an alternative to Assyrian domination.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hezekiah’s Reaction To The Propaganda

II Kings 18:37-19:19, II Chronicles 32:20

“Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.

And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.  And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 

And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.  It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.  So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.” (II Kings 18:37-19:5)

Rabshakeh’s threats were very disheartening, especially since he had the most powerful army in the world to enforce them.  His contempt for God was troubling, even to Hezekiah and his representatives. If they felt there was no hope the people might not try very hard and if they became discouraged enough, they might well turn on Hezekiah in an effort to save themselves, which was exactly what Sennacherib was hoping for.

Knowing he couldn’t solve the problem himself, Hezekiah sent to Isaiah to find out what God would want him to do.  He was hoping God would resent the implication that even he wasn’t strong enough to stop the Assyrians, and asked Isaiah to pray about it.

“And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.” (II Chronicles 32:20) 

“And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” (II Kings 19:6-7) 

When they prayed about it, God told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that God had heard the blasphemy and that the had nothing to worry about.  God would cause something to happen that would force him to return to Assyria where he would be killed.

“So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.” (II Kings 19:8)

When Rabshakeh rejoined Sennacherib after spreading his propaganda, he found that the Assyrian army had given up on conquering Lachish and was attacking the Philistine city of Libnah instead.   At the time, Assyria had conquered most of the Mideast, including northern Arabia.  And was encroaching on Egyptian territory.  At the same time, Ethiopia was trying to extend their empire, and prevent Assyria from invading them.

“And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is come out to fight against thee: he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 

Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?  Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar?  Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?” (II Kings 19:9-13)

Hearing that a huge Ethiopian army was coming to fight him, Sennacherib was forced to postpone his conquest of Judah.  He sent a message to Hezekiah advising him no to listen to god, because it would be just a temporary respite.  None of the other countries’ gods had been able to protect them and those countries governments no longer existed because the Assyrians totally destroyed them, even repopulating the cities.

“And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 

And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.  LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. 

Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. 

Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.” (II Kings 19:14-19) 

When Hezekiah read the message, he laid it all out before the Lord, and acknowledged that the Assyrians had been able to destroy those other gods and their land because they were not really gods at all, but things people had made.  God, on the otherhand is the creator of the world, and made the men who made those other gods.  He prayed that Judah could be delivered out of Sennacherib’s hand, not for their own sake, but that the world could know that God was the only real god.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rabshakeh’s Propaganda Campaign

II Kings 18:17-19  II Chronicles 32:9 -36

“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?” (II Chronicles 32:9-10)

“And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.” (II Kings 18:17)

Sennacherib wasn’t satisfied with a treaty with Judah, he wanted to control them.  Knowing that Jerusalem was heavily fortified, he sent a force to Jerusalem to spread propaganda and discourage the inhabitants while he attacked Lachish, a smaller and less well defended city.  Doing so ensured that Hezekiah would not dare to come to protect Lachish, while defeating it would leave Hezekiah with less support.

“And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder. 

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?  Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words), I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?  Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.” (II Kings 18:18-21)

Meeting Hezekiah’s representatives under a flag of truce, Senacherib’s envoys asked how he thought he could defeat the strongest nation in the world.  If they were depending on Egypt to come to the rescue, they would find out that Egypt would turn on them and seize the country for themselves.

“But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem? “ (II Kings 18:22)

“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?” (II Chronicles 32:11-12) 

On the other hand, if they were trusting in God to deliver tham, they needed to realize Hezekiah had destroyed most of their idols and places of worship so surely God wouldn’t help them.  Like many groups today, the Assyrians thought all the various religions were worshipping the same God, just in different ways.  They had no clue that God had ordered those altars be destroyed.

“Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.  How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?  Am I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.” (II Kings 18:23-25)

To emphasize his superior power, Sennacherib offered to donate two thousand war horses to the army if they could find enough cavalrymen to ride them.  If they couldn’t even do that, what made them think they could defeat even one of Sennacherib’s smallest regiments, much less his entire army?

Not only that, but they claimed their victory over Israel proved they were not going against God, but that God had sent them to destroy Judah.

“Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall. 

But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?” (II Kings 18:26-27)

Hezekiah’s representatives tried to convince Sennacherib’s spokesperson to speak in the Syrian language so the people would not know what was going on.  Rabshakeh declared that his goal was to let the common people know what they faced and the danger they wer in.

“Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 

Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The LORD will deliver us.” (II Kings 18:28-32)

Rabshakeh warned them that there was no way Hezekiah had a strong enough army to defeat Sannacherib’s, and to fight meant they would surley be defeated and die.  If they would surrender, they would be allowed to live peacefully in their homes until they were relocated.

“Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?  Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?  Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?” (II Kings 18:33-35)

“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.” (II Chronicles 32:13-16) 

Rabshakeh warned them that that none of the gods of the other countries had saved them from being conquered by the Assyrians, and that they would b foolish to believe Hezekiah when he said God would deliver them.  After all, god was not any different than those other gods.  Other Assyrians went around the city taunting them with similar warnings, further blaspheming both God and Hezekiah.

“But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not.” (II Kings 18:36) 

Hezekiah had instructed the people not to respond to even the most insulting taunts, and they obeyed him.

“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. “ (II Chronicles 32:17-19)

In his efforts to discourage the people, Rabshakeh had his propaganda broadcast every way he could.  In addition he had pamphlets tossed over the wall for the people to read in an all out propaganda blitz.  It was one of the most concentrated political advertising campaigns that had ever been attempted.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Growing Assyrian Threat

II Kings 18:7-16 , II Chronicles 32:1-8

“And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.  He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.” (II Kings 18:7-8)

During Joshua’s time, Judah had failed to completely drive out the Philistines, and eight hundred years later they were still making periodic raids.  The Assyrian Empire was nearing it’s peak, almost completely surrounding Judah and Israel.  Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz had encouraged the Assyrians to attack Syria and as a result Judah ended up paying tribute to Assyria to keep them from invading.

God blessed Hezekiah for his efforts to serve God, and Hezekiah began to deal with some of the difficulties Judah had gone through, ending the Philistine raids and refusing to keep paying the Assyrians for their “protection”.  The Assyrian king was not pleased at the loss of revenue.

“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. 

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.” (II Chronicles 32:1-3)

Unlike most political leaders, Hezekiah regularly consulted with the people about what they should do.  Because the people believed they had a part in what was going to be done, the people got behind Hezekiah to fight the Assyrians, just as they had done in turning back to God.  His demonstration of concern for their opinion convinced them that he could be trusted to consider the effects of his decisions on their lives.  Literally, he had their backs.  Leaders who don’t do so frequently embark on projects the people are ambivalent about or opposed to, destroying their trust.

“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 32:4-8) 

The people stopped up the springs and wells and diverted the streams to prevent Assyrian access to water, forcing them to search for water instead of concentrating on winning.  He rebuilt the outer walls of Milo, the old military fort, as well as damaged sections of the city wall and built additional fortifications.   He also took into account the concerns they might have facing the most powerful army in the world, reminding them that God had more power than the Assyrian army had and encouraging them to trust him.   Because they trusted him to do the best possible for them, they were willing to trust him about God’s power.

“And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.  And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 

And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.” (II Kings 18:9-12)

Judah only had a non-aggression treaty with Assyria and was not Assyrian territory.  Israel had been conquered  by the Assyrians and was Assyrian territory.  While they didn’t like it when Hezekiah refused to maintain the treaty, it was just an irritation.  When Hoshea hired the Egyptians to throw them out it was a major revolt, and they couldn’t ignore it.  The fourth year after Hezekiah became king, the Assyrians captured Hoshea and for almost three years were totally involved in trying to take control of Israel.  Relocating the Jews and resettling the land took about eight more years.

Once again we are reminded that the Assyrian victory over Israel was a result of their refusal to obey God’s commands.

“Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. 

And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. 

And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.” (II Kings 18:13-14)

With the problem with Israel resolved, and the army already there, Sennacherib could focus on conquering Judah.  He attacked and conquered most of the major cities of Judah.  Hezekiah asked to renew their non aggression treaty, offering to pay whatever amount they demanded.  Three hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold was the figure they were given, but it was more than The treasury department had available.

“And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house.  At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.” (II Kings 18:15-16) 

Having seen what happened to Israel, Hezekiah tried to appease the Assyrians, donating the royal wealth, and raiding the temple for the rest, cutting off the gold coverings of the doors and pillars and undoing much of  the repairs they had made.   Since the Assyrians wanted the land, the money would not satisfy them.  Efforts to appease people almost always fail for the same reason.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The People Accept Responsibility

II Chronicles 31:1-21

“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.” (II Chronicles 31:1)

Before they had celebrated the Passover, the people of Judah had gone through Jerusalem destroying the idols and places of nature worship.  After the celebration and the extra week, they went out to destroy the idols and other places of worship throughout the rest of Judah.  The people who had come from Israel joined in and before they finished, they destroyed the nature worship and many of the altars to idolatry in Israel as well, although they were unable to eradicate the established religion Jeroboam started.

"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.  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.” (II Chronicles 31:2-4)

Hezekiah reestablished the old divisions of priestly duties, designating each one according to their families as God had directed in Exodus.  Since only a few of the Levites lived in Judah, he ordered that the daily sacrifices be taken from his personal account rather than the Levites providing it from their own herds as God had directed..  In addition, he directed the people of Jerusalem to provide a portion for the priests so they could devote their energy to their service of God rather than spending their time trying to earn a living.

“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. 

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.” (II Chronicles 31:5-7) 

Over the years, I have observed or been involved with a great many church startups on the reservation.  Time after time missionaries and pastors have insisted the church could not support a pastor.  While they usually grow faster at first, because they have the money, inevitably the church becomes dependent on outside support and many are still depending on it fifty years later, often collapsing when the missionary leaves, unable to pay their bills Time after time the missionary complains he just can’t get his people to give.

Churches which take the responsibility for supporting their pastor, on the other hand seem proud to be able to do so, and rarely run short of money.  They quickly develop a sense of responsibility toward the church, becoming more faithful as well.

When Hezekiah asked the people to take responsibility for supporting the temple and priests, they responded willingly.  Not only did they give more than was expected, but people volunteered who hadn’t been asked.  Not only the people of Jerusalem but those from other cities and the outlying villages gave.  They didn’t have enough warehouses to store it all and ended up just making heaps outdoors.

“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.” (II Chronicles 31:8-10)

Hezekiah was astounded by the amount the people had given and Thanked the Lord for it all, but questioned the priests to be sure it had been given voluntarily and not through some kind of scam or coercion.

 “Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them, And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next. 

And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.  And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of the LORD, and the most holy things. 

And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the great as to the small: Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his daily portion for their service in their charges according to their courses; Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges by their courses; And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their set office they sanctified themselves in holiness: Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.” (II Chronicles 31:11-19)

Because the people gave so willingly, Hezekiah had new warehouses built in various locations and Assigned a group of Levites to oversee the care of what was given so it wouldn’t just go to waste sitting in the piles.  Care was taken to ensure that every priest and Levite was adequately compensated for their service.

“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.” (II Chronicles 31:20-21)

Hezekiah did his best to do what was right, and as a result he was more successful than any other king in turning Judah back to God as well as having an impact on a lot of people in Israel.  It was his total commitment to god himself that enabled him to lead his people to commit fully.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Judah Celebrates Passover

II Chronicles 30:1-27

“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.  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.” (II Chronicles 30:1-5)

Hezekiah had just led Judah in a massive turning back to God, a revival if you will.  After consulting with his leaders and getting the people’s approval, he invited all of Judah and Israel to come and keep the Passover at Jerusalem.   Because the temple and the priests had not been ready, they had not held the Passover on the first month as God commanded, so they decided to hold it a month later, since the Law specified that those who were unable to take it at the proper time could take it the following month.

Because the temple had been closed up by Ahaz the people had not expected to celebrate the Passover as Judah had not celebrated it for at least sixteen years.   Israel had not celebrated the Passover as prescribed in the Law since Jeroboam I separated from Judah, more than a hundred sixty years before.

This was about six years before the Assyrians arrested Hoshea and attacked Israel.  By this time the Syrians had taken all the land belonging to Israel except what had originally belonged to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, part of the tribe of Dan, and a few outlying areas of other tribes.  The Syrians had in turn been conquered by the Assyrians, so only that small region was not yet under Assyrian control.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:6-9)

In his letters to Israel, Hezekiah reminded them that they were surrounded on three sides by the Assyrians and were paying tribute to keep Assyria from taking over.  He reminded them of God’s promise to deliver them if they would serve him and begged them to make things right with God.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:10-12)

The vast majority of Israel just laughed at the idea that turning to God could save their country, much like the attitude so prevalent in the united States today.  A few, mostly from the outlying areas, were more aware of the threat and took Hezekiah’s advice seriously, going to Jerusalem to worship God.  It would be one of the last warnings for Israel to turn back to God.  About nine years later Israel was relocated and ceased to exist as a nation.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:13-14)

God produced a unity of spirit in those who went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  Other kings had struggled to ban idolatry and nature worship.  Hezekiah focused on the people getting right with God, and the people destroyed those things themselves.   Laws or coercion are never as effective in changing people’s behavior as a changed attitude.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:15-18a )

Seeing the number of people who came to celebrate the Passover and their sincerety, many of the priests and Levites got under conviction and got right with God.  Many of the people, especially those from Israel, had never celebrated the Passover and had no idea they needed to get right before participating.  Like most visitors to a communion service today, they partook with no understanding that they were making a mockery of what it represented by not being prepared.

"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.” (II Chronicles 30:18b-19)

Recognizing the sin was unintentional, Hezekiah prayed for God to forgive everyone who was sincere in trying to please God even though their actions were wrong.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:20-21) 

I John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Hezekiah acknowledged that they had sinned and God honored his request to forgive the sin, not causing them to experience the plagues he had promised for disobedience.  It was a very emotional time for all.

“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.” (II Chronicles 30:22-27)

The people were so excited they decided to stay an extra week beyond the seven days of unleavened bread.  Hezekiah and the other leaders personally donated food and sacrifices to enable them to do so.  It was the first time since Solomon’s dedication of the temple there had been such a complete turning to God.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Revival In Judah

II Kings 18:5-6

“He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.  For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.” (II Kings 18:5-6)

Hezekiah was the best king Judah ever had,  He was the only one who consistently followed God’s commands throughout his entire reign.  One of his very first actions as king was to reopen the temple and rededicate the priests and Levites that had been disenfranchised under his father.  Less than a month after he took office, they were ready to resume the daily sacrifices and offerings they had agreed to offer in Moses’ day.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:20-24)

The temple and the priests had already been dedicated as God had commanded Moses.  Now Hezekiah got the leaders together to offer an offering for the sin of the rulers and of the people that had not been dealt with during Ahaz’ reign.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:25-27) 

Because it affects our emotions so directly, music tends to focus our attention to degree almost nothing else does.  In Numbers 10:10, God had directed Moses, “Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.”  The sound of the trumpets would focus their attention on the offerings and sacrifices so the people would remember them.

Later David had established a much larger variety of musical instruments for the same purpose.  To keep the congregation focused, Hezekiah had the orchestra and choir sing and play while the sacrifices for atonement were made.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:28-29)

The word translated worshipped here means to prostrate oneself, to show humility and reverence or extreme respect.  With their mind and heart focused on being forgiven for their sins, the congregation bowed do, acknowledging their sin and God’s righteousness.  The leaders could not bow down until they had finished their part in identifying the sacrifices as being for themselves and the people.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:30) 

With an attitude of humility and reverence, the people were ready to celebrate what God had done for them, thanking him for it in psalms or songs of praise such as David and Asaph had written.  This in turn led to increased joy and further bowing in worship.

“Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the LORD.” (II Chronicles 29:31a) 

With their sins forgiven and a proper attitude toward God, recognizing what he had done for them, the people were finally in a state to serve God with their offerings and demonstrations of love.

“And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings.  And the number of the burnt offerings, which the congregation brought, was threescore and ten bullocks, an hundred rams, and two hundred lambs: all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD.  And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep.” (II Chronicles 29:31b-33)

With their hearts and minds focused on God and what he had done for them, the people voluntarily gave abundantly.

“But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.  And also the burnt offerings were in abundance, with the fat of the peace offerings, and the drink offerings for every burnt offering. So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order.” (II Chronicles 29:34-35)

Discouraged by apathy and government opposition under Ahaz, many of the priests had left the ministry.  As a result there were not enough priests available to deal with all the people, and the Levites were pressed into service to assist, because they were more apt to be walking with God than the priests.  Sadly, I think the same thing is often true in churches today.

“And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.” (II Chronicles 29:36)

There had been no long period of planning for a revival.  It had all taken place within about three weeks of the time Hezekiah became king.  The results were not the result of Hezekiah’s planning but of the power of God.  We are left to wonder how often human planning prevents seeing the power of God.

It is interesting to note that the first step in seeing this revival was getting the priests and Levites right with God.  Most revivals fail because they start with reaching the lost, rather than with getting the church leaders right with God.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hezekiah Reopens The Temple

II Kings 18:1-4

“Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.  Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.” (II Kings 18:1-2)

Judah had had only two rulers as bad as Ahaz since Israel had been divided, and that was Ahab’s grandson, Ahaziah, and his mother Athaliah.  Although they had had several Good kings who served God, Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah would be the best they would ever have.  Apparently his mother played a major part in his standards, but ultimately it was Hezekiah's decision..

 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.  He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.” (II Kings 18:3-4)

More than any king since David, Hezekiah sought to serve God.  Where other good kings had overlooked the nature worship and it’s influence, he destroyed their places of worship, cutting down the trees and destroying their idols.

For nine hundred years, they had kept the brazen serpent that Moses had so the people could be healed in Numbers 21.  Originally, they had kept it as a reminder of their sin and God’s protection, but over time, as people so often do, they had begun to worship it.  Hezekiah said it was just a piece of copper and destroyed it.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:3-5)

Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, had boarded up the temple itself and had stopped the old sacrifices, replacing the brazen altar with one to the Syrian gods.  He just used the brazen laver for a sort of backup where he could go to get a second opinion.  The courtyard of the temple became the auditorium for worshipping the Syrian gods.

Less than a month after becoming king, Hezekiah had the temple reopened and started making repairs.  He also regathered the priests and Levites, ordering them to clean out the temple and go through the sanctification processes to make both themselves and the temple acceptable to God again.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:6-9)

Hezekiah reminded the priests and Levites that because of Judah’s sin in Jotham’s and Ahaz’ day, God had caused the deaths of a hundred twenty thousand men and over two hundred thousand of the women and children to be carried off by Israel, besides a large group that was taken by the Syrians.  While the group taken by Israel was later returned, the group taken by the Syrians never had been.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:10-11) 

Hezekiah wanted Judah to rededicate themselves to God, renewing their contract with God to obey him.  He asked the priests and Levites, as God’s chosen people to take the lead in making the commitment,  resuming their duties in offering the sacrifices and teaching the people.  It was similar to what had Joash had done under Jehoiada’s guidance.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:12-17)

The Levites and priests immediately to Hezekiah’s challenge, with the priests cleaning the holy place and the levites cleaning he parts they were allowed to be in.  It took eight days to cleanout all the accumulated debris and carry it out to the trash dump.  Once the cleanup was accomplished, they followed the procedure described in Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8 for dedicating the temple and the priests and Levites, which required eight days.

“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.” (II Chronicles 29:18-19) 

When the Levites had finished cleaning and dedicating the temple, they came to Hezekiah to tell him the job was finished and the temple was ready for use.