Monday, 9 June 2014

(161) June 10: 2 Chronicles 29-31 & John 18:1-23

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider how the traits of the ideal king are seen in Hezekiah.

To ponder:
Between Ahaz and Manasseh, who are both the antithesis of the ideal king, we find Hezekiah as a model of the sort of king God promised, not only doing “right,” but as David did.
            What Ahaz undid in terms of the temple, Hezekiah therefore restored, displaying the concern for the temple necessary if the kingdom was to endure. He opened and repaired the doors, and then commanded the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves and then systematically consecrate the temple. This was because he regarded the temple as defiled by the unfaithfulness of previous generations in not conducting worship there as God required. For this reason, he said God’s anger had fallen on Judah and Jerusalem, causing them to be conquered and led into captivity (28v5-8, 17-18). So Hezekiah declared his commitment to covenant with God so his “fierce anger” would turn away. He therefore encouraged the Levites and they did their work of purifying everything, carrying what was unclean away from the place of God’s holiness. We’re told this was done “according to the word of the LORD” which may refer to previous instructions (1 Chr 28v11-19), the law (Deut 12v2-4), or even some prophetic command.
            Again one considers Jesus cleansing the temple by driving out all that would make it unclean (Jn 2v12-22). However, full cleansing would come only by destroying the temple of stone and building a new one in him, comprised of spiritual stones he had made atonement for by his own death (Eph 2v21-22). We should recognise that all this was a kingly act by Christ, supremely displaying the attitude expected of Israel’s kings. And as those who reign in Christ, there is encouragement for us to cleanse the temple of the church, by reforming its activity according to God’s word.
            Having purified and set out all the articles as was right, Hezekiah immediately (the next morning) ensured worship began. Burnt offerings were made by way of devotion, and sin offerings for Israel’s specific sins. During and after the offerings, songs were sung and the “whole assembly” bowed in worship. This was specified as an act of “dedication,” after which, with the king’s encouragement, the people then “willingly” brought sacrifices, thank and burnt offerings, to express their own devotion. So much was brought that because an insufficient number of priests had consecrated themselves, Levites had to help in the priestly work. So we read the “service of the temple” was “re-established” and the people rejoiced.
            Hezekiah’s holy ambition was not however satisfied. He, his officials and the assembly (ie. all key people in Judah) then decided to celebrate the Passover. And rather than wait another year, they chose to do a month later when sufficient priests were consecrated (Num 9v9-11). Moreover, they invited the key northern tribes and everyone else in both kingdoms to join them. Their letter assumes Israelites had been taken captive by various “kings” of Assyria before the final exile under Shalmaneser (2 Kgs 17). It urges the people to return to God and not be unfaithful as these others were, so that God would return to them and, in compassion, move the captors to let their family members return to the land (as Judah experienced in 28v9-15). Some scorned this, showing how deserved God’s judgement on Israel was. Others humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem, picturing the united kingdom that was destined to occur through Christ and began at Pentecost. The people then removed the items of false worship in and around Jerusalem and celebrated the Passover, with Hezekiah interceding for those who had not been able to purify themselves first as the law required (Num 9v12-13). This shows that although the regulations were necessary to encourage right attitudes and reflect God’s holiness, it was more important was that the worshipper “set his heart on seeking God.” And when he did, there was forgiveness.
            What follows is much joy and praise, an extra seven days of celebration under Hezekiah’s leadership and provision, and the destruction of items of false worship not only in Judah but Ephraim and Manasseh too. Hezekiah then ensured the ongoing work of the temple, with the people giving their tithes so the priests could do their work. There could not be higher praise for Hezekiah that that of 31v20-21. Throughout he is portrayed like a second Solomon. Could he be the one to rule the kingdom forever?

Praying it home:
Praise God that through Christ that he has cleansed us from all our unfaithfulness in worship. Pray for the ongoing reform of all streams of the church, that they would increasingly conform to God’s word.

Thinking further:
None today.
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