Series: Thru the Bible
King Hezekiah – Revelations of God’s heart
Scriptures covered: 2Kings 18:1-8; 2Chron. 29:1-31:1
Last week we ended with the partial deportation of Israel into Assyrian captivity. Though it didn’t appear so on the surface, last week was more a lesson on the longsuffering and tender-loving kindness of God than of judgment. All we have to do is call to mind the long history of Israel’s evil kings and idolatry, for it to become abundantly clear that God desires mercy, in that He waits SO LONG before passing judgment.
Ever since the kingdom of Israel divided following the reign of Solomon, the kings over Israel have been particularly evil, yet it took this long before God passed such a national judgment.
As I told you on Sunday, Isaiah is a contemporary with the events of this time in greater Israel’s history. Let’s read an excerpt from Isaiah which mentions Israel’s deportation by the king of Assyria AND quite possibly mentions the grandfather of this new king in Judah – Hezekiah.
Isaiah 8:1-7, “(1) Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large piece of parchment and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-shalal-hash-baz. (2) I have appointed trustworthy witnesses–Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.”
Just so you know this is NOT Zechariah the prophet – his father was Berechiah and was not to be born for nearly 200 years.
“(3) I was then intimate with the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. The LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, (4) for before the boy knows how to call out father or mother, the wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria will be carried off to the king of Assyria.”
(5) The LORD spoke to me again: (6) Because these people rejected the slowly flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoiced with Rezin and the son of Remaliah, (7) the Lord will certainly bring against them the mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates River–the king of Assyria and all his glory. It will overflow its channels and spill over all its banks.”
So this was a prophecy against greater Israel due to their love and affection for foreign gods.
Judah (and Benjamin) on the other hand has vacillated back and forth between good and evil kings. Tonight we see how God, both in His faithfulness to His promise made to David as well as His mercy towards many of Judah’s good kings, spares Judah from the Assyrian exile. In the coming weeks however, we will see that God’s patience is wearing thin with Judah as well!
Judah’s 13th King – Hezekiah son of Ahaz
“(1) In the third year of Israel’s King Hoshea son of Elah, Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king of Judah.”
“(2) He was 25 years old when he became king; he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi daughter of Zechariah.”
This Abi daughter of Zechariah may be the Zechariah mentioned above in the quote I gave you from Isaiah 8 whom Isaiah had taken into his confidence to mark the time of his foreknowledge of the event of Israel’s exile by the hand of the king of Assyria.
I like the suggestion of the commentator John Gill regarding this…he speculates that it would make sense that this was the same Abi because Hezekiah wound up being a good king despite the evil nature of his father. Gill says she,
“very probably was a very good woman, and took care to give her son a religious education, though he had so wicked a father.”
“(3) He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. (4) He removed the high places and shattered the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles.”
“He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan.” meaning “a thing of brass”.
“(5) Hezekiah trusted in the LORD God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. (6) He held fast to the LORD and did not turn from following Him but kept the commandments the LORD had commanded Moses.”
“(7) The LORD was with him, and wherever he went, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. (8) He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its borders, from watchtower to fortified city.”
“(1) Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king; he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. (2) He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done.”
Hezekiah Cleanses the Temple
“(3) In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the LORD’s temple and repaired them.”
“(4) Then he brought in the priests and Levites and gathered them in the eastern public square. (5) He said to them,
“Hear me, Levites. Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the LORD God of your ancestors. Remove everything detestable from the holy place. (6) For our fathers were unfaithful and did what is evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They abandoned Him, turned their faces away from the LORD’s tabernacle, and turned their backs on Him. (7) They also closed the doors of the vestibule, extinguished the lamps, did not burn incense, and did not offer burnt offerings in the holy place of the God of Israel.
(8) Therefore, the wrath of the LORD was on Judah and Jerusalem, and He made them an object of terror, horror, and hissing, as you see with your own eyes. (9) Our fathers fell by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this.
(10) It is in my heart now to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel so that His fierce wrath may turn away from us.
(11) My sons, don’t be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in His presence, to serve Him, and to be His ministers and burners of incense.”
(12) Then the Levites stood up:
Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah from the Kohathites;
Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel from the Merarites;
Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah from the Gershonites;
(13) Shimri and Jeuel from the Elizaphanites;
Zechariah and Mattaniah from the Asaphites;
(14) Jehiel and Shimei from the Hemanites;
Shemaiah and Uzziel from the Jeduthunites.
(15) They gathered their brothers together, consecrated themselves, and went according to the king’s command by the words of the LORD to cleanse the LORD’s temple.
(16) The priests went to the entrance of the LORD’s temple to cleanse it. They took all the detestable things they found in the LORD’s sanctuary to the courtyard of the LORD’s temple. Then the Levites received them and took them outside to the Kidron Valley.
(17) They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD’s temple.
They consecrated the LORD’s temple for eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.
(18) Then they went inside to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed the whole temple of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the rows of the bread of the Presence and all its utensils. (19) All the utensils that King Ahaz rejected during his reign when he became unfaithful we have set up and consecrated. They are in front of the altar of the LORD.”
Hezekiah Restores Temple Worship
“(20) King Hezekiah got up early, gathered the city officials, and went up to the LORD’s temple.
(21) They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary, and for Judah.
Then he told the descendants of Aaron, the priests, to offer them on the altar of the LORD.
(22) So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. They slaughtered the rams and sprinkled the blood on the altar. They slaughtered the lambs and sprinkled the blood on the altar.
(23) Then they brought the sin offering goats right into the presence of the king and the congregation, who laid their hands on them.
(24) The priests slaughtered the goats and put their blood on the altar for a sin offering, to make atonement for all Israel, for the king said that the burnt offering and sin offering were for all Israel.
(25) Hezekiah stationed the Levites in the LORD’s temple with cymbals, harps, and lyres according to the command of David,
Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet. For the command was from the LORD through His prophets.
(26) The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.
(27) Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. When the burnt offerings began, the song of the LORD and the trumpets began, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel.
(28) The whole assembly was worshiping, singing the song, and blowing the trumpets–all of this continued until the burnt offering was completed.
(29) When the burnt offerings were completed, the king and all those present with him bowed down and worshiped.
(30) Then King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to sing praise to the LORD in the words of David and of Asaph the seer.
So they sang praises with rejoicing and bowed down and worshiped.
(31) Hezekiah concluded,
“Now you are consecrated to the LORD. Come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the LORD’s temple.”
So the congregation brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those with willing hearts brought burnt offerings.
(32) The number of burnt offerings the congregation brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD.
(33) Six hundred bulls and 3,000 sheep were consecrated. (34) However, since there were not enough priests, they weren’t able to skin all the burnt offerings, so their Levite brothers helped them until the work was finished and until the priests consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests were.”
Again we see Israel as being more in step with God and His heart than with absolute rigidity in understanding His law.
Like Jesus, Who understood that helping a neighbor on the Sabbath, though it even be as arduous and work intensive an act as helping extract an ox from a ditch – is no breach of the Sabbath for a brother has been benefited and love covers a multitude of wrongs.
Here, the Levites who were not appointed nor anointed to this work, aided their brothers and were not in sin for having done so.
These Israelites were so responsive to the invitation and opportunity to sacrifice to God and worship Him that the priests were completely overwhelmed and unable to complete the task alone. The Levites were given to the Priests as helpers – and so, who better to aid the priests in this task?
Num. 8:19, “(19) From the Israelites, I have given the Levites exclusively to Aaron and his sons to perform the work for the Israelites at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on their behalf, so that no plague will come against the Israelites when they approach the sanctuary.”
As is often and unfortunately the case – those not called into office, sometimes show more piety than those that are!
Here it is said that the Levites “were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests”. Perhaps this was because they knew that no amount of external washings or apparel would fit them for a task to which they were not called, so they were all the more diligent to show humble respect for God’s prescribed laws of purity and consecration knowing no amount of washings would make them what they were not – priests.
Those who were priests relied as much upon their calling and appointment as they did the ritualistic cleansings. This is both good and bad. It is good to be confident in the thing to which God has called and appointed you. However, we need to be careful to remember that it is a mercy and a privilege that we be permitted and called upon to serve and so we must be mindful to do so with the greatest humility.
“(35) Furthermore, the burnt offerings were abundant, along with the fat of the fellowship offerings and with the drink offerings for the burnt offering. So the service of the LORD’s temple was established.
(36) Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over how God had prepared the people, for it had come about suddenly.”
This reminds me of the days in which we are living. Whether we are immediately close to the Lord’s return or not is uncertain. However, I have seen and heard a LOT of believers becoming more mindful of the Lord, of His return and an inward stirring towards greater dedication to His Lordship.
Here in these passages we are seeing Judah responding to an invitation to rededicate themselves to God. These had also just recently seen the cost Israel paid for disloyalty and idolatry and were presumably all the more eager to reaffirm their dedication to the Lord.
History repeats itself and so I am reminded of the inspired speculations of Paul along these lines in Romans. He concluded that “legalist and outwardly religious Israel” missed her Messiah and so became vessels of God’s wrath, which opened the door for the Gentiles and all Jews who would surrender to Messiah Jesus in faith and that in so doing God would do a quick work – much like the sudden change than came over the Israelites of Judah under their new King Hezekiah.
Rom. 9:22-33 says,
“(22) And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? (23) And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory– (24) on us whom He also called, NOT ONLY from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
(25) As He also says in Hosea: I will call “Not-My-People,” “My-People,” and she who is “Unloved,” “Beloved.” (26) And it will be in the place where they were told, you are not My people, there they will be called sons of the living God.
(27) But Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: Though the number of Israel’s sons is like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved; (28) FOR HE WILL FINISH THE WORK AND CUT IT SHORT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, BECAUSE THE LORD WILL MAKE A SHORT WORK UPON THE EARTH.” (29) And just as Isaiah predicted:
If the Lord of Hosts had not left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.
(30) What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness –namely the righteousness that comes from faith.
(31) But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the law.
(32) Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.
They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
(33) As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over, and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
God is ABLE to do His work quickly or suddenly – turning all the hearts of His people who are willing to respond to His inner promptings. He said He would do a quick work and cut in short in righteousness – so we see this both in here with Judah and I believe we are seeing the same today in His work within the church.
Hezekiah restores Passover and it is Celebrated
“(1) Then Hezekiah sent word throughout all Israel and Judah, and he also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh to come to the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem to observe the Passover of the LORD God of Israel. (2) For the king and his officials and the entire congregation in Jerusalem decided to observe the Passover of the LORD in the second month (3) because they were not able to observe it at the appropriate time, since not enough of the priests had consecrated themselves and the people hadn’t been gathered together in Jerusalem.”
This is NOT without precedence. You may remember back when we were in Numbers 7, that some men were not able to participate in Passover because they had been in contact with the dead and were therefore unclean during that time. So a provision was made to accommodate them.
Num. 9:6-13, “(6) Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. (7) And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?”
(8) And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.”
(9) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, (10) “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover.
(11) On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (12) They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.
(13) But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.”
“(4) The proposal pleased the king and the congregation, (5) so they affirmed the proposal and spread the message throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, to come to observe the Passover of the LORD God of Israel in Jerusalem, for they hadn’t observed it often, as prescribed. (6) So the couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the hand of the king and his officials, and according to the king’s command, saying,
“Israelites, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel so that He may return to those of you who remain, who have escaped from the grasp of the kings of Assyria. (7) Don’t be like your fathers and your brothers who were unfaithful to the LORD God of their ancestors so that He made them an object of horror as you yourselves see. (8) Don’t become obstinate now like your fathers did. Give your allegiance to the LORD, and come to His sanctuary that He has consecrated forever. Serve the LORD your God so that He may turn His fierce wrath away from you, (9) for when you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful; He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”
If you remember on Sunday I read from Isaiah 64 and pointed out how Israel’s way of seeing things is different than we often see things. Israel believed in and expected in the mercy of God – an attribute God loves (Psalm 147:11). Like Isaiah also says in Isaiah 55:6-7,
“(6) Seek the LORD while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. (7) Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive.” I like the New King James version of this last verse which says, “for He will abundantly pardon.”
“(10) The couriers traveled from city to city in the land of Ephraim and Manasseh as far as Zebulun, but the inhabitants laughed at them and mocked them. (11) But some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.
(12) Also, the hand of God was in Judah to give them one heart to carry out the command of the king and his officials by the word of the LORD.”
Just another beautiful verse demonstrating God’s willingness to involve Himself in the complicity of our hearts obeying His words and submitting to His delegated leadership!
“(13) A very large assembly of people was gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread in the second month.
(14) They proceeded to take away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley. (15) They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month.” [Num. 9:11]
Godly rulers intercede for those in their service and care
The priests and Levites were ashamed, and they consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the LORD’s temple. (16) They stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites, (17) for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to the LORD.
(18) For a large number of the people–many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun–were unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written.
But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying,
“May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of (19) whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, the LORD God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.”
WOW! Look at the heart, belief and understanding of this king!
Again – SO MUCH like David and Jesus Who knew and trusted in the heart behind the laws rather than the rigid observance of them without heart devotion!
As Samuel the prophet observed –
Obedience from the heart is better than sacrifice and to hearken with all of the heart than to offer the fat of rams. – 1Sam. 15:22
Or David who said,
Psalm 51:16-17, “(16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”
Psalm 40:6-8, “(6) Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. (7) Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. (8) I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”
Of course all of this is NOT saying God did not actually require sacrifices, but that they were simply the outward necessities which accompanied an inward surrender and humility before God. A desire, even though not lived with perfection, to serve God and obey Him from the heart! THIS is what God has ALWAYS desired – which again speaks to intimacy and relationship rather than rigid and legalistic – external works.
“(20) So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
“(21) The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments!”
Godly rulers encourage the downcast
“(22) Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate the appointed feast for seven days, sacrificing fellowship offerings and giving thanks to the LORD God of their ancestors.”
When it’s a matter of heart – laws are not required!
“(23) The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy, (24) for Hezekiah king of Judah contributed 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for the congregation.
Also, the officials contributed 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep for the congregation, and many priests consecrated themselves.
(25) Then the whole assembly of Judah with the priests and Levites, the whole assembly that came from Israel, the foreigners who came from the land of Israel, and those who were living in Judah, rejoiced.
(26) Such rejoicing had not been seen in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon son of David, the king of Israel.
(27) Then the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard their voice, and their prayer came into His holy dwelling place in heaven.”
These priests started off with a certain amount of diligence and zeal, but they were outdone by their brothers, the Levites. However, they had good hearts which responded to the example set before them by their brothers AND those of Israel. They entered in more diligently and God acknowledged their change of heart and heard their words!
All of us, fail to realize with full awareness and sight what a privilege it is to be heard by God! We may grasp it as significant and humbling – but I don’t think we will be able to truly and fully appreciate it until the day we behold Him. Then our hearts will know how deeply we are loved that such a magnificent and holy God would allow and even invite our words into His presence and heart!
Israel’s actions confirm their heart conversion
The true value of something is not only measured by what one is willing to pay for it, but sometimes and more importantly by what someone refuses to refrain from paying.
Let me explain…
Things of external but high value, one will attempt to obtain at the lowest cost possible to increase their realized value. However, when the object of value has an emotional and/or relational component to it – there are times when even if it is offered for a lower price, the value one places upon it will not allow them to pay anything less than its genuinely held, personal value.
Time and again this is observed in people.
The Beatle’s put out an album in 1968 called the “white album”. The first million or so all had factory production numbers printed on the outside of the jacket. These have since become very valuable.
I have heard of people being able to pick them up however, for pennies – the seller not realizing it’s value due to its rarity. But…what if someone were to have an emotional tie to that album – like having known one of the members of the band – or having loved the one who owned the album having paid a great price for it themselves – that person’s heart may not allow them to pay the asking price of 25¢ but may very well be moved – even required by their own heart – to pay whatever advanced price is in their ability to pay out of deference to what it means to them!
So is the proofs of true religion (which means worship).
Abraham knew and understood this as did David. Abraham refused a sizable sum offered to him by the King of Sodom out of deference to God. David refused to allow Araunah to give him his threshing floor in order to have a place to build an altar to God, saying, “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” [Gen. 14:23 & 2Sam. 24:24]
These Israelites we are reading about here, were so moved to heart devotion before the Lord that they found themselves further moved to destroy anything that remained of their former lives of faithlessness towards God. The things they once loved, they now found themselves hating! Salvation had truly come to Israel!
2Chron. 31:1-21, “(1) When all this was completed, all Israel who had attended went out to the cities of Judah and broke up the sacred pillars, chopped down the Asherah poles, and tore down the high places and altars throughout Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, to the last one. Then all the Israelites returned to their cities, each to his own possession.”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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