John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The extent of Hezekiah’s confession is instructive. He does not skate over offences. As he seeks forgiveness so he is open and frank about the extent of the problem. He states clearly:
- ‘our fathers have trespassed’
- ‘done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord’
- ‘have forsaken him’
- ‘have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord’
- ‘they have shut up the doors of the porch’
- ‘put out the lamps’
- ‘have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings’
The list is comprehensive. It is important that confession should contain detail - sins of commission as well as sins of omission. After all, we are confessing that sin to the One who knows it all.
When a fellow saint is growing cold in heart and his love for the Lord is waning, we might first notice the lack of contribution. Over a period of time it is only his absence from the gospel meeting and, finally, spasmodic attendance at the breaking of bread that makes us begin to suspect that something is wrong. Hezekiah starts where God starts. When the heart is wrong the whole of the life of the believer is wrong and the signs of the problem will be manifest.
Later we see Hezekiah implementing the remedy for the problem. In 2 Chronicles 29. 23, 24, ‘And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them’. The king identifies himself with the sin of the previous generation. That generation did not seek forgiveness and they did not offer the necessary sacrifices, but he will put right what has not been done. Hezekiah takes ownership of the problem and the responsibility for putting it right.
The lesson we can learn here is of the importance to confess sin honestly and in detail. It is vital that sin is dealt with properly so that true fellowship with God can be restored and worship follow.
In 2 Chronicles 29. 10 we read, ‘it is in mine heart’. Here we see the heart of Hezekiah revealed and the central place that God occupies in his affections. So he says, ‘It is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God’. Having seen the actions of the man it is no surprise to know what was in his heart. But it’s very important to establish that link for where our affections lie will dictate the extent of our involvement in and commitment to the things of the Lord.
We also appreciate the expanse of Hezekiah’s heart, ‘It is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel’, v. 10. He was king of Judah and Benjamin. His immediate responsibility was to those who owned his kingship and right to rule, but here was a man who had a heart much broader than the confines of his own kingdom. If we read Old Testament chronology correctly, Israel as a nation was in the last six years of its existence, for ‘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’, 2 Kgs. 18. 9, 10. It had been an idolatrous nation for many years but Hezekiah’s heart went out to them almost as if he knew the judgement that was soon to come upon them.
How significant a lesson is here! As we see the day of God’s judgement upon this world approaching should we not be concerned? Should we not have a heart for the lost? If assembly testimony is declining one reason certainly is that we have lost our heart for the lost and our zeal in gospel outreach.
As well as Hezekiah’s love for the lost we can see his affection for the people of God in verse 11, ‘My sons, be not now negligent’. Mark how he handled the priests and the Levites in order to accomplish what was in his heart. He speaks to them as brethren, but even more than that, he calls them sons, the title of close relationship and affection. What tenderness! He nonetheless reminds them of their divinely-given responsibility, ‘the Lord hath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him’. Hezekiah is not asking simply for the Levites to obey the royal command, he is asking for them to fulfil their roles as appointed to the service of God. No saint can ignore the call of God! What wisdom we see in this approach.
Once the Levites’ report comes back to Hezekiah and he knows that the work of cleansing is complete, Hezekiah is quick to reinstate the sacrifices: ‘Then Hezekiah the king rose early’, 2 Chron. 29. 20.
The sequence of events needs to be right. It is the work of the Levites to cleanse the temple and to sanctify it for worship. The king might command it but those prepared of God must carry out the work. Once this is fulfilled Hezekiah moves early and swiftly to become involved in that which is appropriate for his own position. He will take the lead in regard to the sacrifices for he is acting on behalf of the people.
It is clear that Hezekiah appreciates that God is a God of order, and he is sensitive to maintain that order. In our rejection of a ‘one-man’ led ministry it is important not to swing to the other extreme of an ‘anyman’ ministry. God has equipped the people of God to fulfil different roles within His assembly and we do well to maintain that order and allow gift to be exercised properly. This was the truth that Paul was concerned about in respect of the chaos at Corinth, and required that ‘all things be done decently and in order’, 1 Cor. 14. 40.
We should notice that seven of each sacrificial victim were brought: seven bullocks, seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he-goats. All of this was to symbolize the nation’s sacrifice. It was, for ‘a sin offering for the kingdom’; ‘and for the sanctuary’; ‘and for Judah’, v. 21.
We see here something of Hezekiah’s appreciation of what God required. The sacrifices were for the king and the kingdom, for the priests and the Levites, the temple and its courts and finally for the nation and the part it had played in the apostasy. The magnitude of the sacrifice had not been seen since David brought God’s ark up to Jerusalem. Even on that occasion David offered only seven bullocks and seven rams. Here is further proof of Hezekiah’s heartfelt desire to return the nation to the days of ‘David the king’. Here it is that we see that desire worked out in practice.
There is, in the extent of the sacrifices that Hezekiah established, an indication of his appreciation of the character of God and a desire to make full atonement for the sins of his father’s reign. This was not the time for half-measures. It is essential, in practice as well as in principle, always to set the standard of holiness that God requires before us. In this we cannot afford to compromise.
To be continued