John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
If revival starts by a desire to return to the simplicity of first principles, it is important for that desire to be matched by zeal. Zeal characterized this man for we read, ‘In the first year of his reign, in the first month’, 2 Chr. 29. 3, and later ‘now they began on the first day of the first month’, 2 Chr. 29. 17. If you are going to do something for God then give it the ‘first’ priority; then He knows you mean business.
He began at the temple itself, sadly neglected and defiled. Is there not a principle here? Revival always starts at the house of God. If we want to see God at work in blessing amongst His people where should we start? The answer here is the house of God. Hezekiah sought to establish something for God first before ever he could move out in blessing to others.
Luke’s Gospel records the only incident in the life of the Lord prior to His public ministry. On this occasion we find him, ‘in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions’, Luke 2. 46. The beginning of miracles is recorded in John’s Gospel and immediately following that the Lord drives the money changers out of the temple. John records, ‘And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up’, John 2. 17. This is where the Lord started. It was these same words of the psalmist David that could have been used to describe the desire of Hezekiah.
He began by opening the doors of the house of the Lord, 2 Chr. 29.3. It was his father Ahaz that had shut up these doors. It was the shutting of the doors that signified that the king had turned his back upon the God of the sanctuary. Yet, as the first temple was built and established, it was Solomon that prayed, ‘that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there, that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place’, 1 Kgs. 8. 29. To open the doors of the house of the Lord was to give witness to the fact that he was going to reestablish the worship of God, and to provide a focus that would renew the prayer life of the people of God. It was also a testimony to Jehovah in Israel.
In a day when it seems that the doors of assembly testimony are being closed in our own beloved land, what an encouragement it would be to hear that the Lord was opening them again. We believe it is happening in other parts of the world, where once every effort was made to stamp out testimony, now doors are being opened and assemblies established.
Having opened the doors of the house, it was now Hezekiah’s desire to recommence the service of the Lord within it. If he was to do this, he realized the need for the preparation of the people as well as the house itself. His command to them was to ‘sanctify now yourselves and sanctify the house of the Lord’, 2 Chr. 29. 5.
There are a number of things that we can learn from this exercise. Hezekiah knew, and sought to bring back into practice, the need for personal holiness in order to be able to handle the things of the Lord. An important starting point! If the knowledge of the character of God is lost there is also a loss of reverence and godly fear. Consequently the quality and frequency of worship suffers, and thus the impact of the testimony suffers too.
Hezekiah started the process of sanctification with the priests and the Levites. It is important to realize that those who operate in priestly service set the tone for the whole company. These men were the men of the house. This principle also operates as the basis of spiritual worship amongst the gatherings of the Lord’s people. The apostle Peter wrote, ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’, 1 Pet. 2. 5. Arising from that principle of holiness and the activity of offering up spiritual sacrifices, Peter goes on in verse 9, ‘But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’. Thus we see how closely our lives in relation to holiness and function in God’s sanctuary, have to do with the business of work and witness in the world.
Hezekiah knew something of the need for personal holiness in handling the things of God, but where did he learn that from? It wasn’t his father, as Ahaz was a particularly godless man. Scripture is silent in this respect. We might suggest that it was his mother or some other influential person in his life but we have no evidence to substantiate such a suggestion. What we do appreciate is that Hezekiah was applying a number of Scriptures. They were:
- Exodus 40. 13, ‘And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priests’ office’. The need for priestly holiness was established there.
- Leviticus 19. 2, ‘Speak unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy’. Here the principle of holiness as it applied to all is established.
Our New Testament also applies this principle of holiness to us 1 Peter 1. 14- 16;, a principle that Peter reminds us applies to every aspect of our lives, ‘be ye holy in all manner of conversation’.
We need to appreciate that neither of these passages we have mentioned is particularly well known. Even as a young man Hezekiah must have been a man who studied the word of his God. To know and to have the conviction to apply these Scriptures was remarkable and it clearly shows how important it is to see that the young give themselves to the word of God in order that they might become familiar with its teaching and able to apply those teachings in the circumstances that prevail when they are called upon to lead the testimony.
The words that Hezekiah used are instructive, ‘our fathers have trespassed’, 2 Chr. 29. 6. He owns the part that his own father had played in the moral and spiritual decline of the nation but he clearly shows that there was a collective responsibility. Evil is not just the fault of the perpetrator. There is a need for collective mourning that such things could have come into the company of the saints. This was the significance of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5. 2, ‘And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned’. This is mourning for the individual brought into sin and mourning for the company that has been polluted by the actions of an individual.
We can notice too that Hezekiah clearly identifies the nature of sin. He speaks of the fathers having ‘done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him’, v. 6. Sin is against God! In a world of relative morality, and shifting standards of what is acceptable, we need to define the terms we use. God determines what is sin, not society, not the government, and not us. It is only as we have an appreciation of God’s view of sin that we can be sensitive to evil in its many guises. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22. These are important lessons for us to assimilate and practice in our day.