AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH November 6, 2011
Presbyterian Church following Christ without Compromise
and the Bible without Qualification, by Faith
KING HEZEKIAH, A WONDER AND A WARNING PART I
The Reforms of Hezekiah
For endnotes, see this treatment.
It is, in fact, always lovely to see one who, when young, is projected into responsibility or authority and uses it with zeal for established truth, with an individual energy and imagination, clearing away misconception without removing right conception with it! Hezekiah restored the temple, abominably misused by what one might almost think of as a religious clown, King Ahaz, the preceding king. He had even imported implements of idolatry into it, but these Hezekiah purged, while bringing back the due and true workers to their just, temple toil. For one so young, to hear his balanced but virile challenge, in speaking to the Levites, is a joy.
"Hear me, Levites! he said (II Chronicles 29:5ff.).
"Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of
and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.
For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God;
they have forsaken Him,
have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD,
and turned their backs on Him...
Therefore the wrath of the LORD fell
upon Judah and Jerusalem ... "
He proceeded to make a covenant with the Lord, based on His ways and His word to them, which did not change. It reminds one of that other great reforming King, Jehoshaphat, who in speaking to the judges of Israel, declared this:
"Take heed to what you are doing,
for you do not judge for man but for the LORD,
who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD
be upon you; take care and do it,
for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes."
Such judges and such judgment now in the courts of major democracies could only improve them past all recognition; for what is hidden from the mind by false ideology, does not reach the thought in application! and false ideology is common like mice, in all classes of the nations, there being alas, far more than three blind mice. You do not avoid that corruption which is through confusion, just by being a doctor, or a politician ... or a judge! The USSR, in its blind devotion to a false and foolish ideology, provided a national exhibit of what also applies personally and individually to some extent outside itself, and beyond such monstrosities of relativistically minded countries.
Such are absolutist in power, ludicrously combined with relativity in practice *2. In other words, these become a role model for ruin, avoiding restraint; and elements reflecting this kind of autocratic corruption and subjection can be seen arising in other lands, often lusting to control the minds of students from their brooding cultural clutches, propagandising with their superficial clichés and unveiled, unverified academic passions.
Contrary to such degradation was the tenor of King Hezekiah, for positive vigour went beyond formal noises, and mere poises. "My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him ..." we find in II Chronicles 29:11. Such was the energetic, dutiful, responsible tenor of things.
Thus they cleansed out the inner part of the Temple, corresponding then, in symbolic form, to removing false doctrine, leaving free the teaching which the symbols implied. This was then. In more recent times, parallel is such work as was done in reformation, though alas this too can go astray. Thus alas, in the case of the PC of Australia, the Church of my forefathers, with whose Constitution itself I find myself in a blessed harmony, there has been a movement simply from one Sadducaic extreme, irrational and ruthless assault on the Bible, one which cost me dear enough, though by divine grace, I triumphed over it at length, to the its very opposite. This is the Pharisaic type of thing, rich in tradition, in undue reliance on the mind of man, readily making void the word of God*3.
This is a half-way measure which does not really work, being substitution rather than evacuation. They moved from multiply and loosely attacking the Bible, to adding blinkers through which it is to be seen. The word of God, however, must stand free from trade-in, beautiful in holiness, operative without direction.
Hezekiah was thorough. He superintended this temple cleansing to remove rubbish, but also to re-sanctify what was good and cast aside (II Chronicles 29:19). How easy it is to remove the evil and not restore the good, as in the case of the man in the parable of Christ, who certainly got rid of one devil, but not having his 'house' inhabited now by the Lord, was soon under the dominion of 7 worse ones! (Luke 11:26).
By King Hezekiah, temple sacrifice was restored in its due measure, bespeaking in our own terms, a restoration of the primacy of the Cross of Christ (as in Galatians 6:14), in which as Colossians 1 tells us, is the attestation which God provided, as He pursued His good pleasure for having ALL reconciled to Himself, yes those in heaven and on earth. God must be seen as He is and NEVER by theology's pretences and pretensions, never altered in depiction of His justice, authority, truth or love by one iota. It is like a great painting by Titian: who would dare alter it. When it is the very portrait of God, who indeed! Yet... they do*4.
The Contrast in the Northern Israel with the South
The Grand Mercies of Hezekiah
Further, the musical glories were restored to the Temple, as when Psalm-singing restrictions*5 are lifted (though there is GOOD reason to avoid musical tantrums passing as sacred, and woeful doctrine, sometimes enshrined in hymns!). Having then had restoration, consecration and covenant brought back as far as he could, the King went on to a vast Passover of thanksgiving, and this had more significance. At about this time, the kingdom to the North was being ruined by Sennacherib so thoroughly that it would become in time that alien seeming land, Samaria, with its own religions. It is this that figures so clearly in the New Testament. These things being so, Hezekiah was quick, large-heartedly and with revivalist zeal, to invite any from that realm to join in the Passover (II Chronicles 30:6-8).
"Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were,
but yield yourselves to the LORD, and enter His sanctuary,
which He has sanctified forever and service the LORD you God,
that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you," he exhorted.
He sought them out with messengers: runners going throughout all Judah and Israel, they sent letters to them, so that they should find compassion from the Lord (II Chronicles 30:9). To one and to all went the message of restoration and reform, in his realm, in the fallen North! This was a prelude to modern evangelism. Nevertheless, in parts of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the messengers were mocked. This had long been the way of it in that sector, stiff-necked rejection while wallowing in the ways of their neighbours, preferring man to God. Thus it formed part of its indictment when it failed, felled by an invader, and being overturned, collapsed (II Kings 17). Increasingly weak, unreliable, dishonoured, falling and rising kings had disadorned Israel to the North (I Kings 15, 17) until its corpse was scattered by the conqueror, its people displaced and replaced. What a calamity was that!
In the book of Kings, however, we see that not only did Judah have a continuing place to exhibit to the world the wonders of the Lord through its continuing history, but in contemporary contrast, there rose like a tower, Hezekiah's reign, a better testimony. Judah therefore continued unsubdued, listed alive when death struck the other! While the wandering North went, the southern sector, the nation now called Judah, with Jerusalem and the drastically restored temple in it, that stayed! Yet it was menaced and multiply challenged for all that, but God in Hezekiah's day, relieved it.
As to Hezekiah, we read at the end of the recitation, in II Chronicles 32:20:
"Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah,
and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God."
What a testimony! However, many a challenge would come in its time, and even in Hezekiah's day there was a series of enticements, perils and deliverances, requiring the utmost vigilance, with reliance on the Lord and ardent petition. That, it is to live!
The Sudden Challenge and the Initial Failure
It is so easy when success smiles upon you as if it had no other countenance, and care embraces you as if it were your spouse, lest the sun should ever cease to shine, or clouds were unknown, to be unready, caught by the sudden smart of the pugnacious whip, as someone, something lunges with hope of your overthrow, failure or fall. It is easy when all flows smoothly, to act as if you were specially made for just such a destiny. Hezekiah seems to have been no exception to this danger. Thus when the King of Assyria, a great nation like Russia or England of old, loomed near, not only with impudent threat, but with the force that overthrew the segment of Israel to the North, the King of Judah was quick to speak yieldingly.
He gave carte blanche most unwisely, saying to the potential invader: Whatever you ask, I will give! Whether this was done as a delaying tactic, or was simply a dashing word in preference to surrender, it was done! The demands of the imperious but soon to be doomed Assyrian King, Sennacherib were for so much gold and silver that the King stripped parts of the Temple to satiate the invader's lust, and took from the treasury of the Lord instead of taking from the treasury of HIS strength!
This failure was a needless weakening, and so in parallel, is that now in Australia, where billions are borrowed to create vast debt with an atheistically governed nation, China - though on one report it has more Christians in it than members of the Communist Party. Yet is this not as if to try out the maxim that the debtor is servant to the lender! Is the independence of this, our land, so zealously fought for in the past, now to be made servile by the rash dependence on such a nation! Was money to be squandered in eminently questioned rush to deal with new constructions so that amazing rorts occurred and ill-considered works were done, at least one authority expressing the judgment that by that time, the national financial crisis was in substance, past! Is scurrying and hurrying of this order, is debt of this kind to be indulged in as if responsibility were null and impetus were all!
When one does not trust in the Lord, haste, pure haste, it is this which can mark down wisdom; and though the boom in exports to China in staggeringly good terms of trade, has provided much to hide the mess, the land has been not a little sacrificed. However, he who believes in Him, will not make haste! (Isaiah 28:16). There is a sort of leadership which, like Hezekiah, rests in the Lord, and is not readily turned from the days of being linked to those ready for fighting on the beaches, to these of fighting for funds from potential enemies. Passion unknown today can flower tomorrow.
One might ask, But did not Hezekiah pay such funds to Assyria, in immediate response ? or was it protracted ? No, he quickly ceased, wise man!. Already however it diminished the nation, in testimony, in spirit, as an example of waiting on the Lord, making it appear feckless and without the God of all resource and power.
Thus, in this case, this was but the beginning, or near it; and the entirely contrary force of real faith did not fail to operate, with a speed and a vigour both elemental, fearful only of the Lord, and entirely effectual! The result ? in the end, not only did the Lord give a triumph that still echoes, to Hezekiah, but a crushing to his enemies that left wounds which would become fatal to their invasive king. Yet the victory for Judah, for all that, was NOT specifically through the works which Hezekiah prudently drew up, in determined defence of the nation, including stopping the springs and brook that ran through the land, saying, Why give the assailant water!
Triumph did not come from the built up fortifications on a national scale (II Chronicles 32:5). It came through the explicit and vast action of the Lord Himself, responding to faith and cry alike (II Kings 19:35-37, Isaiah 37:21ff.), not only predicting but performing with transforming power, both at once and later! As to Hezekiah, from whatever early trembling he suffered, there was given him a heart of courage and trust in his King. Indeed, said Hezekiah,
"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, nor dismayed
before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him;
for there are 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."
Total and divine deliverance was the divine grant to the enquiring, trusting king.
Next time, DV, we will review great things, but also some failures: yet now keep these words in the text above, in heart and mind, as you face conflict and outface sin and fear, in the name of the Lord, over-arching in splendour, undertaking in grace.