Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ALL DUE PREPARATION IN GODLY TRAINING. For, although his father was an apostate from the true faith, and his example was everything that he should avoid, Hezekiah was not without home influences of another and a very different kind. It is a happy inconsistency we often find in bad men that they are willing for their children to receive the good counsel which themselves disregard and perhaps even despise. Whether due to a contemptuous indifference or to a covert fear, they are willing, sometimes even wishful, that their children should receive a godly education. It is highly probable that from his mother, Abijah, he learnt those truths and received those influences which led him to choose the service of God. Probably Isaiah had access to him; and if so, we may be sure he made use of his opportunity. Whoever did teach and train him must have felt amply rewarded in after-years, when Hezekiah rendered such splendid service to his country. There is sometimes done at the mother's knee or in the schoolroom a work for God the full fruits of which are never revealed on earth.
II. SENSIBILITY. As we read the address which Hezekiah delivered to the priests and the Levites (vers. 5-11), we are impressed with the fact that the speaker was a man of no ordinary sensibility. The things which had happened of late had cut him to the heart. His nation's dishonour, the domestic sorrows of the people (ver. 9), the overshadowing of the high displeasure of the Almighty, - all this moved him to pure and deep emotion. He was a man of strong and profound feeling (see also Isaiah 38.).
III. RESOLUTENESS. There is reason to think that the ecclesiastical officials were far from being keenly sympathetic with the king in his work of reformation. The priests were quite in the background, and the Levites needed to be exhorted "not to be negligent" (ver. 11). The king himself not only took the initiative, but he brought to the work a firm resoluteness which carried everything before it. "It is in my heart to make a covenant," he said (ver. 10); and it was clear that the young king, although his elders were before him, and although the reins of government were only just in his hand, intended to carry out his purpose. One strong will, especially when it holds a high place and has a right to speak authoritatively, will drive indecision and even halfheartedness before it.
IV. SAGACITY. Hezekiah showed a sagacity which may be said to have been "beyond his years."
1. He recognized the right order of procedure. He felt that the first thing to be done was to set the nation right with the God whom they had so seriously offended; and he perceived that the first thing to be done to attain this great end was to purify the profaned house of the Lord.
2. He took the leaders of religion into counsel and co-operation. He called the Levites and the priests together, and energetically addressed them; he appealed to them in the language of piety and of affection (ver. 11).
3. He understood that all reformation must begin with our own hearts. "Sanctify yourselves," he said (ver. 5). It must be the clean hands of the pure heart that cleanse and purify the sanctuary of the Lord. If we would rise to the height of our opportunity we must do these things.
1. Realize the greatness of the work before us; be impressed and affected by it; be seriously solemnized by it. It is not the cold or the chill heart that will carry a great work through all obstacles and over all toils to a successful issue.
2. Give the first place to the sacred side of the matter; feel that we must have God with us in our work; consider well what are its relations to him, and in what way his favour is to be secured.
3. Make a beginning with ourselves - "sanctify ourselves" for the work in hand, by self-examination, by a sincere repentance and return unto God, by a solemn and deliberate rededication of ourselves to our Lord and to his service, by earnest and believing prayer, cleanse our own heart and thus be ready for the part we are to take.
4. Co-operate with our fellows to the utmost of our power; not proudly consider that we alone are sufficient, nor selfishly desire to reserve sacred duty and opportunity for our own hand, nor contentiously make it difficult for others to work with us; but gladly and graciously enter into fellowship with our friends and neighbours. - C.
I. HIS PERSON.
1. His name. Hezekiah, "The might of Jehovah;" Hizkiyah (2 Kings 18:1); Hiskiyahu (ver. 1; Isaiah 36:1; Isaiah 37:1, 3); with which last corresponds Hazakijau, or Hazakiau, of the Assyrian inscriptions.
2. His parentage. His father Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:27), to whom while yet a lad he must have been born (see homily on 2 Chronicles 28:1-27); his mother Abijah, "Father of Jehovah" - in shortened form, Abi (2 Kings 18:2), the daughter of Zechariah, "a citizen of Jerusalem" (Josephus), perhaps the son of Jeberechiah, a contemporary of Ahaz (Isaiah 8:2)," not improbably the favourite prophet of Uzziah" (Stanley).
II. HIS REIGN.
1. Its commencement.
(1) When he was twenty-five years old; therefore when, having fully attained to manhood, he was old enough to have learnt something of the ruinous results of his father's career, and of the utter folly as well as wickedness of idolatry.
(3) When Judah as a kingdom had been reduced to a low ebb by the Syro-Ephraimitish war, with the invasions of the Edomites and Philistines, not to speak of the impoverishment of the royal exchequer by the tributes paid to Tiglath-Pileser (2 Chronicles 28:5, 6, 8, 17, 21). "Take out of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin one hundred and twenty thousand whom Pekah, the King of Israel, slew in one day; take out two hundred thousand that were carried away captive to Samaria" (these, however, returned); "take out those that were transported into the bondage of the Edomites, and those that were subdued in the south parts by the Philistines; alas! what a handful was left to the King of Judah, scarce worth the name of a dominion!" (Bishop Hall).
2. Its close. After twenty-nine years-upwards of a quarter of a century; a long time for a thoughtful sovereign to bear the responsibilities of a crown, even had the period been peaceful, much more when it was full of trouble and anxiety, both on account of the social and religious degeneracy of his own people, and the threatenings and dangers arising from foreign foes. It was hardly wonderful that Hezekiah's health should have broken down under the intense strain to which it was subjected.
3. Its contents. These may be gathered from 2 Kings (18-20.), 2 Chronicles (29-32.), and Isaiah (36-39.). The principal events were:
(1) The reformation of religion, commenced in the first (ecclesiastical) month of the first year of his reign, by opening and purifying the temple (2 Chronicles 29:3-36), and concluded in the second month by the celebration of a Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1), and the demolition of heathen altars in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:13) and throughout the land (2 Chronicles 31:1). To this the king was most likely moved by the impressions made upon his mind by the fierce denunciations of Micah, who had already during the two previous reigns been testifying against the moral and spiritual corruption of the people (Micah 1-3.). "The outward reformation was doubtless the expression of an inward change also" (Stanley).
(2) The breaking of the yoke of Assyria and the assertion of the nation's independence (2 Kings 18:7), with the conducting of a successful campaign against the Philistines (2 Kings 18:8), some time before the fourth year of his reign (2 Kings 18:9), dearly before the capture of Samaria by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 18:10). As the monuments show that the king who commenced the siege of Samaria was Shalmaneser, and the king who finished it was his son Sargon (Schrader, 'Keilinschriften,' p. 271), it is more than likely that Hezekiah was moved to revolt by the death of Shalmaneser, B.C. 722.
(4) The imprudent reception of Merodach-Baladan's ambassadors, who had been sent ostensibly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery, but really to obtain his assistance against Sargon of Assyria (2 Chronicles 32:31; 2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1).
(5) The conquest of Judah and the capture of Jerusalem by Sargon, in Hezekiah's fourteenth year, not mentioned by the Chronicler or the author of the Kings, but described by Isaiah (10, 11.), who represents an Assyrian monarch as first conquering Calno, Carehemish, Hamath, Arpbad, Damascus, and Samarla, and then advancing towards Jerusalem "by the usual high-road from the north-east, and halting at Nob, only an hour's journey distant from Jerusalem, in which also (cf. ch. 22.) the prophet presents the picture of a siege which has already lasted some time, and which can only be explained by Sargon" (Sayce, ' Fresh Light,' etc., p. 139). This conquest of Judah, the monuments show, was carried out in connection with Sargon's expedition against Ashdod, which he entrusted to his tartan, or commander (Isaiah 20:1), while he himself "overran the widespreading land of Judah, and captured its capital" (Sayce, 'Fresh Light,' etc., p. 137; cf. G. Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' pp. 288-293).
(6) The fortification of Jerusalem in anticipation of the above attack upon his capital, not by Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:1-8), but by Sargon.
(7) The invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, not in Hezekiah's fourteenth (2 Kings 18:13-16), but in his twenty-fourth year, since, according to the monuments, Sargon was murdered in B.C. 705, while Sennacherib's campaign against Syria and the West did not begin till B.C. 701.
(8) The submission of Hezekiah to Sennacherib at Lachish (2 Kings 18:14-16).
(12) The extension of Hezekiah's fame in consequence of this deliverance (2 Chronicles 32:23).
III. HIS CHARACTER.
1. Good. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done" (ver. 2). With this agrees the testimony of 2 Kings (2 Kings 18:5, 6), that,his piety
(1) sprang from the right root - faith: "he trusted in the Lord God of Israel;"
(2) evinced the right quality - constancy: "he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him;" and
(3) produced the right fruit - obedience: "he kept the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses." The causes which led to Hezekiah's conversion were doubtless manifold:
(2) prophetic instruction, given by Isaiah (Isaiah 37:2), Micah, Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:18, 19), and Zechariah, his maternal grandfather - no lasting transformation being effected on the mind or character except through the medium of the truth (Psalm 19:7; Psalm 119:9; Micah 2:7; John 15:3); and
(3) personal observation of the sinfulness and ruinous consequences of idolatry.
2. Energetic. Sufficiently apparent from the above-recited record of his life. Besides being a pious sovereign, he was a military commander of pronounced skill and undaunted courage (2 Chronicles 32:3-8), a wise and judicious civil administrator (2 Chronicles 32:27-30), a zealous and unwearied religious reformer (ch. 29-31.), a student and patron of letters (Proverbs 25:1), an antiquarian and a poet (2 Chronicles 32:27; 2 Kings 23:12; Isaiah 38:9-20). In short, Hezekiah was "one of the most splendid princes that ever adorned the throne of David, and whose reign of nine and twenty years exhibits an almost unclouded picture of persistent struggles against the most embarrassed and difficult circumstances, crowned with elevating victories" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:172). Learn:
1. That Divine grace is stronger than hereditary corruption.
2. That God can raise up great men when such are demanded by the times.
3. That the hidden root of all true nobility in man is faith in God, and steadfast adherence to truth and right. - W.
I. THE GATHERING OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES. (Ver. 4.)
1. When? In the first year of the king's reign, in the first month (vers. 3, 17), but whether of that reign (Caspari) or of the ecclesiastical year (Bertheau, Keil, Jamieson, Ochler in Herzog) cannot be determined. In either case it was not long after his accession. The acts evinced
(1) piety, the king giving his first thoughts to religion (Matthew 6:33); and
(2) prudence, since a good work never can be too soon begun, and reformations may be wrought at the beginning of a reign that cannot be so easily effected afterwards. "As the spring-time of nature or of the year is the most suitable season for purging natural bodies, so is the spring-time of a reign the best time for purging the body politic" (Bacon).
2. Where? In "the broad place on the east;" either the inner court of the temple (Bertheau), or the open space in front of the temple towards the east (Keil), which will depend upon whether the doors of the temple had been opened prior to the assembling of the priests.
3. Why? To invite their co-operation in the work of cleansing the sanctuary Ahaz had shut up (2 Chronicles 28:24), and of re-establishing the worship Ahaz had abolished. For these purposes and as a preliminary thereto, according to one view, the king had already opened the temple doors; according to another, he only did so when the work of cleansing commenced.
II. THE WORDS ADDRESSED TO THEM BY THE KING. (Vers. 5-11.) Hezekiah regarding them without distinction as Levites - not speaking to the Levites as distinguished from the priests, as if these were not present, though they certainly (ver. 34) "hung back from the revolution which swept away the neglect which the head of their order, Urijah, must in some measure have countenanced" (Stanley, 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' vol. it. p. 465), and, exhorting them with fatherly affection (ver. 11), set before them three things.
1. The work which required to be done.
(1) The sanctification of themselves, without which they could not enter on such service as that to which he was about to invite them (Exodus 19:10-12; Leviticus 11:44). This sanctification was doubtless carried out formally by the offering of sacrifice, by washing and putting on clean garments, and perhaps by anointing with oil (Leviticus 8:1-7, 30); inwardly by acts of spiritual heart devotion and dedication to the work about to be performed, and to him whose work it was.
(2) The sanctification of the house of the Lord; or, the carrying forth of the filthiness that had accumulated therein since the day when its doors were closed, the burnishing of all the utensils that had been left to rust through disuse, and the replacing of all the sacred vessels which had been cast away. Without this the true national Jehovah-worship could not be reinstituted. In this everything must proceed according to the pattern prescribed by the Law.
(3) The two things symbolized what is needful to constitute true worship under the better dispensation of the gospel - in the worshipper, faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, renewal of heart and mind in the laver of regeneration, personal separation from all known sin; in the worship, purity, beauty, completeness.
2. The reasons why it needed to be done.
(1) Because, through the wickedness of their fathers in forsaking God, the temple had fallen into disrepair; its doors had been closed, its lamps put out, its altars left without offerings (vers. 6, 7). What their fathers then had done it became them to undo. Unless they would be sharers in their fathers' guilt, they must separate themselves from their fathers' sin. Their fathers' trespass would not condemn them if they disowned it by acting differently.
(2) Because on account of this wickedness the wrath of God had fallen upon the nation, "upon Judah and Jerusalem," upon the inhabitants of the cities and of the metropolis; their troops had been slaughtered in the field (2 Chronicles 28:6), their sons and wives and daughters carried into captivity (2 Chronicles 28:5, 8), their country delivered to trouble, to astonishment, to hissing.
(3) Because it was the king's intention, in restoring the ancient worship of Jehovah, to renew the covenant between himself with his people and Jehovah (ver. 10), as had formerly been done by Joash and his subjects (2 Chronicles 23:16), and earlier by Ass and his warriors (2 Chronicles 15:12) - being moved to this by the consideration that not otherwise could they escape the fierce wrath their national apostasy had kindled against them.
3. The argument why they should do the work. The Lord had selected them to be his temple ministers - the Levites and priests together to stand before ]aim and serve him, the priests to burn incense upon his altar. (N.B. - This is an indirect proof that "Levites" in ver. 5 includes the "priests.") Hence
(1) faithfulness should lead them to do the work specially assigned them, and
(2) honour impel them, seeing Jehovah had chosen them, rather than others, to be his ministers.
III. THE RESPONSE GIVEN BY THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES TO THE KING. (Vers. 12-16.)
1. The absent members of the order were collected. Fourteen Levites had heard the king's speech - two from each of the great families of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari; two of the sons of Elizaphan, the son of Uzziel, the son of Kohath (Exodus 6:18), and in Moses' time the head of the family of Kohath (Numbers 3:30); two of the sons of Asaph, who belonged to the family of Gershon; and two of the sons of Heman, who again proceeded from the family of Kohath; and two of the sons of Jeduthun, an offshoot from the family of Merari (on these names see Exposition). Responding with alacrity and gladness to the king's summons, they went forth and mustered the whole body of their brethren in Jerusalem. The work to which they had been called should be done by a united body, all hands and one heart - a good model for the Christian Church.
2. The duty of personal sanetification was scrupulously attended to. God's work must be done in God's way; always with fear and trembling, never with irreverent presumption; always in the beauty of holiness, never in the uncleanness of sin.
3. The work was divided between the Levites and the priests. To each was assigned that for which he was qualified and had been appointed; the cleansing of the temple proper to the priests, since these alone could enter the holy place; the removal of that which the priests brought from the interior of the sanctuary into the porch to the Levites, who bore it thence to the brook Kidron, which flowed through the valley of Jehoshaphat, on the east of the temple hill. So should all in the Christian work be content to do the work to which they are called, and for which they are qualified. As all have not the same gifts, so all are not intended for the same spheres of Christian activity.
4. The work was carried on until it was completed. It began with the purification of the buildings exterior to the temple, which occupied eight days. In eight days more they had finished the temple proper, both the porch and the sanctuary. On the sixteenth day they made an end. How much good work is begun by Christian people without being ended! ]tow many become weary in well-doing before they have half completed what they have put their hands to!
5. A report of the work done was carried to the king. The whole house of the Lord had been cleansed, all its furniture and utensils purified, the vessels found wanting replaced. Learn:
1. That God can be worshipped only in the beauty of holiness.
2. That as God calls none of his servants to uncleanness, he can be served only by the clean.
3. That God's house - whether heart or church - should be studiously guarded against defilement.
4. That God's people, like God himself, should be unwearied in doing good.
5. That God's servants must one day render to him an account of their works. - W.
I. UNDERTAKE IT IN A RIGHT SPIRIT. These men "arose" and went forth to do what Hezekiah called upon them to execute. It will not be presuming much if, judging from the account which follows, we conclude that they undertook their work in a spirit of
(1) obedience to the king, and
(2) devotion to their God. Certainly that would have become them and have honoured them. And that is, undoubtedly, the spirit in which we should go forth to any duty with which we are charged; we should
(1) realize our obligation to man - to do what is just and fair toward him;
(2) our responsibility to God; for in diligence and fidelity we may do everything unto him also (Colossians 3:23).
II. BE UNDISTURBED BY ITS UNPLEASANTNESS. This duty laid upon the Levites and upon the priests was not inviting work. To "bring out all the uncleanness" from the temple, and to "carry it out into the brook Kidron," could not be very agreeable occupation. But they did not hesitate to do it. And, indeed, they could not possibly have been better occupied. In that act they were carrying forth a curse; they were bearing away the wrath of their God. They were not merely cleansing an edifice; they were clearing their conscience; they were righting their record in the books of heaven. No fair hand was doing that week in Jerusalem any work of refinement that more graced its owner than did the hands of those Levites as they stripped the false altar of its clothing, or as they swept the accumulated dust from the courts of the sanctuary. Let us not despise any true work of any kind. Even if it is not of a kind that answers to our taste or to our training; even if it should be uncongenial to our spirit. If it be that work which the emergency requires of us, or if it be that which Divine providence assigns us at the time; if it be that which our Master himself asks of us in order to serve his cause or to help one of his little ones, it is honourable employment, it should be accounted holy in our esteem.
"Do thy little; though it be III. CALL TO OUR AID EVERY WILLING WORKER. It may be taken that those whose names are given (vers. 12-14) were the foremost in offering themselves for the work required. But they did not propose to do it by themselves; they called in all who would join them (ver. 15), and then, as a strong united band, they set about their task. In the work of the Lord we should engage all who have a heart and a hand to help. We should do so: 1. For the work's sake; that it may be more rapidly and more effectually done. 2. For their sake; because they will be blessed in their deed, and after it. 3. For our own sake; that we may not be overburdened, and may do all that we do more carefully and thoroughly. IV. KNOW WHEN TO STOP, AND WHEN TO PROCEED; when to draw a boundary-line, and when to cross it. These dutiful Levites understood their duty well. 1. They did not intrude into the priests' domain; they stopped short "at the inner part of the house" (ver. 16). 2. At the same time, they went beyond the actual letter of instruction by "preparing and sanctifying the vessels which Ahaz had cast away," and by bringing these "before the altar of the Lord." It is a great thing to know what are the limits beyond which it is not right or wise for us to go. But it is a still greater thing to have so deep an interest in our work and so fervent a love for our Lord that we are not to be confined to any limits by literal instructions; that we gladly and eagerly go beyond these, if we can only render a larger and fuller service to our Master and to his cause. V. DO OUR WORK THOROUGHLY AND SPEEDILY. "They sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days" (ver. 17). "We have cleansed all the house of the Lord,... with all the vessels thereof" (ver. 18). To do all that is required, leaving nothing undone because it is trivial or because it is not likely to be observed; and to do all without delay, losing no time, accomplishing everything within the days expected of us; - this is the way to do Christian work, to do our duty as disciples of Jesus Christ. VI. HAVE THE DAY OF ACCOUNT IN VIEW. "They went in to Hezekiah the king," etc. (ver. 18). We may not be accountable to any human master; but to a Divine One we are (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Then "every work" will be "brought into judgment." Let us therefore labour, that we may then be "accepted of him."- C.
III. CALL TO OUR AID EVERY WILLING WORKER. It may be taken that those whose names are given (vers. 12-14) were the foremost in offering themselves for the work required. But they did not propose to do it by themselves; they called in all who would join them (ver. 15), and then, as a strong united band, they set about their task. In the work of the Lord we should engage all who have a heart and a hand to help. We should do so:
1. For the work's sake; that it may be more rapidly and more effectually done.
2. For their sake; because they will be blessed in their deed, and after it.
3. For our own sake; that we may not be overburdened, and may do all that we do more carefully and thoroughly.
IV. KNOW WHEN TO STOP, AND WHEN TO PROCEED; when to draw a boundary-line, and when to cross it. These dutiful Levites understood their duty well.
1. They did not intrude into the priests' domain; they stopped short "at the inner part of the house" (ver. 16).
2. At the same time, they went beyond the actual letter of instruction by "preparing and sanctifying the vessels which Ahaz had cast away," and by bringing these "before the altar of the Lord." It is a great thing to know what are the limits beyond which it is not right or wise for us to go. But it is a still greater thing to have so deep an interest in our work and so fervent a love for our Lord that we are not to be confined to any limits by literal instructions; that we gladly and eagerly go beyond these, if we can only render a larger and fuller service to our Master and to his cause.
V. DO OUR WORK THOROUGHLY AND SPEEDILY. "They sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days" (ver. 17). "We have cleansed all the house of the Lord,... with all the vessels thereof" (ver. 18). To do all that is required, leaving nothing undone because it is trivial or because it is not likely to be observed; and to do all without delay, losing no time, accomplishing everything within the days expected of us; - this is the way to do Christian work, to do our duty as disciples of Jesus Christ.
VI. HAVE THE DAY OF ACCOUNT IN VIEW. "They went in to Hezekiah the king," etc. (ver. 18). We may not be accountable to any human master; but to a Divine One we are (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Then "every work" will be "brought into judgment." Let us therefore labour, that we may then be "accepted of him."- C.
I. CONFESSION. Not always, not often national, as on this occasion (text). Net always, not often now, admission of idolatrous reaction. But always confession of sin - of departure from God, of the neglect of his holy will, of a rebellious exalting of our will against his, of unlikeness to him in the spirit we have been breathing and in the principles on which we have been acting, of doing or saying or being that which has grieved his Holy Spirit. And our confession of sin is likely to be heard and accepted, not because it is couched in the most approved language, but because it is the most simple and honest utterance of our hearts.
II. PROPITIATION. Not that God asks now of us a sacrifice for sin. There has been "one sacrifice [offered] for sins for ever." He is "the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world." But we come to plead that one Sacrifice as offered for our sins; we come to God to pray that that one Propitiation may be accepted on our behalf. We come to "lay our hand on that dear head" of Christ, the Lamb of God. We ask that the abounding and abiding mercy of God may, for his sake, cover our guilt and rest upon our soul And thus, by a living faith, we apply and appropriate to ourselves "the common salvation" - that "righteousness which is through the faith of Christ." Thus is our sin "borne away" into the land of utter forgetfulness, and we ourselves are "brought nigh by the blood of Christ."
III. CONSECRATION. The consumption of the entire animal in the burnt offering symbolized the entire consecration of the offerer to the Lord. This was the significance of those offerings now presented (ver. 24). Hezekiah and his people now offered themselves anew unto the Lord God of their fathers. Their sin being purged, themselves having been forgiven and accepted, they dedicated themselves to God for the coming time. With us:
1. Consecration attends our entrance upon the Divine life; when we seek the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, we "yield ourselves unto God as those alive from the dead."
2. Consecration is a spiritual act continually renewed. It should be an act in which we offer to our Divine Redeemer our whole selves;
(1) our entire nature (body and spirit);
(2) our whole life, thenceforwards - at all times, in every sphere, under all conditions. - C,
I. THE TIME OF THE CEREMONY. Early on the following morning. Hezekiah lost not a moment in entering upon the good work his heart contemplated (ver. 10), rising up with next day's dawn, gathering the rulers of the city, and proceeding with them to the house of the Lord. In this he acted in accordance with Jehovah's instructions to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 34:2); with the example of Abraham (Genesis 22:2), Jacob (Genesis 28:18), Moses (Exodus 24:4), Joshua (Joshua 3:1), Job (Job 1:5), and other good men who selected the morning hours for executing good resolutions, and especially for acts of devotion; with the practice of God himself, who had been ever forward in blessing his people by sending to them his messengers the prophets (2 Chronicles 36:15; Jeremiah 7:13, 25; Jeremiah 25:3, 4). Perhaps Hezekiah also felt that if wicked men rose up with the dawn and even "prevented" the daylight in order to prosecute their nefarious works (Job 24:14), yea, that his own subjects had risen up early to corrupt themselves (Zephaniah 3:7), much more ought he to bestir himself and awake up early to begin the splendid work of temple-dedication on which he had resolved.
II. THE PARTIES TO THE CEREMONY.
1. The king himself. Hezekiah, as the vicegerent of Jehovah and head of Jehovah's people, led the way. This the sort of kingship after which sovereigns should aspire - kingship in works of faith and labours of love.
2. The princes of the city - again, in their individual capacities and in their representative characters - joined in the ceremonial. So had they done at Sinai (Exodus 24:11), and in the wilderness (Numbers 21:18); in the days of Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:2), and in those of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:20). Happy is that nation whose nobility are ever foremost in noble deeds!
3. The priests and the Levites were present to do their respective offices, to sacrifice upon the altars of Jehovah, and to play upon the instruments of David; two necessary parts in all Old Testament worship - the former to make atonement, the latter to express that which should ever be its fruit (Romans 5:11).
4. The people, or a portion of them, were there as assenting parties to the transaction.
III. THE STEPS IN THE CEREMONY.
1. The presentation of sacrifice.
(1) Burnt offerings. Seven bullocks, seven rams, and seven lambs were slain in succession upon the altar in the fore court, the blood of the slain victims being caught up by the priests in a basin and sprinkled on the altar, while their carcases were retained to be consumed by fire upon the altar after all the other victims had been slain.
(2) Sin offerings. Seven he-goats were next presented before the king and the congregation, the priests' hands laid upon them - if not with formal confession of sin, at least symbolizing its transference to the animals - their lives taken, and their blood sprinkled by the priests upon the altar. This done, the carcases of the burnt offerings were consumed by fire.
2. The accompaniment of music. Hezekiah reinstituted the Levitical service of music, according to the Divine ordinance communicated through David, Gad, and Nathan (1 Chronicles 23:5); and on this particular occasion "he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps;" and "the priests with the trumpets" (1 Chronicles 15:16, 24). When the burnt offering began, i.e. either when the slaying of the victims commenced, or when the carcases were lifted to the altar to be consumed, the temple courts rang with the strains of instrumental and vocal music - "the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded" - until the offering was finished, until the last ember died upon the altar, and the last wreath of smoke vanished in the air. Meanwhile the congregation, standing round in the court as spectators, "worshipped."
IV. THE MEANING OF THE CEREMONY.
1. Confession of sin. This idea was generally comprehended in the presentation of sin offerings, and particularly set' forth in the imposition of the officiating priest's hands upon the victim's head. The sin thus confessed was the sin of the nation as represented by its royal house, its sanctuary, and its people. All of these, the occupants of the throne and the members of the royal family, the ministers of the sanctuary, the priestly order and the Levitical alike, the common people of the realm, both in Israel and in Judah, had been guilty of trespass and apostasy.
2. Propitiation for guilt. The blood of the sin offering, when poured out before and sprinkled on the horns of the altar - in particular when done in the holy of holies - was designed to make atonement for the people's sins, to cover up from the eyes of a holy God the wickedness of which they had been guilty, and so to reconcile them to God (Leviticus 6:30).
3. Expression of self-surrender. This was symbolized by the burning of the carcases of both the sin and the burnt offerings. As the bodies of the animals whose blood had been brought within the sanctuary for reconciliation were all devoted to Heaven or given up as food to Jehovah, so the nation whose guilt had been put away by that same blood of atonement surrendered itself to Jehovah to be consumed by the fire of a new zeal for his glory.
4. Utterance of thanksgiving. This the significance of the musical accompaniment to the sacrificial ritual. It gave an outlet to the gratitude and joy of the reconciled and pardoned worshipper.
V. THE CLOSE OF THE CEREMONY.
1. A national act of worship. "The king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped" (ver. 29). It was worship of the right sort:
(1) unanimous - sovereign and subjects were of one mind;
(2) humble - they bowed themselves;
(3) joyous - they sang praises to the Lord, the Levites leading, in the words of David and Asaph.
2. A royal word of invitation. "Hezekiah answered and said" (ver. 31) - declaring the fact of their consecration to Jehovah, and desiring them to show their acquiescence in the same by personal acts of worship and sacrifice - "Come near, and bring sacrifices and thank offerings unto the Lord." Practice the best vindication of profession (James 2:14); obedience the only true justification of faith (Romans 16:19); the sacrifice of one's wealth the most reliable index that one has consecrated his heart.
3. A popular outburst of liberality. "The congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings."
(1) Promptly, on the spot, without delay, as if they had been only waiting for such an invitation. It is well to be prepared for giving before the opportunity of giving comes. Preparation makes giving easy (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(2) Freely: "as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings." Considering the number of these latter, the people generally must have been well disposed towards the movement. Voluntariness indispensable to all acceptable religious giving (2 Corinthians 8:12).
(3) Largely: "the number of the burnt offerings was seventy bullocks, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs," while "the consecrated things," or other offerings, "were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep." Indeed, so abundant were the sacrificial victims that the few priests who had taken part in the ceremonial were unable to cope with the task of preparing them for the altar, and had to call in the assistance of the Levites until more priests were sanctified. Extraordinary emergencies in Church as in state call for and allow extraordinary measures. Where the services of unordained pastors and teachers cannot by obtained, those of unordained may be lawfully employed. Cf. the liberality exemplified by the Israelites at the erection of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:21-29; Numbers 7:1-89; Numbers 31:48-54) and the temple (1 Chronicles 29:6-9, 16, 17). Lessons.
1. Union is strength, in religion as in other things.
2. The inspiration of all acts connected with religion should be the glory of God.
3. In religion all things are of God, the preparation of the heart no less than the direction of the hand. - W.
I. ANTICIPATIVE SERVICE. David, who lived several generations before, bad his hand in that good work. The Levites played with "the instruments of David King of Israel" (ver. 27); and they "sang praise with the words of David and of Asaph" (ver. 30). A very great and admirable service have those men rendered to Christian worship who have written hymns that are sung in all the Churches. In the words which they have given us, sweet and strong, our hearts ascend to God in adoration, are poured forth in praise, are humbled in confession, renew their vows in glad self-surrender. Few men have rendered their race a truer or greater service than those who have thus contributed to the worship of many generations.
II. THE SERVICE OF SACRED SONG. "And the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded." This part was rendered by the Levites, and no doubt it did much to brighten the engagements of that hallowed time. "The service of song in the house of the Lord" constitutes a very important part of public worship, for two reasons..
1. Therein and thereby all the spiritual attitudes and actions which become us in the near presence of God are expressed - reverence, aspiration, penitence, submission, gratitude, etc.
2. Therein all the worshippers can join. It would not have been possible for all those who were in the temple to take audible part in the music and song without discord and confusion. But it is possible, and in every way desirable and delightful, for every voice among us (furnished, as we are, with all appliances) to bring its note of praise to the worship of the Lord. And thus there is ensured or there is facilitated -
III. COMMON PARTICIPATION. In this sacred service, on this great occasion, every one took his part and had his share. "All the congregation worshipped" (ver. 28) "The king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped." (ver. 29). It is best when all the people can take an audible part in public worship, u m the service of song. They can then and thus more readily enter into the spirit of it. But when this may not be, it is open to every one to take an appreciative and appreciated part by an unbroken, spiritual sympathy with all that is said and done; by an active, intelligent acquiescence, signified by the bowed head or by the final "Amen" when the ministering voice is silent. The unuttered sympathy of all reverent, earnest worshippers is a common participation, which, we may make quite sure, is observed and honoured in heaven.
IV. THE SERVICE OF CONTRIBUTION. "And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings" (ver. 31). The people gave of their own possessions freely as an offering to the Lord. This service of contribution should always be regarded as an integral part of Divine worship. It should be rendered as reverently as an act of prayer or praise.
1. It is - or it should be, as it certainly may be-an offering that comes from the heart as well as from the hand.
2. It is an eminently appropriate service; for what can be more fitting than that, when and where we are recognizing the fulness and greatness of God's gift to us, we should then and there offer him our humble, grateful gifts in response?
V. REVERENT JOY. "And they sang praises with gladness" (ver. 30); "And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people" (ver. 36). What was more fitted to fill their hearts with overflowing joy than the feeling that they, as a nation, had returned unto the Lord, and had renewed their covenant with him; that he had accepted them; that "his anger was turned away;" that they might now look forward to a time when they would dwell in the light of his countenance and walk in his loving favour? It was an hour for the exuberance of the people's heart, from the heart of the king to that of the humblest citizen of Judah. And there is no time when joy, reverent joy, is more becoming to ourselves than when we are worshipping in the sanctuary of Christ. There we are conscious of our reconcilation to our heavenly Father, in him who is our Divine Saviour; there we feel the nearness of our glorious Redeemer who is "present in the midst of us;" there we pour forth our gratitude and love, and there we renew our happy bends of holy service unto "him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood;" there we realize our substantial and abiding union with all his people, our fellow-citizens in the kingdom and fellow-workers in the vineyard of Christ; and there we anticipate the purer joys and the nobler service of the heavenly land. Sacred joy is the true key-note of the strain when we meet in the sanctuary and engage in the worship of Christ. - C.
I. PREPARATORY STEPS. In order to secure such an awakening of religious life as took place in Judah under Hezekiah, three things are indispensable.
1. Confession of sin. "Our fathers have trespassed," etc. (ver. 6). As all religion begins with saying, "Father, I have sinned" (Luke 15:18), so the first symptoms of reviving life in souls that have been apathetic is acknowledgment of their trespass (Psalm 51:3).
2. Cleansing of the sanctuary. "We have cleansed all the house of the Lord" (ver. 18). As the visible Church is a temple of the Lord (Psalm 132:14; Matthew 18:20; Ephesians 2:21, 22; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6), this may symbolize the removing from its doctrine, worship, and practice of everything that is contrary to the mind and will of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and again, as the individual heart is a habitation of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19), it may suggest the duty,, of purging. . . it from every known sin' (2 Corinthians 7:1).
3. Renewal of the covenant. Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel" (ver. 10); and the same must be done by all, whether communities or individuals, who would experience a quickening in their religious life. Unnecessary now, as in the days of Hezekiah, to offer slain victims and make propitiation for sin, that having been done once for all by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14), it is still indispensable to appropriate the reconciliation and make the self-surrender to which Hezekiah's offerings pointed.
II. CERTAIN RESULTS. A revived condition of the religious life of either Church or individual will discover itself in three things, as it did with Hezekiah and his people.
1. Self-consecration. Already expressed in the act of covenant-making, this will reveal itself in the life that proceeds therefrom. Christian individuals in the Church, recognizing themselves to be not their own, but bought with a price, will lay themselves upon the altar as a willing sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
2. Gladness. "And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang," etc. (ver. 28). Joy an invariable accompaniment of a revived condition of religion in the soul or in the Church (Psalm 149:2, 5; Isaiah 65:14, 18; Habakkuk 3:18; Ephesians 5:18; 1 John 1:4).
3. Liberality. "And the congregation brought in sacrifices," etc. (ver. 31). Generosity in giving almost necessarily follows on a heightened experience of Divine grace. "Freely ye have received, freely give." - W.