2 Chronicles 29:20-36
Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.