Two thoughts as I hover over the account of revival in Judah under King Hezekiah . . .
First, revival happens where God’s house is attended to.
After 16 years of disastrous leadership under King Ahaz, things turn around under the twenty-something King Hezekiah. Under Ahaz idolatry ran rampant. Wooden idols of Asherah were “upgraded” to metal monuments to Baal. Animal sacrifices to the God of heaven were replaced with human sacrifices to the gods of hell. And the price for such flagrant disobedience was steep. In one battle alone, 120,000 Judean men of valor lost their lives “because they had forsaken the LORD” (2Chron. 28:6).
But Ahaz didn’t get it. And the deeper in he got, the more he turned to the non-gods of the pagans around him. And the more he did that, the less and less regard he had for the temple of God–the place where the glory longed to dwell–desecrating the vessels of the house of God and even shutting the doors to it all together (28:24). Talk about one of your low-points in Judah’s history.
Enter the twenty-five year old, Hezekiah. And in the first year of his young and youthful reign he re-opens the doors of the house of the LORD (29:1). And orders that the filth that had been allowed to accumulate in the temple be cleaned out. And that the honor and attention that was due God’s dwelling place be re-established through intentional acts of consecration. Thus, reversing the years of neglect when God’s people had “turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs” (29:6), he re-ignites (literally) temple worship.
And when he does, the praise returns, as does the Presence.
So, isn’t there something instructive here about the church? If God’s holy temple today is made of living stones joined and “built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22, 1Pet. 2:5), then isn’t there a warning from 2Chronicles of the dangers of neglecting the temple of God, the church? A cause-and-effect that says, when we place the things of the world above the house of God, then we risk, at the least, distancing ourselves from the presence and power of God. That, if we want revival, then maybe it starts with attending to the temple? When the people of God become again our priority, then the praise of God, the presence of God, and the power of God are going to be known by the grace of God. I’m thinkin’ . . .
But here’s the second thought that came to mind as I’m chewing on such revival. Because I’ve read ahead, I know that it’s gonna be short-lived. That in a sense, this is Judah’s last gasp at life before it chooses death and is dispersed. And it reminds me that while a man of influence, such a king of Judah, can edict behavior that resembles revival, only the Man of Eternity, can change hearts so that the behavior is born out of new life and a response of love. And, when that happens, then revival lasts.
It’s not just about going through the motions of doing church, of doing temple maintenance, it’s about the good news that old ways can be made new. The gospel reminding us that cleansing has already been accomplished on the cross. That the once for all sacrifice offered on our behalf has already been fully accepted as evidenced by the empty tomb. That the power to participate in the divine things of God has already been provided through the promised Spirit.
Only in that truth, and out of a grace-enabled response to that reality, can we tend to the temple. Can we turn our faces back to God by renewing our commitment to the house of God.
Though they aren’t a perfect lot, we again, by faith, seek to be with the people of God because we believe that’s where the praise, presence, and power of God can be known.
And when the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. . . . And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had prepared for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.
(2Chronicles 29:27b-29, 36 ESV)
I think revival may just be tied to the temple. And we are that temple.
Because of grace. For His glory.