There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon . . . there had been nothing like this . . . The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them . . . (2 Chron. 30:26-27)
To understand why there was such rejoicing going on during this, the reign of Hezekiah in Judah, we have to backpedal about 16 years. That was the length of his father’s tenure, and King Ahaz was a despicable character. He actively promoted the worship of idols, and sacrificed his own children by burning them to death is a misguided effort to appease his false gods. He didn’t take correction from God’s prophet kindly, and reacted by defiling the temple in every way he could think of: Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the door of the Lord’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods . . . (2 Chron 28:24-25)
As a result things hadn’t gone well for Ahaz or his subjects. There must have been a huge communal exhale when Hezekiah came to the throne. His first priority was to repair and re-open the temple. Next, he called the priests and Levites to re-consecrate themselves to God, to remove all defilement from the temple, and to bring back the articles for worship that his father had removed. With regular worship restored, Hezekiah reached out to all Israel with a plea to return to God and come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread — the Passover.
Many in Israel turned their noses up at this invitation, but the people of Judah were united in their joy at celebrating God’s goodness once again. In fact, they were so thankful they doubled the usual length of the celebration. After 14 days, the festival was over, but the outcomes of their worship weren’t.
First, they went from Jerusalem to the towns in Judah and parts of Israel, smashing objects of idol worship. Only when these were all destroyed did the people go back to their homes.
Second, Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to make offerings, “to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises.” He led by example, providing daily and special offerings. Then he ordered those who lived in Jerusalem to give the priests and Levites the financial support God had ordained, so they could “devote themselves to the Law of the Lord.” The people responded immediately, generously, and coninuously. After four months, the provisions were so many they were piled in heaps. There was more than enough to support the temple ministry, with a great amount able to be stored.
The benefits of returning God to His rightful place in Judah were definitely not one-sided. We learn in ch. 22 of 2 Chronicles how God miraculously protected Judah from an overwhelming enemy attack, and “took care of them on every side.”
What message is here for me? It makes me think about the impact of leadership authorities on my faith, and how I respond when the leadership isn’t godly. While I haven’t had to live under a crazed church-wrecker like Ahaz, I am living under the minimization — and at times the outright disparaging — of Christianity. I’ve seen the idols not only on every street corner but in almost every hand, with the attached heads bowed in constant worship. Being a Christian in Canada today is unfashionable and increasingly uncomfortable. It’s tempting to take the easy way out and keep my faith to myself rather than risk rejection and reprisals. That’s just for me as an individual. Being a political leader in Canada who is a committed Christian is far more precarious.
Ahaz was all about desecration, and the whole nation suffered for it. Hezekiah saw the immediate need for re-consecration before the relationship of God and His people could be restored and faith revitalized. As Christianity here has been desecrated in ways designed to undermine its vitality, perhaps it’s time to re-consecrate ourselves to God, to remember Who is really in charge here. Then, we too could know great joy, the conviction to search out and destroy the idols in our own lives. We could be inspired to give so generously to God’s work that churches run a constant surplus. We could witness more miracles happening in our battles with the enemy of our souls.
Change in the community starts with a change in me. I think a good time for me to re-consecrate myself would be right now.
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men . . . who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. . . . they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came . . . they saw only dead bodies. . . .There was so much plunder it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah [Praise], where they praised the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:22-26)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. So not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)