Summary: King Hezekiah of Judah was a godly leader of his people about 7 centuries before Jesus Christ's time on earth. One of the king's great, God-pleasing accomplishments was reestablishing “the service of the temple of the Lord” after it had fallen into years of disuse and disrepair. The tabernacle that Moses had built and the later temple in Jerusalem were commonly known as “the house of the Lord” or “the house of God.” King Hezekiah’s great accomplishment was to restore the God-ordained patterns of worship and service in the house of the Lord.
What is the New Testament “house of God” since the death and resurrection of Jesus? It’s no longer a physical building. The apostle Paul preached in Athens and said that in this, our New Covenant era, God “does not live in temples built by human hands” (Acts 17:24). Writing to pastor Timothy, Paul spoke of “the house of God, which
To sum up, in the Old Testament, the “house of God” was a physical building that God blessed with His presence. In the New Testament, the house of God is “the church … a spiritual house … a holy temple in which God lives.”
I encourage you right now to take a few minutes and read 2 Chronicles, chapter 29. King Hezekiah’s reforms at the house of God point to many great needs for reform in our 21st-century house of God — the Church. This is consistent with the ongoing church-reforming motivations of the great apostle Paul. In an epistle (letter) of both encouragement and corrections to the Corinthian church, the apostle added, “And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:34, KJV). Let’s be diligent to humbly allow the Lord’s Word to provoke us to “set in order” the things that are out of order in our churches.
vss. 1-2 - Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” This was certainly true of the godly Hezekiah, king of Judah. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (vs. 1). In the Old Testament the leading of God’s people was by prophets, priests, kings, and sometimes what they called “judges.” In New Testament times the Lord’s people are to be led by the fivefold ministry of apostles … prophets … evangelists … pastors … and teachers (Ephesians 4:11), along with the elders in each local church. Under both Covenants — the Old (Mosaic) in Hezekiah’s time and the New since Jesus’ death and resurrection — God’s people needed upright, godly leaders and, when needed, reformers. King Hezekiah was such a reforming leader in his day. We need more of those today.
In our times, to properly repair and restore the New Testament house of God — the Church with its individual local congregations — we likewise need to see righteous, God-ordained ministries (listed above), “doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord” (vs. 2), and functioning effectively in their God-appointed places in the churches.
For too long Christian churches in our time have been content to have a leadership almost entirely of men called “pastor,” with that occasionally broadened to include an evangelist and/or a teacher, and sometimes overseen by elected “boards.” But the Scriptures speak of the leadership ministries of local church elders along with five other named ministers, often called the “fivefold” or “ascension gift” ministries listed in Ephesians 4:8, 11 — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. While not all of these 5-fold ministries are likely to be in every local church, each church should be under the edifying influence of these ministers and in some degree of relationship with them.
vs. 3 - “[The king] opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them.” At the outset of his kingly reign, Hezekiah addressed the issue of the house of God having fallen into disuse and disrepair. The very first thing he did was to have the doors of the temple opened and repaired.
In our New Testament local churches we need to do likewise. We need to see to the repair and opening of the doors of our churches, thinking spiritually now, not so much in the natural, visible sense of the building itself. Do the leaders and people of the church reach out to family and friends and invite them to church? Does the atmosphere in the church service make visitors feel welcome and valued? Does your church have what the late professor Peter Wagner called “acute koinonitis,” where new people in the church have a hard time breaking into tight-knit cliques? In sum, would a visitor to your church conclude that yours is an open-door church or a cliquish, ingrown one?
vss. 4-5 - “He brought in the priests and the Levites [and] assembled them…” The king gathered the priests and Levites (the tribe entrusted by God with ministry at the house of God). He gave them a charge to “consecrate yourselves” and the temple and to “remove all defilement from the sanctuary” (vs. 5). In order to set the house of God in order, he had to reach first the ministry leaders, the priests and Levites. He commanded them to consecrate themselves, to sanctify themselves (KJV), to make themselves ceremonially or morally clean (Strong’s Concordance). In God’s eyes those who were about to remove all defilement from God’s house had to themselves be free from defilement. Jesus reaffirmed this in priciple when he said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attenion to the plank in your own eye? ...You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Luke 6:41-42). This requirement certainly applies to every generation of spiritual leaders.
The deplorable state of Hezekiah’s temple before his reforms clearly has direct application to the sad state of many American churches today. As I write this in 2022 I see and hear of increasing defilement and unholiness in many of the churches of my nation. Divorce rates among Christians have skyrocketed. The ignoring of sexual immorality is an ongoing problem in many churches. Entire denominations have compromised biblical truth and have accepted the sinful lifestyles of the LGBTQ+ movement and much of the American Left’s ongoing antagonism to the Church, the Bible, school prayer, the parent-led nuclear family, and other things of great importance to Almighty God. Many more such issues could be mentioned.
The solution, as in Hezekiah’s reform, depends on (1) leaders in the house of God consecrating/sanctifying themselves unto holiness and godly conduct and (2) taking firm action to “remove all defilement” from the church. God’s standards as revealed in His Word must take absolute priority. And all which flies in the face of His standards must be deemed unacceptable in the churches. Those who take a casual attitude to these things should be reminded that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31, written to believers). God loves us, yes, but He hates iniquity. So should we.
Without this self-consecration of God’s people to Him and a determination to “carry forth the filthiness out of” the house of God (vs. 5, KJV), the Lord’s Church will fail Him terribly. The solution for every person, every church, and every nation is found in the timeless truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV — “If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That was God’s plan for his people more than 2,500 years ago. And it’s still God’s plan for His people and His Church today. Consecrated followers of the Lord must be committed to removing all defilement from the house of God, the Church.
vss. 6-11 - King Hezekiah reminded the priests and Levites of the nation’s sins that had led to the closing of the temple and its ministries. Those sins — idolatry, forsaking the Lord and His ways, and more — had brought upon them the righteous wrath of God. He exhorted them (10-11) to recommit themselves to the Lord and to His God-commanded ministries.
That exhortation is equally applicable to us on this side of the cross of Christ. Right now in 2022 in the USA, church attendance is dropping. Many others have noticed, as I also have, that biblical knowledge in our nation is declining. Sinful conduct, once done in secret, is now not only done openly, but is often (sadly) praised as evidence of so-called “tolerance” and love.
Like Judah of old, we today need to “make a covenant with the Lord.” We need to renew our dedication to Him (vs. 10), to His Word, and to biblical holiness. And (vs. 11) we need to commit again to the Lord to accomplish the ministries God has given us. Christian believers’ multi-faceted “work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, KJV) is absolutely essential to bringing the Church to Christian maturity and fruit-bearing for our Lord. Renew your dedication to the Lord and to your God-given area of service to Him.
vs. 11 - Speaking directly to the ministering Levites, the king charged them to “not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him, to minister before Him and to burn incense” (11).
How does this apply to today’s Church? In the New Covenant, since the Cross, every believer is called to minister. Many have descriptively called this “body ministry.” That is, each and every member of Christ’s body the Church has a gift or gifts from the Lord to use in ministry for the Lord. What are we to do with those spiritual gifts? The Scripture says (1 Peter 4:10, NKJV), “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
There are lists of spiritual gifts and ministries in Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:4-8, and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. More gifts and divine callings are seen in other Scriptures. The point is this: God calls every believer to minister for Him. And He gives each believer specific divine enablement(s) to accomplish those callings. Our part is to be faithful, not negligent. Don’t leave it all up to the pastor!
vs. 15 - Before doing the actual restoration of the temple and its service, the Levites “consecrated themselves.” Then they went in to purify the house of the Lord. And these things were done the one and only correct way before God — that is, “following the word of the Lord.”
Three things of great importance to the Church today occur in this one brief verse:
1) The spiritual leaders “consecrated themselves.” They were diligent to ensure that there was no uncleanness in them personally. It seems that Timothy was a church pastor in Ephesus when the apostle Paul wrote to him. Even considering the importance of Timothy ministering God’s Word to the people, take note of Paul’s initial emphasis in 1 Timothy 4:16, NKJV: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” Sadly, too many ministers in my lifetime have failed to do this. They let sin get a hold in their lives and bring discredit to the Lord’s ministry. Pastors, elders, and other ministry leaders, the Word of God appeals to you. Your ministry is not more important than a godly personal walk with the Lord. “Take heed to yourself…consecrate yourself”! And fruitful ministry will flow from that.
2) When the Levites “had … consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord” (vs. 15). Christians, especially leaders, having fulfilled point 1) above and having a clean heart and conduct before God, now get busy purifying the house of God — your church! There may be much defilement (vs. 5) to be removed. And what standard should you use to accomplish that? (the answer is in point 3 below)
3) “…following the Word of the Lord.” Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 4:2). Preach and teach the Scriptures of the Bible extensively. Referring to short sermons with little if any Scripture, my first pastor used to say, "Sermonettes make 'Christianettes'." We need large, consistent doses of God's holy Word. And don’t avoid the “Thou shalt not” portions, or you’ll fail to “remove the defilement” from the Lord’s house.
In sum, verse 15’s message to the Church today is for the leaders to make sure they themselves have a clean and holy walk with the Lord. From that standpoint they can conscientiously address needs for reform in the local churches. And they must base all their actions for reform on “following the word of the Lord.” The Bible must be the unchangeable, bedrock standard to build Jesus’ Church and its local congregations. Any victorious local church must be grounded on the all-important foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11) and His Word the Bible.
vss. 16-17 - The priests and Levites worked together to purify the house of God, the temple. It had fallen into such a horrible state that it took them 16 days to get the uncleanness and filth out of the temple and hauled away. Think of that! There was so much junk and filth in the house of God that it took a large company of priests and Levites 16 days to clean it out.
Applying that to today’s churches, such church reform where needed is an important part of what the Bible calls “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). Ministry for our Lord is work. The apostle Paul knew that firsthand, and he told us to “not get tired of doing what is good … don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT).
Every bit of work for the advancement and enlargement of the kingdom of God is important. To pastors and church elders especially, I remind you of the Church’s high calling to be the holy, radiant Bride of Christ. Paul wrote to the entire Corinthian church (1 Cor. 11:2, NASB): “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” This is high and holy language. Jesus wants His bridal church to be presented to Him as a chaste virgin. Absolute purity, shining and spotless holiness. If the leaders of your church are not helping the saints to press forward into this high calling, they should be. Any filth in the house of God that is not helping to fulfill this holy calling needs to be rooted out.
vss. 18-19 - They purified the temple and, very importantly, the all-important altar of burnt offering and the various other furnishings and articles used in the temple ministry. That brazen altar is where the sacrificial animals were offered before the Lord. As far as the arrangement of the ministry vessels and articles of furniture, the altar of burnt offering was the very first place of ministry in the temple service (likewise at the earlier Tabernacle of Moses). For example, the priests coming to the tabernacle or temple for ministry would first encounter that sacrificial altar, then the laver, after that the golden candlestick and the table of showbread, and finally the golden altar of incense just before the ultimate Holy of Holies (which only the high priest could enter, only once a year on the Day of Atonement).
The order and symbolism of the tabernacle and temple furnishings is a great study to undertake on your own. I highly recommend "The Tabernacle of Moses" and "The Temple of Solomon" by the late, outstanding Australian Bible teacher, Kevin Conner. For our part today, let it be clearly noted that the first vessel or furnishing the worshiper saw at the Old Testament house of God was that sacrificial altar.
What does this typify for us New Testament believers? — “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV). The King James Version adds: “…sacrificed for us.”
The priests and Levites in Hezekiah’s reform were diligent to set up the altar of burnt offerings. Jesus Christ fulfilled all that typology by His once-for-all sacrifice of Himself on the Cross for our sins. That, in brief, is “the Gospel” we are called to share with others — “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:2-4).
My fellow believers, Jesus Christ the Son of God is the Lord and Savior, the head of the Church, the one and only way to God the Father. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And God the Father has decreed of Jesus that “in all things He [Jesus] might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
Church leaders, I ask the all-important question: Is the Lord Jesus Christ absolutely central and preeminent in every aspect of your church? If not, there is great need for reform.
vss. 20-24 - Once the house of God had been cleansed of its filth, the priests offered abundant sacrifices on the restored altar of the Lord (21). The sanctified ministers offered sacrifices on a sanctified altar.
Some 20 centuries ago, our pure and spotless Savior Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be a sin offering for all of us. Since that “once-for-all” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27), there is no further need for animal sacrifices. Jesus has forever and completely provided the remedy for the separation of sinful man from a perfect God. Jesus has done His part. Our part is to believe in Him and repent of sin (Acts 20:21) and to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Has all sacrifice ceased then? No. The shedding of animals’ blood is finished because Jesus shed His blood once for all 2,000 years ago. But we can still “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). For example, the “sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Or we can “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). What God’s Word is saying in these verses is that Jesus was the sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. That sacrifice is done and never needs repeating. It is a finished work. But we can offer such “spiritual sacrifices” as praising the Lord or offering our bodies as living vessels of the holy life that pleases God.
vss. 25-30 - The king then restored at the temple the musical worship God had commanded “through his prophets” and through King David. I am thankful that in my 50+ years as a born-again Christian I’ve been blessed to be in churches where there is much musical worship of the Lord, with both Holy Spirit-anointed singing and instruments. Many believers are not aware that the Bible’s book of Psalms is essentially a Holy Spirit-inspired book of songs. King David, a greatly skilled musician, was the primary (but not only) writer of the Psalms.
King David established an extensive ministry of songs and musical instruments to offer praise and worship in David’s temporary tabernacle and the soon-to-come temple of God built by his son, King Solomon.
This God-given musical heritage continued on into the New Testament times. The apostle Paul speaks favorably to the Corinthian church of singing both with the spirit and the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). To the Ephesian church (5:18-19), Paul encouraged them to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” To the Colossian church (Col. 3:16) the apostle similarly encouraged “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Musical worship — songs and instrumentation — were and still are very needful expressions of praise and worship to the Lord. May our church services be filled with songs from the believers’ hearts to the Lord! If they are not, there is great need for reform in that church. Handel’s magnificent, soul-stirring Hallelujah Chorus uses verses from the Book of Revelation (chapter 19). I am at times brought to tears listening to that worshipful music, just as I am often brought to joyful tears in the worship times of the church my wife and I attend in Springfield, Oregon. Let there be musical worship in the churches!
As the burnt offering was sacrificed on the altar, the Levites and priests played their instruments, and “the whole assembly bowed in worship.” Even after the offering was fully burnt on the altar (29), they continued to “sing praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped” (30). This remarkable scene should be seen over and over in our local churches today. As we celebrate the once-for-all finished sacrifice of Christ our Passover Lamb in the preached Word and in heartfelt songs of praise to Him and to God the Father, a sense of awe will permeate the assembly and cause a bowing in worship, by some visibly, by others in their hearts, but all unto our glorious Lord and Savior.
vss. 31-35a - The whole assembly had “dedicated themselves to the Lord” (31). With willing hearts they continued to bring abundant sacrifices for presentation to the Lord. Notice the words “they continued…” My fellow believers, let your own personal dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ (and through Him to God the Father) be not just a now-and-then thing, not just a Sunday morning feeling, but an every-day living relationship with the Father and the Son.
As you get up each morning, in a brief prayer renew your commitment to the Lord for that day — “This is the day which the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, NASB). As they in King Hezekiah’s Judah did, let’s continue to bring sacrifices — but now they are spiritual sacrifices, as noted earlier: The sacrifice of praise, the sacrifice of bodies yielded to God for holy living, any number of “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). [Let me add: none of this is to get saved or to stay saved. Rather, we do these things in gratitude to the Lord because we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-10)].
vss. 35b-36 - The King James Version (35) says, “So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order.” And that touches upon our main theme today in this study — that is, that the 21st-century house of God, the Church, needs to be set in order.
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus wrote letters through the inspired writer John to the leaders of seven local churches. Only two of those seven churches received no criticisms from the Lord. The other five churches received one or more needed corrections (some received a lot of divine correction, even divine rebuke). Surely that is similar to the conditions of churches today, 20 centuries later. To a few the Lord might write, “Well done! Keep pressing on.” But the majority, I suspect, Jesus is calling to internal reform and renewing.
The reformation and reestablishment of the “service of the temple of the Lord” in Hezekiah’s Jerusalem brought about much rejoicing (36) among the king and the people. As needed reforms are done in our local churches, as things are “set in order,” like Hezekiah and his people we too will “rejoice at what God [has] brought about for His people.” Pastors, elders, and other church leaders — consider the reforms of the house of God that the godly king of Judah accomplished. Apply them in principle to your church and, helped by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, you’ll see your churches flourish as they come increasingly into God’s biblical pattern.
One final thought. Note that the reforms were “done so quickly” (36). Your local church might be years, even decades, old. It may be an awesome, God-pleasing church (I hope so!). Or it may have settled into unproductive habits, excesses, or shortcomings gradually and subtly, over long periods of time. God’s people, enabled by God and stirred by the Holy Spirit and godly leadership, can repair and restore broken churches “quickly”! King Hezekiah and his people did all those purifying reforms in 16 days! Not years and decades, but 16 days…”quickly.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you by the Word and by His voice speaking within you about the things that need to change — whether in yourselves, in your churches, or both. Act upon the leading of God’s Word and Spirit, and you can see church reformation and revitalizing “quickly.” And a spirit of gladness, worship, and renewed dedication can rapidly come front and center in your worship services. All for the glory of God the Father and His wonderful Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!
To pastors, elders, and other church leaders — if God has stirred your heart today to "set in order" some things in your local church, may I suggest some helpful resources at our "Sure Foundations: Principal Bible Truths for Life and Eternity."
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