Thoughts on 2 Chronicles 29-32.
In these four chapters of the Bible, we are told of the reform of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was one of only a few good kings in Judah's history, and Hezekiah rises to power in approximately 715 BC, just seven short years after the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to Assyria. His father, King Ahaz, was one of the worst kings Judah ever saw. Look at these pieces from 2 Chron. 28:1-4, 22-25: "[Ahaz] did not do right in the sight of the Lord...he...made molten images for the Baals. Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Benhinnom and burned his sons in fire...He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree. // Now in the time of his distress this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the Lord. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him...Moreover, when Ahaz gathered the utensils of the house of God, he cut the utensils of the house of God in pieces; and he closed the doors of the house of the Lord and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger." Obviously, Ahaz was not a good role model for anyone wanting to be king and be blessed.
In stark contrast to his father, Hezekiah comes on the scene and immediately begins the difficult task of reforming the nation of Judah. He has seen, in the Assyrian invasion of Israel, what happens when a people called by the one true God reject Him. He saw his fathers apostasy and syncretistic religion. Chapter 29:2 shows such a stark difference as it says, "He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done." In the 2 Kings account of Hezekiah's life, we read these words, "He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered" (2 Kings 18:5-7). God, His Word, and His presence were going to be essential and central in Hezekiah's personal life and reign as king of Judah.
So, what does he do to reform this nation? He focuses first on leadership and the temple (2 Chron. 29:5-19). He compels the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves for the service of the Lord and the physical structure of the temple for the worship of God. Reform always begins here...at the top...in leadership. Apart from godly leadership, the people of God flounder around like a fish out of water. Christ is the head of His church, but He has instituted elders/overseers/pastors to shepherd the flock entrusted to them. If there is no consecration in the pulpit and in the godly leadership of the church, then there will be none (or very little) in the pew. There are some godly, rock-solid believers who stay steady through the great tempests of church life, but generally, we need people to look at, emulate, and follow. Paul instructed the Corinthians believers, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).
We said it included the temple. What possible application could this have for today's church? There are so many different designs for corporate worship spaces. Some fan out, some are long and narrow, some are in elementary school auditoriums, some are in living rooms, etc. How do we apply the consecration of a physical space in today's church? Well, I think the long and short of it could be that anything detracting from the worship of God, taking away from biblical, corporate worship should be removed.
The next area of reform came in worship (29:20-30:27). Here, the sin of the people of Judah was first dealt with, then the singing and more offerings commenced, and finally, individuals came to worship by giving offerings. After all this, the Passover is reinstituted. It is interesting that in focusing on worship, sin is the first priority, then corporate singing, then individual worship. I have often heard people speak of their eagerness to get to corporate worship because they want to "do business with God." I am all for the repentance that accompanies Spirit-empowered preaching. However, why not repent now? Do business with God now? Turn from sin now? What greater way to prepare to enter the presence of God than to spend time confessing known sin and asking God to search your heart for all that is unknown to your conscious mind! Then, we are enabled to come into the presence of the Lord with thanksgiving in our hearts (Psalm 95:2). Then our singing is transformed as we celebrate the God of forgiveness and grace.
Finally, the reform touched the personal lives of the people (2 Chron. 31:1-19). Idols were destroyed, high places were pulled down, and altars were destroyed. Also, the people were now spiritually freed to give as they should, and tithing of crops and all that people had was revived. You see, the reformation of the leadership, the temple, and corporate worship led to the personal reformation of households.
The one question I have is...was Hezekiah successful? We are a success-driven society and church. We are not so much purpose-driven as we are success-driven. So, was Hezekiah successful? After all, the people of Judah would turn away from the Lord again after Hezekiah dies and Manasseh takes over. The Babylonians are still going to invade in a few decades and utterly destroy Judah, taking them into captivity.
Did Hezekiah fail? Nothing stuck. The generations that follow "de-reformed". It was the deflation of all Hezekiah had worked to achieve. Did he fail? Will I fail if nothing sticks? Will I be a failure if the reformation I am praying and preaching for does not last? The answer, I think, lies in something we have already read and something we have yet to read.
(1) 2 Kings 18:5-7 - "He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered." Does that sound like a failure? No.
(2) 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 - "Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered." Does that sound like a failure? No.
Can I substitute my name in there? Can you? Try, and you ask the Lord if it's true or not. Thus [name] did this work in [church name]; and he did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. Every work which [name] began in the service of the house of God...seeking his God... [name] did with all his heart.
What is the primary goal in reform? Personal faithfulness. Faithfulness to the task at hand, depending on the Lord and His strength, resting in His faithfulness on my behalf, and doing every work with all my heart. It is a high bar, but it is the bar for any who would lead the reform of God's people.