Throwback Thursday ~ Cleaning House

Originally published May 5, 2010

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old;…

He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.

He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east.

Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place.

“For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs.

“They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.

“Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.

“For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.

“Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us.

“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.”

Then the Levites arose…
They assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves, and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD, according to the commandment of the king by the words of the LORD.

So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD they brought out to the court of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received it to carry out to the Kidron valley…

Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of showbread with all of its utensils.

“Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness, we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.”

Then King Hezekiah arose early and assembled the princes of the city and went up to the house of the LORD.

They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah. And he ordered the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD…
The priests slaughtered them and purged the altar with their blood to atone for all Israel, for the king ordered the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel.

He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with harps and with lyres,…

The Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.

Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel.

While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped.

Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.

Then Hezekiah said, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD ” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those who were willing brought burnt offerings…

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings;

There were also many burnt offerings with the fat of the peace offerings and with the libations for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the LORD was established again.

Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people…

Excerpted from 2 Chronicles 29

You know the history of Israel: bad king, good king, bad king, good king (actually, there were a lot more bad kings than good kings). The bad kings would come in and establish idol worship. They set up altars and made sacrifices to false gods, introduced cult prostitution, and even desecrated God’s house with idol worship and paraphernalia.

Ahaz was one of those bad kings. Second Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 tell us he not only burned incense and made sacrifices to his gods, he “even made his sons pass through the fire” in worship of these idols. He took the gold and silver from God’s house and used it to try to bribe another king to come help him fight against an enemy. He desecrated God’s altar and tore down parts of the temple. He cut to pieces all of the temple utensils used for making sacrifices to the Lord. He had altars to his own gods placed in the temple, “in every corner of Jerusalem”, and “in every city in Judah”.

Ahaz was one bad dude. In fact, he was such a pustule of a human being that when he died they didn’t even bury him with all the other kings of Israel. That’s pretty bad.

And Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, became king in his place.

Hezekiah was one of the most godly kings in Israel’s history. He had seen with his own eyes the evil perpetrated by his father, which had infested God’s holy house and spread throughout the land, and God put it in his heart to turn things around and lead his people back to God.

See any similarities between God’s house then and God’s house now? Between God’s people then and God’s people now? Is it time for us to grieve over the holy things that have been destroyed or taken out of God’s house, and the filth that has been brought into His house?

We’ve got to sweep around our own front door.

Notice that Hezekiah didn’t just go out and get a bunch of guys together and say, “All right, boys, we need to clean house. Let’s get to work.” He went specifically to the priests and Levites – the church leadership, if you will – and said, “consecrate yourselves”.

Consecration was a process of ritual cleansing. As the priests and Levites went through each step of the outward, physical cleansing, they were also setting themselves apart from worldliness and seeking God’s hand of purification in their hearts.

Notice also that the priests and Levites had to consecrate themselves before they would be able to consecrate the temple. Just as Ahaz’s own personal evildoing had trickled down and infected the people, so the temple leadership would have to cleanse themselves personally before God in order for a pursuit of holiness to pervade God’s house and His people.

Those who study revival have noted that the majority of churches which experience revival do so under the leadership of a pastor who has experienced personal revival. If a pastor senses it’s time to clean house at his church, step one is to make sure he has consecrated himself and is walking blamelessly before God. Step two is to get his leadership together for times of cleansing and much prayer, that they may consecrate themselves before leading the people.

Once their personal cleansing was complete, the priests and Levites began to “carry the uncleanness out from the holy place”. The evil done in the temple in Ahaz’s day had harmed families, stirred God to anger, and made His people “an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing” in the eyes of the world around them. Likewise, the worldliness and sin – from gossip and jealousy all the way up to pedophile clergy – we have allowed into the church has brought tremendous harm to countless families and has made the body of Christ an object of ridicule and hatred in the eyes of many of the people we seek to reach for Him. Can we expect that His anger towards us would be any less than his anger towards the Israelites?

When the priests and Levites began to cleanse the temple, they did so completely and permanently. In the same spirit of Jesus’ own remarks that if your very hand or eye causes you to sin, you should remove it from your body, the priests and Levites removed everything – no matter how small, no matter how valuable it may have seemed, or how much its removal might have offended someone – that didn’t belong in God’s house.

Verse 16 tells us they carried all these unclean things out to the Kidron valley. The Kidron valley (or brook, as it was sometimes called when water was running through the valley due to heavy rains) was an area outside Jerusalem where, under Kings Asa, Josiah, and Hezekiah, all manner of unclean items used in idol worship were disposed of, usually by burning. That’s permanent. They weren’t taking any chances that someone might come across these items and bring them back into the temple.

Not only did the priests and Levites take all the unclean items out of God’s house, they purified and brought back all of the sacred items used for worshiping God that never should have been removed.

Is it time to carry the unclean things out of your church and down to the Kidron valley? Maybe it’s an unbiblical doctrinal tenet of your denomination. A program that brings glory only to the church members involved and not to God. A person in a position of church leadership who intentionally lives in sin and rebellion. An attitude of your own heart.

What about the holy items of worship that have been taken out of your church? Have sound, Biblical sermons been replaced by ear tickling pep talks and skits? Have Scriptural and doctrinal worship songs been replaced by the vain repetition of fluffy, feel-good jingles? Has prayer become simply a way to bookend your worship services or even disappeared altogether?

Our churches are in captivity to worldliness due to our disobedience. God has chosen our pastors to minister before Him; to lead His people to be consecrated to Him and worship Him. Dear pastor, please do not be negligent about cleansing His house. For the sake of us, the sheep God has entrusted to you, won’t you go into the innermost part of the house of God – your heart, your family, your staff – and through humility, prayer, study of the Word, and sound biblical action, remove every unclean thing, and bring back the sacred things with the help of your church leadership?

Only when God’s house is clean will we be able to offer Him the sacrifices He truly desires:

Thus the service of the house of the Lord will established again, and the people will rejoice over what God has prepared for them.

Old Testament, Sunday School

Hezekiah: Who Are You Going to Believe? ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-3-14


Photos courtesy of:, WUTT on, and

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 31 ~ July 27- Aug. 2
Isaiah 44-66, 2 Kings 18:9-21:26, Psalm 46, 80, 135
Hezekiah: Who Are You Going to Believe?

2 Kings 18:1-8
This first part of the chapter sets the stage for everything we subsequently learn about and from Hezekiah. Even though he had a despicable, idolatrous example for a father (King Ahaz), Hezekiah somehow turned out to be a godly man and king. Could it have been the way his mother raised and taught him? Possibly. (The Zechariah mentioned in v. 2, is not the prophet in the book of the same name.) It could also have been one of the priests or Levites brought in to train him as part of his childhood education. Scripture doesn’t tell us specifically, but we should never discount the importance of a godly mother or teachers, and we should strive to take hold of every opportunity we have to impact children’s lives for Christ.

At any rate, Hezekiah was off to a good start. Notice that this passage talks much more about Hezekiah’s relationship with the Lord than his actions for the Lord. It says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (3), “he trusted in the Lord,” (5). He held fast to the Lord, did not depart from the Lord, and kept the Lord’s commandments (6). “And the Lord was with him.” (7)

His actions followed his faith: he tore down idol worship paraphernalia, rebelled against the king of Assyria, and struck down the Philistines.

This passage continues to set the stage by reminding us that during the first few years of Hezekiah’s reign in Judah, the king of Assyria captured Samaria (capital of Israel) and carried Israel away to Assyria because they had rebelled against God.

13-16 (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Sennacherib (king of Assyria after Shalmaneser, who had captured Israel) wasn’t wild about Hezkiah rebelling against him, so he attacked Judah and captured all the stronghold cities except Jerusalem (the capital), which was next on the hit list.

What was godly, faithful Hezekiah’s response. Did he pray? Seek out Isaiah or another prophet or priest for godly counsel? No. Here, Hezekiah showed us an example of what we are not to do. Before, we read that Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes. Here, he simply reacted to his circumstances in the way that was right in his own eyes, the way that was most expedient and practical. It was exactly what his father and others before him had done when they became vassals of Assyria or other kings. Instead of following in their footsteps, he would have done better to pray as his predecessor Jehoshaphat did:

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chron.)

What determines our response?
When we face an impossible situation like Hezekiah did, we have two options: we can let our circumstances dictate our response, or we can let God’s word dictate our response. Hezekiah didn’t consult God’s word. So, since he didn’t know what God would have him do in this situation, his only remaining option was to let circumstances dictate his response.

17- 37 (Isaiah 30:7, 10:5-6)
What happened? The 11 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold that Hezekiah sent Sennacherib, king of Assyria weren’t good enough for him. So Senaccherib sent his goon squad over to make Judah an offer it couldn’t refuse.

The Rabshakeh (commander) did his best to demoralize and talk Hezekiah’s men into surrendering. Notice that he didn’t really have to lie to them very much. Much of what he said was actually true:

Egypt was weak and would be of no help in fighting off Assyria (21,24). In fact, Isaiah had already told them this (Is. 30).

Even if Assyria herself supplied Judah with horses for battle, Judah was still too weak to defeat even the weakest of Assyria’s troops, so Egypt certainly wouldn’t be of any help. (23-24)

Whether the Rabshakeh knew it, or was just boasting and stumbled on the truth, Assyria was to be God’s arm of wrath against his people (25). Judah knew this because Isaiah had already told them (Is. 10)

From man’s point of view, and in his own flesh, Hezekiah would lose this battle and the people would be carried off to captivity in Assyria (29-32).

The false gods of the other nations had not been able to save them from Assyria (33-35).

But the truth was mixed with falsehood and fallible human wisdom:

The Rabshakeh didn’t know that the places of idol worship that Hezekiah had torn down were to false gods, not the true God. (22)

God might have been against Judah, but he wasn’t with Assyria (25).

The Lord is trustworthy and able to defeat any enemy (30, 32b, 35).

Hezekiah’s officials delivered the message to him. Would he believe the Rabshakeh? Would he react the way he did last time?

Hooray for Hezekiah! This time, he responded the right way. The first thing he did was to grieve before God and head to His house to pray (1). The second thing he did was to send his staff to Isaiah to seek God’s word. (2-4).

And what was God’s word? Do not be afraid; this dude’s going down. (6-7)

The Rabshakeh left and went back home only to find Sennacherib fighting with one kingdom and under impending attack from another. So, just to let Hezekiah know he hadn’t forgotten about him, Sennacherib sent another threatening message: “I may be busy right now, but I’m still coming for you. And don’t forget– none of the gods of these other countries saved them and your God isn’t going to save you.”

Hezekiah had a choice to make. Who was he going to believe, the Rabshakeh or God? The Rabshakeh had said a lot of stuff that was true. He even said that God had sent him. It would have made sense to listen to him, do what he said, and surrender.

But that’s not what Hezekiah did. He again turned to the Lord in prayer. While he was praying, Isaiah heard from the Lord, who reiterated and expanded on his earlier promise: God would defeat Assyria in this battle, and would even give Hezekiah a sign that confirmed His word.

35-37 Even though it seemed reasonable to believe Sennacherib, and even though he had talked about God sending him, Hezekiah chose to believe God’s word. He believed God’s word even though the situation seemed impossible. Even though he was scared. Even though it didn’t make sense.

Who are we going to believe?
God calls us to do the same thing as believers. We encounter a lot of situations these days in which people say things that seem to be reasonable, might even be true, and tell us they come to us in the name of the Lord:

“Pastors” and “theologians” who tell us that evolution or homosexuality or abortion or female pastors/teachers (of men) are OK with God, or that the Bible isn’t infallible.

Christians who tell us about trips to Heaven they have taken or “God told me ______” even when it conflicts with Scripture.

But no matter how strong the evidence might appear to be or how convincing the argument, it all comes down to this question:

Who are we going to believe?

Are we going to believe fallible, sinful human beings, or are we going to believe God’s word, even when it’s hard, even when we don’t fully understand it?

For Christians, SCRIPTURE ALONE is our final authority for what to believe, think, and do. It doesn’t matter what we (or someone else) have personally experienced, what our feelings or opinions are, what science says, what conventional wisdom says, or what political correctness says. God’s word stands, and let the chips fall where they may.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30


Book Reviews, Entertainment, Faith

Book Report: Chronicles of The Kings

9934I don’t write book reviews by request, but when I happen across a book (or in this case a series) I really like, I enjoy recommending it and giving the author kudos.

Such is the case with Chronicles of the Kings, a biblical history novel series by Lynn Austin. The five books in the series are:

Gods and Kings
Song of Redemption
The Strength of His Hand
Faith of my Fathers
Among the Gods

I originally picked up Gods and Kings because the blurb I had read about the series said it was about Hezekiah, who is tied for first place with Josiah as my favorite Old Testament king. Gods and Kings begins with the story of the evil, Molech-worshiping king of Judah, Ahaz. As the series progresses, we also walk through the reigns of Ahaz’s righteous son Hezekiah, who sets out to restore Judah both materially and spiritually after Ahaz’s idolatry, and its consequences, have ravaged the land. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh then takes the throne, bringing new meaning to the words polytheism and debauchery. Along the way, we meet with the kings’ contemporaries, Isaiah, Eliakim, Micah, and other biblical as well as fictional characters.

I could insert the obligatory gushing here about how well crafted the stories were and how Ms. Austin’s writing turned me into the literary equivalent of a chain smoker, but there were two things about this series that eclipsed how artfully it was written.

First, Ms. Austin did her homework. And she did it extremely well. As someone who had to research biblical culture, geography, customs, etc., myself for my own book, it is blindingly obvious that the books in the Chronicles of the Kings series were well and thoroughly researched. I can only imagine the hours Ms. Austin must have spent in the biblical text, commentaries, and extrabiblical historical sources. From details about dress to architecture to meals, Ms. Austin was attentive to the minor tidbits that helped me “see” what was happening and feel like I was part of the story.

On a more “macro” level, Ms. Austin’s description of Assyrian warfare, atrocities, and sweep to tyrannical domination over the Middle East gave me a clearer picture of the way events transpired that supported and even clarified the biblical text for me. If you have ever wondered why God used the Assyrians as an arm of judgment against Judah and Israel, or if you have ever wondered why God commanded that nations similar to Assyria be wiped off the face of the earth, you’ll understand after reading Chronicles of the Kings. Normally, I would never recommend that people go to a novel for clarity on details in God’s word, but Ms. Austin’s research is that good.

Finally, and most importantly, Ms. Austin gets the theology right, and in a way that is applicable to believers on this side of the cross. Her characters come to the realization that salvation is through grace, not through the works of empty ritual. That anything we put before God, even our own ideas of who God is, is an idol. That any sinner, no matter how despicable, can repent and experience God’s forgiveness. And on, and on, and on. I rarely read Christian fiction because I have found so much poor and even heretical theology in so many books in this genre. But somewhere around the middle of this series, I nearly came to tears as I realized that Ms. Austin was going to stay true to God’s word and not let me down by stooping to ear tickling or apostasy. And for that, I sincerely thank her.

All of the books in the series are available through, Barnes&, and CBD. The Kindle, Nook, and e-version of the first book in the series, Gods and Kings, is currently free at these sites. You may also, as I did, be able to find Chronicles of the Kings at your local library.

I highly recommend the Chronicles of the Kings series. I can’t say enough good things about it.