Hezekiah’s Narrow Way

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Hezekiah was a good man and a good king. And the temptation for a good man is not usually doing evil, but having too high an opinion of one’s self. This may manifest itself in presumptuous acts or being ungrateful. They are signs that you are forgetting the God who made you, and made you great.

There is a lot of discussion today about privilege. It’s usually coupled with the word, “white,” and is used disparagingly to accuse by opportunistic people hoping to trade on their skin color. These accusations are designed to make you feel guilty for what you have because of your colonizing, slave-holding, oppressing forefathers have gained for you, whether or not that is true, or how you have personally conducted your life. The basic message is, “Your ancestors are guilty, and now YOU owe ME.”

These are dangerous positions to take, for by doing them, you presume to be God. And you presume to understand the complex math of unforgiveness. And it demonstrates your own ungrateful attitude for “being born on third base,” yourself by being born in America, where people actually bend over backwards to make a way for you as you whine and complain.

This is not a political issue. It is a religious and spiritual one. Christ came to take away the sin of the world, bringing forgiveness in the spiritual world so we can practice it in the natural. But many Americans say, “Screw that! We want justice! We want revenge! We want to rule over you with a rod of iron!” They know not what they are doing.

If you call yourself a man of God, and you preach this gospel of unforgiveness and getting even, you are a false shepherd. You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You are manufacturing monsters instead of feeding the lambs. The good news is, even this sin can be forgiven if you will turn from it and repent. You must then heal the people you have grievously wounded.

When Everyone Tithed

Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah and broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and broke down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, and in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the people of Israel returned to their cities, every man to his possession.

And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the Lord and to give thanks and praise. The contribution of the king from his own possessions was for the burnt offerings: the burnt offerings of morning and evening, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the appointed feasts, as it is written in the Law of the Lord. And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and laid them in heaps. In the third month they began to pile up the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and his people Israel. And Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites about the heaps. Azariah the chief priest, who was of the house of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the Lord, we have eaten and had enough and have plenty left, for the Lord has blessed his people, so that we have this large amount left.” 2 Chronicles 31:1-10.

I don’t think it’s an accident that after all the idols we’re destroyed that the people could suddenly afford to support the ministry. Hezekiah sees all these heaps of offerings and says, “Where did all this come from?” Well, the people have been bringing it, but the unasked question is, why weren’t they bringing it before?

It is hard to say how much of this largesse was going to false gods and why. But Hezekiah had organized the priests and Levites in such a way that people could see that ministry was being done. And that may have inspired the people to believe they were not just supporting a class of layabouts.

In 38 years of being a member of many churches, I have observed the following:

  1. Where thy preach tithes and offerings, they get them and have plenty.
  2. Where ministry is well organized, and people can see this, they have plenty.
  3. Wherever people insist that tithing has passed away, or ignore the subject, they are broke.

Strong leadership does not drive people away, it inspires them.

General Absolution

And many people came together in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very great assembly. They set to work and removed the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away and threw into the brook Kidron. And they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, so that they consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings into the house of the Lord. They took their accustomed posts according to the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests threw the blood that they received from the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the Lord. For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lordday by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers. 2 Chronicles 30:13-22.

When Hezekiah realized he had missed the Passover, he decided to have it anyway. It would be a month late, but he wanted the people who had drifted away from God to come back as soon as possible. So at the feast he gave what we would know as general absolution. The Lord honored this request, and they decided to celebrate for seven more days.

This is the sort of thing a Catholic priest might have done on the Titanic as it was going down. The urgency of facing certain death sets aside all formality as people want to get right with the God they shall soon see. Did Hezekiah know it would be a little over a hundred years before God’s people would be removed from this land by the Babylonians?

It is unlikely that he knew he was on a sinking ship, but God knew. And God knows the state of our own nation better than we do. Whether we have already hit the iceberg or not, we must extend the absolution that is offered through the blood of Christ. No matter how America is doing, we all go under the waves sooner than we expect.

The Consecrated Levites

Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord. Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the Lord.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings that the assembly brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the Lord. And the consecrated offerings were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. But the priests were too few and could not flay all the burnt offerings, so until other priests had consecrated themselves, their brothers the Levites helped them, until the work was finished—for the Levites were more upright in heart than the priests in consecrating themselves. Besides the great number of burnt offerings, there was the fat of the peace offerings, and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored. And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly. 2 Chronicles 29:31-36.

The Levites were the grunts of the ministry. The hauled things, assembled things and cleaned things. The priests were allowed to make sacrifices, burn incense, and perform other special duties. But the priests had to consecrate themselves with ritual washing and anointing with oil. So, why were there not enough priests ready? The text tells us the Levites had to give a hand because they were more upright and were prepared. They had consecrated themselves.

It may be that most of the priests presumed they were not needed. Somebody else had this. They may not have been ready for so many sacrifices. But the Levites got to shine that day because they were ready.

Make yourself ready, for you don’t know what demands may be made. The men in suits may not be ready. And the ministry must be done.

Faithless and Stupid

Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made metal images for the Baals, and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree. 2 Chronicles 28:1-4.

Ahaz not only ignored the God of Israel; he took up with the gods of Israel’s enemies. So the Lord abandoned him and he suffered crushing defeats and the capture of many Judeans.

It would be bad enough to listen to our own leaders pervert justice and champion lawlessness, but to hear some of them attempt to school us on the Bible while doing so is a step that cannot be ignored. And it is a sign that we are in danger of being overrun and taken captive ourselves.

America is now such a godless and foolish nation that our wealth can no longer insulate us. I am reminded of the many times God turned his enemies against each other so that when the faithful showed up, there were already dead bodies everywhere.

But where are the faithful? Where are the obedient? Where are those who care more about the kingdom of God and growing it than they do about clinging to the republic and winning elections? They are too few to occupy the land.