Recently I was reading the story of King Hezekiah as recorded in I Chronicles 22-32; II Kings 18-20, and I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps God is raising up some “Hezekiahs” today. When Hezekiah began his reign, Judah was still caught in the apostasy which King Ahaz had led the nation into. True temple worship had been abandoned, in fact; the temple doors had been closed and the house of the Lord had been defiled. Ahaz had his own altar built, set up places of worship “in every corner of Jerusalem,” became involved in the grossest forms of idolatry, and led the people in turning their backs on the true worship of God. Hezekiah comes along, and had it in his heart to return to the Lord.
The first thing he does is tell the priests and the Levites to cleanse themselves and the temple. They are to remove every unclean thing out of the house of the Lord, cleanse all of the utensils, and open it back up so that true worship could be offered to God. Once all of this took place, the people could again come and offer their sacrifices to the Lord in the way that God had prescribed for them. The thing that stood out to me the most in all of this was the fact that this all started with the leadership. They had been complicit in Ahaz’s apostasy and needed to get their act together first!
Perhaps it is time for the so called leaders in the Church to cleanse themselves and repent. Too much time has been spent building up personal kingdoms, allowing “any old kind” of worship to go on (remember the “high places” in scripture?), and because of this; the people of God have been led into idolatry. It is easy to sit back and assign blame to the people, but perhaps the condition of the people is a direct reflection of the leadership. Maybe leadership has allowed the idolatry of personal preference, pride, and the desire for control to substitute true worship in their own lives. As a result, the “house of God” has become neglected. Perhaps it is the fault of leadership that “They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.”
In the story of Hezekiah, when the leadership “got right,” the people responded big time. Let us return to the Lord with all of our heart, for he waits to have compassion on us. Let us repent of doing things our own way. “So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service. And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.”