Restoring Your Spiritual Foundation
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
What would you do in your first month if you became king of a country that is facing the threat of attack by enemy forces, is severely lacking in military strength, is in desperate need of political organization, and is spiritually hardened? Fire all those who disagree with you and hire only those who agree with you? Fortify your military? Strive to stabilize your nation’s economy? Capture your enemies? We’ve seen these tactics before, to be sure. With so much to right and right quickly, it’s hard to know what to do first.
Now, just think what it might be like if your priority in your kingly duties was not to strengthen your nation’s power, might, wealth, or influence, but rather to first exalt another kingdom, a kingdom that you do not rule and that is much grander than yours.
What, are you crazy? Talk about a paradigm shift!
Some might even consider that the kind of senility that would warrant an arrest to the mental institution or the kind of political motive that might label you a traitor charged with treason. At the very least, you might lose the respect and gain the suspicions of your governmental minions.
Well, we can scratch senility off the list, because you are too young to have to worry about dementia. And we can also take out the crazy, traitor, and disrespected labels because these labels no longer matter. And here’s why.
Your true kingdom of loyalty is not housed here on earth. It’s a kingdom you can’t see with your eyes because it’s a supernatural kingdom. In charge of this other-worldly kingdom is—have you guessed it yet?—God Himself. And the Most Holy One has a mandate for you to help a nation “seek His kingdom and His righteousness.” The way you are going to do that is through reestablishing holy worship of God among the people.
Here are the final details about yourself to complete the picture: You are the youthful age of 25, your name is Hezekiah, you are king over Judah around 729 B.C., and your first activity, in light of the mandate, is to get the Temple of the Lord consecrated and ready for use, basically “reopened for business,” to use a colloquial phrase. This true story appears in 2 Chronicles 29.
Reopening the Temple – Usher in God’s Presence
In his first month of service, King Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple and repaired them (verse 3). This was as much a physical act as it was a spiritual act. It wasn’t simply architectural or engineering in nature; this was a symbol of worship of the Lord. Ultimately, by doing this first deed, Hezekiah was demonstrating a desire to usher back in the presence of the Lord, to be open once again to the Spirit of the Lord. The Nation needed God, and so he decided it would start with him. This is top-down spiritual restoration that would affect not only him and his family, not only his nation at the present, but the nation of Israel in the future. That’s some high calling!
In the years before his reign, the people of Judah had turned away from the Lord and done evil. They had snuffed out the lamps in the Temple, stopped offering sacrifices to God, and had closed up the doors. The Temple had not been in use as it should have been (verses 5-8). And like that vacant Temple, those ancestors had vacant hearts, unfilled by the presence of God, unwilling to communicate with the God of the Universe. Hezekiah stood in the gap for his people by saying “Yes, Lord, I want to open up the highway once again to You, My God.”
There is a very distinct parallel to each of us today in this passage of Scripture because if we are Christians, then our bodies are called the “temple of the Holy Spirit” or the “temple of the Living God” or just the “temple of God” (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
Our hearts should house God. Have we been letting God enter in freely and unencumbered? Or are we holed up with the lights turned off? Are we locked up in bitterness or anger or envy or sorrow or greed? Let’s take that first step of repairing the door to our hearts. Let’s get serious about our walk with the Lord. Let’s make a covenant, as Hezekiah did (verse 10) that we will clear the path for the Lord of Hosts to enter in and sup with us and show us what to do for His sake.
Purifying the Temple – Remove Your Idols
Deep cleaning is more than doing an exterior wipe-down. And purifying a Temple is more than getting out the feather duster and flicking the dust off. You have to get the ground-in dirt out.
I bet if I asked you right now, you could tell me that you have a junk room in your house or you have a storage unit with that intent in mind. Maybe it’s a little space or a closet, and maybe it’s an entire basement. But that’s the place you store stuff that you might not want people to see. It’s where you hide things. It’s where you put things that are broken or unused or ugly. Maybe it’s the place where you hoard things. Above all, it’s the room you hope no guests will ever see, because if they saw your junk, you would likely be embarrassed or ashamed.
Now, imagine that you are tasked with getting that wreck room cleared out, and the sooner you get it cleared the better. You have someone who wants to rent out that room, or you have someone interested in buying your house and you know they need to see that space and see it as clean as possible.
You can’t just simply make a pathway so you can open and close the door. That would be opening and repairing the door, as we saw Hezekiah do earlier. That’s not enough at this stage. You have to go inside, sort through the junk, and remove the offending items. The items that remain must be repaired, organized neatly, and ready for use.
It’s an overwhelming task because you have years’ worth of items in your junk room. You haven’t even really taken inventory. Where do you even begin? What do you throw away? What do you give away? What do you keep? At this point, you might need to call in backup to help you. You need someone who does not have sentimental attachments to your junk, someone who can make wise and quick decisions about what goes and what stays.
Let’s go back to the story of Hezekiah. The Temple in the nation of Judah had become a junk room, an unused storage room filled with ungodly things. Hezekiah had a pretty overwhelming task before him. Realigning a nation back toward God meant calling in a specialized cleaning service, which in those days were the high priests or Levites. They were the only ones who could do the job because they had obediently kept themselves pure in the sight of God. It was their job to sanctify the sanctuary of the Lord and usher the people back to worship (Ex. 28:40-29:9). They were set apart by God to do this spiritual act of service.
These Levites were told to go in and take out the defiled things (verse 4-5). They also went one step further and made sure that every item that should be there in the Temple was there and that each piece was clean and ready for use (verse 18-19).
Now, let’s go back to you and me. Have you ever tried to clean up your act by yourself? You know you have sinned against God and you want to make things right again, so you try to rid yourself of bad habits or stop doing those addictive behaviors. It might work for a while, but eventually you find yourself unable to keep up. The problem is that you are in this same state that the Apostle Paul mentions, and that is that the things you do you don’t want to do, and the things you don’t want to do you do (Rom. 7:21). But, wait, there is an answer, and it is also found in that same passage from the Apostle Paul: but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, the One who can save me from my evil ways (Rom. 7: 25).
When we can’t do the job—and we can’t by ourselves because we are sinners; we need the Holy Spirit—we can call for spiritual backup. We don’t need to get the cleaning crew. We don’t need to call in the Levites, as Hezekiah did. We just need one priest, a high priest, the High Priest. I am talking about Jesus Christ, and He knows just how to clean out our temples (see Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:27; 8:1; 9:11).
Jesus can restore back to the temple of our hearts a right spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, which are the fruits of the Spirit. He can rid us of all bitterness, rage, anger, debauchery, and the like when we ask for His enablement. He will help us to once again clothe ourselves with compassion and humility. He will clean our junk room and make it a holy sanctuary once again, filled with praises to Him. We just need to be willing and obedient participants as we enter into the shadowy and cluttered sections of our soul and clean up our lives as He directs.
Before you get discouraged and start to think Man, this is going to take years to get my spiritual house back in order and give up, I have a very encouraging word for you from this same passage in the Old Testament. Through focused effort combined with spiritual help from his Levite laborers, Hezekiah was able to get the Temple up and running again in only 16 days (verse17). Even the grungiest, most unholy areas of ourselves can, given the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s focused efforts on our behalf, be completely purified and restored to working order very quickly. God can and does work that grace in our lives when we need it most. That is not to say that all clean-up jobs are instant or that we won’t ever have to get down with a toothbrush and scrub the floors of our heart. There are times when we must do the boot camp. And then, there are those miraculous moments that testify to the impossible becoming possible, as in Hezekiah’s mission. In fact, you can almost sense that the nation of Judah was surprised that the work got completed that fast. “And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced greatly because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly” (verse 36, NLT)
Rededicating Yourself to God – Make It Holy and Make it Public
The morning after Hezekiah got the word that the job was done, he set out to visit the Temple of the Lord. Hezekiah’s quick response was very important. A spiritual house that has been swept clean of defilement will not stay clean without a dedication to God. Those spaces of purity and holiness are going to get refilled with junk before long (see Matt. 12:43-45 for an example).It’s imperative that we ask that the Holy Spirit fill our cleansed vessels so that evil cannot reenter. It is imperative that we daily dedicate ourselves to the Lord and offer our bodies, our temples, as instruments of righteousness.
Did you also notice that Hezekiah didn’t go on this trek alone? He went with the city officials for the dedication ceremony of the Temple (verse 20). The idea was not just to assess the newly restored Temple. It was more than some grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. They weren’t doing some PBS special about how the Temple got restored where King Hezekiah could say, “Hey, look what I have done.”
Hezekiah took this next step as his very holy and very public proclamation of worship to the Living God. Hezekiah could have had a private ceremony. He could have kept his newfound passion for the Lord hidden until it was politically correct. He could have claimed that his relationship with God was “strictly personal” and stayed tight-lipped about it. Instead, he set out with a select few governmental leaders. Everyone in that entourage knew exactly how King Hezekiah felt about God. Not only that, but the group was to participate in worshipping the Lord. They took with them animals that the priests would sacrifice to atone for the sin of the nation (verses 20-24). This is heavy-duty stuff.
So sin offerings were offered on the altar in the Temple. And as the burnt offerings were presented, the Levites and priests played their musical instruments, and songs of praise to the Lord were offered. After the offerings were finished, everyone in that assembly bowed before God and continued in praise and worship (verses 25-30).
God is pleased when we proclaim Christ in our lives, as Hezekiah and his cohorts did. I think of that verse in Matthew 10:32 that says, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (NASB). We can’t just simply claim that we are believers in the silence of our own hearts. We have to utter it aloud. Scripture tells us in Romans 10:8-10, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (emphasis mine). If we have experienced a radical rededication to our Savior, then we need to proclaim it loudly and joyously as Hezekiah did.
Second and more importantly, rededication must equal realignment with Christ. We take ourselves off of the throne and put Christ back into His high place as King of our lives. We do not look to ourselves to save us. We look to the blood of the Lamb. We look to Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection, and His power to cancel out our sins and save us from the wrath of God.
Back in the Old Testament days, Jesus wasn’t there to be the atonement, so the people had to sacrifice animals. The blood was sprinkled to cleanse the nation from their sins. We no longer have to do that today. We don’t even have to flog ourselves or spill our own blood to reenter a right relationship with God. We simply have to set our eyes on what Jesus already accomplished in our place. We have to place our trust in God and not ourselves from that moment on.
Third, every rededication should include a celebration. Hezekiah and his entourage praised God in joyous worship because of what God did to cleanse the Temple of defilement. We should celebrate at the wonders our God has done to cleanse us of our unrighteousness every single day.
Assessing Where You Are Today
As you contemplate this passage of Scripture, what is the state of your soul? Does it need repairing? Does it need to be gutted? Ask the Lord God to help you discover what defilements in your own heart need to go. Ask Him how you can rededicate your life to holy service to Him. And ask God how you can proclaim the great things He has done so that all the world can see and glorify Him. May God be continually praised as we seek to honor Him.
More articles by Laura
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