Hezekiah Turns Things Around in Judah
JUNE 22 - Nº 173 [2 Kings 18:1-12; 2 Chronicles 29 – 31]
Ahaz was a wicked king. He led the people in the southern kingdom of Judah away from God for 16 years (see #171 - King Ahaz - A Wicked King in Judah). However, when his son Hezekiah was crowned, things changed. Hezekiah turned the people’s hearts back to God. The first thing he did was open the Temple doors that his father had nailed shut. Then he gathered the priests and Levites in the Temple courtyard. He instructed them to purify themselves so they could begin the work of cleaning out the Temple. The religious leaders rallied around their new king and did everything he wanted them to do. They took all the things that were unclean out of the Temple area and threw them into the Kidron Valley. Then they put the sacred furnishings back where they belonged. When everything was in order, King Hezekiah and the city officials joined the priests and Levites at the Temple and offered sacrifices to God. Then they made preparations so that everyone could come and worship with them. The priests and Levites were given assigned places to serve: some were stationed at the altar to make sacrifices; the musicians stood ready with their instruments; the choirs prepared to sing the psalms of David. When all the people came to the Temple, they bowed down and worshiped God together singing praises and offering sacrifices. When it came time to observe the Passover, Hezekiah sent messengers to invite everyone in Judah to come to Jerusalem to celebrate. He even sent letters to Samaria inviting any Israelites who had escaped when Assyria had invaded. Many of them laughed at the message, but others humbled themselves and made the trip to Jerusalem. Even some of the foreigners who had recently settled in Samaria (see #172 - Israel is Scattered by Assyria) decided to come along. A large crowd of people gathered to celebrate the Passover. Before the festival began, Hezekiah asked them to walk through the city and tear down all the pagan altars. They threw the debris into the Kidron Valley. They even smashed the bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness (see #57 - Snakes in the Desert), since some people had turned it into an idol and were worshiping it.
There were so many people at the Passover celebration that not all of them had time to go through the cleansing rituals required by God. So, King Hezekiah prayed and asked God to make an exception. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer. Since the people were honestly seeking Him, God agreed to cleanse them Himself. The seven-day ceremony was filled with so much joy that the whole assembly decided to celebrate for another week! Everyone rejoiced together—whether they were from Judah or Israel or had recently settled in Samaria. There hadn’t been such a great festival since the days of David and Solomon. On their way back to their homes, the people tore down any altars and objects of idol worship they encountered. When they got back home, they sent tithes and offerings to the Temple so the priests and Levites could continue their full-time service to the Lord. Hezekiah listened to God in everything he did, and God made him successful.
God is much more pleased with “seeking hearts” than He is with “ceremonial rituals.” It is not our job to judge whether or not someone is “clean enough” or “worthy enough” to worship God. God can clean them up after they come to Him.