2 Chronicles 29:4-7
4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square,
5 and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.
6 “For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and turned their backs on Him.
7 “They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.”
Travel down almost any country highway and you will see one: an abandoned old house. The sagging roof, the shattered windows, the trash piled up around the outside, paint peeling from every surface–it all points to neglect and disuse. In a less skeptical generation, we might even think such a place is haunted–and perhaps it is, but haunted less by any ghosts than by memories of families who once lived there and moved on, who by choice or by necessity left behind the old house with the splintering doors and the ramshackle porch. As you pass by the place, perhaps you imagine what might be inside: an old couch, a broken stove, birds and bats in the rafters, a drafty fireplace, a bed that is home for rats, a kitchen table littered with fallen plaster, and cobwebs everywhere. Now imagine one other thing: this is YOUR home, left by your own father who had neglected it for most of his life. It has fallen to you to restore the house and the lands around it.
That is much the situation that faced King Hezekiah in the first year of his reign in Judah. King Ahaz had cut up the articles used in the temple and melted them for reuse for pagan worship, and he had shut up the doors of the temple. (2 Chronicles 28:24-25) King Ahaz had people burning incense and worshipping foreign gods on every streetcorner of Jerusalem. And the kingdom suffered for the king’s apostasy, losing battles and land to the Edomites and the Philistines. That was the inheritance left to young Hezekiah.
King Hezekiah wasn’t about to let years of disuse and decay stop him from restoring the proper worship of the Lord God of Israel. The king set about systematically reviving the temple and the faith of the people. His first step was to open the temple and repair the doors. His next step was to clean out the house of God.
Like the abandoned house I mentioned above, the temple in Jerusalem was likely littered with the trash of a generation of scavengers. Since King Ahaz had stripped the place of anything valuable, all that was there were probably the leftovers: tattered curtains and sashes, rotting wooden articles like benches and doors, the dirt and dust that blows in from the street, the feathers and fur and feces of animals who had moved into the place, perhaps even a bronze laver or censer that some vandal had missed, and, of course, cobwebs and pests. The house of God needed radical cleaning, and Hezekiah knew just the men for the job: the priests and Levites.
Of course, in order to set God’s house in order, the priests first had to get themselves in order. The years of pagan worship had left a stain on Jerusalem, and even if the sons of Aaron had not participated, they had done next to nothing to stop it, and so they shared in the guilt. So before they could clean and sanctify the temple, they needed to clean and sanctify themselves.
10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.
11 “And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”
For the Lord to bring His presence to the people, the people needed to be sanctified–cleaned and set apart from the world, washed of common sin, consecrated unto the Lord. For the Levites to clean the house of God, they needed to clean themselves first. Out must go the cobwebs and guilt, out with the detritus of unbelief, out with the cowardice and pride, out with fear of men, out with worldliness and foreign doctrines. Their hearts and their heads and their souls needed to be cleared of whatever had kept them from standing up for the Lord all those years. Like the remnant of seven thousand that the Lord had preserved during the time of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), the priests and Levites needed to join with God’s chosen leader–King Hezekiah–to restore the worship of the living God. And just as Jerusalem was being purged of the idols and altars that had cropped up in every corner, so the priests needed to rid themselves of the idolatry and falsehood that kept them from the Lord their God.
Once sanctified, the Levites had to do similar work on the temple. They needed to “carry out the filth from the Holy Place.” (2 Chronicles 29:5 ESV) The temple had been defiled with rubbish and dirt, and it was the Levites’ job to clear it all away. The house of God had to be emptied before it could be filled again with faith, with praise, with worship, and with the presence of the Most High God.
There is filth in the churches of the Lord today. Rubbish has crept into the corners and pews of God’s church, because His shepherds have neglected to govern His house. The doors have either been flung wide so that sin can enter in, or they’ve been closed to God’s presence by unbelief and neglect. The people chase after any god or idol that suits their fancy, and so many pastors have just stood by the way and said, “All paths lead to God.”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
How can the pastors of our generation expect a revival in this land when so few of them truly believe that Jesus is the ONE way to God? How can the Spirit of God descend upon the people when the pastors and priests have allowed so much defilement to litter their lives and their churches? How can we expect the consuming fire of faith to sweep across our country when those who tend the flame no longer consecrate themselves nor their churches to the one true and living God?
Revival doesn’t start in everyone’s home, it starts in the house of God. It starts with the purging of foreign doctrines and man-made statutes from our churches. It starts with a whole generation of priests, pastors, deacons, and elders, all rising up from their lethargy to clean the filth of the world from their lives, to wash each others’ feet as their Master once did, serving each other instead of vain conceit. The King of kings is calling for a mighty priesthood to sanctify themselves anew and grab their brooms and get to work on God’s house, removing the filth and the unbelief, removing the darkness and letting in the true light of the world, throwing out the rubbish we all know too well and restoring the Word of God to its proper place in our worship and our lives.
What can you and I do?
1 Peter 2:9-12
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
You and I must work like the Levites in Jerusalem to carry out the filth from the temple of our own souls. Let us make our hearts and heads a place of holiness, a place receptive to grace, a place worthy to be inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit. Let us also work to encourage revival in our churches, prompting our pastors and elders to clean up their own lives, helping them stay accountable, helping them purge the church of paganism and pride. Let us rise up as the royal priesthood we are. Let us repent of our old ways and be sanctified to take back the house of God from secularism and political correctness, to restore God and His Word to first place in our lives. Let us once again take up the praises of the Lord our God and make true and heartfelt offerings at the foot of the Cross of Christ. Like Hezekiah said, “Sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.”
C’mon! Grab a broom and let’s get to work!
Holy Father God, let us come back to the heart of worship, where all pretense and false doctrine is stripped away and there is only You and Your mercy and Your grace. Help us to repent, to purge all unworthiness from our lives so that we shall be filled by Your Spirit. Teach us to serve Your kingdom by cleaning up our churches, by restoring that which has been lost, by bringing back Your Word as our measure and our guide. Praise be to Your Holy Name! Amen.