This is a sweet passage to read from the Chronicles of the Kings (2 Chronicles 29:3-19). It is often depressing for the person who is steeped in a condition of prolonged spiritual slackness. The signs are certain and clear: lack of desire in reading the Word of God, lack of praying to God, lack of confession, lack of zeal for God’s Work, lack of spiritual sensitivity to the condition around the person, indulgement in habitual sins, indecisiveness, numbness of heart to people, reckless indulgement in worldliness and many others that are close to these sort of symptoms.
It is for such a person that the hope of reformation (change) effected during the reign of King Hezekiah is given. The spiritual condition of Israel was at its lowest when King Ahaz (the previous ruler) dragged the nation through a wanton destruction of spiritual faithfulness to the LORD (Jehovah) as seen in 2 Chronicles 28:19. Yet, look at what Hezekiah did upon his ascension to rulership:
(2 Chronicles 29:3 & 5) In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.[He] said to [the Levites and priests], “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place.
It was a declaration of intention. Making up the mind to repent is one of the hardest aspect of reformation, for it is dependant on the Spirit’s work to soften the hardened heart (see Ezekiel 11:19 & compare with Luke 15:17). Self will is not repentance as it leads to self-righteousness, which begins a new cycle of spiritual decline.
Confession of sin and the acknowledgment of guilt forms the bulk of verses 6 to 9. Here is not the intellectual assent of being a sinner, but the embracing of our sinful nature and a disgust towards the source and effect it has on our being. The heart of men is really deceitful and sick, like a keeper who can only look in aghast over the destruction caused by his rampaging wildbeast.
Finally, the desire to walk the path of repentance (of clearing and cleaning all the debris of sin in the life of the repentant sinner) does not come because of a feeling of mere remorse, or of the need to merely relieve the pain of spiritual deprivation; it comes from the acknowledgment and obedience to the duty imposed by God.
Look at Hezekiah’s closing command:
(2 Chronicles 29:11) My sons, do not now be negligent, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
The reasoning for covenanting with God (making a vow to walk in His ways instead of ours – i.e. repenting of our ways) is to be not ‘negligent’. What does that mean? It means basically, do not be deceived or be thrown off course. Do what you know is correct because the LORD has given them the responsibility to maintain a clean temple for God’s sake! It may seem out of place, but remember, the temple was in a mess after Ahaz’s reign. In their spiritual trough, the Levites and priests have given up on reforming.
Hezekiah warns them to do what they ought to be doing for the LORD commands them to do so. They should not second guess and allow their feelings to be right or to be confirmed or anything to prevent them from doing what God commands them to do. It was their duty. Do it.
This flies against Christian Hedonism which proposes that the main reason or factor for spiritual obedience is bound up with satisfaction in God’s Law. However, the consistent teaching of Scripture tells us that many times, what is needed is obedience to the duty and command of what God has given, for the reason that He is God over all things. Obedience is our duty, as creatures created to worship our Creator.
So clean up the debris of sin from our lives, like the dutiful priests and Levites. Submit to God, not grudgingly, but in obedience and true submission, knowing that our heart is so easily ‘negligent’ (or deceived) by our feelings and moods. In due time, the repentant sinner will declare (like the priests and Levites to Hezekiah):
(2 Chronicles 29:18-19) …”We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the showbread and all its utensils. (19) All the utensils that King Ahaz discarded in his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and consecrated, and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.”