“Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them. And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, and said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place” (2 Chronicles 29:1-5).
Throughout Scripture we see numerous accounts of men, women and nations getting right with God. As the convicting power of the Holy Spirit came upon them, as they heard and heeded God’s word, they repented. This was true for Nineveh under Jonah, the Jews under the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah, and Judah under King Josiah. God promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” and He has always been faithful to His promise. The account of the Temple being sanctified during the reign of King Hezekiah shows what can happen when a people submit to God in obedience. Maybe before we pray for revival we need to look long and hard at the need for personal sanctification.
The Temple Cleansed
If we want our lives to be revived and refreshed then there are certain measures that we are going to have to implement.
First of all we must deal with whatever sin there is in our lives. Don’t try to excuse it. All sin is filthiness in the sight of God. Don’t dare say, “God knows I’m only human”. The priests in Hezekiah’s day were only human too, but they had to sanctify themselves and cleanse the temple before God would dwell in it again. Deal with sin by confessing it to the Lord, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Andrew Murray writes, “We know what holiness is. God alone in holy, and holiness is that which God communicates of Himself. Separation and cleansing and consecration are not holiness, but only the preliminary steps on the way to it. The temple was holy because God dwelt in it.”
After confession of sin comes the actual cleansing of the temple. Did you notice that the priests had to sanctify themselves before they could go in to sanctify the temple and take out all the filth? Many try to cleanse the church before they cleanse themselves. Unholy hands cannot revive a dead church – do you not wash your hands before you wash your face? It is better that you get rid of all that offends the Lord before He come to cleanse you in His anger. “And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:15-17). The Lord refused to dwell in defiled temples in the Old Testament, nor Jesus’ day, neither will He do so today. “ICHABOD” [the glory is departed] (1 Samuel 4:21) is written in large letters over many a church today because of the filthiness found inside. The moneychangers and dove sellers are now behind the pulpits teaching the people of God how to be rich like themselves.
Who gets rid of the filthiness in the temple? Those who sanctify themselves (i.e. those who get right with God). What right have we to do this? Did not the religious leaders say this to Jesus also? We have every right if “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). It is not being judgmental or legalistic, it’s desiring to see the glory of the Lord returning to His Church. Those who are concerned enough about the filth will do something about it.
The Church needs it
“Sanctification was reality for Israel. Without it, there could have been no covenant, no priest, no sanctuary. And it is likewise a reality with us, and just as necessary.”
As individuals and as a Church we are the temple of God. The temple in Jerusalem, especially the Holy of Holies, played a very important role in the worship of God, but now there is something even more precious and hallowed than that. The body of a believer becomes the temple of God at conversion, and as such it is meant to be holy. We need to catch the significance of this, that is, our bodies actually replace the Inner Sanctuary (the Holy of Holies) of the temple. This is why Scripture calls Christians saints or ‘holy ones’. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [sanctified], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing [don’t practice filthiness]; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). God expects us to deal with the filthiness. There are those will believe that we must leave the entire work of sanctification up to the Lord. This is foolish and unwarranted in scripture. Hezekiah did not believe that and nor did the apostle Paul who said in 2 Corinthians 7:1 (right after the text above), “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The Living God will not live in filthiness, uncleanness and sin. Instead He will purposely seek to destroy those who continue in defilement though He has often called them to repentance. We might not like to hear this, but it is true. I’m just repeating what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:16; “ Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye.” These verses should be applied both personally and then collectively. It is plainly stated that God will destroy defiled temples. This is in exactly what He would have done if the priests had not sanctified themselves and the temple when Hezekiah told them to; “For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of the LORD was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity for this” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9).
When should it be done?
When should we sanctify ourselves? Tomorrow? When we feel the move of the Spirit? No, it has to be now. Any later than this and we will miss it. We must sanctify ourselves by getting rid of the filth from our lives immediately. “But, dear reader, if you live unto yourself, unto pleasure, and unto the world – then you are not perfected in Christ. And what will become of you?” Once we have confessed our personal sins, then we must immediately cleanse the temple [Church] of all filthiness, questionable activities, modernism, liberalism, any anything else that is not in accordance with Scripture. Why do I say it has to be done immediately? For two reasons: Firstly, leave it for a moment longer and the devil will give you a a thousand and one reasons why you can do it later. Secondly, God tells us to do it immediately, “ Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). Do you know that the priests sanctified themselves and the temple immediately? “And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly [quickly, immediately]” (2 Chronicles 29:36).
We need to do something about our ‘spiritual house’ in the light of what we have read. It is too serious a matter to put it off until another time. We need the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the Church, but it must start with the priests [us] cleansing their own hands first.