Hezekiah wastes little time in setting things in order. By the fourth month of his reign he set his sights on cleansing the Temple of the Lord.
Hezekiah knew this was not a task he was able to do himself. He would not commit the sin of Uzziah and step into the role of the Levites. But he would assemble them all and give them this task. He would provide them with everything they needed, especially permission, to restore the House of the Lord.
Ahaz had brought idols into the Temple and set them up as objects of worship. He had also tired of this and completely closed the Temple to all people. No one went out or in during the end of his reign. I can only imagine the mess he left behind those closed doors; spiritually and physically.
When reading our text I envision a woman dressed like Cinderella with a scarf around her head, on her hands and knees scrubbing the stones with a brush and bucket. Then I was reminded of several different times in my life when I was set to cleaning. The first ones to pop into my head were the multiple times I had to prepare for yearly inspection while renting different apartments. Then memories of cleaning up after someone trashed the home I was moving into surfaced. Finally, memories of scraping up glued down carpet as a child came to mind.
Each of these memories took me to a different place. The inspection cleaning, even though it was frustrating having to do it each year, left me with a sense of pride. My landlord once told me that he always brought the inspectors to my apartment because he KNEW he could count on finding things is sparkling order. One year though I was going through a season of depression when inspection time rolled around and I skipped cleaning all together. Our house wasn’t filthy or anything but the floors were not mopped and there were a couple dishes in the sink. The manager was aghast upon seeing it in normal living condition. I was given a ‘shape up or ship out’ message when I got home with a recheck date in two weeks. I shaped up and all was right again. Even though I was proud of how our home looked for most of the inspections it still felt like an intrusion in our lives for others to come in and see how we were doing. And my kids HATED wall washing time!
When cleaning what was left by others I was utterly disgusted! Moldy food, used diapers, piles of trash, you name it. It did NOT fill me with joy! I kept up a running commentary, at least internally, of snide remarks for the people who would live like this. My husband and younger two sons had to help move my ex-daughter in law from her apartment. It was so filthy that they couldn’t even see the floor. They grabbed rakes and garbage bags. I had the children at the time. Needless to say I heard all about it when they got home. This was ANYTHING but a pleasant experience and their attitudes reflected it.
The last ‘cleaning’ memory that popped into my mind was when I was in sixth grade. My parents bought a ‘new’ house. It was a use mobile home but it was new to us. We kids were ecstatic to be moving into this new house because the yard was HUGE! But work had to be done before we could move in. The bedroom we girls were to occupy had stick down carpet tiles in black and red. The floor looked like a giant checker board. The only problem was that the bathroom that accompanied this room had had a leak in the toilet at one point in time. The carpeting had to be removed. And since it was our bedroom we got to do a lot of the job. My dad pulled the big pieces up but the glue and backing had to be hand scraped from the linoleum underneath. That was our job. We used every scraping tool imaginable for three determined girls. It took days to get it all done but we kept at it, knowing that this would be OUR room when we were done! Yes, we got tired and we even got discouraged, but we were buoyed by the excitement of what we would do with our new room. I remember the night we finished the job. When I lay my head down on my pillow in our old room that night all I could think of is that tomorrow we would move into our new home and our new adventure would begin.
I think the Levites who were gathered to clean the Temple probably experienced emotions a lot like my experiences. I doubt they went through the frustration at the intrusion issues I did but the other parts most certainly. They felt disgusted at the things Ahaz had left behind. Distraught at the state they found when the doors were finally opened. Disgusted by the things he had done with the instruments of the Lord. Appalled at the remains left from his idol worship.
After dragging out the most disgusting things from the Temple the attitude began to change. The brooms, mops, brushes, and rags came out. Soap and water flowed from one end of the Temple to the other. No corner was left untouched. Excitement built as the beauty of the Temple began to shine through once again. Tears of joy flowed and mixed with the water as items once thought lost or beyond repair were found and restored. With each layer of grime that was washed away another layer of anticipation was added. I can hear the Levites singing songs of praise as they neared the end of their task. SOON they would again be ministering to their Lord in His appointed place.
By the end of this immense cleaning project, pride in their work shown through. They were excited for the people to see all that had been accomplished. But they were not done yet. It was not yet time to let the people in and resume the daily sacrifices to the Lord.
The filthy things of Ahaz were gone, including all the blood and gore from his sacrifices. Yet there was still another kind of stain that soap and water would never wash away. It was a spiritual stain. Sin had covered the house of the Lord. This was not a place where the Spirit of the Lord would fill again without a secondary cleansing. Not one done with mops and buckets but with prayer and anointing.
The Levites, even before they started the physical cleaning, had to be spiritually clean themselves. God gave them instructions on how to accomplish this and they followed His commands to the letter. Now they had to do the same for His House. We are not told exactly what this entailed but it took seven days to complete the task. I have a feeling that every tool of cleaning had to be removed and let quiet rest enter the Temple before those seven days could begin.
I wonder how hard it was for the Levites to wait out that process. Their hearts LONG to return to the service of the Lord. But it had to be done right.
When all was completed they went to the king to inform him. “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. 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” (verses 18b-19). Tomorrow would be the first day of their new journey with the Lord!
Our ‘Temples’ need periodic cleaning. This is called repentance from sin. What kind of attitude do we have when doing this ‘job’? Are we frustrated at the intrusion? Are we disgusted with what we find ‘left behind’ by the previous occupant? Are we proud of the job we did with the resources we had? Are we excited to see what lays ahead once the task is complete? Are we ready to begin the next phase in our journey? Are we possibly afraid to ‘use’ it again because we might get it dirty? I know I’ve felt that way after ‘restoration’ projects. Tomorrow we will look at how Hezekiah put the Temple back into service.
Father God, thank You for making today’s story come to life for me. Thank You that I could identify with these men who restored Your House to order. Thank You for letting me see through their eyes. Help me keep my heart in order. I don’t want to have to drag out heaping piles of rubbish any more. I want to always be excited about what comes next with You.