Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old; he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his ancestor David had done.
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 brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east. He said to them, “Listen to me, Levites! Sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and carry out the filth from the holy place. For our ancestors have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God; they have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the dwelling of the Lord, and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps, and have not offered incense or made burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. Our fathers have fallen by the sword and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 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.”
King Hezekiah and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of the seer Asaph. They sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.
Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord; come near, bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the Lord.” The assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings; and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings.
Besides the great number of burnt offerings there was the fat of the offerings of well-being, and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored. And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people; for the thing had come about suddenly. 2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 30-31, 35-36 (NIV)
(Jesus said): When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43:45 (NIV)
Housecleaning is a necessary evil for most of us. Most people do not enjoy the process of cleaning, especially when it entails scrubbing grungy, dirty, sticky things that are caked with grease and grime, and throwing away useless clutter and trash. Cleaning is work. Most people do enjoy being in clean and wholesome surroundings even though we might not like the process of getting to that clean state.
Hezekiah was one of the “good Kings” of Judah. He listened to God’s call to clean up his kingdom- to get rid of the idolatry, to clean up the temple and get rid of all the nasty practices and filth that the kings before him had tolerated and in some cases encouraged. Hezekiah was also entrusted- and empowered- by God to restore the practice of regular worship to the kingdom of Judah.
There are some important things that we learn about spiritual housecleaning in these passages. The first thing that we learn is that spiritual housecleaning- becoming more like Jesus- or sanctification– is something God wants for us, and He is the one who empowers us and calls us to do it.
The first thing that the priests do in the passage from 2 Chronicles is to carry out the filth. Before we can get our space back to a clean and wholesome environment, we have to take out the trash. To clean the kitchen one must scrape the dishes, wash the dishes, clean the counters, sweep and mop the floor, and throw away the scraps. We don’t prepare a fresh meal amidst the trash and leftovers of the last meal. Otherwise fresh food might get contaminated by something that was spoiled.
When we clean up the kitchen, we don’t clean it up to just look at it and enjoy its cleanliness. We clean up the kitchen so that we can prepare healthy and tasty meals, and so that we can serve and nourish our families and friends. We have to clean up often too, because no sooner than we clean things up, they get dirty again. It’s part of life. Cleanliness requires maintenance.
God wanted the people of Judah to clean up their act- not just to look pretty- but so that they would be free to serve Him and each other. God gives them- and us- the ability to come close to and serve Him. It is a joy and a privilege to serve God, rather than a duty or a burden.
This is why Jesus tells us that while repenting (turning away from sinful thoughts and actions) and cleaning up our act is good and necessary, once we have repented and gotten ourselves clean, it is also necessary for us to embrace the purpose God intends for us. Otherwise, given human nature, we will fall back into our old bad habits, and worse. Becoming more like Jesus is a journey, and it is a process. As God’s church, during the season of Lent we engage in repentance- a good spiritual spring cleaning as it were. We don’t repent and ask Jesus to “clean us up” to look pretty. We do this intentionally so that we can more fully embrace and engage ourselves in following Jesus and being God’s people.
Many of us probably heard the expression, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” from our mothers and/or grandmothers. If we don’t occupy ourselves with good and wholesome things, we will find not-so-wholesome things with which to occupy ourselves. Children are great examples of this principle. When children are not occupied with a purposeful task, the odds are that they will find their ways into mischief. We are all subject to finding mischief!
Service is the spiritual discipline of doing good things in the world by serving others. We begin our spiritual housecleaning by asking the Holy Spirit to clear our minds and hearts of the crud- bringing ourselves to Jesus in repentance. We continue our sanctification (letting Jesus conform our hearts and minds to His will) by letting God show us how we can serve Him and others by keeping our minds and bodies occupied with good and wholesome thoughts and deeds.
God gives us His great and free gift of salvation in Jesus. He gives us the gifts of repentance and forgiveness. He also gives us the heart to serve others and to live according to His purpose for us. How can we serve God today?