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4

Purifying the Temple

Key References: 2 Chronicles 29; Prophets and Kings, chap. 28, pp. 331-339; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 5, pp. 127-132; Our Beliefs, nos. 12, 11, 21

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“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1, NIV).

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When we worship together, we reflect God’s love to our church family.

Does your mom or dad ever get after you to clean your room? Is it a mess, with dirty clothes lying on the floor, piles of things you are “saving,” schoolbooks stacked up, your bed unmade? If it is, you can relate to the condition of the Temple before a new king cleaned it up.

King Joash may have depended on his uncle Jehoiada too much. It’s possible he never learned to do the right thing just because it was right, instead of just because his uncle told him to do it. We may never know. But what we do know is that after Jehoiada died, Joash was persuaded to allow the people to worship pagan gods instead of the God of heaven.

Things got so bad, in fact, that when Joash’s own cousin, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, warned the people that God couldn’t bless them while they turned against Him, the king approved the murder of Zechariah. How soon Joash had forgotten about how Uncle Jehoiada had saved his life and promoted him to the throne of Israel!

But, as was the custom, it was soon “payback time.” After a serious defeat by the Syrian army, during which Joash was injured, the king was murdered in his own bed by two of his officials. This was done to avenge the death of Zechariah.

The worship of the true God continued to be neglected through four generations of kings. But finally Joash’s great-great-great-grandson Hezekiah became king at the age of 25. His own father had smashed all the articles in the Temple that were used for worship and closed its doors. Then, he had set up altars on every street corner in Jerusalem so the people could worship idols. Hezekiah must have watched his father do these things. An uncomfortable distance must have been created between them since they didn’t think alike; the father hated God, and the son quietly loved God. The country was in a mess.

Jerusalem was attacked again and again by hostile armies who killed the young men and captured the young women and children and took them away as hostages. These were horrifying years, and all because God’s people had tried to copy the worship of those other countries rather than staying true to Him. But finally King Hezekiah came to power. He determined to make things right again. The first thing he had to do was to ask the priests to rededicate themselves to the Lord’s work.

“Listen to me, Levites!” Hezekiah called to the priests. “Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary” (2 Chronicles 29:5). Hezekiah and the priests determined to repair the Temple to show their love and respect for God. The Temple had been locked and unused for years. Everything that had been used for the worship of God was broken or stolen; things used for the worship of false gods lay strewn on the floor. But within two weeks the Temple was ready to be dedicated to God once more. The mess was gone.

The floors were swept clean. The marble shone. New furniture was in place. Now all was ready in the courtyard in preparation for the great celebration of dedication. And what a celebration it was! There was a huge crowd that stayed nearly all day. Throughout the Temple groups of priests played harps and cymbals as the people toured the beautiful building.

Then it was time for the great sacrificial offerings like those their ancestors had presented to God in the desert. Seven young bulls and seven rams were killed as the first offering. Then the priests placed their hands on the heads of seven male goats and symbolically transferred the sins of the people to the goats that were then sacrificed.

Finally seven male lambs were offered to the Lord. The lambs represented the Messiah, the Lamb of God, whose death would save them. The huge crowd began to sing praises to God. Some of the priests blew their trumpets along with the singing. Other instruments accompanied the singing as well. They continued this praise throughout the day until the entire offering was consumed. Then they brought their own offering, 600 bulls, 3,000 sheep, and 3,000 goats. They had a joyful celebration with their friends while worshipping God. The sense of peace that comes from honoring and praising God was felt once again in Jerusalem.