Here is, I. Hezekiah’s age when he came to the crown. He was twenty-five years old. Joash, who came to the crown after two bad reigns, was but seven years old; Josiah, who came after two bad reigns, was but eight, which occasioned the delay of the reformation; but Hezekiah had come to years, and so applied himself immediately to it. We may well think with what a sorrowful heart he beheld his father’s idolatry and profaneness, how it troubled him to see the doors of the temple shut, though, while his father lived, he durst not open them. His soul no doubt wept in secret for it, and he vowed that when he should receive the congregation he would redress these grievances, which made him do it with more readiness and resolution.
II. His general character. He did that which was right like David, 2 Chron. 29:2. Of several of his predecessors it had been said that they did that which was right, but not like David, not with David’s integrity and zeal. But here was one that had as hearty an affection for the ark and law of God as ever David had.
III. His speedy application to the great work of restoring religion. The first thing he did was to open the doors of the house of the Lord, 2 Chron. 29:3. We are willing to hope his father had not quite suppressed the temple service; for then the holy fire on the altar must have gone out, and we do not read of the re-kindling of it; but he had hindered the people from attending it, and the priests, except such of them as were of his own party, 2 Kgs. 16:5. But Hezekiah immediately threw the church doors open, and brought in the priests and Levites. He found Judah low and naked, yet did not make it his first business to revive the civil interests of his kingdom, but to restore religion to its good posture again. Those that begin with God begin at the right end of their work, and it will prosper accordingly.
IV. His speech to the priests and Levites. It was well known, no doubt, that he had a real kindness for religion and was disaffected to the corruptions of the last reign; yet we do not find the priests and Levites making application to him for the restoration of the temple service but he calls upon them, which, I doubt, bespeaks their coldness as much as his zeal; and perhaps, if they had done their part with vigour, things would not have been brought into so very bad a posture as Hezekiah found them in. Hezekiah’s exhortation to the Levites is very pathetic.
1. He laid before them the desolations of religion and the deplorable state to which it was brought among them (2 Chron. 29:6, 7): Our fathers have trespassed. He said not “My father,” because it became him, as a son, to be as tender as might be of his father’s name, and because his father would not have done all this if their fathers had not neglected their duty. Urijah the priest had joined with Ahaz in setting up an idolatrous altar. He complained, (1.) That the house of God had been deserted: They have forsaken God, and turned their backs upon his habitation. Note, Those that turn their backs upon God’s ordinances may truly be said to forsake God himself. (2.) That the instituted worship of God there had been let fall. The lamps were not lighted, and incense was not burnt. There are still such neglects as these, and they are no less culpable, when the word is not duly read and opened (for that was signified by the lighting of the lamps) and when prayers and praises are not duly offered up, for that was signified by the burning of incense.
2. He showed the sad consequences of the neglect and decay of religion among them, 2 Chron. 29:8, 9. This was the cause of all the calamities they had lain under. God had in anger delivered them to trouble, to the sword, and to captivity. When we are under the rebukes of God’s providence it is good for us to enquire whether we have not neglected God’s ordinances and whether the controversy he has with us may not be traced to this neglect.
3. He declared his own full purpose and resolution to revive religion and make it his business to promote it (2 Chron. 29:10): “It is in my heart (that is, I am fully resolved) to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel (that is, to worship him only, and in that way which he has appointed); for I am sure that, otherwise, his fierce anger will not turn away from us.” This covenant he would not only make himself, but bring his people into the bond of.
4. He engaged and excited the Levites and priests to do their duty on this occasion. This he begins with (2 Chron. 29:5); this he ends with, 2 Chron. 29:11. He called them Levites to remind them of their obligation to God, called them his sons to remind them of the relation to himself, that he expected that, as a son with the father, they should serve with him in the reformation of the land. (1.) he told them what was their duty, to sanctify themselves first (by repenting of their neglects, reforming their own hearts and lives, and renewing their covenants with God to do their duty better for the time to come), and then to sanctify the house of God, as his servants, to make it clean from every thing that was disagreeable, either through the disuse or the profanation of it, and to set it up for the purposes for which it was made. (2.) He stirred them up to do it (2 Chron. 29:11): “Be not now negligent, or remiss, in your duty. Let not this good work be retarded through your carelessness.” Be not deceived, so the margin. Note, Those that by their negligence in the service of God think to mock God, and put a cheat upon him, do but deceive themselves, and put a damning cheat upon their own souls. Be not secure (so some), as if there were no urgent call to do it or no danger in not doing it. Note, Men’s negligence in religion is owing to their carnal security. The consideration he quickens them with is derived from their office. God had herein put honour upon them: He has chosen you to stand before him. God therefore expected work from them. They were not chosen to be idle, to enjoy the dignity and leave the duty to be done by others, but to serve him and to minister to him. They must therefore be ashamed of their late remissness, and, now that the doors of the temple were opened again, must set about their work with double diligence.