The temple being cleansed, we have here an account of the good use that was immediately made of it. A solemn assembly was called to meet the king at the temple, the very next day (2 Chron. 29:20); and very glad, no doubt, all the good people in Jerusalem were, when it was said, Let us go up to the house of the Lord, Ps. 122:1. As soon as Hezekiah heard that the temple was ready for him he lost no time, but made it appear that he was ready for it. He rose early to go up to the house of the Lord, earlier on that day than on other days, to show that his heart was upon his work there. Now this day’s work was to look two ways:—
I. Atonement must be made for the sins of the last reign. They thought it not enough to lament and forsake those sins, but they brought a sin-offering. Even our repentance and reformation will not obtain pardon but in and through Christ, who was made sin (that is, a sin-offering) for us. No peace but through his blood, no, not for penitents. Observe, 1. The sin-offering was for the kingdom, for the sanctuary, and for Judah (2 Chron. 29:21), that is, to make atonement for the sins of princes, priests, and people, for they had all corrupted their way. The law of Moses appointed sacrifices to make atonement for the sins of the whole congregation (Lev. 4:13, 14; Num. 15:24, 25), that the national judgments which their national sins deserved might be turned away. For this purpose we must now have an eye to Christ the great propitiation, as well as for the remission and salvation of particular persons. 2. The law appointed only one goat for a sin-offering, as on the day of atonement (Lev. 16:15) and on such extraordinary occasions as this, Num. 15:24. But they here offered seven (2 Chron. 29:21), because the sins of the congregation had been very great and long continued in. Seven is a number of perfection. Our great sin-offering is but one, yet that one perfects for ever those that are sanctified. 3. The king and the congregation (that is, the representatives of the congregation) laid their hands on the heads of the goats that were for the sin-offering (2 Chron. 29:23), thereby owning themselves guilty before God and expressing their desire that the guilt of the sinner might be transferred to the sacrifice. By faith we lay our hands on the Lord Jesus, and so receive the atonement, Rom. 5:11. 4. Burnt-offerings were offered with the sin-offerings, seven bullocks, seven rams, and seven lambs. The intention of the burnt-offerings was to give glory to the God of Israel, whom they owned as the only true God, which it was proper to do at the same time that they were by the sin-offering making atonement for their offences. The blood of those, as well as of the sin-offering, was sprinkled upon the altar (2 Chron. 29:22), to make reconciliation for all Israel (2 Chron. 29:24), and not for Judah only. Christ is a propitiation, not for the sins of Israel only, but of the whole world, 1 John 2:1, 22. 5. While the offerings were burning upon the altar the Levites sang the song of the Lord (2 Chron. 29:27), the Psalms composed by David and Asaph (2 Chron. 29:30), accompanied by the musical instruments which God by his prophets had commanded the use of (2 Chron. 29:25), and which had been long neglected. Even sorrow for sin must not put us out of tune for praising God. By faith we must rejoice in Christ Jesus as our righteousness; and our prayers and praises must ascend with his offering, to be accepted only in virtue of it. 6. The king and all the congregation testified their consent to and concurrence in all that was done, by bowing their heads and worshipping, expressing an awful veneration of the divine Majesty, by postures of adoration. This is taken notice of, 2 Chron. 29:28-30. It is not enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if we do not ourselves worship him, and that not with bodily exercise only, which profits little, but with the heart.
II. The solemnities of this day did likewise look forward. The temple service was to be set up again, that it might be continually kept up; and this Hezekiah calls them to, 2 Chron. 29:31. “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord—have both made an atonement and made a covenant by sacrifice, are solemnly reconciled and engaged to him—now come near, and bring sacrifices.” Note, Our covenant with God must be pursued and improved in communion with him. Having consecrated ourselves, in the first place, to the Lord, we must bring the sacrifices of prayer, and praise, and alms, to his house. Now, in this work, it was found.
1. That the people were free. Being called to it by the king, they brought in their offerings, though not in such abundance as in the glorious days of Solomon (for Judah was now diminished, impoverished, and brought low), but according to what they had, and as much as one could expect considering their poverty and the great decay of piety among them. (1.) Some were so generous as to bring burnt-offerings, which were wholly consumed to the honour of God, and of which the offerer had no part. Of this sort there were seventy bullocks, 100 rams, and 200 lambs, 2 Chron. 29:32. (2.) Others brought peace-offerings and thank-offerings, the fat of which was burnt upon the altar, and the flesh divided between the priests and the offerers, 2 Chron. 29:35. Of this sort there were 600 oxen and 3000 sheep, 2 Chron. 29:33. Perhaps the remembrance of their sin in sacrificing on the high places made them more willing to bring their sacrifices now to God’s altar.
2. That the priests were few, too few for the service, 2 Chron. 29:34. Many of them, it is likely, were suspended and laid aside as polluted and uncanonical, for having sacrificed to idols in the last reign, and the rest had not the zeal that one might have expected upon such an occasion. They thought that the king needed not to be so forward, that there was no necessity for such haste in opening the doors of the temple, and therefore they took no care to sanctify themselves, and being unsanctified, and so unqualified, they made that their excuse for being absent from the service; as if their offence would be their defence. It is recorded here, to the perpetual shame of the priests, that, though they were so well provided for out of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, yet they did not mind their business. Here was work to do, and there wanted proper hands to do it.
3. That the Levites were forward. They had been more upright in h d83 eart to sanctify themselves than the priests (2 Chron. 29:34), were better affected to the work and better prepared and qualified for it. This was their praise, and, in recompence for it, they had the honour to be employed in that which was the priests’ work: they helped them to flay the offerings. This was not according to the law (Lev. 1:5, 6), but the irregularity was dispensed with in cases of necessity, and thus encouragement was given to the faithful zealous Levites and a just disgrace put upon the careless priests. What the Levites wanted in the ceremonial advantages of their birth and consecration was abundantly made up in their eminent qualifications of skill and will to do the work.
4. That all were pleased. The king and all the people rejoiced in this blessed turn of affairs and the new face of religion which the kingdom had put on, 2 Chron. 29:36. Two things in this matter pleased them:—(1.) That it was soon brought about: The thing was done suddenly, in a little time, with a great deal of ease, and without any opposition. Those that go about the work of God in faith and with resolution will find that there is not that difficulty in it which they sometimes imagine, but it will be a pleasing surprise to them to see how soon it is done. (2.) That the hand of God was plainly in it: God had prepared the people by the secret influences of his grace, so that many of those who had in the last reign doted on the idolatrous altars were now as much in love with God’s altar. This change, which God wrought on their minds, did very much expedite and facilitate the work. Let magistrates and ministers do their part towards the reforming of a land, and ascribe to him the glory of what is done, especially when it is done suddenly and is a pleasing surprise. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous.
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