When the Doors Reopen: What Good is Sitting In Pews If You Can’t Stand In His Presence?

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, which begins by describing the days and reign of Solomon and the kingdom of Israel, and continues in describing the days of the northern kingdom of Israel, the southern kingdom of Judah, and the kings who ruled and reigned over them. More specifically, today’s passages is found in chapters thirty through thirty-two of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the second of three distinct passages of Scripture that describe the life and the days of the reign of Hezekiah king of Judah. Perhaps one of the most astounding realities surrounding Hezekiah king of Judah is that not only is the narrative of his life written and recorded in the book of Second Kings, and not only is it written and recorded in the book of Second Chronicles, but it is also written and recorded in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. What’s more, is that there are certain key events within the life and days of the reign of Hezekiah which are written and recorded in each of these Old Testament books—namely, the threat of Sennacherib king of Assyria when he marched against the city of Jerusalem and threatened Hezekiah, as well as all the inhabitants which were found present in the midst of the land. The words which are written and recorded within these three books not only describe the initial threat of Sennacherib king of Assyria when he invaded the southern kingdom of Judah and sent the Rabshekah to threaten Hezekiah and the people, but also the secondary threat which would follow thereafter, as the prophet Isaiah would proclaim unto Hezekiah that Sennacherib would not raise up sword, nor spear, nor bow and arrow, nor shield within the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is that the prophet Isaiah would speak and declare unto Hezekiah king of Judah that the king of Assyria would hear a report that would draw him away from the city of Jerusalem, thus removing the threat of invasion against the city. Of course, as you continue to read the narrative of Hezekiah king of Judah you will find that there would indeed come a second threat that would take place—this time in the form of a letter that would contain words which would threaten the existence of Hezekiah, as well as all the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem. Initially, Hezekiah king of Judah would bring the spoken words and the verbal threats of Sennacherib before the LORD in His holy house, and the LORD would respond by sending the prophet Isaiah with a word concerning the threat which was before Hezekiah and the people of Judah. When the second threat came before and unto Hezekiah and the people of Judah—this time, not a verbal threat, but a written threat—Hezekiah would take the letter and the words which were contained therein, and spread it before the LORD in His holy sanctuary.

If there is one thing I absolutely love and find incredibly powerful about Hezekiah king of Judah, it’s that he would be the son of a king who would sit upon the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem, and would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. If you turn and direct your attention back to the twenty-eighth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles you will find the narrative concerning Ahaz king of Judah who would reign sixteen years in Jerusalem, and during those sixteen years reigning as king over Judah, would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. As you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the twenty-eighth chapter you will quickly encounter and come face to face that Ahaz would be an evil king who would sit upon the throne of David, and would do much to provoke the LORD God of to anger. I am absolutely and completely convinced that in order to truly understand the significance of the life of Hezekiah, it is necessary to first understand the life and reign of his father, for although Hezekiah was a righteous king who would do that which was right in the sight of the LORD, he would be the son of an evil king who would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding Hezekiah king of Judah—as well as certain other righteous kings that would sit upon the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem—is that not only would Hezekiah do that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but during the days of his reign he would take drastic steps and drastic measures to overturn and undo that which his father had done in his generation and during the days of his reign. We dare not take a look at and examine the life of Hezekiah king of Judah without first taking a look at the days and life of his father Ahaz, for his father Ahaz would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and would engage in tremendous acts of wickedness and evil before and in the sight of the living God. Before we delve any further into the life of Hezekiah king of Judah, I feel it absolutely necessary to consider the narrative of his father Ahaz who would do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles beginning with the first verse, as well as the words which are found and written in the book of Second Kings:

“Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father: for he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers. And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the kings’ son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah that was next to the king. And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand, women, sons and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria. But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded: and he went out before the host that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, because the LORD God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven. And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bond men and bond women unto you: but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the LORD your God? Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you. Then captain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johnan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war, and said unto them, Ye shall not bring in the captives hither: for whereas we have offended against the LORD already, ye intend to add more to our sins to our trespass: for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel. So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes all the congregation. And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria” (2 Chronicles 28:1-15).

“At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him. For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives. The Philistines also had invaded the cites of the low country, and of the south of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, and Ajalon, and Gederoth, and Shocho with the villages thereof, and TImnah with the villages thereof, Gimzo also and the villages thereof: and they dwelt there. For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israe; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD. And Tiglath-pilneser king of Assyria are unto him, and distressed him, but strengthened him not. For Ahaz took away a portion out of the house of the LORD, and out of the house of the king, and of the princes, and gave it unto the king of Assyria: but he helped him not” (2 Chronicles 28:16-21).

“And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the LORD: this is that king Ahaz. For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel. And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner in Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. Now the rest of his acts and of all his ways, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, even in Jerusalem: but they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead” (2 Chronicles 28:22-27).

“In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. At that time Rezin king of Syria recovery Elah to Syria, and drive the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. ASoA haz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria heartened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin. And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. And Uriah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Uriah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus. And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon. And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar. And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar. And king Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burnt the morning burnt offering and the evening meat offering, and the king’s burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the kings’ burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to inquire by. Thus did Uriah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded. And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones. And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king’s entry without, turned he from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria. Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead” (2 Kings 16:1-20).

In order to truly understand the significance of the reign of Hezekiah king of Judah, it is absolutely necessary that you turn and direct your attention back to the days and generation of his father, for it would be during the days of his father—Ahaz king of Judah—that the throne would be surrounded by and steeped in rebellion, idolatry, iniquity, transgression and wickedness before the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. If you read the narrative concerning Ahaz king of Judah you will find that not only did he not do that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but he walked in all the ways of the kings of Israel. Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah would make molten images of Baalim, he would burn incense in the valley of the son fo Hinnom, and would burn his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. Moreover, he would sacrifice also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. As if this evil, this wickedness and this rebellion wasn’t enough before and in the sight of the living God—in the time of his distress he would trespass yet more against the LORD. It would be during the time of his distress that he would sacrifice unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him, for he thought and believed within himself that the gods of Syria had helped them defeat and overtake him. If the gods of Syria gave them victory over him during the days of his reign, then they must be true gods, and therefore worthy of worship. It’s quite interesting to read the narrative of Ahaz in the book of Second Chronicles, for you will find the author of this book declaring that the gods of Syria would not only be unable to help him, but they would also be the ruin of him, and of all Israel. Furthermore, the author of the book of Second Chronicles would write how Ahaz would gather together all the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and would make him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. Even more than all this, he would make high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for in addition to all of this, Ahaz would have a new and “great” altar formed and fashioned by Urijah the priest after the pattern of an altar he saw in Damascus. Ahaz would take this new altar which was formed and fashioned after the pattern of a foreign altar he saw in Damascus, and would set it up in the place of the brasen altar in the court of the Temple. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this, for not only would Ahaz shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, but he would also replace the true altar of the LORD with a false and foreign altar which was patterned after and altar he saw in Damascus. What’s more, is Hezekiah would take the bronze sea that was also in the outer court and would place it on a pavement of stone rather than being upon the oxen which Solomon the son of David had set it upon.

SHUTTING THE DOORS OF THE SANCTUARY! REPLACING THE ALTAR OF THE LORD! ABASING THE PLACE OF CONSECRATION AND CLEANSING! THE ASSAULT ON WORSHIP! THE ASSAULT ON THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE AND THE PLACE OF CLEANSING! Please don’t miss and lose sight of the absolutely astonishing reality that is found during the days of Ahaz king of Judah, for during the days of his reign, he would launch and mount a full scale attack and assault on the house of the LORD, as well as against the worship of the LORD. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand the events which took place during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, for it would be during these days that the southern kingdom of Judah would see a tremendous assault on the house of the LORD and upon the sanctuary which was found in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. As if it weren’t enough that Ahaz had shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, thus cutting the priests and Levites who ministered before the LORD therein, but he would also launch an assault on the place of sacrifice and the place of cleansing. As you read the words which are found in the books of Second Chronicles and Second Kings, you will quickly encounter and come face to face with Ahaz’s assault on the sanctuary and on the worship and ministry of the LORD, for by shutting up the doors of the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, he would effectively cut off the ministry, the work and the service of the priests and Levites in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. With the doors of the house of the LORD being shut up, Ahaz would limit the scope of the ministry of the priests and Levites of the LORD, and would essentially and effectively render them useless in their work and ministry before the LORD. With the doors of the house of the LORD being shut up, there would be a full scale assault on the place of worship—an assault that wouldn’t end with the doors of the house being shut up, but would actually touch the altar and the sea. TOUCHING THE ALTAR AND THE SEA! ASSAULTING THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE AND CLEANSING! The words which you find within these two passages of Scripture reveal the impact and affect Ahaz king of Judah would have on the place of worship, for it wouldn’t be enough for him to simply engage himself in idolatrous worship. In addition a to his idolatrous worship, Ahaz would also directly impact and affect the place of true worship before the LORD, and would lead the people of Judah into a place of iniquity and idolatry before the living God.

We cannot truly understand what was so significant about the reign of Hezekiah king of Judah without first understanding the events which took place during the days of the reign of his father, for it would be during the days of the reign of his father that there would be a tremendous assault on the sanctuary and on the place of worship before and in the presence of the living God. It would be during the days of his father Ahaz that the doors of the Temple of the LORD would be shut up, thus preventing the priests from carrying out and fulfilling their duty before the living God of heaven and earth. Moreover, by having a new and “great” altar formed and fashioned after an altar which was seen in Damascus, Ahaz would effectively render the true altar of the LORD completely and utterly useless. No longer would the people of Judah come to the brasen altar which the LORD Himself had prescribed His burnt offerings, His sacrifices and His gifts to be burnt on, for the people would now come unto this new, this “great,” this “modern,” this “upcoming” altar that was in the house of the LORD. Please don’t miss what is taking place here, for I am convinced that what we find here is a great and terrible tragedy in the house of the living God, as ministers, as priests, as pastors, and as leaders over the flock and in the house of God have removed the true altar of burnt offering from before the people, and have formed and fashioned a new altar whereby they can somehow come before the throne of the living God. WOULD YOU DARE TRY TO COME BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD THROUGH A NEW ALTAR? WOULD YOU DARE TRY TO COME BOLDLY BEFORE THE THRONE OF GRACE THROUGH A NEW AND MODERN ALTAR? I sit here this morning and I can’t help but think about how many ministers and leaders within the sanctuary and house of the living God have attempted to implement a “new,” and “modern” way whereby men and women might come unto the throne of God. I can’t help but wonder in how many houses of worship and sanctuaries the true altar of the LORD has been removed, and a new and modern altar has been set up in its place. I can’t help but wonder how many ministers, how many leaders, and how many pastors within many of our churches during this generation have not only removed the true altar of the LORD—the true place of sacrifice before the living God—but have replaced it with an altar that looks similar to the original place. The question we must ask is whether or not we are coming unto the true altar of the LORD when we enter into the house of the LORD, or whether or not we have come to a cheap imitation and fake altar that might very well look like the new one, and yet is something completely different. The tragic reality surrounding this “new” and “modern” altar which Ahaz had built in the midst of the court of the Temple was that I would all but guarantee that it looked absolutely nothing like the brasen altar which was the original design and intention of the LORD for His people to come near and unto Him with their gifts, their sacrifices and their offerings.

I sit here this morning and I find myself being absolutely gripped and captivated by the fact that when you read the narrative of Ahaz king of Judah—not only do you find him engaging in idolatrous worship contrary to the true worship of the LORD, but you will also find him inciting the people of Judah to do the same, as he would set up high places, groves, and altars of incense throughout the land and in every several city. It wasn’t enough that Ahaz himself would engage in this idolatrous worship before the LORED, for he would actually incite the people of Judah and Jerusalem to engage themselves in this idolatrous worship themselves. Ahaz would form and fashion unto himself molten images of Baalim which he would worship, and would even cause his own children to pass through the fire. It’s important for us to think about and understand this, for this reality brings us face to face with the fact that not only did this king of Judah engage in idolatrous worship himself, and not only did he instigate and incite the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do likewise, but he would also completely transform the way people even worshipped the LORD at His holy sanctuary and Temple. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible reality, for at the same time Ahaz would lead the people of Judah and Jerusalem down a dark and dangerous path of idolatrous worship, he would completely and utterly transform the way the people worshipped the LORD, and even the way the priests would and could minister before the LORD. By shutting up the doors of the house Ahaz would effectively cut the priests and Levites off from the house, and by replacing the true altar of the living God with one he had formed and fashioned after another, he would take the true and authentic worship of the living God, and would turn it upside down and on its head. How incredibly tragic and dangerous it would be to read the narrative of Ahaz king of Judah and to discover how not only would he reintroduce idolatrous worship and practices in the midst of the land, but he would also single-handily alter and transform the way the people worshipped the LORD, and the way the priests ministered before the LORD. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words, I would dare say that this has been and still is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies, for the enemy has always sought to take the true worship of the living God, turn it on its head, and transform it into a worship that might look and even sound like true and authentic worship, and yet it is nothing more than a cheap imitation. What Ahaz—and perhaps even what the people failed to realize—is that even though they would bring their offerings, their gifts and their sacrifices to the Temple and sanctuary, and even though those offerings would be offered upon this new altar, they would not be accepted by the living God. Tell me dear reader—why and how would the LORD accept offerings and gifts offered before and unto Him upon an altar that is completely and altogether different from the true altar which He had prescribed unto Moses in the wilderness? What would make Ahaz, or even any of the people for that matter think and believe that their gifts, their sacrifices and their offerings would and could be accepted as a sweet smelling fragrance and an offering of sweet savor before the LORD—an offering made by fire—if they were presented upon a false altar that couldn’t be further from the real thing which the LORD had ordained and prescribed His people to worship before and offer their sacrifices, their gifts and offerings.

The more I think about this reality, the more I can’t help but think about the fact that when the people of Jerusalem and Judah came to this new altar which Ahaz had formed and fashioned after a foreign altar, the offerings, the gifts and sacrifices they would bring would be offered upon it. What I cannot help but think about and consider when reading the words which are found within these two passages of Scripture is whether or not Ahaz—even the people of Judah and Jerusalem themselves—felt that their offerings would be accepted in the sight of the living God. Oh, they might still bring their gifts and their offerings unto the sanctuary of the LORD, and their offerings might still be made with fire, yet that fire would be burning on a new altar that was not prescribed by the living God. What’s more, is that not only would a fire be burning on a false and pseudo altar before the LORD, but so also would the sacrifices, the gifts and offerings be offered upon a foreign altar which the LORD had not commanded nor instructed His people to use for worship. This is absolutely necessary for us to think about, consider and understand, for this reality of a new and foreign altar would be one that would severely hinder the worship of the people of God who came to the sanctuary of the living God to worship before the throne of the LORD their God. Did Ahaz, did the priests, and did the people who brought their offerings before and unto the LORD actually think their offerings would and could be accepted by the living God? Did the priests who ministered before the LORD actually think their ministry before this unholy and false altar would be accepted by the living God? Oh there would still be offerings which would be made by fire, however, those offerings would be made with a fire that was on a false and foreign altar that wasn’t even a cheap imitation of the original one. This new altar wasn’t even one that took the original pattern of the altar and “upgraded” it, but would be an entirely new altar altogether. It would be this new altar that would have absolutely nothing to do with the pattern the LORD gave unto Moses the servant of the LORD in the wilderness, nor would have anything to do with the fire which was to be burning upon the brasen altar both day and night. This new altar had absolutely no connection, nor did it have any link to the Tabernacle, nor the Temple, and more than it being an imitation—it would be an imposter altar. THE IMPOSTER ALTAR! ERECTING AN IMPOSTER ALTAR! THE INVADING ALTAR! THE INVASIVE ALTAR!

THE INVADING AND IMPOSTER ALTAR! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous and incredible reality, for it directly challenges us as we attempt to worship before the throne of the LORD our God. Ahaz undoubtedly saw the true altar of the living God in the court of the sanctuary, and yet in his attempt to completely and utterly transform the worship of the LORD in the midst of the sanctuary and outer court, he would bring in a new altar that was formed and fashioned after a pagan altar. We cannot lose sight of this, for Ahaz thought and believed he could offer the sacrifices of the living God on a replica of a pagan altar, which would be an invading and imposter altar in the midst of the court of the LORD. The question I can’t help but ask myself is how many invading and imposter altars are currently present in the midst of the churches, houses of worship, and sanctuaries throughout and across this country of ours. For roughly two months the doors of our churches have been shut, and while they haven’t been shut by ministers, they have been forced to be shut by an invading virus that would completely cripple and paralyze the nations of the world. I can’t help but think to myself how many churches the living God closed and shut because of the presence of an invasive and imposter altar that was present in the midst of it. I can’t help but wonder how many church buildings were shut and closed down during this time because the LORD could not bear the false altars that were found within them, nor could He bear the offerings which would be offered before and upon such altars. Is it perhaps a divine act of mercy within the heart of God during these days to cleanse and purify His house and His sanctuary from these foreign and invasive altars that are brought into the midst of the people of God as “new” and “modern” altars? Is it possible that the LORD has shut the doors of many churches throughout and across this nation of ours because of the false and pseudo offerings which were being offered upon false altars which are nothing more than imposters which have invaded the sanctuary of the LORD. IMPOSTER ALTARS WHICH HAVE INVADED THE SANCTUARY OF THE LORD! I can’t help but think and wonder to myself how many foreign, false, invading and imposter altars have been present in the midst of our churches and houses of worship, and as a direct result, the living God forced churches altogether to be shut and closed in order for Him to expose those altars. Perhaps the single greatest question I can’t help but wonder is what entering into church buildings can and will look like once they are permitted to reopen within this nation. How many church buildings may very well have their doors opened once more, and yet things are going to be drastically different than what they were used too—perhaps even drastically different from what they were expecting. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Malachi prophesied which are recorded in the first chapter of the prophetic book bearing his name beginning with the sixth verse:

“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offered polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? IN that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in your, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).

The words which the prophet Malachi prophesied according to the word of the LORD must not be overlooked, for within this passage we find the LORD God of Israel speaking directly unto the people of Israel—more specifically, unto the priests who ministered before the altar of the LORD—and chastised and rebuked them for the offerings which they brought unto the table of the LORD. Within this particular passage we find the prophet Malachi speaking concerning the types of offerings that were brought unto the living and eternal God through His holy altar which would be in the midst of the people, and yet in direct relation to this we must turn and direct our attention back to the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah. If you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of the first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah, you will find similar language that was being used by this prophet of the LORD. What makes the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke during this time to absolutely and incredibly significant is when you consider the fact that he prophesied during the reigns of four specific kings who would sit upon the throne of David in the midst of Jerusalem—Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Knowing what you know about Ahaz shutting up the doors of the house of the LORD, bringing in the midst of the court of the LORD an invasive altar that would replace the true altar, and even changing the place of consecration and cleansing in the outer court, it is worth noting and considering the words which are written and recorded within the first chapter of this prophetic book. We don’t know at what point during the reigns of these four kings these words would have been prophesied, yet knowing what we know about Uzziah, Jotham and Hezekiah, I would dare say that these words would directly apply to the days of Ahaz king of Judah when he not only engaged in idolatrous worship, not only led the people of Jerusalem, Judah and Benjamin into idolatrous worship, but would also transform the worship of the true LORD by shutting the doors of the Temple, replacing the true altar of the LORD with an invasive altar, and would even treat as command and base the bronze laver which would be used for cleansing in the midst of the outer court. With that being understood, I now invite you to turn and direct your attention to the words which are written and recorded in the first chapter of this prophetic book beginning to read with and from the tenth verse of the chapter:

“Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people Og Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is infinity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hid mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:10-20).

The prophetic declaration of Isaiah during the days of Ahaz would have come as a stinging denunciation and rebuke to a religious and idolatrous system of worship that would lay hold of an entire nation during those days. The more I think about and consider this reality, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the fact that during the days of Ahaz king of Judah—not only was there an idolatrous worship that was brought back into the land, but there was also a religious form of worship that was introduced into the land. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that this religious form of worship could even be in existence while the doors of the Temple of the living God were shut up. The king of Judah would shut up the doors of the Temple in the midst of Judah, and just outside the doors of the Temple in the outer court—not only would the brasen altar be replaced by a foreign and invasive altar patterned after one seen in Damascus, but so also would the bronze laver which would be used by the priests and Levites for washing and cleansing would be treated as common and base as Ahaz would take it down off the oxen upon which it had been placed, and placed it on a pavement made of stone. With the place of cleansing and consecration, as well as the place of sacrifice and offering now treated as a common thing during those days, it’s no wonder why the prophet Isaiah would thunder these words during the days of Ahaz king of Judah. It would be during the days of Ahaz king of Judah we would encounter an idolatrous form of worship as the worship of Baalim would be introduced once more into the land, as well as a religious form of worship that would appear as holy and acceptable in the sight of the LORD, and yet would itself be a cheap imitation of the true worship of the LORD. With the doors of the Temple having been closed, the brasen altar being reduced to the personal altar of the king, and a new and foreign and invasive altar now taking up prominent place in the midst of the outer court, the people might very well bring their offerings, their gifts and their sacrifices before and unto the living God, and unto His sanctuary, and yet I would dare say that much of the worship which took place during those days and times would be nothing more than a façade of worship that truly pleased the living God of heaven and earth. Oh, the people of Jerusalem, Judah, Benjamin, and perhaps would still bring their offerings to the sanctuary, and would still bring their gifts to the sanctuary, however, those gifts and those offerings would be offered and presented before and unto the LORD on an invasive and foreign altar that would be anything but the original altar whose pattern was given unto Moses the servant of the LORD while Moses was in the presence of God for forty days and forty nights at Horeb.

I can’t help but get the strong sense that during the days of Ahaz king of Judah there were two distinct and two different types of worship that were present in the midst of the land—that worship which still took place at the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, and that worship which would take place in every high hill, every several city, and in the high places within and throughout the land. There would be a worship that would take place at the Temple and sanctuary, as I am absolutely convinced that there was a remnant in the midst of the land whose hearts remained steadfast before the LORD their God, and who earnestly sought Him. I am convinced that there was a remnant of faithful men and women who continued to worship and serve the LORD their God, and who continued to bring their gifts, their offerings, and their sacrifices unto the sanctuary of the LORD—albeit, the offerings they would bring before and unto the living God in His holy sanctuary would be presented upon a foreign and invasive altar. There is a part of me that can’t help but think about and consider the fact that for many worship—even at the sanctuary and house of the LORD—would be nothing more than routine, ritual and religious, as they would continue to bring their offerings and sacrifices unto the LORD at His sanctuary, and yet those offerings would be presented on a false and pseudo altar which would be fashioned after a foreign altar seen in Damascus. We dare not miss and lose sight of this, for in order to understand the significance of the days and reign of Hezekiah king of Judah, it’s necessary to understand just what his father did during the days and times of his reign as king over Judah. If you want to truly understand the significance of the reign of Hezekiah and his direct influence on worship in the midst of the land, it is necessary to understand his direct assault and attack on both the religious worship which would take place in the midst of the land, as well as the idolatrous worship that would take place therein. When Hezekiah emerged on to the scene as king over the nation and kingdom of Judah—not only would he directly undo that which his father would set in motion during the days of his reign, but he would also take drastic steps and measures to restore true worship of the living God in the midst of the land. IT would be during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah that he would completely transform worship in the midst of the land, for not only would he completely undo the idolatrous worship in the midst of the land, but so also would he reopen the doors of the sanctuary in the midst of the land. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for Hezekiah would be instrumental in restoring worship to a nation and people that had been steeped in two forms of worship which were not pleasing in the sight of the LORD—idolatrous worship, and religious worship. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded within the twenty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

“Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them. And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, and said unto them, hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthy ness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of the LORD was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captaincy for this. Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. My sons, be not now negligent: for the LORD hath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him, and burn incense” (2 Chronicles 29:1-11).

As you read the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture you will encounter something truly remarkable concerning Hezekiah—namely, that during the first month of the first year of his reign he opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for it reveals something of the heart that was in Hezekiah concerning worship in the sight and presence of the living God. Whereas his father had shut up the doors of the Temple and house of the living God during the days of his reign, Hezekiah would make the first order of business reopening those doors. Scripture is unclear how long the doors of the house of the LORD were shut up and closed by Ahaz king of Judah, but what we can be absolutely certain and positive of is that Hezekiah wasted absolutely no time in opening those doors. Moreover, not only do we find and read of Hezekiah opening the doors of the Temple of the LORD once more, but he also repaired them as well. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the tremendous significance of this reality, for it’s almost as if once Hezekiah became king over the southern kingdom of Judah he wanted to ensure that one of the first acts of business was to reopen what his father and what the previous generation had shut up. It’s quite astounding to think about and consider the fact that during the first month of his reign as king over the nation of Judah, Hezekiah would make it a top priority to open the house of the LORD once more—and not only to open the house of the LORD once more, but also to restore the ministry of the priests and Levites who would minister before the LORD. It should be noted that in addition to Hezekiah reopening the doors of the house of the LORD, he would bring both the priests and the Levites and gathering them together in order that he might speak to them and give them a very specific charge. Upon reading the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture you will find that when Hezekiah spoke to the Levites he called them to sanctify themselves, and to sanctify the house of the LORD God of their fathers. Moreover, Hezekiah would also call on them to carry forth all the filthiness out of the holy place. Hezekiah would take it a step further and indict his their fathers—specifically his own father Ahaz king of Judah—for he would declare how their fathers trespassed, and did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD their God, had forsaken him, and had turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs. What’s more, is that their fathers directly impacted worship in the midst of the land as well as the sanctuary of the living God, for Hezekiah would go on to speak of their fathers how they shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and had not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.

I am absolutely amazed and astonished at Hezekiah’s heart for worship before the throne of the LORD his God, for in the first month of the first year of his reign he would open and repair the doors of the house of the LORD, and would call upon the priests of the living God to sanctify themselves, as well as the house of the LORD. Moreover, Hezekiah would indict the previous generation of their fathers for their negligence and rejection in and of worship, for he would declare how they not only shut the doors of the house of the LORD, but also put out the lamps which burned in the Holy Place, and no longer burned incense in the midst of the sanctuary, nor offered sacrifices and offerings upon the sacred altar of the living God. It is truly remarkable to read the words which Hezekiah king of Judah spoke unto the priests and Levites, for when speaking unto the ministers of the LORD—not only would he invite them into the place of service and ministry once more, but he would also invite them into the place where they would sanctify and cleanse the house. It wasn’t enough for Hezekiah to simply open the doors of the house of the LORD, and to repair them, for Hezekiah also sought to cleanse and sanctify the house of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. As you continue reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find the actions the priests of the LORD took at the command and instruction of Hezekiah king of Judah. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded within this same passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the fourteenth verse of the chapter:

“And of the sons of Heman; Jehiel, and Shimei: and of the sons of Jeduthun; Shemaiah, and Uzziel. And they gathered their brethren, and sanctified themselves, and came according to the commandment of the king, by the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD. And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the Temple of the LORd into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD; so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end. Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof. Moreover all the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of the LORD. Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD. And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sing offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the Sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the LORD. So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar: likewise, when they had killed the rams, they sprinkled the blood upon the altar: they killed also the lambs, and they sprinkled the blood upon the altar. And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them: and the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel. And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the turnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the son of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped. Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the LORD. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings. And the number of the burnt offerings, which the congregation brought, was threescore and ten bullocks, and hundred rams, and two hundred lambs: all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD. And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep. But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests. And also the burnt offerings were in abundance, with the fat of the peace offerings, and the drink offerings for every burnt offering. So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order. And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly” (2 Chronicles 29:14-36).

The words which we find written and recorded within this passage are truly unique and captivating when you take the time to read them, for essentially what we have is a generation of sons and daughters repenting for the sins of their fathers—and not only repenting for the sins of their fathers, but reopening the doors of the sanctuary, repairing the doors of the sanctuary, and restoring worship of the true and living God in the midst of the land. REOPENING DOORS, RESTORING WORSHIP, REPENTING OF SINS. What I find to be so incredibly powerful about the words and language we find within this passage of Scripture is that although Hezekiah used his position of influence to not only reopen the doors of the sanctuary, and not only repair the doors of the sanctuary, but also restore worship among the people once more, it wouldn’t be Hezekiah alone who would complete and carry out this work. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like as Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD knowing that his father had locked the doors, and unlocked and opened them once more. I wonder what it was like for the priests and Levites to watch as this new king would in the first month of the first year of his reign march up to the sanctuary and house of the living God and reopen and repair the doors. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Hezekiah watched and waited on the sidelines as his father would shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and would introduce idolatrous and false worship in the midst of the land. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Hezekiah was chomping at the bit during the days and time of the reign of his father, as he would wait for the opportunity to reopen the doors of the house of the LORD, and once more allow the priests and the Levites to fulfill and carry out their God-ordained duties in the house of the LORD. One thing is absolutely certain and absolutely clear, and that is that Hezekiah could not wait and would waste no time opening the doors of the sanctuary, and restoring the ministry of the priests and Levites. Hezekiah would waste absolutely no time in not only restoring the ministry and office of the priests and Levites, but would also restore the worship of the people. Once the doors of the sanctuary were opened once more, Hezekiah could then allow the priests to enter into the sanctuary in order that they might cleanse it. This is important for us to consider and understand, for first would come to opening of the sanctuary, and then would come the cleansing of the sanctuary, and the repairing of the vessels of the house of God. This would include returning the altar of the LORD to its original place and order in the midst of the court of the LORD that the offerings of God might once more be offered in the midst of the land.

REOPENING THE SANCTUARY! REPAIRING THE DOORS OF THE HOUSE! RETURNING THE ALTAR OF THE LORD TO ITS PROPER PLACE! RESTORING THE MINISTRY AND OFFICE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES! RESTORING WORSHIP AMONG THE PEOPLE! Everything you find within this passage of Scripture is a truly remarkable and astonishing picture of how Hezekiah king of Judah would use his position and title as king of the southern kingdom of Judah to not only reopen the house of the LORD, but also to restore the ministry of the priests and restore the worship of the people. RESTORING THE MINISTRY OF THE PRIESTS AND THE WORSHIP OF THE PEOPLE! The events within this passage of Scripture are absolutely astounding when you take the time to think about and consider them, for Scripture even speaks of how the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression were prepared and sanctified and before the altar of the LORD. I have to admit that during this time when the doors of our churches have been closed, and when men, women, young adults, teenagers, children and families have been forced to engage themselves in worship virtually within their homes, I can’t help but think about and believe that when the doors are finally opened once more, things cannot carry on as usual. I challenge any preacher, I challenge any minister, I challenge and pastor, I challenge any leader within the house of the LORD to once the doors are opened again to no longer do business as usual, and to take a good, long and hard look at what is taking place within the house of worship. Please note that I am not speaking in terms of social distancing, and hand sanitizer stations, and tape on the ground, and sectioned off pews and chairs. Please note that I am not talking about wearing masks in the house of the LORD, nor am I talking about safety and sanitary measures. What if during this time we have been speaking about sanitary measures from a physical standpoint, and yet when we return—instead of simply and merely being concerned with the house being sanitary from a health standpoint, we are concerned with the house being confirmed from a spiritual perspective? What if when we return to the house of the LORD and to our houses of worship we devote a great deal into ensuring that the house is consecrated and cleansed before the living God of heaven and earth? What if when we return we do in fact take measures and precautions to make sure that we are safe and sanitary in terms of physical health, but we take it a step further and go above and beyond that to ensure that we are spiritually healthy, and that we are spiritually clean before and in the sight of the living God? What good is it if we can return to the houses of worship clean from a physical standpoint, and yet we are filthy in the spiritual realm? Oh we can wash our physical hands all we want for twenty seconds, and we can use as much hand sanitizer as we can, and we can take all the measures necessary to ensure that we are clean, safe and healthy physically within our bodies, but what if when we return there is an even greater work that needs to be done—namely, that we might have clean hands and a pure heart. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which David the psalmist wrote in the fifteenth, twenty-fourth and fifty-first chapters of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. Consider if you will the words and language David used within these passages of Scripture in order to speak of the great need for clean hands and a pure heart in the sight of the living God:

“Lord, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? HE that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth note. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15:1-5).

“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight” (Psalm 18:20-24)

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-6).

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shaken in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in a me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy feet spirit” (Psalm 51:1-12).

As you read these passages of Scripture you will quickly notice the presence and mention—not only of clean hands, but also a clean heart. Moreover, you will not only notice the presence of a clear heart, but you will also notice the presence of a pure heart—two phrases which could almost be interchangeable and synonymous with each other. I sit here today thinking about the time when our church buildings and houses of worship will be opened, and I can’t help but think and wonder to myself how much emphasis we can and will be placing on the physical cleanliness of our hands versus the spiritual cleanliness of our hands in the sight of the living God. What if during this time we have been called to thoroughly examine our hearts and our hands in order that the living God might give us clean hands and a pure heart? What if during this time the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is inviting us into a place where we recognize and understand that those who are able to abide in His tabernacle, and those who are able to dwell in His holy house, and those who are able to ascend into the hill of the LORD and stand in His holy place are those with clean hands and a pure heart. We spend all this time speaking about church buildings and houses of worship being opened, and yet what if even though we are able to enter into church buildings once more, we are unable to enter into the Tabernacle of the living God, nor dwell in His holy hill? What if even though we are able to once more enter into buildings made with earthly hands with four walls, a stage or platform, a podium, and pews or chairs, and yet we cannot ascend into the hill of the LORD, or stand in His holy place? We have placed a great deal of emphasis on the physical building during this time, and I fear that in our pursuit of the four walls of the church building we have missed the spiritual implications and reality that surrounds this time. I fear that we have placed more emphasis on getting back into our church buildings than we have being able to stand in the holy hill of the LORD, and being able to ascend His holy mountain. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is it if you can enter into a church building made with human hands, and yet you cannot enter into the tabernacle and sanctuary of the living God? Please don’t assume that just because it has four walls, pews, a pulpit, and maybe a steeple attached to it that it is the sanctuary of the living God. Please don’t assume that just because you and others gather together in a specific building week in and week out that you are actually standing in the sanctuary of the living God. During this time there have been pastors and ministers who have attempted to sue state and local governments because of their stay at home orders, and because the physical doors of the church are shut, and yet we realize that the doors have never been nor can they ever be shut on the true church. The true church is not something that is made with human hands, and the true church is no some place we go to week in and week out, but the true church is something we are in the sight and presence of the living God.

I cannot help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the reality that we have placed so much time, effort, energy, worry, anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment, disappointment, and even deception and disillusionment thinking that the main and underlying goal was to get back into a church building, and yet what if there were church buildings who needed their doors to be shut in order that the LORD might be rid of the abominations which were present in His sight? What if the LORD allowed the doors of churches and houses of worship to be closed and shut because of the defiled and polluted altars which were present in the midst of them? What if the LORD deliberately and intentionally allowed church buildings and houses of worship to be closed and shut for the same reason that He allowed the land of Israel to be uninhabited for a period of seventy years—that the land might lie fallow and enjoy its rest and sabbath? What if the living God allowed the doors of countless churches and houses of worship to be closed as a sign and declaration that He has rejected that which takes place therein? I would dare say there are churches, there are ministries, there are altars, there are worship gatherings which the living and eternal God has indeed and has in fact rejected, and He allowed the doors of His churches to be shut and closed in order that judgment might take place within the house of God. I fear that in our attempt to get back into the pew and to get back into the church building we have missed the point that we might very well be able to enter into the house of the LORD, and yet be unable to enter into the true sanctuary of the living God. We might have clean hands on the outside, and yet we have filthy hands on the inside. We might be able to sit in the pews and chairs once more, and yet we can’t stand in the holy place, nor ascend the hill of the LORD because of our iniquity and our transgression. Tell me—what good is entering into a church building if you cannot truly stand before and in the presence of the living God? What good is sitting in the pews if you can’t stand in the presence of the living God? SITTING IN THE PEWS, YET UNABLE TO STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD! SITTING IN THE PEWS, BUT UNABLE TO ASCEND THE HILL OF THE LORD! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for while we might be able to enter into a church building that has four walls, a pulpit, pews and the like, we might be unable to ascend the hill of the LORD, and even extender into His holy sanctuary. We have placed a lot of emphasis on the four walls of the church building, and yet we have completely neglected what is needed once back inside. What’s more, is I would love to know what the first message is going to be once church buildings are able to open and resume to the view and perception of “normal” as being compared to previously. I would love to be able to sit in each and every Sunday morning service and hear the first message pastors, ministers and teachers alike will deliver to the congregants the morning church buildings and services are able to resume “as usual.”

If you read and study the message which Hezekiah king of Judah presented once the doors of the church were opened once more, you will find that it was not only a call for the priests to sanctify themselves, but also to sanctify the house of the living God. Moreover, the message which Hezekiah delivered unto the priests after they had sanctified themselves was to enter into the sanctuary and to remove all the filth that was present in the midst of it. Hezekiah would bring the priests and the Levites back into the proper place of ministry and service before the LORD—an office which has been largely missing during the days of his father Ahaz. Moreover, Hezekiah called the entire congregation of Judah to the city of Jerusalem and unto the sanctuary and house of the LORD that worship might once more be restored in the midst of the people. This would be made possible through the restoration of the ministry of the priests and Levites, as well as the returning of the altar of burnt offering to its proper place. Hezekiah’s message after the doors were opened emphatically declared that the house of the LORD had been shut, that the lamps had been put out, and that incense had not been burnt, nor had it been offered before and unto the living God. Hezekiah opened the doors of the Temple once more in order that the priests might minister once more, and that the people might worship once more. What’s more, is that when you come to the thirtieth chapter of this book you will find that Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover unto the LORD God of Israel. In the fifth verse of the thirtieth chapter you will find that Hezekiah and all his officials “established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.” In order to get the full scope of the invitation Hezekiah made to all the inhabitants of Israel and Judah it’s necessary to read and consider the words which are written in this passage beginning to read with and from the sixth verse of the chapter:

“So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him. So the posts passed from comity through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 30:6-12).

CELEBRATING THE PASSOVER! TAKING AWAY THE ALTARS! BRAKE THE IMAGES IN PIECES! CUTTING DOWN THE GROVES! THREW DOWN THE HIGH PLACES AND THE ALTARS! UNTIL THEY HAD UTTERLY DESTROYED THEM ALL! RESTORING THE TITHE! “AND THUS DID HEZEKIAH THROUGHOUT ALL JUDAH, AND WROUGHT THAT WHICH WAS GOOD AND RIGHT AND TRUTH BEFORE THE LORD HIS GOD. AND IN EVERY WORK THAT HE BEBAN IN THE SERVICE OF THE HOUSE OF GOD, AND IN THE LAW, AND IN THE COMMANDMENTS, TO SEEK HIS GOD, HE DID IT WITH ALL HIS HEART, AND PROSPERED” As I bring this writing to a close I feel compelled to draw and call our attention to what I would like to describe as “The Message After,” or perhaps even “The Experience After.” Aside from the sanitary and safety measures that will need to take place once churches and houses of worship are opened again, what will the experience be for those who enter into the house of the LORD? What will men and women experience when the doors of the house are opened once more and they enter into our buildings to worship the LORD, and to hear the preaching of the Word? I am absolutely and completely convinced that when the doors of our churches open once more it cannot and must not be business as it was, nor even business as usual. When we enter into the church buildings and houses of worship, the underlying question I have to ask myself is what will the preachers and ministers of the LORD declare to people who have perhaps been waiting to get back into the sanctuary? During the days of Hezekiah king of Judah when the doors of the sanctuary were reopened, Hezekiah called for the priests to be sanctified, he called for the sanctuary to be sanctified, he called for the filthiness that was in the house to be removed and carried out, he called for the altar to be returned to its rightful place before the LORD. What’s more, is he called for the priests and the Levites to resume their office and ministry before the LORD, and for the people to worship before the throne of the living God. Even more than this, we find Hezekiah calling the people to celebrate the Passover, which hadn’t been celebrated in quite some time. I bring this writing to a close and I am compelled to say and to emphatically declare that it isn’t enough to somehow get back into the church buildings without hearing the voice of the living God, and without possessing discernment to know what He has been speaking to us the whole time, and what He desires to speak to us in the coming days. There is a great need once the doors of our churches are essentially “unlocked” once more that things need to change, and need to be drastically different than what it has been before. If we return to the church buildings and carry on with business as usual, or business as it was, we might very well find ourselves resisting and fighting against the living God. Moreover, I can’t help but wonder whether or not those ministers and those leaders who fought against and resisted the doors of the churches being closed and the so-called violation of rights are nothing more than individuals who are actually fighting against the will, the word, the work and the mind of God in an attempt to achieve their own gains and ends. Oh, there will come a day when we will be able to enter into the churches once more, and yet what we must recognize and understand is that we cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in the church buildings, for what if during these last days the Spirit of the living is bringing us back to our roots and our origin when they met in houses and broke bread from house to house? Oh that we would stop minoring and major things and majoring on the minor things, and that we would truly understand that which the living God has spoken and continues to desire to speak to us through and during this time.

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