July 24, 2009

Hezekiah’s Revival: A River of Life

King Hezekiah (700 BC) is famous for the amazing “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” which first carried water underground into Jerusalem to save the city from a siege. In the photo it's kind of grungy looking but actually the tunnel is pretty clean with cool fresh water than runs through your Tevas or flip flops, sneakers, whatever, as you shuffle your way along on a tour.

Like the tunnel he implemented, Hezi helped facilitate a spiritual revival, connecting people to the life giving water of God’s presence and word and impacting society for good. There’s no formula for revival, but it's a delight to look back and consider the path the revival took and consider how some of these attributes may apply to our lives today. The Psalmist stated “Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them…” (Ps 111.2, NASB).

Study is work, as is teaching. As we work, God works, It's a kind of digging which leads to springs of life. Hezekiah's revival, as described in chapters 29-31 of 2 Chronicles, shows the historic step by step journey that took people deeper into the joyful springs of life found in God.

1) Pry open the doors (29.3) -  Hezi didn’t waste any time in getting down to business. In the first month of his reign as king he reopened the ceiled doors of the temple and repaired them. Jesus showed that we are living temples (1 Cor 3.16) and Jesus said “I am the door..” (Jn 10.7), the entry point to spiritual life. For those who have never received Christ, the first step is to open the door of your life to Him and receive Him (Jn 1.12) and His gift of eternal life. For the person who has received Christ but fallen out of close fellowship, the door of relationship has to be opened and repaired (Rev 3.20). Jesus is the door but so much more. He's "the all in all" and the Alpha and Omega. The Psalmist wrote "All my springs are in you." (Ps 87.7b)

2) Pursue holiness (29.4-6) -  This process began by gathering the priests together and encouraging them to cleanse the inner temple of “all the uncleanness.” These things were cast into the water of the brook Kidron (29.16). The temple was cleansed in 8 days. We as believers are priests unto God (1 Pet 2.9, Rev 1.6) and though God promises He has begun and will finish the work of cleansing (Phil 1.6) we are to do our part by studying the word of God and allowing it to wash our minds like cleansing water (Eph 5.26). Jesus said "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Mat 5.6)

3) Prefer time with God (29.7, 11) -  The lamps in the temple signify the presence of God and the incense is a symbol of prayer. The priests had neglected their fellowship with God and everything fell apart. Our main role as priests is to spend time with God and minister to Him. This shouldn’t be seen as a duty but as a privilege. Ultimately, it is God Himself whom our souls thirst after. The Psalmist wrote: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Ps 42.1-2 NIV)

4) Present offerings (29.20-21) -  After the cleansing process, people brought offerings and sacrifices to God. The main offering is to present ourselves as living sacrifices unto God, so that He may use our lives in any way He desires (Rom 12.1-2). God wants our hearts not so much our physical gifts and offerings (Psalm 51.16-17) And we are like rivers as we become channels of God's life giving Spirit: Jesus said: "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (Jn 7.38). The flow of history is also like a river. Romans 11:36 summarizes "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things."

5) Practice the ordinances ( 30.1,5) - The people began to get back to basics, keeping the Passover and the feasts (30.21). Jesus celebrated Passover with the disciples on the same evening the Passover lambs were being prepared in Jerusalem. Jesus Himself became our Passover lamb slain once and for all to bring freedom from death and sin (Heb 12.24).

As Hezi and Co. practiced the various ordinances they were experiencing the basic things the early church experienced including fellowship, worship, teaching and prayer (Acts 2.42-47) . They weren't just going through the motions, they "humbled themselves" (30.11) and "were ashamed" (30.15) at their condition and the condition of society. The end result of their repentance was great joy, a kind not experienced in Judah since the time of Solomon (30.26).

Ephesians 5.18b says "..be filled with the Spirit." (NKJV) The tense in the original Greek language is present continuous, meaning we are to be regularly "being filled with the Spirit." We need to drink physical water regularly if we want to live. If we want to live an abundant spiritual life, we need to be "taking in" the Holy Spirit regularly with the Church, the body of Christ.

6) Permeate society (31.1) - As the people were radically transformed, they radically transformed society. In our day people don’t worship statues, well, at least not as much. But for us a good example may be the woman at the well in John 4.4-42. She was changed by her conversation with Jesus and was converted. And having tasted of the "living water," John 4.39 says her testimony caused many of the city to believe and follow the Lord. There was a domino effect.

7) Prolong the work (31.2-4) - The priests who had been studying and teaching (30.22) were being set up “every man according to his service” and the people of the congregation were advised to support the work of the ministry and encourage the priests (31.4). One of the main functions of the church today is to prepare God’s people for involvement in ministry (Eph 4.12). In order for ministry to continue, there should be involvement by every person in the Church, the body of Christ, whether it is by working in a specific ministry or financially supporting any ministries as God directs the giving. In these ways the work of God may continue to grow.

After this spiritual revival, news came revealing that the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib was marching southward in order to lay siege to Jerusalem. But Hezekiah directed the people to block any springs they would find outside the walls of Jerusalem, so they wouldn’t find any drinking water. At the same time he ordered the carving out of the famous tunnel designed to bring water from a spring outside the city wall into the heart of the city (2 Chron 32.1-4, 30). The tunnel is 533 meters long and was dug by two teams working from opposite directions. The two teams eventually heard each other and joined, according to an inscription found in the tunnel in 1880. The tunnel is in an “S” shape and would have been 335m, 40% less, if it was in a straight line. In my opinion, it’s not so much an engineering feat as it is a sign of God’s amazing grace and His desire to give salvation. I drilled through a stone wall recently less than half a meter thick from two sides, and I was shocked when my small connection lined up and was successful!

While the other cities of Judah fell to the invaders, Jerusalem was saved and the temple continued to stand for another 114 years, all due to this life giving spring. The people were, of course, happy to be spared from cruel Assyria. But how much more should we rejoice to have tasted the waters of God’s Holy Spirit and the joy of His spiritual salvation? “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isa 12:3, NIV)

Compared to the physical reality, the spiritual reality is much more significant. It is during times of spiritual awakening that this becomes clearer. I haven't seen a widespread revival but I have experienced times of personal revival and I would like these times to be prolonged and deepened. I believe that being rooted in a steady stream of God's word is a key aspect. Psalm, 1.2 portrays this idea well: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." (Psalm 1.1-2 KJV) If you want to simplify Hezekiah's life, these two verses seem to sum things up: "Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the LORD his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered." (31.20-21 NASB)

Hezekiah's life is inspiring to me. It encourages me to continue doing the things God has shown me to do and to not grow weary in well doing (Gal 6.9). What about you? Are there aspects of his life you find motivating or encouraging? Have you experienced God's "living water" recently? Are you thirsting for more of God's presence and righteousness?

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