by Denise Teal
2 Chronicles 29:11, 15-19
This week, King Hezekiah is preparing the temple for return to worship. It is one of many times when God returns His people to true worship when they turn to Him, genuinely, for guidance and relationship. Can you remember preparing something big? A meal? An event? A renovation? Preparation is no mean feat, however important. As Eddie told us: Ask any ancient Israelite to tell you the most important place on earth, you would get a clear answer: The Temple in Jerusalem. To the Israelites, it’s the place where heaven and earth meet, where the creator God chose to be found among his people and Eddie reminded us last week that the temple now, is in us.
But for a moment, what can we learn from Hezekiah’s preparations for THIS temple in God’s service? Because any temple, spiritual or physical, has to be prepared for its work in the Lord and that’s what Hezekiah was doing. It was a temple in a richly impressive complex of buildings but here was a window on their world for faith and it had to impress.
This temple was intended to become a clear symbol and meeting place of God’s desire to live together with his human creations; but by Hezekiah’s time that wasn’t happening. Previous Kings had taken it, and the people off the path God wanted for this temple. But, even the first preparations… the plans for it were from God. In 1 Chron.28:12 David gave Solomon all the plans “that the spirit put in his mind…” God was clear that in this temple, preparation meant serving God’s will not their own. For Hezekiah, this temple was a cornerstone of their covenant relationship with God. So long as the Temple was on the right track, life with God was on the right track. Mess with the temple…you mess with God! But it had experienced misuse; the biblical equivalent of abusing God. It’s hard to lose God’s love and faithfulness once we’ve given our lives to Him but it’s not all that hard to hurt Him, misuse His name and lose the path of faith He wanted for us before we were born. This temple, like us, was a witness of faith and worship to a watching world. As Eddie said…the temple is now us. Then and now, a place for God to work in our lives.
Hezekiah had what he needed to prepare it for use…he had the people, the equipment. But first, it had to be prepared. Equipped is not the same as prepared. How important is preparation?
Years ago, I ran in half marathons. Runners have to prepare the right way to ‘last’ 13 miles. A group of office colleagues were running one day. They were equipped; matching designer kit and shoes; all with a logo. But they weren’t prepared. Their legs gave way. They became out of breath. “Not givin’ them artificial restitution” declared a passing, seasoned runner. Like the 10 Bridesmaids in Matt.25… all equipped with their lamps and dressed for the wedding but 5 of them didn’t prepare properly and replenish their oil and they lost out.
As the church of God, we need to consider the right kind of preparation for life in God’s service too. Hezekiah brought people back to making God the focus of their worship, in their lives, and that involves both spiritual and practical preparations.
Last week, Eddie talked about the temple in us; the spiritual side. We prepare this side by growing that relationship through prayer, studying His word in the scriptures, discerning, listening for God, seeking guidance for what we’re called to do… being mindful, tending to the areas where God wants to grow within us. But as Eddie said, faith in isolation isn’t ideal. We’re called to be God’s temple in our community… worshipping together as a church, we are bigger than the sum of our parts. So, like Hezekiah, we are also thinking about practical preparations; what we need as we serve God in the days ahead.
Hezekiah’s practical preparation first meant some cleansing; leaving behind some things from the past that had become ‘unhelpful’. He destroyed the ‘iconic’ bronze snake Moses had made when the Israelites were beset by snakebites in the wilderness (see Num. 21:8). It was a key artifact of Israel, but had become a focus of their worship (They burned incense to it) rather than focusing on God. Are there things we hold dear in our collective worship but we consider them so important that focused on them, we forget why we are here? It’s easy to accumulate a great deal of “religious stuff”, like how we do things… but there is a natural need to want to do new things in the church too. Perhaps we could clear out an activity that takes up too much time… to leave a space for a fellowship group we don’t meet with yet or develop another activity that is serving God really well?
Secondly, Hezekiah installed things… some new, some renewed that they were going to need; activities that focused on worship and growing the faith, like the creativity we’re adding in our services. Maybe there’s a missional activity much needed in our community. Spiritually and physically, let’s think how we prepare our temples for God’s work. Some places can get completely clogged up with programmes and policies and committees and so on! Hezekiah didn’t let the past hold him back. He was bringing back a good relationship with God in his own temple.
Today’s focus was about preparing the temple, the one in us and the one in the community where we meet… still to be a witness of faith and worship to a watching world and a holy place intended for worship of our creator God. Let’s not forget why we’re Christians and what the church is for as we look forward in hope, not back with regret. Like Hezekiah, let’s roll up our mental sleeves, prepare and seek God’s wisdom for our church for its work tomorrow and for life everlasting. Amen.