Cleaning House: 2 Chronicles 29:1-19
by Pastor Trent Boedicker 8/30/15
Do you remember the TV show “This Old House?” Bob Villa was the original host, who made it popular, and every episode he would tackle a different home repair project like: installing a new hardwood floor, or replacing a broken window, building a deck or redoing a bathroom. He always made it look so easy. He’s in there tearing out old rotted wood, and hauling it to the dumpster. And then he carried in the new lumber, measured, sawed, and hammered it into place. And when he was done it almost looked like a whole new house. How did he do that? –you wonder
What made the show so interesting is that most of us have projects like these in our own homes. There is always something that needs fixed. There is always some repair job we would like to tackle. There is always something that requires our attention, especially if you live in an old house. We may not know where to start. Bob Villa showed us how.
Bob Villa has renovated a lot of homes over the years, but I don’t think he would have known what to do if he had seen the sad condition of the house of the Lord, in 2 Chronicles 29. During the reign of King Ahaz, one of the worst rulers who ever sat on the throne of David, the temple in Jerusalem had fallen into a state of disrepair. The Levites and the priests were not carrying out their ministries. The sacrifices were no longer being offered. The lamps were no longer burning in the sanctuary. The people no longer went to the house of the Lord to worship or pray. Some of the sacred objects had been removed (probably melted down for their gold), while pagan idols littered the courtyards. Eventually the doors were closed, and the temple sat empty for years. What a mess. This was a holy place signifying the presence of God among His people, but they had drifted away from Him.
This was the spiritual condition in the land of Judah, when Hezekiah first became king. It was time for renewal. It was time for a spiritual renovation to occur, not just repairing and rededicating the temple, but repairing and rededicating the relationship of the people with their God. Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple, and cleaned house, bringing the people back to the Lord.
Even though our worship is very different from that of Israel and Judah in the OT, there are times when we too need renewal in our spiritual lives. It is possible for God’s people to find themselves drifting away from the Lord. Little by little, we neglect things like prayer, worship, and devotions. We allow idols to occupy space in our hearts. Worldliness creeps in, clouding our thoughts and desires. The fire that was once burning brightly within us fades. God is still there, but we have become distant making ourselves unavailable to Him.
As Christians, the Bible tells us, we have become a temple of the Living God. We are called to be holy, set apart for the Lord. So what do we do, when our spiritual lives haven fallen into a state of disrepair? We need to clean house, and ask the Lord to restore us to a place of fellowship with Him. He will, just as He did in the days of Hezekiah.
We need to renew our devotion to the Lord when we’ve drifted away, because God is able to restore us to a place of fellowship with Him
1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old; and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. 5 Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 6 “For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the Lord our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and have turned their backs. 7 “They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.
We began a study of the life of Hezekiah last week, and we saw the kind of leader that he was: he was a good king, one of the best kings who ever ruled over God’s people. He was a descendant of David, and followed in those footsteps. Like David he was a man of prayer, and had a heart for worship.
And he shows that here. He wasted no time addressing the spiritual condition of the nation. He gathered the priests and the Levites (the spiritual leaders of the people) into the square outside the temple and says “guys, we need to clean house. We need to consecrate ourselves and consecrate the house of the Lord.”
He uses that word “consecrate” a half dozen times throughout the chapter. It means to purify, to set apart, to make holy. The temple was sacred. It belonged to the Lord, and was meant to glorify Him. Israel/Judah were God’s chosen people. They were set apart. They were meant to glorify Him. But they weren’t doing that because they had become corrupt, and were acting like all the other nations that surrounded them. Hezekiah was saying “enough, it is time to return to God, and rededicate ourselves to Him.”
We cannot worship God, not in a way that is pleasing to Him, if our spiritual life is out of sorts. We cannot serve God, not effectively, if we refuse to deal with sin in our lives. We can’t have communion with God, and walk in fellowship with Him, if we are pushing Him away at the same time.
1. We need to rush back to the Lord when we’ve drifted away
Don’t drag your feet, don’t put it off for another day. Run to the Lord, because He’s waiting Look down at verse 3. It tells us, “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them…”
Out of all the things that demanded the attention of the king, this was not something Hezekiah was willing to delay. As far as he was concerned, this was most pressing concern that God’s people were facing. Not: the threat of invasion from Assyria (to the north), not the weakened condition of the military, not economic concerns. Those things were important, but not nearly as important as their relationship with God. Those problems were only symptoms, this was the cause. And so he made the temple his first priority. Notice the urgency in his voice, as he spoke to the Levites and priests: Verse 5 “…listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now…” Not tomorrow…not next week… not sometime in the near future… but today! This is the time. The temple has sat empty far too long. We’ve been complacent long enough… We’re not going to wait another minute. Let’s return to our God right now.”
Someone once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” That’s good advice, and it applies in our spiritual lives just as much as it does anywhere else. If you are distant from God… if you have been wrestling with sin… you don’t have to wait another moment to deal it. You can bring it before the Lord today, and seek renewal.
We find it so easy to put things off: “I am going to get involved in church again, soon, but things have been hectic with school starting.” “When things slow down, then I will start doing devotions again, every morning, just like I used to do.” ““Eventually, I’m going to talk to someone about this problem I’m having in my life, I’m not sure I’m ready right now…” Why not? What are we waiting for? If you are too busy today, you’re going to be too busy tomorrow. I wish life slowed down, but it doesn’t. You have to make the time, we have to make the commitment. We can always think of some excuse to put it off for another day. Don’t wait for a better time (there is never a better time than today).
When we put things off, it doesn’t become any easier to address spiritual issues. Actually, the longer we wait, the more difficult it will become. What happens when you put off dealing with a problem in your home? Say you notice that the roof is leaking. You might not want to deal with that right now. After all, who wants to climb around on top the house looking for holes? You probably have many other important things you need to get done. And so you tell yourself: “I’ll get to it tomorrow… tomorrow is supposed to be a nicer day.” “I’ll get to it next week. I don’t think we’re supposed to have any big storms for awhile.” But the longer you wait, the more water finds its way to places that it shouldn’t be, the more your ceiling is damaged, the more it is going to cost to repair. You might not want to deal with it now, but think about how much better it will be in the long run.
The longer we allow unresolved sin to remain in our lives, the more difficult it becomes to address. The longer we remain distant from the Lord, the harder it is to overcome that habit and form a new one. Hezekiah didn’t put it off, because he knew that nothing else would be right in his kingdom as long as the people were far from the Lord
2. We need to repent when we have drifted away.
The word repentance literally means “to change one’s mind.” It is to turn around, to change course, turn back to God. If you’re driving the wrong way, on the highway. You have to be willing to admit that mistake and turn the car around, before you can start heading in the right direction again. If we are too stubborn, or too proud to admit you were wrong, we’re just going to end up further and further away from where we want to be.
That’s what Hezekiah was encouraging the people to do in 2 Chronicles 29:6-11. He urged them to turn around, change course, and turn back to God. Notice how many different phrases he uses in verse 6 to describe their sin: “…our fathers have been unfaithful…” and have “done evil in the sight of the Lord…” They have “forsaken Him…” They had turned their faces and their backs to the Lord.
He’s not blaming the previous generation, here, for the spiritual condition of the country. He is acknowledging that the whole nation was guilty of turning away from the Lord. (We’ve done wrong… from the top down, and everyone in between: the king, the priests, and the people -we’ve gone astray). He admits that his own family was at fault (his father had been the chief idolater, but priests were complicit as well, even the people were willing participants.) He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t sweep anything under the rug. There’s no attempt at a cover up. He gives an honest assessment of where they were and how they got there.
That’s hard to do, sometimes. We can be very good at casting the blame on someone else, or we make excuses for our sin. “I know it wasn’t right, but…” “It’s not my fault because…” “I may have made a mistake, but look at that person…” Until we are willing to own up to our failure, we won’t be able to experience the healing or restoration we need. And it doesn’t make any sense to try to fool God. He can see right through every excuse. He knows the real condition of our heart. It is much better to acknowledge before Him what He already knows.
There are consequences for rebelling against the Lord and in forsaking His ways. Hezekiah mentions some of them here. If effect, they had declared to God “we don’t need you anymore,” and so He withheld His hand of blessing and let them see for themselves what it meant to live on their own. The results were disastrous. There are consequences in our lives, as well, when we turn away from God and forsake His ways. We will we lack the spiritual strength we need to live victorious Christian lives. We are easily defeated by our enemy (the devil). There will be a absence of peace and joy that comes from being in fellowship with God. Our testimony is hindered. Our relationships are affected. The Holy Spirit will convict our hearts, and won’t let up until we return to Him.
We don’t have to remain in that place. We can turn around, and turn back to God. Repentance isn’t sitting in a little booth and telling a stranger about our sins. It isn’t beating ourselves up for mistakes we’ve made. It is humbling ourselves before God, admitting that we’ve been going the wrong way. “Lord, I’ve been living for myself. I’ve been ignoring your will, and haven’t been seeking you. But I’m ready to return. I know that the blood of Christ has cleansed my heart from every sin, but I want to walk in fellowship with you once again. Restore me to the joy of my salvation.”
1 John 1:8–9 tells us “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It’s not that we lose our salvation, we don’t lose our place in God’s family when we drift away from Him. But we lose our intimacy with the Lord, when we rebel against Him. That’s what repentance is about, turning around, turning back to Him. When we are unrepentant, our back is turned to God, how can we be close to Him. When we acknowledge our sin, we allow Him to draw us back into fellowship.
Psalm 32:3–5 says, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”
This was a psalm written by David, someone who had made some pretty huge mistakes, in his life. But what set him apart from others was his willingness to come humbly before the Lord and seek forgiveness. We can deal with failure in different ways. We can try to hide, and run from God, but we will be miserable. Or we can admit to God our need for grace, and He will restore us.
3. We need to remove every unclean thing that hinders our walk with the Lord
Whatever is holding us back, whatever doesn’t belong, whatever is keeping us from drawing close to God, we need to cast it aside. That was the order King Hezekiah gave to the Levites, and they responded. Verses 12-14 list the names of the families and the individuals who led the charge. And then we read about the work they accomplished in 2 Chronicles 29:15-19.
There was a lot of work to be done. We can imagine how much dust and debris accumulated in the temple after years of neglect. When a building sits empty for a period of time, it starts to decay. But there was also a lot of junk which had no business being there in the first place: idols, images of foreign gods, pagan objects of worship. Elsewhere, in 2 Kings, we are told that King Ahaz had moved the altar of the Lord, and in its place built an altar dedicated to the gods of Assyria. All of that filth needed to be removed before the people would be able to worship God in that place. They carried it away every unclean thing, and cast it outside the walls of Jerusalem. The Kidron Valley was a dumping ground for refuse, and that’s where the Levites disposed of the filth that corrupted God’s temple.
This was tedious work. It took eight days before they reached the porch of the temple. They spent another eight days inside the house of the Lord. Only the priests were allowed to enter, and so they were the only ones who were able to carry out the work. They did a thorough job. That was important. How could they hope to offer sacrifices, pleasing to God, if there was a statue of Baal staring them in the face? They swept the place clean. Not a single image was left, that didn’t belong. They didn’t hide anything in the closets. They didn’t sweep anything under the rug. They didn’t stash anything behind the columns, where no one would look.
Believers today are also wise to examine our hearts. Are there things that don’t belong… that are getting in the way of our relationship with God? …thoughts…or attitudes…or desires that are in conflict with who God has called us to be? We need to cast them aside, let it go, and allow the Lord to clean house.
We can’t say to God, “Lord you can have every room in my heart….except for that one. I’m not willing to give that up.” It doesn’t work. That would have been like one of the priests trying to keep a little shrine for Baal in the corner of the temple. That was the Lord’s temple, devoted to God, unclean things did not belong. Imagine if you were sitting in a nice restaurant, getting ready to enjoy a meal, and the waiter set a dirty plate in front of you. “Excuse me, I hate to complain, but it looks like the dishwasher missed a spot, could I have a different plate?” How would feel if he looked at you and said, “what, that spot, it’s not a big deal, the rest of the plate should be fine, just don’t put any food on that side of the plate.” You wouldn’t be very thrilled.
How do we think God feels when we tell him, “It’s not a big deal Lord, it’s just a little spot, just a small sin, most of my life is in order.”
“So I like to party a little. What’s the big deal? I still make it to church most of the time.” It’s a big deal because you are a temple of God, you belong to Him, and you were made to glorify God with your life. “It’s just a movie. It wasn’t that bad. Okay, it was kind of rough, but what’s the matter with that?” It matters, because you are temple of God, and He doesn’t want us to fill our minds with garbage? We need clean hands and a pure heart if we are to worship the Lord. How can we stand in God’s presence, or draw near to Him, if there is unresolved sin in our lives?
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Finally, the temple was ready. The priests and Levites returned to the King, in 2 Chronicles 29:18-19 with the good news. They returned to God, repented of sin, and removed what was hindering their spiritual walk. Now they were ready to worship the Lord in a manner that would be pleasing to Him. Now they were ready to serve Him with their lives.
One author says this:
“We have a great lack in our day of heart religion. There is so much superficiality today in church and in other religious activities. …When pressure comes upon many, to compromise, they compromise. They will not stand faithfully. Only those whose heart is in it will survive. God wants our heart. “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26) is His plea to all of us. If He does not have our heart, He does not have us. Scripture says our obedience must be from the heart. … Let us be “heart” Christians. It is the only kind that honors Christ”
What about us? Where are you, in your walk with the Lord, this morning? Where is your heart? Are you close to Him, or far away? Is there lots of dust and debris and things that don’t belong? The passage encourages us to return to God, repent of sin, and remove whatever is hindering your relationship with the Lord.
We started out talking about Bob Villa. As skilled as he is, there is a limit to the renovations he can do. But there’s no limit to what God can do… no project too big… No matter how much of a mess we made, He is always able to bring us back and restore us to a place of fellowship.
I want to close with a prayer, from Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts:And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Ch 29:1–7). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 Butler, J. G. (1999). Hezekiah: The King of Survival (Vol. Number Eighteen, pp. 40–41). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.