2 Chron 29:1-11 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: "Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. Our fathers were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord's dwelling place and turned their backs on him. They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore, the anger of the Lord has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; he has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense."
The first casualty of backsliding is worship: Hezekiah's father Ahaz "shut the doors of the Lord's temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem" (28:24). Conversely, the first place to start revival is also worship: Hezekiah restored temple worship in the first month of his reign: "he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them" (2 Chron 29:3). Worship is not the prelude to the Word but is the reason for the Word. We teach and preach in order that people might worship God more faithfully in spirit and in truth. Worship is the end; the Word of God is the means.
Yet very often, worship is the first neglect in churches where the spiritual life of the congregation is declining: the congregation arrives late, often way past the initial segment dedicated to the worship of God, so as to be just in time for the sermon, as though the sermon is the high point of the gathering. But yet, the biblical principle of revival is this: worship is first and last reason for our gathering together as God's people: "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt 18:20). The reason for gathering together is to worship the Christ who is among us. For Hezekiah and his people, the reason for the restoration of the temple is worship: "King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped" (2 Chron 29:30).
However, we must never confuse singing with worship. There are some pre-requisites before worship in spirit and in truth takes place:
(1) Consecrated Ministers ("Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now"): Worship that attracts the presence of God must be conducted by consecrated worship leaders and musicians. Consecration is an process of purification of the ministers. For the priests and Levites, this process involves
- The Bath. Priests had to wash themselves and put on robes which symbolises cleansing of the Word. (John 15:3 "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you"; Eph 5:26 "cleansing her by the washing with water through the word"). Worship leaders need to be cleansed through daily reading of the Word before they lead God's people into His presence.
- The Blood: Priests had to consecrated by the blood placed on their ears, hands and feet (Lev. 8:24). The Blood is the foundation of the atonement for sins. Confession is a scriptural way to experience God's forgiveness and cleansing through the blood. (1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness").
(2) Consecrated Temple ("consecrate the temple of the Lord...Remove all defilement from the sanctuary"): Not only the people but the place where the worship is taking place needs to be consecrated. There may be traditions and practices within the place of worship that actually defile worship or choke the flow of the Spirit. As Jesus told the Pharisees: "Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matt 15:6). Religious traditions may need to be removed to allow the fresh winds of the Spirit to blow into the place again. Sacred cows may need to be slaughtered: "The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it. They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord's temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the Lord" (29:16). One example of a sacred cow may be a church's liturgy. While liturgy can be helpful, it can also be a hindrance to the Holy Spirit's ministry when it is followed mechanically without an ear to what the Spirit might want to say or do in that assembly.
May revival begin in our churches as we worship God in spirit and in truth.
Father, teach us again what it means to worship You in spirit and in truth. Consecrate our hearts daily through Your Word and the Blood of Christ and help us make room for Your Spirit to minister to Your people in worship. Amen.