II Chronicles 31

 

This chapter, after its first verse (which holds an intermediate place with

relation to the enthusiastic devoutness of the people recorded in the last

verse of the former chapter, and what now followed of the doings of the

king), tells how Hezekiah once more settles, first, the courses of the priests

and Levites, and the offerings for their support (vs. 2-10); and, secondly,

both the offices and officers needful for rightly attending to the business.

The Book of Kings gives us no parallel to this chapter.

 

 

1 “Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went

out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut

down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out

of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until

they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel

returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.”

As much as the last verse of the foregoing chapter was all of the

religious fervor of the occasion, this verse is all of the, practical honest

work of the people and their leaders. All Israel that were present; i.e.

present (or Hebrew, “found”) in Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Feast of

the Passover. Jerusalem had already been attended to (v. 14 of foregoing

chapter). Now the right mind of the people bore the reformation with a

wave of enthusiasm over all Judah and Benjamin; and their righteous

zeal carried them also over the strict limits of their own kingdom into

Ephraim… and Manasseh — a course the more practicable, and even the

more technically correct, because of the crippled state of the northern

kingdom, and the probably still continued captivity of King Hoshea of

Israel (II Kings 17:1-4; 18:1-7; compare also the matter of our ch.29:24).

Images… groves… high places… altars (compare ch. 14:3, etc.).

 

 

 

After the Excitement (v. 1)

 

 

 And now what next? The services and the feasts are over; the temple door

is closed; the tables are taken down; the musical instruments are laid aside

in their places; the programme has been completed — the extended

programme. What now shall that excited, enthusiastic multitude do? There is:

 

  • THE PECULIAR PERIL OF THE HOUR. There is no hour of greater

moral danger — such is our human nature — than that immediately

following great religious excitement. The leaders of revivals are well aware

that this is so. There comes a certain reaction of the soul, a readiness to

give way to other and to unworthy impulses; the highly strung system

seeks relaxation, and becomes relaxed, and that is often found to be the

enemy’s opportunity; then he can sometimes find a footing, and do his

deadly work. Hence the need for wisdom, and hence —

 

  • THE NECESSITY FOR ACTION. When “all this was finished,” when

there was the danger of some kind of reaction and wrong-doing, all Israel

went out “and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves,” etc.

This was something done in accordance with their religious convictions; it

was action along the line of their new devotedness to Jehovah. It was

rightful action, and, as such, it was timely, and it was serviceable.

Whenever there is any kind of danger, do something that is right; get to

some useful work. It may not be of the highest kind; it may not be

particularly meritorious or eminently useful; but so that it is rightful action

of some kind, it is well. Peril passes off in labor, in wholesome exertion. If

a man is doing anything which can be honestly considered by him to be

done unto the Lord, he is in the way of safety and of wisdom.

 

  • THE PIETY OF REMOVAL. Ordinarily we can show our spirit of

obedience by shunning the evil thing; by avoiding it; by “turning from it and

passing away” (Proverbs 4:15), or simply by declining to touch it. But

there are times and cases when this does not suffice; when our wisdom is

not merely to shut the eye or to tighten the hand, but to bring the axe and

to smite to the ground, and to break in pieces. Such was the wisdom of

Israel in regard to all images, altars, groves, “high places.” Their existence

was too strong a temptation for those times; true piety was shown in their

abolition, in sweeping them from sight, in clearing the temptation wholly

from the view. Such is often our wisdom, our piety now. The wine-cup

must be banished from the table, and even from the house. The cards must

be thrown into the fire; the favorite amusement must be kept well out of

reach. There are those — perhaps they are more numerous than is

supposed — whose devotion to their Master is most wisely shown by an

act of abolition; by placing beyond access the temptation that has again and

again proved to be too strong for them. The idol must not even be kept in

the cabinet; it must be broken in pieces.

 

  • THE WISDOM OF THOROUGHNESS IN ALL DESTRUCTIVE

SERVICE. They went on their way with their work of destruction, “until

they had utterly destroyed them all.” To leave any of those objects at all

would have been like leaving weeds in the soil; they needed to be

thoroughly uprooted. For the act of destruction to be of any lasting virtue,

it was essential that it should be complete. If we are bent on destroying any

vice in our nature, or ridding ourselves of any harmful habit in our life, the

only thing we can do is to extirpate utterly that which is wrong; to sweep it

away without reserve; to lay the axe to the root of the “evil tree.” It is

useless to cut weeds; they must be torn out of the soil.

 

  • THE HOUR FOR SACRIFICE IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE. There no

doubt went to the creation of these images and altars much that was

valuable in its way. There had been expended on them labor, skill,

affection, piety (after its kind). There were connected with them some old

and, probably, some tender domestic associations. But while they were

thus costly, they must go down and disappear in the interest of truth and

pure religion. Their costliness must not save them when they stood in the

way of the nation’s true piety and real prosperity. Nor may the costliness of

any treasure we possess save it from removal from before our eyes, if it

stand:

 

Ø      between us and our Master;

Ø      between us and our moral and spiritual integrity;

Ø      between us and our usefulness;

Ø      between us and eternal life.

 

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” etc.

(Matthew 5:29-30)

 

2 “And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites

after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests

and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister,

and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the

LORD.”  And Hezekiah appointed the courses. I Chronicles chapters

24-26 give in full the appointment and arrangement of these courses,

now again thrown out of order. Appointed; Hebrew, וַיַּעֲמֵר.

It is equivalent to saying Hezekiah re-established the courses.

Of the tents. The word is not “tents,” but the expressive and

emphatic “camps” (מַחֲגות). Order of the divinest kind, discipline of the

most perfect sort, are the glory of the temple and temple service of old, of

the Church, her ministers, her members, and all her pious work of more

modern date.

 

 

                        The Camp of the Lord (v. 2)

 

  • TO WHAT THIS DESIGNATION BELONGED?

 

Ø      To the tabernacle. (I Chronicles 9:19.) The religious center in Israel

from the days of the conquest till the times of David and Solomon.

 

Ø      To the temple. (v. 2.) On Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, which Ahaz

had closed during the latter years of his reign (ch. 28:24), but

Hezekiah had now opened, cleansed, and rededicated to the worship

of Jehovah (ch. 29., 30.).

 

Ø      To the Church of God.

 

o        Under the Old Testament dispensation (Leviticus 14:8;

Numbers 5:2; Deuteronomy 23:10), and

 

o        under the New Testament dispensation (Revelation 20:9).

 

  • WHAT THIS DESIGNATION MEANT.

 

Ø      That the Lord had pitched His tent there. This was true:

 

o        of the tabernacle, which was usually styled the dwelling (Exodus

25:9), and, when finished, was filled with the symbol of the Divine

presence, the glory of the Lord (Exodus 40:34-.35);

 

o        of the temple of Solomon, which also was similarly named (ch. 6:2)

and inhabited (ch. 5:13-14);

 

o        of the Old Testament Church as distinguished from its institutions

(Psalm 132:13-14); and

 

o        of the New Testament Church or assembly of believers (Matthew

18:20; 28:20; II Corinthians 6:16).

 

Ø      That those amongst whom the Lord dwelt were warriors. This, again,

was true:

 

o        of Israel, in the wilderness and in Canaan, her principal occupation

in the latter place being fighting, not always with the Lord’s enemies,

as should have been the case, but frequently with one another; and

worshipping, though much oftener idols than Jehovah.

 

o        of Christian believers, as it is when they in any degree realize the ideal

of their vocation — to fight the good fight of faith (I Timothy 6:12),

and to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (II Timothy

`                                   2:3).

 

3 “He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt

offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and

the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and

for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.”

Also the king’s portion of his substance; i.e. Hezekiah did not

evade his own responsibilities in the matter of contribution. His “portion”

was the tithe, and he was evidently liable on “substance very much” (ch. 32:29).

Numbers 28., 29., and Leviticus 23. give us the particulars of the offerings and

set feasts, respectively here alluded to, in their original prescription.

 

4 “Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to

give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be

encouraged in the law of the LORD.”  Hezekiah’s object was to send

impulses of energy through the whole nation. The portions here spoken of

are described originally in Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:11-27;

Deuteronomy 14:22-23. After our word “encouraged,” we may

probably supply the words “to teach;” for see our ch. 17:9.

 

 

A Religious Reformation in the Days of Hezekiah (vs. 1-4)

 

  • A POPULAR CRUSADE AGAINST IDOLATRY (v. 1.)

 

Ø      When begun. “When all this was finished,” i.e. after the temple had been

purified and rededicated (ch. 29.), and the Passover celebrated (ch. 30.).

Everything in its order. “To everything there is a season, and a time to

every purpose under the heaven;” “a time to pluck up that which is

planted;” “a time to break down;” “a time to rend” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,

3, 7).  This time had arrived in Judah, and partially also in Israel, in the days

of Hezekiah.

 

Ø      By whom undertaken. “All Israel that were present,” i.e. all the members

of the two kingdoms (Judah and Israel proper) that were in the metropolis

observing the Passover. That they felt themselves stirred to such a vigorous

assault upon the instruments and institutions of idolatry was an indication

of the depth to which they had been moved by the high ceremonial in

which they had borne a part. A pity was it that the nation’s zeal for the

true religion was so evanescent, not in Judah alone (ch. 33:2, 9),

but also in Ephraim (Hosea 6:4). It is no contradiction to this that

II Kings 18:4 ascribes this destruction of the altars, etc., to the king.

 

Ø      To what extent carried.

 

o        Geographically, the wave of reformation swept over all Judah and

Benjamin, i.e. all the southern kingdom, and over Ephraim and

Manasseh, i.e. a considerable portion of the northern kingdom —

that portion which had furnished feast-pilgrims to Jerusalem.

 

o        Religiously, it paused not until within those territories it had swept

away every vestige of idol-worship. The iconoclastic zeal of the people

brake in pieces the pillars or obelisks, hewed down the Asherim, and

brake down the high places and the altars, until it had destroyed

them all.” A similar outbreak against the symbols of idolatry, only on

 a smaller scale, had taken place in the days of Jehoiada, immediately

after the fall of Athaliah and the coronation of Joash (ch. 23:17, which

see); never before had the land experienced such a purgation of

idolatrous institutions and instruments. So thorough-going was it

that even the brazen serpent made by Moses in the wilderness

(Numbers 21:9), and in Hezekiah’s day become an object of

idolatrous veneration, was called Nehushtan, “a piece of brass,”

and ground to pieces (II Kings 18:4).

 

  • A KINGLY ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TRUE RELIGION (vs. 2-4.)

 

Ø      The public ordinances of religion arranged.

 

o       The priests and the Levites were divided into courses according

to the plan of David (I Chronicles 24:3, etc.), as in the reformation

under Jehoiada.

 

o        Each man was appointed to the special service for which he was

designed — each had his own work to attend to and perform. In the

New Testament Church Christ gives “to every man his work”

(Mark 13:34).

 

o        The works distributed amongst them were such as pertained to the

temple-worship, viz. the offering of sacrifice, burnt offerings, and

peace offerings, and the ministering, i.e. giving thanks and praising

by means of vocal and instrumental music, “in the gates of the

camp of the Lord” — a remarkable expression (see next homily).

 

Ø      The state service of religion provided for. The expense of keeping up

that part of the temple-worship which was, properly speaking, national, i.e.

the morning and evening burnt offerings, with the burnt offerings for the

sabbaths, the new moons, and the set feasts prescribed in the Law of

Jehovah (Numbers 28., 29.), the king took upon himself and discharged

out of his own possessions (ch. 32:27-29). As the crown wealth was,

to all intents and purposes, the nation’s property, the act of the

king was right; still, in so far as the national wealth was under his control,

his act was a deed of liberality. Whether kings or parliaments under the

Christian dispensation are required or permitted to allocate national wealth

to the support of religion may be open to debate; there is no room for

doubting that neither kings nor statesmen are hindered from devoting

portions of their own wealth to the cause of Christ, i.e. to the up-keep and

propagation of the true religion.

 

Ø      A maintenance assigned to the ministers of religion. The portion which

belonged to the priests and Levites by the Law of Jehovah, i.e. the

firstfruits (Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 26:2-4),

and the tithes of land and beast (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-24) —

the first-fruits being assigned specially to the priests, and the tithes to the

whole tribe of Levi — the king commanded the people residing in

Jerusalem to render. Under the Christian dispensation the support of the

ministers of religion devolves exclusively upon believers (I Corinthians 9:7-14;

II Corinthians 11:7-12; Galatians 6:6; I Thessalonians 2:6). Kings and

parliaments in their official capacities have not been charged with the duty

of supporting ministers of religion out of public revenues.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      It is good to be zealously affected in a good thing, such as the

suppression of idolatry.

Ø      It is not permissible under the gospel to suppress idolatry by violence,

but only by argument and the force of truth.

Ø      The lawfulness of state establishments of religion in Christian times

cannot be inferred from the existence of such an institution among the

Hebrews.

Ø      Compulsory payments in support of Christ’s religion are indefensible.

Ø      It is open to all to practice Christian liberality.

 

5 “And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of

Israel brought in abundance the first-fruits of corn, wine, and oil,

and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all

things brought they in abundantly.”  Honey; Hebrew, דְּבַשׁ. This is no

doubt the proper word for the honey of bees, for see Judges 14:8-18; I Samuel

14:27; Psalm 19:10, and many other passages. It is not certain, however, that

the word did not cover other sweet preparations, as probably in Genesis 43:11;

Ezekiel 27:17. The alternative reading, “dates,” has thus come into the

margin, but on very insufficient title, as, while there is doubt as to whether

the honey of bees was generally tithed, there is none at all that the people’s

pious zeal might prompt them to bring tithe of it voluntarily, among other

things, that they at any time held in honor and had in abundance.

 

6 “And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the

cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep,

and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the

LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.”

That dwelt in the cities of Judah. As vs. 4 and 5 referred to

the dwellers in Jerusalem, so this verse tells of the dwellers in other cities,

villages, etc., of the surrounding country (so ch. 30:25). Their

tithes of holy things probably denote the “heave offerings” of Aaron

(Numbers 18:8; for other references to the matter of this verse, see

Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:28).

 

7 “In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and

finished them in the seventh month.  8 And when Hezekiah and the princes

came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and His people Israel.”

The third month… the heaps… the seventh month. The

grain harvest closed with the Feast of Weeks, about the sixth day of the

third month so that tithe in kind would be paid. The seventh month brought

the Feast of Ingathering, when the vintage was over. For illustration of the

despatch with which Hezekiah proceeded in his reforming works, compare

ch. 29:3; 30:2, 13.

 

9 “Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning

the heaps.” The questioning had no doubt to do with the subject how the

super-abundant contributions should be utilized or preserved.

 

10 “And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him,

and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the

house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left

plenty: for the LORD hath blessed His people; and that which is

left is this great store.” Azariah… chief priest of the house of Zadok. Though

this Azariah be of the house of Zadok, he is not of the line of Jozadak; and we

cannot be certain that he is one with him of ch. 26:17, 20; in which case his

grandson Jotham (ch. 27:1) would be grandfather of Hezekiah, inferring a

long term both for his office and his life.

 

 

       The Service of the Consecrated Life, and of the Substance

(vs. 2-10)

 

Hezekiah, as soon as the excitement of the great Passover and of the

subsequent destruction of all idolatrous symbols was over, made wise

arrangements for the regular service of Jehovah. And this included:

 

  • THE SERVICE OF THE CONSECRATED LIFE; that, namely, of the

priests and the Levites (v. 2). This service was threefold:

 

Ø      Discharging sacred functions at the altar; doing for the people that

which only consecrated men could do — presenting their sacrifices to

Jehovah, thus standing between their fellows and their God, and

constituting a medium of communion between them and Him.

 

Ø      Inquiry into and acquisition of all possible knowledge of the Law

(ch.  17:9; Deuteronomy 33:10).

 

Ø      Conducting the service of song (v. 2), and teaching the people the

Law which they had themselves learned. There are many in the Christian

Church who have undertaken to offer to their Divine Lord a consecrated

life; and it devolves on them to yield to Him their strength in these three

ways.

 

o        Ministration in His house or elsewhere; the special service which the

minister of Christ, as such, can render; praying to God for His people,

or helping them to draw nigh to God — a very valuable, indeed

inestimable, service.

 

o        Earnest thought and inquiry; becoming more and more fully

acquainted with the mind of Christ as that is revealed in His Word

or in His providence, or through the experience or research of other

servants of His.

 

o        Utterance of the truth thus acquired; by teaching or preaching, in the

sanctuary, or the school, or the house, personally or instrumentally.

For the advancement of the kingdom of Christ it is needful that there

should be a large number of men, answering to the priests and Levites,

who shall regularly give a consecrated life to the service of the Lord.

 

  • THE SERVICE OF THE SUBSTANCE. We have a very interesting

instance here recorded of the full and cheerful dedication of the substance

to the cause of God. Led as well as taught by Hezekiah, the people

responded with tithes and first-fruits, so that there were “heaps” in the

temple courts, even when everything had been taken that was required

(v. 10). Even the remainder was “this great store.” The scene suggests

the truths:

 

Ø      That the offer of our substance is a most appropriate method of sacred

service. How can we better express our gratitude to the great Giver of

every good thing of every kind (James 1:17) than by dedicating to Him and

to His service some serious proportion of the produce of our strength and skill?

 

Ø      That those who urge others to show this grace should be forward to

illustrate it themselves (v. 3).

 

Ø      That from those who have the greater privileges may be expected a very

clear encouragement by example (v. 4).

 

Ø      That, if rightly addressed, the people of God may be trusted to make a

fair and even a liberal response (vs. 5-6).

 

Ø      That such service, rendered in a religious spirit, will draw down the

Divine blessing in abundance (v. 10; and see Malachi 3:10).

 

11 “Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of

the LORD; and they prepared them,” To prepare chambers; i.e. to

prepare for present use the chambers constructed for the purpose (I Kings 6:5).

 

12 “And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things

faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei

his brother was the next.” Faithfully. A pleasant reminiscence of ch.19:9.

Shimei (see ch. 29:14). Ruler… the next (so note, I Chronicles 5:12).

 

13 “And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth,

and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah,

were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother,

at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler

of the house of God.”  Of these ten subordinates, Jehiel and Nahath are

found in ch. 29:12, 14.

 

14 “And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east,

was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations

of the LORD, and the most holy things.”  Kore. The name one with the

grandson of Korah (I Chronicles 9:19; 26:17).

 

15 “And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and

Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in

their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the

great as to the small:”  EdenShemaiah (see ch. 29:12,14). In the

cities (see Joshua 21:19). In their set office; i.e. in their appointed

duty. The word (בֶּךאמוּנָה) here used bespeaks the important and

trustworthy nature of the duty committed to those spoken of, and probably

betrays the fact that the duty had not always in the past been honestly

discharged (see same word in v. 12).

 

16 “Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward,

even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his

daily portion for their service in their charges according to their

courses;”  Beside their genealogy of males; i.e. except (מִלְבַד) the

family count of males, etc., the remainder of the verse describing those

who are meant by the excepted. They were excepted because for

themselves and their little ones, their daily present temple service brought

their daily maintenance as of course. The “unto every one” of our version

is misleading. Keil translates perspicuously, “of all those who entered the

house of the Lord, to the daily portion for their service,” etc. The glimpse

of the picture of the little children fed for the sake of their fathers’

sanctuary service, so true to the true religion even of nature, is a pleasant

glimpse to catch.

 

17 “Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers,

and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges

by their courses;”  It is hard to feel certain as to the exact construction of this

and the following verse. Keil would translate here,” And concerning the

catalogue of the priests, it was according, etc.; and the Levites, they were

from twenty years,” etc. And arrived at v. 18, and unable to proceed in

like manner with it, he reverts to the “to give” of v. 15, as what is to

stand before the words,” to the genealogy [or, ‘catalogue’] of all their little

ones.” He thus treats both vs. 16 and 17 as parenthetical. It seems quite

as probable that the “to give” should be shown before v. 17 as well as

v. 18. On the whole, this seems to suit best the entire passage. The

significant וְאֵת, at the beginning of v. 17, neutralizes then the מִלְבַד of

v. 16, and connects vs. 15 and 17. (On the words, from twenty years

old, compare I Chronicles 23:27. See also Numbers 4:3; 8:24.)

 

18“And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their

sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their

set office they sanctified themselves in holiness:”  (Compare ch. 20:13.)

 

19 “Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of

the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were

expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests,

and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.”

The much more manifest meaning of this verse confirms the

interpretation favored just above for vs. 15, 17-18. The men that were

expressed by name; translate, men were expressedto give. The purport

of this verse is to say that all priests and Levites of full age were sacredly

remembered and similarly carefully provided for, viz. those also who lived

in the fields of the suburbs of the cities (Leviticus 25:32-34; Numbers 35:2-5).

 

 

 

A Nation’s Liberality;

    or

                                        A Lecture on Tithes (vs. 5-19)

 

  • THE IMPOSITION OF THE TITHES. Done by the commandment of

Hezekiah (v. 5), not, however, acting in his own name and by his own

authority, but merely publishing the Law of Jehovah for the maintenance of

those who conducted the temple service. Under the old economy JEHOVAH

was the sole Head of the Church, as Christ is under the new. For the

Hebrew Church the exclusive source of legislation was not the sovereigns

or prophets of the nation, but Jehovah; as for the Christian Church it is

neither kings nor parliaments, neither Church dignitaries nor Church

courts, but JESUS CHRIST! That which gave binding authority to

Hezekiah’s commandment was not that it was “the word of a king”

(Ecclesiastes 8:4), but that it was the ordinance of Jehovah as declared

by Moses (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:12-13, 21, 24;

Deuteronomy 26:2-4). That which lends weight to human legislation in

the Christian Church is the circumstance that it accords with the teaching

of Christ in the New Testament Scriptures.

 

  • THE PAYING OF THE TITHES, ETC.

 

Ø      Promptly. “As soon as the commandment came abroad,” the children of

Israel began to pour in their contributions (v. 5). The absence of delay,

showed their zeal was not fanatical, but religious, and not seeming, but real

the last thing to be affected by a man’s religion being his purse; perhaps

also it proved that the king’s liberality had been not without its influence

(ch. 30:24), as certainly it imparted additional value to their gifts. Qui cito

 dat bis dat.  (he gives twice who gives promply)

 

Ø      Faithfully. Nothing was omitted or evaded that the Law enjoined. The

people presented “the firstfruits of corn, and wine, and oil, and honey, and

of all the increase of the field;” paid in the tithes or tenth parts Jehovah had

assigned as a portion for the whole tribe of Levi (v. 5), as well as the

tenth parts of such things as were dedicated to the Lord (v. 6); and

rendered free-will offerings to Jehovah over and above what had been

directly commanded (v. 14).

 

Ø      Unweariedly. It was no sudden fit of liberality which had overtaken

them and quickly expended itself. The first-fruits presenting, tithe-paying,

and free-will offering went on for four months (v. 7). Many can do a

generous deed when seized by a momentary impulse, but are wholly unable

to bear the strain of continuous giving. That these ancient givers grew not

tired of their liberality was a proof that it proceeded from principle rather

than from impulse — showed they were acting more from respect to the

Divine Law than from a desire to gratify their own feelings.

 

Ø      Abundantly. So extraordinary was the outburst of liberality, that not

only had the priests and Levites obtained the most ample maintenance,

having had enough to eat and plenty over (v. 10), but so fast came the

people’s offerings in that they were obliged to be piled up in heaps (v. 6),

while so liberal had they been that, when the tithe season ended, so great a

store remained (v. 10), that the priests and Levites were guaranteed

against want throughout the rest of the year. The Christian Church might

herein find an example. It is poor policy, besides being unscriptural

(Luke 10:7; I Corinthians 9:14), for Churches or congregations to

starve or underpay their ministers.

 

Ø      Generally. Most likely there were those who refused to comply with the

king’s commandment, acting from a spirit of avarice which could not bear

to part with their goods, or a spirit of unbelief which secretly hankered

after the false gods they had formerly worshipped, or from a spirit of

indifference, because they had no real interest in religion; and doubtless

there were those who gave grudgingly and of necessity, adhering strictly to

the letter of the Law, never going beyond the bond if they could help it,

and certainly never throwing in any free-will offerings; but manifestly also

the main body of the people, in the northern kingdom (v. 5) no less than

in the southern (v. 6), yielded obedience to the king’s commandment,

and fell in with the order of the day.

 

  • THE STORING OF THE TITHES.

 

Ø      The chambers for their reception. These were prepared in the house of

the Lord (v. 11), in accordance with instructions from Hezekiah, but

whether they were old cells or new cannot be determined.

 

Ø      The officers for their supervision.

 

o        Two superior — Cononiah the Levite, and Shimei his brother (v. 12).

 

o        Ten inferior-Jehiel and Azaziah, Nahath and Asahel, Jeri-moth and

Jozabad, Eliel and Ismachiah, Mahath and Benaiah — who acted as

subordinates and assistants to the two chiefs, who derived their

authority from Hezekiah the king, the chief magistrate in the state,

and Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok (v. 10), and

ruler of the house of God (v. 12).

 

  • THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE TITHES, ETC.

 

Ø      The distributors.

 

o        The chief — Kore, signifying “Partridge” (Gesenius), a name borne by

the son of Ebiasaph (I Chronicles 9:18), and here by the son of Imnah.

By descent a Levite, he was by occupation “a porter towards the east,”

 i.e. keeper of the king’s gate on the east side of the temple.

 

o        The assistants, six in number, named Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua,

Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, resided in the cities of the

priests in different parts of the country.

 

Ø      The distribution.

 

o        Kore distributed to those priests and Levites who served in the temple,

first of such things as were required for the maintenance of themselves

and the male children over three years of age who accompanied their

parents (being priests) to Jerusalem when the turn came for these to

serve, and secondly of such things as were necessary for any portion

of their temple service. The distribution to the priests was according

to fathers’ houses (v. 17) — so much for every house, according to

its size; that to the Levites was to individuals from twenty years old

 and upwards, according to a carefully prepared register.

 

o        The assistants distributed necessary portions to those priests and

Levites who resided in the priests’ cities, not being at the time

engaged in active duty at the temple, and to the families of these

as well as of those who were engaged (vs. 15-19). Both parts of

this work were performed with scrupulous fidelity (v. 18); the

distributors “acted in a holy manner with the holy gifts,”

distributing them “impartially and disinterestedly to all

who had any claim to them” (Keil).

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The duty of Christ’s people to support the ministers of religion.

Ø      The voluntary character of all acceptable payments towards religion.

Ø      The necessity of order and system in Church finance.

Ø      The excellence of Christian liberality.

 

20 “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that

which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.”

This verse, when rendered with literal exactness, is a fine

instance of the force and brevity of the Hebrew style in Old Testament

history.

 

21 “And in every work that he began 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.”  In every work; translate, and

in all work. The “all work” being in the following clause triply described as

pertaining to the service of the house of God, the observance of the sacred Law,

and of any individual commandments flowing from it.

 

 

Earnestness (vs. 20-21)

 

Perhaps the characteristic of Hezekiah was moral earnestness. There was

no hesitation or half-heartedness about him. What he did he did “with all

his heart,” as is stated in the text. Under his direction everything was

carried out and completed with a vigor and determination that showed

that his heart as well as his hand was in his work. Hence his success in

accomplishing that in which even Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Jotham, failed; by

him “the high places were removed” (v. 1); and hence the historian could

say, shortly but significantly, of him that “he prospered.” Regarding

earnestness itself, we may consider:

 

  • ITS ESSENTIALLY SPIRITUAL NATURE. It is not a question of

mere temperament; it is a distinctly moral quality. Men may be endowed

with a very ardent nature, and they may, as a consequence of their natural

disposition, without any praise or blame attaching to them, espouse any

and every cause they adopt with the greatest warmth, throwing into it an

almost consuming energy. Yet they may be far from being earnest men.

Such moral earnestness as Hezekiah had, which was the glory and crown

of his character, was more than this, was different from this. It was the

consecration and concentration of his powers to the full performance of

that which he saw to be right. It was the conscientious and determined

keeping to the front, holding in full view of his soul those things which he

knew to be of the first importance, which he felt entailed the weightiest

obligation. Earnestness was with him, as it should be with us, not a

constitutional peculiarity, but a spiritual force.

 

  • THE DIRECTIONS IT SHOULD TAKE. Just those which it took

with the wise King of Judah; he sought and wrought the good and the right

and the true thing.

 

Ø      The pursuit of truth. The first thing for a man to know is — What is the

truth? Who is right? What is our life? Who and what are we ourselves?

What can we accomplish on the earth? What is the range and what are the

limits of our powers? To whom are we accountable for all we are and do?

When we die, shall we live again? Has God spoken to us now in the Person

of Jesus Christ? It becomes every man patiently, diligently, determinately,

earnestly, to seek an answer to these questions until he finds it.

 

Ø      The acquisition of rectitude of character. To become right with God, to

be right at heart, to be governed by right principles, to be moved and

prompted by a right spirit, to have a character that is sound and strong, —

this also is a thing to be earnestly endeavored after until it is attained.

 

Ø      The accomplishment of that which is good and useful. It should be our

most earnest hope and effort to live a life that will be one of faithful

service; and, in particular, to be the servants of God. Here the earnestness

of Hezekiah shone forth most brightly. “In every work that he began in the

service of the house of God… to seek his God, he did it with all his heart.”

To promote the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ, and in this way to

contribute toward the elevation and well-being of our kind, — this is a

direction in which our earnestness should stand out strong and clear. Let us

be unmistakably in earnest in all the work we do for our Divine Saviour

for Him who gave Himself for us. Let us live and labor “with all our heart,”

and with all our strength, never flagging nor failing, maintaining our

devotedness through the heats of youth, and through the vigor of

manhood, past the golden days of prime, still “bringing forth fruit in old

age.”  (Psalm 92:14)

 

  • ITS SUCCESS. Hezekiah “prospered;” he prospered generally

because God loved him and smiled upon him, and was “with him.” He

prospered also in those particular spheres in which he manifested so much

earnestness:

 

Ø      It is earnestness that does prosper.

Ø      Indifference does not leave the starting-post.

Ø      Impulsiveness soon turns back.

Ø      Half-heartedness is weary long before the course is run.

 

But earnestness clasps the goal and wins the prize.

 

 

 

The Secret of Prosperity (vs. 20-21)

 

  • A LOFTY CONCEPTION OF WHAT TRUE PROSPERITY IS.

 

Ø      Negatively. It is not personal, material, and temporal aggrandizement,

inasmuch as one might gain the whole world, and yet lose his own soul

(Matthew 16:26); thus seeming to succeed, but in reality only gaining a

disastrous failure.

 

Ø      Positively. It is working that which is good, right, and faithful before the

Lord as Hezekiah did — constructing a life in harmony with the Divine

ideal of what a life should be, viz.

 

o        good, such as God can approve, admire, and pronounce excellent

(Genesis 1:31);

 

o        right, according with the law of duty prescribed for God’s intelligent

creatures; and

 

o        faithful, in the sense of proceeding from a spirit of fidelity towards

God. A life fashioned after this model is prosperous, no matter what

its external environment may be.

 

  • A RIGHT IDEA OF HOW TRUE PROSPERITY SHOULD BE SOUGHT.

 

Ø      Generally, by seeking God. Only in the knowledge and service, favor

and fellowship of God, can the ideal of life above outlined be realized. To

designate that career successful which has never proposed for its aim, and

consequently never reached as its end, a personal acquaintance with God

which has never occupied itself with either ascertaining or doing God’s

will — is simply to misapply language.

 

Ø      Particularly, by rendering to God acceptable worship and true

obedience. To worship and obey God the chief end of man. No life can be

successful which offers its homage and service to another than God, or

offers only homage self-devised, and service self-directed. Both in worship

and in duty the Law of God, with its specific commandments, must rule.

 

  • A CORRECT METHOD OF PURSUING AFTER TRUE PROSPERITY.

It must be sought after:

 

Ø      Always. Hezekiah kept the above aim before him “in every work that he

began.” Mere occasional efforts after goodness will result in nothing but

failure.

 

Ø      Earnestly. Hezekiah sought it with all his heart. Half-hearted endeavors

can only terminate in feeble achievements. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to

do, do it with thy might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10);  This one thing I do,

forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those

things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the

high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:13-14).

 

Ø      Religiously. Whatever works Hezekiah engaged in were done “before

the Lord his God,” as in His sight and for His glory. So should it be with

Christians. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do,

do all to the glory of God.”  (I Corinthians 10:31); and “Whatsoever

ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23).

 

 

 

The Works that Came of Faith (vs. 1-21)

 

This chapter discloses to our view the perfection of activity. The rest of the

Sunday, so to say, is followed by most laudable industry, and “the fervent

in spirit” are “diligent in business” worthy of them. The picture is, indeed,

of a living, moving scene. An army of volunteers issues forth from the

recently purged city of Jerusalem to engage in worthy warfare, extirpating

images,” “groves,” “high places,” “altars,” and utterly exterminating them

from “Judah and Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh.” They do not stay

their hand till the work is done. The “camp” (v. 2) also at home, the

sacred camp of the temple, is once more set in array, that shall make it

answer to its name, and in higher sense show forth that Church, wherein all

should be “decent and in order.” (I Corinthians 14:40)  King and people, priests,

chief priest, and Levites, work with one surprising consent. The destruction of

images and all the other signs of idolatry is followed by the restoration of David’s

arrangement of the courses, dishonored so grievously by the neglect of

worship in the temple, even to the closing of that temple, and by the re-ordaining

of tithes and first-fruits, the king himself setting the example.

Everywhere the work glows, everywhere there is plenty; the work of God

is no more starved, and sacred “barns” and storehouses have to be

prepared for tithes, which in their “heaps” were so plentiful that they

take the name — auspicious omen — of “free-will offerings” (v. 14). In

this busy, happy, holy scene, it is not difficult to pick out, even in the

human elements of it, four features which embody noble principles, offer

inspiring example, and lend dignity to our faith in the possibilities of human

nature when once divinely set on the pursuit of the right! We notice:

 

  • THE THOUGHT, DESIRE, DEVOTION TO GOOD, OF ONE MAN

BECOME THE ADOPTED EXAMPLE, THE CREED, AND THE

HEARTY PRACTICE OF A VERY ARMY, THAT SEEMS THEREUPON

TO NEED NO OTHER TRAINING. (vs. 20, 21, 1, 2, 8.)

 

  • THE DEEPEST SOUNDINGS OF RELIGIOUS MEMORIES, AND

RELIGIOUS FEELINGS FITTED TO PRODUCE, AND ACTUALLY

PRODUCING, THE TRUE PRACTICAL LIFE. Every grateful work of

this chapter was the outcome of the religious heart-stirrings recorded in the

former.

 

  • IN OUR MORAL AND SPIRITUAL LIFE (WHETHER AS

INDIVIDUALS OR AS COMMUNITIES OF PEOPLE), WHEN YEARS

HAVE ACCUMULATED UPON US, WITH ALL THEIR MIXED

CONTENTS, A MERCILESS DESTRUCTION OF THE OLD WRONG

IS THE WAY TO LAY SURE FOUNDATIONS OF CONSTRUCTION.

Hezekiah had found “good and right and truth” nothing less than choked

up of evil when he entered on his reign. But the key-note of his reformation

was its thoroughness and completeness, and his own heartiness of work, in

the “service of the house of God, and in the Law, and in the

commandments (vs. 20, 21, 2, 4, and passim).

 

  • UPON ALL THE RIGHTEST AND HARDEST WORK IT IS THAT

THERE FOLLOWS THE GOING HOME IN PEACE AND

BENEDICTION. (Vers. 1, 21.)

 

 

 

Systematic Church Finance (vs. 11-21)

 

Hezekiah was careful to provide for the distribution of the first-fruits and

tithes and special offerings among the priests and Levites. So he had cells,

or chambers, constructed for their reception (v. 11), and every needful

arrangement made for the due apportionment of all that was stored among

those for whom it was intended. There are three points worthy of

consideration:

 

  • THE DISTINCTLY SACRED CHARACTER OF CHURCH

FINANCE. What was given here was placed within the precincts of the

temple, for it was given to the Lord while it was appropriated to His

ministers. It was a religious act on the part of the donors, and not less so

on the part of those whose special duty it was to distribute it. “They

brought in the dedicated things faithfully (v. 12); and “according to

their fidelity did they show themselves holy in regard to the holy;” - i.e.

they acted in a holy manner with the holy gifts, distributed them

disinterestedly and impartially” (Keil). There is no reason why both the

giving of money to the cause of God (and included in this is the

contribution to the sustenance of the Christian ministry) and also the

allocation of all such money should not be a thoroughly devout and pious

action. It may be rendered as truly “unto the Lord” as the singing of a

hymn or the delivery of a discourse. It should be a sacred service, offered

conscientiously, devoutly, holily.

 

  • SYSTEMATIC COLLECTION OF CHURCH FINANCE. While

considerable room was left under the Law for spontaneous liberality and

for special offerings under peculiar circumstances, there were certain

regulations as to tithes and first-fruits (v. 5). These latter were not

optional, but obligatory; at the same time, they do not seem to have been

recoverable by legal process; but they point to systematic contribution not

unattended with special and spontaneous bestowments. And this surely is

the right principle in the Christian Church.

 

Ø      Let every man consider what proportion of his income, considering

 

o        the amount of his receipts, and also

o        the measure of his liabilities, he can possibly devote to the cause

of God and man, of religion and philanthropy; and let him set that

apart.

 

Ø      Let every one of us be prompted to give special help whenever some

specially powerful appeal is made to our spiritual convictions or our

human sympathies.

 

  • SYSTEMATIC DISTRIBUTION. This is something which must

depend upon the constitution of each particular Church, and must vary

according to that constitution. But there are some general principles, partly

suggested by these verses.

 

Ø      Let every care be taken that all that is contributed be devoted and

distributed, none being wasted or perverted. Here is scope for carefulness

and for faithfulness.

 

Ø      Let the necessities of those on whom God has laid the weightier

domestic burdens be generously met.

 

Ø      Let those who are engaged in the less prominent places be as much

regarded as those who are “serving at Jerusalem (see vs. 15, 19).

 

Ø      Let men of acknowledged probity and capacity have charge of the

treasury (see vs. 12-14).

 

 

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