So frantic had Ahaz been in his wickedness that he gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord. He not only repudiated God himself, he placed His worship under the ban. That was the state of things when Hezekiah came to the throne—the Temple had fallen into the filthy condition of all neglected and unoccupied buildings, and its closed doors were a visible symbol of the national repudiation of Jehovah.
I. Hezekiah’s respect for God’s house.—The first thing that Hezekiah did upon succeeding to the throne was to reopen the doors of the Temple. ‘He opened the doors of the Lord’s house, and repaired them.’ ‘The doors were opened,’ says one commentator, ‘as a sign that Jehovah was invited to return to His people, and again to manifest His presence in the Holy of Holies.’ And that is no doubt true. But instead of the national significance of the act, let us think for a moment of what it implies with reference to Hezekiah himself.
(a) It was a proof of his love for God. It was because He loved God that the sight of the closed Temple pained and grieved Hezekiah. It was because he loved God that he resolved to have an ‘open door’ by which he and his people could enter into the presence of God. Notice, they who love God, love His house. They say ‘My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.’
(b) It was a public declaration that Hezekiah meant to serve the Lord. It was not an easy thing to do, for during Ahaz’s reign idolatry had entrenched itself firmly in Judah. Idolatry had its ‘vested interests.’ There were numbers of Pagan priests; there were Ahaz’s old counsellors and friends, all of them committed to idolatry. When the present Tsar ascended the throne he issued a proclamation, in which he said: ‘Let all know that.… I intend to protect the principle of autocracy as firmly and unswervingly as did my late father.’ When Hezekiah ascended the throne he issued a proclamation nobler far, for by this act of opening the Temple doors he declared to the world: ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ What a noble decision this was! And what an example to us! Let us, too, openly—in the sight of the world, no matter how men may mock and scoff—confess the Lord. Those that honour Him, He will honour.
(c) And Hezekiah did this at the earliest possible moment. He opened the doors of the Lord’s house, in the first year of his reign, in the first month! He did not put off serving the Lord, but he made his public confession at the very first opportunity. Again, what an example! Some people put off confessing Christ till only the dregs of life are left. That is a poor and mean and contemptible thing to do! ‘Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth,’ says Scripture. Let confession of Christ’s name be the act of our young days. Open the doors and bid the King of Glory enter in.
(d) The ‘opening of the doors’ of the Temple by Hezekiah reminds us of a Greater than Hezekiah, Who provided an ‘open door’ for us to the throne of the Heavenly Grace. ‘I am the Door,’ says Jesus Christ—the Door to the Father’s presence and the peace of God. And this is an ‘open door.’ Let us thank God for it and let us enter in by it.
II. The cleansing of the Temple.—But it was not enough to open the doors of the Temple. With its lamps extinguished and its vessels destroyed, and its floors and walls thick with dust, and full of all filthiness, it was no fit place for the indwelling of the Most High. And so Hezekiah summoned the Levites to the task of cleansing the Temple. And for sixteen days these men laboured, until they were able at the end of the time to come to Hezekiah and say that they had ‘cleansed the house of the Lord, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the table of shewbread, with all the vessels thereof.’ Hezekiah recognised that God requires a clean dwelling. ‘Holiness,’ says the Psalmist, ‘becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.’ That was the truth our Lord taught when, with that whip of small cords, He drove out of the Temple them that bought and sold within its courts, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves. There is no place for anything unholy or unclean in God’s house. There is a lesson here for us, perhaps, with reference to our own churches. We must bring into them nothing base or unholy or sinful. Holiness becometh God’s house. Only those that have clean hands and a pure heart, says the Psalmist, can go up into the hill of the Lord. To worship God acceptably we must do so with reverence and Godly awe. And there is a lesson, here, too, with reference to our own hearts. For the heart is God’s truest Temple. The Heaven of heavens cannot contain Him—but He is willing to dwell in the humble and contrite heart. But the heart that is to be God’s dwelling-place must be clean. ‘Blessed,’ said our Lord, ‘are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
‘How good is a time of religious revival in Church and land! Probably it ought never to be needed. Year after year pure religion and undefiled ought to prosper in the State and in the house of God. Month after month, the fig tree should blossom, and the vines should yield their fruit, and the labour of the olive should not fail. Day after day, men and women and children, like the boys of Florence in Savonarola’s time, should cry, “Long live Jesus Christ, our King!” But again and again it is needed. Torpor and coldness invade the Church. Irreligion and sin spread themselves over the country. Then God is kind. He does not hide His face in merited displeasure. He revisits His people.’