1st Sunday of Advent
2 Chronicles 28-29
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, We use words like that all the time, right? Well, what does it mean when we add those two little letters “re” to the front or a word? “re” is a prefix that often indicates that we’re doing something again. So, we have a mechanic “repair” our car- that is, he takes what was broken and he fixes and makes it work again. We take an old piece of furniture to a wood worker to “restores” our furniture – that is, he takes something old and makes it look new again or usable again. If you’re browsing the internet and the webpage you’re on has become outdated or new content has been uploaded, you can press the “refresh” or “reload” button to load the webpage again. We even occasionally have a husband and wife who will “renew” their vows to one another. It doesn’t have to be, but often a renewal of the vows comes after something has broken the relationship or many years have passed that commitment has become somewhat dulled over time and the husband and wife “renew” or “refresh” their promises to one another, recommitting themselves to one another again. We use these “re” words all the time, don’t we?
Well, our text this morning describes a lot of “redoing” – rededicating, re-consecrating, reestablishing – the religious life of the Israelites. But we first need to ask, “Why?” Why did King Hezekiah have to do this?
King Hezekiah ruled about from about 715 BC to 686 BC. He took over being king of Judah after his father, Ahaz died. Remember that about 930 BC is when the kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms after the spiritual rebellion that happened during the reign of king Solomon. So, after that there were two kingdoms – one in the north and one in south. The southern kingdom, also called Judah, continued to carry the line of the promised Savior. The northern kingdom when into a steep spiritual spiral that ended in 722 BC when the Assyrians invaded, demolished, and destroyed it. Unfortunately, the kingdom of Judah was in just about as bad a shape spiritually as the northern kingdom. Ahaz was a terrible king.
What did he do? What are we told? He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” So what did the Lord do? The Lord allowed the Arameans to defeat Judah and inflict heavy losses on them. And how did Ahaz respond? “In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he though, ‘Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.’ But they were his downfall…Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the Lord’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods.” God summarized his rule: “He had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord.” How might you have felt if you were an Israelite at the time of King Ahaz? “Can it get any worse than this???”
And then Ahaz, the Israelite king who did all the evil and wickedness we just talked about, died. His son, Hezekiah, took over and “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Immediately, he re-opened the doors of the temple and repaired them. He re-consecrated the priests and the Levites (those responsible for leading worship). He had the priests re-consecrate the whole temple and its furnishings. He resumed temple worship with blood sacrifices for sin. He reassembled the people for worship and praise to the true God. He restored the bringing of sacrifices and offerings. The people of Judah responded with abundant offerings and sacrifices. And then at the end of the account of all these reforms we read: “So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly.” (2 Chronicles 29:35-36).
Things got pretty bad in Israel, but are things much different today? Is there godlessness in the world around us? We see beautiful blessings of the Lord … murdered in their mothers’ wombs. Drug deals, murders, theft, and corruption are constantly on the news. And it seems like the sound of police sirens never stops. How the world continues to wander away from God!
Yet, before we shake our heads at the Israelites or the world around us we need to take a look at our own lives. What horror we would feel if all our thoughts for just one day were read aloud for everyone to hear. What terror ought to loom inside of us when we consider our own altars to the idols of greed, selfishness, and jealousy. What guilt weighs us down from our many past failures and sins! How often we have shut the doors of God’s temple inside of us! How unfaithful we’ve been in our devotion to God and His Word! How far have we fallen? Each of us has to ask, “Can it get any worse than this?” Are we ready for the coming of the King?
The Israelites at the time of Hezekiah weren’t ready for the Lord’s first coming. Many Israelites had completely rejected the Lord. They had forsaken God, turned their backs on God, and refused to worship Him. But what did God do? He didn’t wipe them off the face of the earth, He didn’t completely annihilate them for their unfaithfulness, and He didn’t even leave them to sit in the stench of their sin. Instead, in great love God gave the Israelites another day of His grace, another opportunity to rededicate themselves to Him. And even more than that… God accepted their rededication!
And look at what we have standing before us today…yet another day of God’s grace, another day when God gives us the opportunity to rededicate our lives to Him. God did not have to accept the Israelite’s rededication, but He did. The same is true for us, we have no right or reason on our own to be accepted by the Lord, but He has accepted you. In amazing love God took you where you are, lost in sin every day, and accepted you! Before you were even born, Jesus lived a perfect life for you. Before you were born Jesus died to pay for each of your sins. Before you were born Jesus gave you the victory of His resurrection!
God chose you to be His own child and now He gives you another opportunity, another day of grace to be His child, so rededicate! This is what Advent is all about. Our Savior is coming, are we ready? Take this day of God’s grace and rededicate your life to Him! Take the opportunity to recommit to living in His Word. Take the opportunity to replace the sinful habits in your life with godly ones. Take this opportunity to be reminded who you are, God’s loved child!
The Israelites took the opportunity under King Hezekiah and rededicated their lives back to the Lord. They consecrated themselves for the Lord’s service, they cleansed the temple of the Lord, and they started worshipping the Lord again. Very importantly, they also all began to bring offerings and blood sacrifices to the Lord. With these offerings and sacrifices they were again reminded of the coming Savior. How blood needed to be shed for the forgiveness of sin, how a sacrifice would bring about the forgiveness of sins, and how it would be a whole and complete sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. The people responded with their offerings with such generosity and such abundance that the priests could not handle it all by themselves. And then “Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people.” Their rededication caused all of them to rejoice!
And you know what? Rededication does the same for you and for me, too. It causes us to rejoice, to have joy! As I prepare for the King and remove the idols of greed and selfishness in my life, I lean more fully on the Lord. Trust in the Lord replaces anxiousness, security replaces uncertainty, and prayer replaces worry. As I prepare for the King and am cleansed from the guilt of my past sins, thankfulness replaces regret, kindness replaces anger, and joy replaces sadness. What joy fills my life as I rededicate my life for the coming King!
And it doesn’t even stop there. Rejoice! The more you prepare the more clearly you see God’s love for you. As you rededicate your life, the more time you’ll want to spend in the Word, and the more time you spend in your devotion to God’s Word the more clearly you’ll see the love of God your Father. The more clearly you see the love of God, the more you’ll appreciate the first coming of your Savior Jesus!
But are we on our own? It’s NOT completely up to us to rededicate our lives for the King! Rejoice with the Israelites at what GOD brings about for his people! Rejoice, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil 2:13). It is God who works in us through His Word to identify sin in our lives. It is God who works in us through His Word to convince us that Jesus won forgiveness for all of our sins. It is God who works in us to give us the strength to reject sin and live the life He wants us to live.
Finally, brothers and sisters, rededicate your lives to the Lord! Why? Because that baby in the manger came for YOU! God has dedicated Himself to YOU in the most wonderful and profound way, He became one of us. The almighty God was born into this world as YOUR brother. Jesus dedicated Himself totally to YOU by living His life for you, by dying your death for you, and by rising from the dead so eternal victory is completely yours. Yes, rededicate! Because God has already completely dedicated Himself to you! Amen.