What happens in a country when the Word of God is no longer taught or considered important? Listen to this lesson to hear about Israel’s history over a period of years when they neglected God’s Word. Find out about a series of evil kings who brought chaos to their country and then a few kings who brought God’s revelation back to the people and restored biblical worship for a period of time. See that idolatry, which is worshiping anything more than God, takes over and that all of us are susceptible when we neglect God’s Word.
There are several Worship-related series available on the Dean Bible Ministries website. Click on the following links to go to the series that interests you:
Worship: Corruption and Reformation
Exodus 19–23; 2 Kings 10 and 21; 2 Chronicles 30–35
Samuel Lesson #156
December 11, 2018
“Our Father, as we reflect upon Your majesty, we are overwhelmed with Your grandeur and Your greatness, Your infinitude, Your eternality—all that You are, far beyond anything that we can imagine. Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and Your ways are higher than our ways.
“You have lowered Yourself to be one of us through the Incarnation—to be a human being, to provide salvation for us. You deal with us in grace and kindness and goodness. You provide so much for us, and we are so undeserving and unworthy. Yet You have provided a redemption that is so profound—one that reverberates through all creation because sin corrupted all of creation.
“Father, we worship You because of Who You are as the Creator God, but even more because You are our Redeemer. You have saved us, forgiven us, and given us real life, life eternal.
“Father, as we study Your Word, we pray that we may be further impressed with worship as You’ve revealed it—the problems, the corruption of worship. May we come to reflect upon our own understanding and views of worship that we may be biblical in our approach. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
I want to look at a topic that actually, in my outline,—was designed to come before the last two lessons. The last two lessons focused on praise and thanksgiving—what biblical praise and biblical thanksgiving were all about.
Because our Thanksgiving holiday was coming up, as well as our Thanksgiving-Christmas meal, I wanted to cover that prior to those two time periods, so I switched things around.
We’re going to back up a little bit to where we were prior to that study in Exodus, but we’re going to move very rapidly. We’re going to paint with a very broad brush today in hopes that I can get us through (I doubt I will) what happens to worship in the remainder of the Old Testament period. We’re looking at worship in terms of its corruption and also in terms of its reformation over the time period of the Old Testament.
I’ve broken this down into basically five topics. We probably will not get to the fourth and fifth ones.
1) The first topic is to look at the corruption of worship. Idolatry is primarily the corruption of worship, whether it is physical idolatry—the worship of images made of wood, stone, or metal that occurred in the Old Testament—or a more sophisticated, abstract idolatry where we worship ourselves, feelings, false ideas, and material things.
In Colossians 3:5, Paul said that greed is idolatry. We are very much susceptible to idolatry today, and we will look at that. Idolatry is substituting anything in the place of God that takes the place of what is due Him, in terms of honor and glory. This reached its peak under the evil king Manasseh in the Old Testament. We’ll go through that.
2) The second thing we’ll look at is how there were periods of reformation and what were the characteristics of those periods. We’ll look at this primarily under Rehoboam, Jehoiada/Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
3, 4) Then we’ll look at the divine discipline that came on corrupt worship, followed by the restoration and the return of Israel to the land under Ezra and Nehemiah.
5) We’ll examine the characteristics of worship initially, and then its corruption by formalism and legalism. We’re not going to get to all that, but that sets the stage for getting into the New Testament.
That’s basically the outline of what we’re looking at today.
First, in review, I want to focus on the characteristics of worship. Since Genesis 4, we have seen two things that have developed in parallel.
One is the development of true worship, what I will call “biblical worship.” By biblical worship, I mean worship that is informed by the revelation of God. It exhibits the characteristics that we are about to talk about. I have stated them over and over, but I want to summarize them.
On the other hand, from the very beginning, since Genesis 4, what do we see? We see the corruption of worship, where you have human beings redefining what God has said and changing it to fit that which makes them feel better about themselves, to fit their ideas of what should be right and what should be wrong. It is essentially a worship of something other than God. It’s a redefinition of God.
What we have seen in terms of thinking about worship is that, first of all, worship is defined by God. Man is not the source of the definition of worship; God is. Man comes up with his own ideas based on a host of different criteria. It may be what makes him feel good. It may be that which assuages his guilt complex. He thinks he must be pleasing God because it somehow has made his guilt less. It has to do with producing something for himself.
The first characteristic is that worship is defined by God and not by man.
The second characteristic is that worship is always God centered. It’s theocentric. It is not anthropocentric or idiocentric. It is not about us; it is always about God. It’s not about what we’ve experienced, it’s not about our problems, it’s not about our difficulties.
As we’ve seen as we go through the psalms, the psalmist will start there, but he doesn’t go into detail. He doesn’t dwell upon his personal problems. Instead, the focus quickly shifts to God—the attributes of God, what God has done, and how God has intervened.
Worship, therefore, is always God centered. The words of the hymns are God centered.
The third thing is that worship is a response. It is a response to Who God is and what God has done. It is a response to God’s revelation of Himself. That is first and foremost.
God reveals Himself, Who He is. We saw that when we started in our look in Isaiah 6. Isaiah is given this vision, where he is before the throne of God in Heaven. It is a response to God’s revelation of Himself. In some instances, it has to do with a vision, but in most instances, it has to do with God’s revelation of Himself through His Word.
As we learn Who God is and what He has done through His Word, we respond to revelation. Revelation is the focal point of worship, which for us means the study of God’s Word.
The fourth thing is that worship is holy. Holy means that it is distinct. It is unique. It is set apart. As we see in the Old Testament, it is different from what goes on in the culture surrounding Israel. When they start to assimilate, when their worship begins to be influenced by the ideas, the values, and the worldview of the nations around them; it becomes corrupt and is destroyed.
If we look at that visual of the tabernacle, what happens in the tabernacle, inside the courtyard, is very different from whatever is going on outside of it. It is set apart. It is one-of-a-kind.
Worship is characterized by sacrifice. From the very beginning, in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are bringing sacrifice. It’s a substitutionary sacrifice. It was to be a blood sacrifice. There is a substitutionary death which is necessary for the cleansing of sin.
The second thing we have seen is that there is a development of proclamation about Who God is and what He has done. This is that phrase we saw introduced at the end of Genesis 4.
In Genesis 4:26, we read, “Then,—following Seth—men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” We saw, when we got to Abraham, that the phrase “calling upon the name of the LORD” means to make proclamation about God—to make proclamation about Who He is and what He has done.
Another thing that is developed during this period as related to the sacrifice is the necessity of being cleansed from sin. That happens in two ways. First, in terms of initial justification—when we believe the promise of God. The Old Testament pattern for that is Abraham in Genesis 15:6. “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him—or imputed it to him—for righteousness.”
Man believes, but it is the object of the belief that is important. It is the promise of God. On that basis, God imputes righteousness. It’s not because of inherent righteousness.
That only begins the process. Afterward there’s the need for cleansing. We saw that demonstrated, or made evident, in the ritual involving the high priest. The high priest was initially washed from head to toe when he was installed in his office. That’s a picture of the cleansing of sin that happens positionally at the time of salvation. We are cleansed from head to toe.
Jesus uses that imagery and that vocabulary in John 13, when He is washing the disciples’ feet. If you remember, Peter says, “No, no, no, Lord, you don’t need to wash my feet.” And the Lord said, “No, if I don’t wash you, you will have no share with Me—no role with Me—in the Kingdom.” Peter, who usually goes from one extreme to the other, says, “Well then give me a whole bath.” And the Lord said, “You don’t need a whole bath, because all of you except one are clean.”
That “whole bath” word in the Greek was a word that indicated a complete bathing—LOUO. The other word for washing the feet, the hands, or a part of the body was a different Greek word: NIPTO.
In the Septuagint, those words are used to translate the terms that are used for the high priest. When they were installed or ordained at the beginning of their ministry, they were washed—LOUO—from head to toe. After that, when they went into the tabernacle, they washed their hands and feet—that was cleansing. All through the Scriptures, you have this emphasis on the need to be cleansed before we come into the presence of God.
Another important thing we’ve seen is that in the period from Adam to Moses, there are small refinements made in worship. Once we come to Exodus—the calling, the redemption, the adoption of the nation, Israel—worship becomes much expanded.
There is more ritual attached to it, more imagery attached to it. We have to understand that in the Old Testament, God is using the whole nation of Israel as a corporate body to picture different aspects of salvation—justification, salvation, and sanctification. It doesn’t necessarily mean that every person, every individual within the corporate body, is a believer. God treats the nation as being redeemed when they are brought out of Egypt. The blood is applied to the doorposts of every house, so every person is covered by the blood.
That’s the imagery that pictures their being set apart and covered by the death of the Passover Lamb. They are brought out. In Exodus 19, they are brought to Mount Sinai. Three things happen at Mount Sinai, if you remember.
Initially, they are brought to the mountain. God says, “You’re going to come into My presence. You’re going to come to the base of the mountain, not up on the mountain. You have to prepare yourselves for three days.” That’s cleansing.
God comes down on the mountain. There’s thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. It’s dark, it’s ominous, it’s scary, it’s frightening, and everybody is shaking in their boots over Who God is. God reveals Himself. He tells them what they are going to do, that He is calling them.
He says in Exodus 19:5, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people ….”
He’s going to enter into this covenant, so He is giving them the opportunity here to commit to it. Because they’re not yet in this covenant relationship, we see this ominous environment.
He says (Exodus 19:6), “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy [set apart] nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
They respond in Exodus 19:8—this is a response of worship—and say, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” At this point, they’re committed. They are entering into the covenant.
Then in Exodus 20, we see the giving of the Law. They hear it. They hear the Law. God is speaking to them, and they don’t like it. By Exodus 20:18, after the giving of the Ten Commandments, they tell Moses, “We don’t want to hear the voice of God anymore. You go up and talk to Him, then come back down here and tell us what He says.”
They hear the basics of how they are to live as a redeemed people. In Exodus 21–23, Moses is getting instructions in the Law from God and then he comes back down. In Exodus 24, he’s going to take the leaders up on the mountain. This time it’s a different scenario. It’s not dark. It’s not ominous. They are going to see the sapphire-colored pavement under the throne of God.
In Exodus 24:3 they are going to again commit to complete obedience to the LORD.
We’re not going to have a show of hands, but we could be in any congregation and say, “How many people have made this commitment? I’m going to be completely obedient to the Lord!” Then the next day, it’s like “boom!” You’re just as nasty and awful and sinful as you were the day before. That happens to every Christian, and it happens to them.
There’s a period that goes by in Exodus 25–33, where Moses is back up on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. And what happens? The people get bored. They get restless. They want to have a party. They start making a collection of all the gold and stuff they’ve brought out of Egypt, and they convince Aaron to build a golden calf.
Right away, what are they doing? They are slipping into idolatry. This becomes a standard picture throughout the Old Testament. They’re constantly being corrupted by idolatry again and again and again. This is the warning.
The first commandment that we find in Exodus 20:3 is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God is exclusive. He wants exclusive and singular attention because idolatry—the worship of anything else—robs God of His glory.
What did I say that glory is? We think of glory as a brilliant light, but that’s not capturing the main idea of glory. The main idea of glory is the significance of something. The word kavod has the idea of something that is weighty, something that is serious, something that is heavy.
What we’re showing is that God is so important that we can’t live without Him. That’s how we glorify God is demonstrating that He alone is the basis for our life. Nothing else is as important to our life, to our very breath every day, as the Lord.
In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses expresses it this way: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” That’s how we glorify God is we make Him the center focus of everything in our life. That is individual worship. Corporate worship becomes a basic reflection of that.
Jesus talks about this in a little different way in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:21. He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What we come to understand as we grow and develop in our understanding of worship is that we have lots of things we like doing in life, things we can enjoy. What has happened, in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, is we are overwhelmed with distractions. We’re overwhelmed with entertainment. We have so many options, so many things we can do on a daily basis, that it challenges two of the biggest tests we face in our spiritual lives: the test of priorities and the test of time management.
When it’s all said and done, it’s not about the fun we had, the places we traveled to, and the enjoyment we had. There’s nothing wrong with all those things. Spiritual life gives us the capacity to enjoy God’s creation. But when they crowd out the primary, which is our relationship with God, what becomes most important to our life is our personal enjoyment, not our service to God.
That becomes the major question. When making choices in life, the biggest issue for many Christians is not choosing between the bad and the good; it’s choosing between the good and the better.
Choosing the better is putting our focus on serving the Lord—that which is not going to distract me from my spiritual life and my devotion to the Lord. When something begins to supplant the importance and priority of God, that’s essentially a form of idolatry. Something becomes more central, more important, more critical to our life and to our happiness than walking with the Lord.
We have to understand, as we look at these principles, that worship becomes a matter of our thinking. It’s not a matter of externals, such as the impact that music may have on our emotions. It’s not on the externals of even ritual. It is about what we are thinking—our focus, our attention, our priorities. It’s mental attitude. Worship is what takes place between our ears.
It’s like what I’ve said for years and years about spiritual warfare, in light of all the garbage that’s taught about it today. Spiritual warfare takes place between your ears.
Everything in the Christian life takes place between your ears. It’s all about the volition of the Christian life—deciding whether or not we are going to spend our time serving the Lord, focusing on that which makes us a better servant of the Lord versus that which just gives us a better time on the earth. It is our focus on serving the Lord.
The second commandment is in Exodus 20:4–6. Here the LORD says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth …”
Now that’s a pretty expansive concept. Any—any likeness of anything! That wraps it all up. It covers everything that can be in the air, on the ground, or in the water.
“… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God ...” The word that’s translated “jealous” should really be “zealous,” and it has to do with God’s intense focus. It’s an intense focus.
He wants an intense focus from us. He wants absolute devotion and obedience coming from us toward Him and not a split allegiance. He is a jealous God in that He is zealous for our complete and total attention. The result is if there is failure in that area, it will have consequences throughout generations.
“… visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations ...”
The second generation is not held accountable for the sin [of the first], but they reap the consequences of that sin. It is expressed through four generations. If the parents are rebellious, then they shift allegiance. That shift of allegiance is then passed on to the next generation. By the time you get to the third or fourth generation, they have no knowledge of God.
We’ve seen that since the World War II generation. The generation that is coming up now is growing up without being in church, without hearing just the basics of Bible stories. They are biblically illiterate.
As a result, we’re seeing in America what Britain saw at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th centuries: a generation that is growing up that doesn’t know who Israel is, that doesn’t know the significance and importance of Israel. What happened in Britain is for 300 years—from 1600 until 1900—you saw a strong evangelical community that understood God would restore the Jewish people to their historic homeland. They supported that, they taught about it, and they were pro-Jewish or philosemitic.
But a worldview shift occurred in England after the mid-19th century—the shift from a Bible-based culture to a Darwinist-based culture. The generation that came up after Balfour, after David Lloyd George, and after the “greats” who were the products of early to mid-Victorian England—there was a strong emphasis on the gospel. They grew up hearing the Bible stories at their mother’s knee. The generation that came up after them didn’t value the Jewish people and didn’t understand their importance in God’s plan. So you saw a shift. Those who came into foreign service following World War I had a pan-Arabic view.
They were pro-Arab, and they became more and more antisemitic, until you reach a generation today that is embracing evil and is hostile to biblical Christianity. They embrace the people of Allah and Islam, and they consider it a hate crime for those who espouse and enforce biblical values.
This is what happens—worship gets corrupted, God is replaced by something else, and it leads to cultural collapse and cultural failure.
God warned Israel about this in Exodus 23:32–33, when they came into the land. “You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. ...”
Peer pressure. Pressure from other nations. The influence of those around them and their value systems—the worldview of the Canaanites—would influence and change the worldview of the Israelites. This is what God warns them about.
When we allow the nations—the pagans, those who do not live on the basis of God’s revelation—when we allow the pagan view of reality—a view of reality that denies a Creator-God, that denies the reality of sin, that denies a God who intervenes in and oversees history, and it is a God that is irrelevant—the result is that it changes the culture, and it changes the way worship is conducted. We’re seeing that played out in American culture as well.
This is the warning God gave them: Exodus 23:33 “They—the Canaanites—shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare—a trap—to you.”
This is what played out in their history. We don’t have time to go through this, but if you were to look at Psalm 106, it is a confession psalm. It confesses the sins of the nation through their history—how time and time again they rejected God, rebelled against Him, and served the idols. All of this happens because of the orientation of the sin nature. Our sin nature is oriented towards the self. It is oriented towards rebellion against God. It is oriented to arrogance. In arrogance, we want to worship our idea of God. We want to do what we want to do.
This is exactly what played out after the conquest of the land under Joshua. You come into that horrible period of the judges, which goes from about 1375 BC until almost 1000 BC, about 1050 BC. You have this whole period that is just horrible. Again and again, you have this cycle where Israel turns against God, they get into idolatry, and God brings in a foreign power to bring judgment upon the nation. Then they’re enslaved for 20 years.
When we’re enslaved to our sin nature and enslaved to the false gods, we’re naturally going to become enslaved politically. That again is a trend of history. This is what happens when we’re enslaved to the sin nature.
What happens in our arrogance is we want to worship our idea of God. We want to worship that that impresses us. It may not impress God, but we think that because we’re impressed with our feelings and what we’ve said, somehow that impresses God. It makes us feel good about ourselves. This is what was happening. All of a sudden, they’re more concerned about how well they’re doing, rather than trusting God. So they become concerned with fertility and prosperity—we want to have abundant crops.
God had promised them that “if you obey the Law, obey the LORD, and do right, then God will bring rain in its proper season—the early rains, the latter rains. Crops will be abundant, your enemies will be defeated, the wild animals will be removed. All of those things will happen.”
“If you disobey Me, then I’m going to shut down the heavens, and it’s not going to rain. Your crops will dry up, you won’t have prosperity, your enemies will be multiplied, your wives will not be able to have children, they will have barren wombs.” All of these things. God spelled all of that out in the curses of the Law. As they turned away from God, this is what God would bring upon them.
Psalm 106 describes how they absorbed the fertility/prosperity religions. If you look at a huge segment of Christianity today within the charismatic, Pentecostal camp, they have bought into this whole false theology of prosperity theology. It’s just a modern version of the ancient prosperity or fertility theology. It’s not as gross. It’s not as infused with sexual reenactments and things like that, but it is just as false, and it produces a false worship.
The false worship in the ancient world was “I’ve got to secure my prosperity. I do that by worshiping the gods of rain, the gods of fertility, the gods of thunder and storms, and all of these other things.”
The indictment comes in Psalm 106:36–37. “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons …” That’s not what is apparent. You see the idols. Those of you who have been with me to Turkey and to Israel, we’ve seen these Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses. The Bible says that what’s behind them are demons.
This is a Satan-inspired system. The false worship and the corrupt worship have ultimately behind them the demons, the fallen angels, and Satan. The ones who are worshiping the prosperity and fertility gods are worshiping demons. It led them to these gross sins where they were sacrificing their babies, their young children, to these gods. Physically, literally killing them and putting them into the fires of Molech and Chemosh. They were burned alive.
Psalm 106:38, “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.”
This is the corruption that occurs when a nation that has revelation rejects it. They replace it with the false ideas, the false philosophy, and the false religious hopes of pagan systems. It corrupts and perverts the worship.
This becomes the hallmark of Israel’s worship through most of the Old Testament. What we see here is that biblical worship is corrupted by assimilating the worldview of the surrounding culture of the peoples and the nations, bringing it into the temple and making it part of their worship. We can’t blend a biblical worldview with a nonbiblical worldview and have anything other than a product that is corrupt and self-destructive. Just think about what we’ve studied during the period of the judges.
We see more and more corruption of the priesthood, so we have this corrupt Levitical priest in Judges 19, who leads the people into further idolatry. It turns out he is the grandson of Moses, a descendant of Moses. This is horrible.
When we get to the beginning of Samuel, as we have studied, you have the corruption of Eli, who is this fat, slovenly priest. He may not have been really bad, but he has raised these sons who are terrible. They’re turning the house of God into a house of prostitution because of the way they are treating the women who are coming to the temple. Pagan views that come into either the Old Testament Israel or into the church always end up in this kind of corruption. We saw it in the Old Testament.
The first really overt incident of idolatry entering into Israel occurs with Solomon. I’m not going to get into that. I just want to pick two or three examples. There’s a whole lot more we could cover.
We look at the split that occurs after Solomon dies. The ten tribes of the north are split off from the kingdom, and they are ruled by Jeroboam I. Then you have the Southern Kingdom, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, ruled by Rehoboam. Both of these leaders end up taking their people into idolatry. In the north it’s more overt. Jeroboam sets up two alternate sanctuaries.
The only sanctuary authorized for all the tribes of Israel is the temple. But he can’t have all his people—if he’s going to have any kind of loyalty and develop any kind of patriotism to this new entity called Israel, the Northern Kingdom—trotting down to Jerusalem three times a year to worship at the temple.
So he sets up his own worship. He sets up a worship site at Bethel in the south, just north of the border with Judah, and then in the far north at Dan. He takes a feather out of Aaron’s cap, and he creates two golden calves. He says, “This is the god who took you out of Egypt,” reintroducing that golden-calf worship. It will get worse, but that’s the sin of Jeroboam.
Again and again, the evil kings of the north are said to have carried on the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. We have this corruption develop, but it got much worse.
As you went through two or three dynasties in the north, it really got bad under King Ahab. He married Jezebel, who was a daughter of the Syrophoenician king, the high priest of Baal worship. Ahab married her, and part of her dowry was several hundred priests of Baal and priests of Asherah. She’s going to come in and change the whole religious setup in Israel. She makes it illegal to teach about Yahweh and to teach the Law.
Elijah has to go into hiding. God sends him into hiding and brings the Northern Kingdom under judgment. After three years, God calls Elijah out of hiding. We know about the major confrontation with the priests of Baal up on Mount Carmel.
This culminates in God calling out one of the most interesting characters—also a king in the north—by the name of Jehu.
When I read about Jehu, I sort of think a little bit about President Trump. He is wild, but he’s got a mission from God. Eventually, he will go out-of-bounds, and he gets judged by God. He is used by God to destroy the house of Ahab, and he does that. Jehu, who is anointed by God, destroys the worship of Baal. He cleanses the land of the worship of Asherah and Baal, but he doesn’t depart from the sins of Jeroboam.
In 2 Kings 10:31, we read, “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart …”
I think the key word there is “all.” He picks and chooses. He’s anointed by God for a purpose, but he does “… not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.”
What now has happened in the Northern Kingdom? The knowledge of the Law of the Lord has left. There’s corruption in the north because there is no knowledge of the Law of the Lord. The people have become illiterate and ignorant of Torah. They don’t know what they are supposed to do.
That always happens when God’s people become ignorant of God’s revelation. Their worship is going to become corrupted. This is what we see in the Old Testament time and time again.
In fact, by the time we get to the last king we’re going to look at, Josiah, what happens during his reign is the high priest Hilkiah rediscovers Deuteronomy. It’s been lost. Nobody knows about it for probably the whole time of Josiah’s father, who is the evil King Manasseh. It’s been lost for forty years. Nobody has heard anything about the true Law. It was as evil as it could possibly be under Manasseh.
It’s not until the discovery of the Law that they have a restoration of worship, which goes back to one of our basic principles. Worship is a response to God’s revelation. When God’s revelation is marred, corrupted, and ignored, that’s what happens to worship.
We get into this period that occurs in the time of Manasseh. It is interesting. We’ll talk about Hezekiah, the good guys, and the reforms in just a minute. Hezekiah is a co-regent with his son Manasseh. Manasseh was just as evil as he could be. What he did goes beyond description.
They had these huge ceremonies where the people were bringing their babies and putting them on fiery altars to be burned alive. The sexual perversion that went on and the religious corruption. They had the idols to Baal and Asherah inside the temple! They were sacrificing to Asherah and Baal inside the temple.
This happened earlier under Ahaz as well. There’s a cleansing that occurs after Ahaz—we’ll talk about him when we discuss the positive side—but when we get to Manasseh, he is evil. He is practicing idolatry, demonism, and sorcery.
In 2 Kings 21:6–7, it says,
“Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever’ ”
Incredible blasphemy and perversion are taking place there.
2 Kings 21:9 goes on to say, “But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.”
2 Kings 21:11, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites …)”
He’s worse than all the Canaanites. Bundle them all up; add it all up. Whatever the total is, he is a thousand times worse. Trust me, we haven’t seen that level of perversion in this country. We’re not there yet. People say, “Oh, it’s so terrible.” Wait. Just wait a while. We’ve got a long way to go.
[Manasseh] “… acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols)”
This is the horrible, horrible corruption that took place in Israel, and it’s all because they lost the Word of God. They turned away from the Word of God. They didn’t know what the truth was, and so they’re not responding to God. They’re making it up. They were doing what gave them personal pleasure, what they thought would bring them prosperity, health, and all of the things that would go with it. They were seeking happiness apart from God.
When we lose sight of who God is because we’ve turned away from revelation and from the Scripture, the result is going to be the corruption of worship.
The positive thing is God is good. God is gracious. And God brings restoration—what I would call true biblical revival—not manipulated revival through the use of various techniques and methodologies developed in American revivalism back in the early 19th century. This is a true change that occurs because God has not departed from His people. He doesn’t turn His back on them. Again and again, the picture in the Old Testament He is calling them to Himself.
In this next section, I want to talk about the first major restoration that occurs after the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. Jehu came along, and under God’s order, he destroyed the house of Ahab. He kills Ahab, he kills Jezebel, he kills their son, and there’s this cleansing in the Northern Kingdom.
In the Southern Kingdom, their evil has also penetrated Judah through their daughter Athaliah. This is one of the most interesting stories from the Old Testament. Athaliah is the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and she married Jehoram, who is a king of Judah. She had a son, who has now been killed, and she had many, many grandchildren.
Jehu killed Ahaziah, her son, so she wants to secure her own power base. In her evil, she is going to kill all of her grandchildren, in order to make sure that she is going to be the sole ruler, the heiress.
She sets about having all of her grandchildren killed. But she has a niece, Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, who hid one of the grandsons, Joash, so that he would not be killed. He is secreted away and hidden for seven years, while Athaliah has this reign of terror in the south. It is the promotion of all the Baalism and everything else. Everything is as corrupt as it can possibly be. But the high priest, Jehoiada, knows about Joash, and he is protecting him.
One day, when Joash has reached the age of seven, Jehoiada is going to bring the priests together, and they are going to recommit to the Mosaic Law—to the covenant with God. What do they have to do now in order to serve God? What’s the first thing? There’s got to be cleansing.
There is cleansing for the priests, everybody recommits with the oath to the covenant, and they bring Joash out and put a robe on him in sight of Athaliah. She’s at the palace, and they’re at the temple. She can look and see outside the temple what is going on, and she goes absolutely ballistic.
The end result is she is killed. Jehoiada cleanses the temple and tears down the idols of Baal and Asherah that have been put up in the temple. That’s going to happen again several more times. He cleanses the temple, and then they begin to repair it. They raise money. They set out these big chests so the people who are coming are bringing their offerings, are putting freewill offerings into the chest, so they can repair and restore the temple.
After Jehoiada dies, Joash fails spiritually. He has a major spiritual test. There is going to be an invasion from the north from Hazael of Syria, who is going to come down from the north. Joash buys Hazael off, paying him with God’s money out of the treasury of the temple.
The result is that there is a conspiracy, and Joash is assassinated within a very short time. Failure to restore worship was based on a lack of faith and trust in God. We see another principle: biblical worship must be grounded in a biblical faith and trust in God.
The next example, which happens several decades later, is under Hezekiah. This is described in 2 Chronicles 29 and following. After a period of apostasy, the Southern Kingdom is under threat from the Assyrian armies. They go back to the Law, they read the Law, and they have to learn how to cleanse the temple. They’re going to restore biblical worship. What does that mean?
First of all, they have to gather together all of the priests, who have to be cleansed and sanctified. Then they have to go through the whole process of cleansing, or sanctifying, the house of the Lord, the temple. They do that in eight days. It takes them the first eight days to sanctify themselves and eight days to sanctify the temple.
In 2 Chronicles 29:21, we read, “And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary, and for Judah. Then he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD.”
They are fulfilling all of the Levitical offerings in order to cleanse them. That is further described in subsequent passages. After they have done that, then what happens? We forget this. We’re going to see this here, and we’re going to see it again with Josiah. There is a celebration that takes place. That’s why a key word to use in describing worship is “celebration.” It’s a celebration that we’re at peace with God, it’s a celebration of our salvation, and it’s a celebration of forgiveness.
In 2 Chronicles 29:25, we read, “And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets.”
It goes back to what David had done in organizing and developing the choirs and the levitical priests. Hezekiah reinstates all of that. Now you have all of this grandeur that’s occurred that hasn’t really been there since the time of Solomon.
Remember, this isn’t something that David just generated or Solomon came up with. God revealed to David what the temple would be like and all of this worship. All of this was revealed to him. It’s not something that David or Solomon just generated on their own. It’s God’s revelation of what His worship would be like. We’re told that there’s this great celebration that occurs. There is singing, there’s all this joyful celebration, as they offer the burnt offerings and the sin offerings.
In 2 Chronicles 29:33, we read, “The consecrated things were six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep.”
Then something really interesting happens. They are going to reinstate Passover.
Passover has not been observed in any number of years, but they have to get prepared for it. They’re going to end up being a month late, so they have to celebrate it in the second month, instead of the first month. It just took too long for them to cleanse everything and get everything ready.
We read in 2 Chronicles 30:24–26,
“For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep, and the leaders gave to the assembly a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep; and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.
“The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah.
“So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.”
They celebrate Passover for fourteen days. According to 2 Chronicles 30:22–23, they have the Passover Feast for seven days, but they added another seven days, so it goes for fourteen days. No Passover had been seen like that since David, but that’s not the greatest Passover. The greatest Passover is going to come when we get into the episode with Josiah and his restoration.
One of the interesting things is the response of worship of Judah. In 2 Chronicles 31:1, we read, “Now when all this was finished …” They’ve restored the temple, they’ve cleansed the temple, and they’ve had Passover. What do you think they did then? “Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present …”
This is the response of worship. It means that life is going to change. It’s not just something we do, and then we compartmentalize that off.
2 Chronicles 31:1,
“… went out to the cities of Judah and broke the sacred pillars in pieces, cut down the wooden images, and threw down the high places and the altars—from all Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh—until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned to their own cities, every man to his possession.”
It changes the social structure. It’s going to change the politics—not for long—but it’s going to change it for a while.
Then after Hezekiah, we go through all the evil of Manasseh. See, it didn’t last long.
Finally, Manasseh dies, and his son Josiah becomes the king. He’s eight years old when he becomes the king, and he’s under the influence of Hilkiah the high priest.
In 2 Chronicles 34:2, we read, “And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
Then in 2 Chronicles 34:14, we read, “Now when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given by Moses.”
It’s been hidden. Nobody knows what’s in Deuteronomy. They’re going to get it out, and they’re going to read it.
2 Chronicles 34:15–16,
“Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. So Shaphan carried the book to the king, bringing the king word, saying, ‘All that was committed to your servants they are doing.’ ”
Then they take all this and read it before the king in 2 Chronicles 34:18.
2 Chronicles 34:19, “Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, …” He said, “Well, isn’t that interesting?” That’s not what happens. He heard the words of the Law, and he tore his clothes. This is the sign of grief, of extreme grief. He is taking this seriously. He realizes how Israel has failed God completely.
He is going to restore the temple, and there is going to be, like with Hezekiah, a cleansing of the temple. And he orders the Passover to be kept. He provided 30,000 animals from the flock and 3,000 cattle; his leaders gave 2,600 sheep and 300 cattle; and their brethren gave 5,000 sheep and 500 cattle.
According to 2 Chronicles 35:18, “There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; …” The date here is somewhere around 610 BC. It’s been since the time of Samuel, so it’s been over 400 years, over four centuries since they had had a Passover to this extent.
What happens after Josiah dies? He’s defeated not long after this. He’s arrogant, and Pharaoh Necho is coming up. Josiah is going to do battle with Nebuchadnezzar, with the Babylonians up at a place called Carchemish. Josiah has no reason to get involved, but he decides he wants to get involved—outside the will of God—to protect the nation.
He is going to be killed at that battle. That is going to leave open the throne to the next three kings that are evil. It culminates in the defeat of Israel and the destruction of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. That punishment is for the evil of Manasseh.
Corrupt worship leads to the destruction of a nation because it shifts focus from being all about God to all about me.
As we’ve seen in this—we’ll have to come back next time to finish it up what happens after they come back from the exile—God prohibits all competition. He does not want us worshipping anything else or anyone else, to put anything else in His place in our lives.
God wants to be front and center because then He will take care of all the other details. This is what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, when He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
If you put God first, God is going to take care of all of the other details, but we can’t corrupt worship with human viewpoint, pagan ideas. Any attempt of assimilation always leads to a corruption of the worship of God. When we start trying to make worship acceptable to the non-Christian culture, it destroys Christianity.
This is exactly what’s happened in the whole church-growth movement. The whole idea was to make the seeker acceptable. You’ve heard the term “seeker-friendly churches.” This is dominating evangelicalism. It produces big churches that are filled with people who are not saved, and their values have shaped the music, the teaching, everything—the whole culture of the church. The result is there is a loss of the knowledge of the Word of God.
One of the churches that was at the forefront of the church-growth movement was a church called Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. I understand that recently there have been some scandals that have gone on there, and the Hybels are no longer associated with it. Things have changed—probably not in terms of the basic philosophy.
This church—before Joel Osteen came along—was the largest church in America. It was the model church. I remember Bill Hybels being invited several times to come down and speak to different groups at Dallas Seminary when I was there in the 1980s. They just couldn’t do anything wrong.
There was a guy who was working on his PhD in sociology at Northwestern University in the late 80s, early 90s. His name was G. A. Pritchard. He wrote his doctoral dissertation from a sociological perspective on the sociological dynamics of what was going on in this church.
It was a growth phenomenon. How did they do this? Let’s map this out so everybody else can follow the pattern. One of the things he discovered in the course of his investigation was that the church had over 300 full-time pastors. Among those 300 pastors, there was not one man with any kind of formal theological training. Not one. There was not one man on staff who owned a systematic theology book. Not one. It is a biblically and theologically ignorant culture.
I will tell you that even though you have men in this city who are pastoring some of these very large churches, they are biblically and theologically ignorant. They have gone to seminaries that don’t provide a curriculum that takes you through all the books of the Bible, like Dallas Seminary used to, and like Chafer Theological Seminary does now. It takes you through all the books of the Bible and through all the different categories of theological education, so that at least you have a foundation upon which you can build.
When there is a loss of the knowledge of God’s Word, then the church mirrors and imitates the culture around it. This is a corruption and a perversion. What happens is you see—as in the culture—a shift of focus from God to an individual’s personal needs. That’s the big thing. We have to satisfy felt needs. I heard that so much I was ready to throw up when I was in seminary, and that was a long time ago.
It’s all about securing the individual’s personal success, rather than serving God. It’s about their personal happiness, rather than serving God. It’s about personal entertainment and pleasure, rather than submitting to God in obedience.
What we’re seeing in the church—and we’ve seen it all through the Church Age again and again—we repeat in different ways the same corruption. It is the same perversion that occurred in the Old Testament.
Next time we’re going to see what happens when Israel comes back in the land. We’re going to see the initial reformation that occurs, and then the perversion of legalism. That will take us naturally into this thing that explodes when Jesus the Messiah appears. We’ll start getting into the New Testament material next time.
“Father, thank You for this time we have had to study these things. Help us to stop, to think, to focus, and to reflect on our own ideas of worship and how they stack up to what the Bible teaches and what the Bible sets forth.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to understand all of these principles so that we as a church, and as individuals, can get it right between our ears. We can understand how we are to be thinking and acting in terms of those who worship You day in and day out as we come together as a corporate body to worship You that You may be glorified. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”