Today's lesson focuses on two righteous leaders who had the courage and strength to restore the temple and scriptures to the people.
2 Chronicles 29
v.1-2 Hezekiah righteous Jewish king
v.3 What did Hezekiah make a priority in his life and how do we know it was a priority?
"in the first year of his reign, in the first month" he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them. How is our relationship with the Lord? Do we need to open the doors to Him? Do we need to repair our relationship with Him? Has our relationship been allowed to fall into a little disrepair?
“Members of the Church today face great challenges, both temporal and spiritual. Have we, on occasion, also ‘turned away [our] faces from the habitation of the Lord . . . [and] shut up the doors . . . and put out the lamps.’ Are we also ‘negligent’? Often so many pressures demand our time and attention. However, considering the times and the forces arrayed against our families, should we not follow Hezekiah's example and ‘sanctify the house of the Lord . . . in the first year of the first month?’ (Emphasis added.)” (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 62)
v.16 How did Hezekiah mend the people's relationship with the Lord? Cleansed the inner part, brought out all uncleanness from within and it was put into the brook Kidron. Why is that final detail in there? Because it shows a complete and utter abandonment of the uncleanliness. The brook Kidron once crossed was considered to be where you have at that point left Jerusalem. Essentially if you got this far, you were not planning on turning around. Likewise, if you bring your unclean things here, you are not planning on bringing them back with you. Thus taking all that was unclean symbolized the commitment to a complete and full and permanent cleansing.
v.17 We are told it took 8 days to cleanse the temple from within right up to the front porch. The people then took another 8 days of cleansing. What else might they have needed to cleanse other than the temple? Likewise, other than personal cleansing within, what else may we need to cleanse in and around our daily lives? In Hebrew culture, the number 8 symbolizes "new beginnings". That it took them two 8 day periods to fully cleanse again emphasizes their commitment to starting afresh with the Lord. What latter-day new beginning also has the number 8 associated with it? Baptism.
v.20 In our previous studies we have seen how the righteous are always noted in scripture for rising early. Hezekiah is no exception.
v.21-24 Part of the cleansing in former days is the sanctification through blood sacrifice. This practice was set up to foreshadow the ultimate and final, the last and ever-lasting, blood sacrifice, the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Goats were often used as symbolic sacrifices for our sins. Thus the term "scapegoat" originated wherein someone else took the punishment for someone else.
v.24 "for all Israel" Why did Hezekiah make offerings on behalf of the Kingdom of Israel as well as his own kingdom of Judah? Was it just symbolic or did it have some practical use? Is this similar to our vicarious baptisms for the dead?
v.36 "for the thing was done suddenly" How quickly can we change if we truly want to? What delays personal cleansing?
2 Chronicles 30
Hezekiah invites all of Israel and Judah to cleanse themselves and come to the temple. Some do accept but many reject the invitation with mocking and scorn. Those that do accept are not fully temple worthy but through the righteous desires of their hearts, the prayers of Hezekiah and the sanctification of the offerings, they earn the mercy and healing of the Lord.
What was the result of Hezekiah's determination and priorities? The temple was restored. Many people repented and were healed. Their prayers were heard.
Spencer J Condie said,
"From King Hezekiah, as from King Benjamin (see Mosiah 2–5), we can learn a very positive lesson on leadership: circumstances do not always need to remain the same. Leaders can make a difference! Faith in the Lord and high expectations can bring about a mighty change of heart among an entire people." (“Some Scriptural Lessons on Leadership,” Ensign, May 1990, 27–28)
Sadly the great majority of the northern kingdom who mocked the idea of temple attendance and ordinances providing them protection, were (just a short three years later) attacked by Assyria and within three years after that initial attack they were carried away captive. This is the beginning of the lost ten tribes. 2 Kings 18:9-12. Interestingly enough in 1841 Joseph Smith was told to issue a similar invitation to all the world and the saints in Doctrine and Covenants 124:2-4, 10-11, 27-28. How did that turn out?
2 Chronicles 32
Sennacherib, King of Assyrria decides he wants to invade and sack Jerusalem.
v.3-8 What does Hezekiah do? cuts off anything that might give life to this invader of their sanctified lives. How can we cut off the oxygen or the water supply that feeds sin as it tries to invade our freshly sanctified lives? Notice Hezekiah does not rest on his sanctified laurels, he strengthens himself more. He rebuilds the wall higher and he builds a second wall of defence. He also prepares for a fight, adding more weapons. He organizes his people, appointing leaders and he inspires them, reminding them of who they ultimately look to for protection. How might we learn from this in our own homes and families?
Who are the servants of the Lord?
What is the heritage of the servants of the Lord? See 3 Nephi 22:17
v.9-20 Did Sennacherib attack them in open battle? No. He could not the defences were too high. So how did he attack them? He himself didn't directly attack them. He sent his servants among them to weaken their faith. He wrote letters to the people to weaken their resolve and even spoke to those on the walls in their own language to frighten them into giving in.
v.21 How did Hezekiah respond? Prayer. What was the result? How powerful can prayer be in our lives? see also 2 Kings 19:35
2 Chronicles 34
Hezekiah eventually dies, first his son Manasseh and then his grandson, Amon rule unrighteously. But then his great-grandson Josiah begins to reign at the age of 8 years old. Notice the symbolism of a new beginning. Josiah reigns in righteousness refusing to be turned.
v.3 after 8 years of ruling he starts to find his voice and seeks the God of David.In the twelfth year, being 20 years old Josiah begins to purge the land once more of false gods and the high places and altars that housed them
In his 26th year he takes the tithes and offerings that have been collected and uses it to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. As they gathered the tithes and offerings of the temple what else did they find?
v.14 the book of the law of the Lord, as given by Moses.
It condemns the people to death for forsaking the Lord. When Josiah consults the prophetess Huldah, she confirms that future generations will die as a result but that he will be preserved because of his faithfulness and his humility. Josiah might be tempted to retreat within his self-preserved bubble but instead what does he do?
George Albert Smith remarked,
I am not concerned whether or not you have the books of the great libraries of the world in your home, provided you do have these books [the scriptures]. Think of the millions of volumes that there are in our own Congressional Library at Washington, in the British Library, and in the libraries of other countries, millions of volumes—and yet all that God has revealed and published to the children of men that is necessary to prepare them for a place in the celestial kingdom is contained within the covers of these sacred books. How many of us know what they contain? I frequently go into homes where I see all the latest magazines. I find the books that are advertised as best-sellers on the bookshelves. If you were to throw them all away and retain only these sacred scriptures, you wouldn't lose what the Lord has caused to be written and made available for us all to enjoy. So, brethren and sisters, among our other blessings let us not forget that the Lord has made it possible for us to have, enjoy, and understand the scriptures and to have his word that has been given down through the ages for the salvation of his children. (The Teachings of George Albert Smith, edited by Robert McIntosh and Susan McIntosh [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 52)
v.29-33 Josiah commits the people to live the Law of the Lord. They do all the days of his life.
Throughout this lesson, the temple's complete restoration to full usage and focus on the scriptures is hailed as the central component of people becoming sanctified and being able to draw upon the powers of heaven. Are those powers available to us today? How might we more fully restore the temple in our lives?
President Howard W. Hunter encouraged:
“Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
“If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance, gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).
When personal circumstances or proximity do not allow us to attend the temple regularly, what other way, according to President Hunter, can we show the Lord that our hearts are in the right place?
"Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us." (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 239)
Brigham Young once said,
If every one of the Latter day Saints lived up to their privileges, they would not fear the world, and all that they can no, any more than they fear that the cranes, that fly croaking three quarters of a mile above them, will drop their eggs upon them to dash their brains out. You might as well fear that event, as to fear all the forces of hell, if the people were sanctified before the Lord, and would do His will every day.
Are these ideas strange to you? Read and learn how the Lord protected the children of Israel in former days, even during their wickedness, and rebellion against Him.
Whenever a good man would say, "Cease your wickedness, turn from your idols, and seek to the Lord," and they hearkened to his counsel, then the Lord would fight their battles, and kill their enemies by scores and hundreds of thousands. And on one occasion the angel of the Lord slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand of those who came against His people to destroy them, "and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses." So reads the Bible. The Lord fought their battles.
Again, Elisha's servant saw that there was more for them than all who were against them; he saw that the sides of the mountains were covered with "chariots of fire."
When the Lord commands those invisible beings, shall I say, those who have had their resurrection? yes, millions and millions more than the inhabitants of this earth, they can fight your battles.
Now, since one angel could fight their battles in former times, and overcome the enemies of the people of God, whom shall we fear? Shall we fear those who can kill the body, and then have no more that they can do? No, but we will fear Him who is able not only to destroy the body, but has power to cast both soul and body into hell fire. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 2: 255 - 256)