The Former Glory of the Temple: Part 3

" I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth His face from the house of Jacob."
We have now arrived at a period which may with propriety be termed the dark days of the kingdom. A period characterized by a remarkably complete and powerful testimony, furnished by prophets raised up and inspired by the Spirit of God, to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" a guilty people, who -nevertheless continued to " revolt more and more."
While the historical Books of the Bible supply us with all-important information, more particularly relating to the political history of the kingdom, the Prophets at the same time treat of the ecclesiastical and social condition of the people during the same period. It is therefore profitable for us, as we proceed further, here and there to connect the testimony of the historical Books with the corresponding testimony of the prophets. Since the former clearly shows under what circumstances certain portions of the latter were written, while the latter abundantly testifies to the longsuffering of God towards a people who continued to transgress against Him in the very face of the clearest and most decided testimony, and were therefore left without excuse.
Yet we would have it clearly understood that, in quoting from the Prophets in connection with contemporaneous circumstances, in no case do we limit the application of these Scriptures to those circumstances only, where these prove by intrinsic evidence that they testify both of that which is past, and of that which shall yet be.
Jotham, the son of Uzziah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord," and, profiting by his father's dearly-bought experience, did not presume to enter into the sanctuary. During his comparatively short reign of sixteen years, he built the higher gate of the temple, and, "became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God."
It had been well with Judah if it had now been "like king, like people." Alas! the latter had by this time become so iniquitous that the prophet Isaiah, rebuking them, said " Ah! sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters 1" These had forsaken the Lord, though they retained a form of godliness; their "oblations," were therefore " vain," and their feasts positively hateful to Jehovah! During the reign of Jotham, and throughout the entire reign of Jotham's successor, a threefold testimony was, by the Spirit of God, presented to Israel, in the mouth of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. See Isa. 1 Hos. 1:11The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. (Hosea 1:1); Mic. 1:11The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. (Micah 1:1).-" Though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him." Hos. 11:77And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. (Hosea 11:7).
A crisis in the history of the kingdom was evidently fast approaching, when Jehovah, in infinite grace, by the mouth of His prophet, thus appealed to His people,-" Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." But the same people who disregarded the before-mentioned three-fold testimony of the prophets, also ignored Jehovah's appeal in grace, and for all that king Jotham set them a good example, these "did yet corruptly." 2 Chron. 27:22And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord. And the people did yet corruptly. (2 Chronicles 27:2).
We now come to the reign of Jotham's son, a king so notoriously wicked, that the Spirit of God has, on account of his evil deeds, distinguished his very name thus,-" This is that king Ahaz. This king made molten images for Baalim, he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnon, and burnt his children in the fire... He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree." For which things sake the wrath of God overtook Ahaz and Judah.
During the reign of certain of the impious predecessors of Ahaz, honorable mention has once and again been made of the names of certain priests, whose fidelity in the service of Jehovah brought them into prominence. One mournfully distinguishing feature in the reign of Ahaz is, that here we have also a wicked priest! One so depraved in character that he became the ready tool of his sacrilegious sovereign, and practically aided and assisted the latter in his daring profanation of the brazen altar. 2 Kings 16:10-1610And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. 11And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus. 12And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon. 13And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar. 14And he brought also the brazen altar, which was before the Lord, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of the altar. 15And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brazen altar shall be for me to inquire by. 16Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded. (2 Kings 16:10‑16).
Towards the house of David even the people of Judah were now greatly disaffected (Isa. 8:66Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son; (Isaiah 8:6)), for Ahaz, the ruling representative of that house, had already wearied men (Isa. 7:1313And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? (Isaiah 7:13)), when Isaiah foretold the birth of Immanuel! And this too, at a time when Ahaz himself abhorred " the land" so soon to be forsaken of both her kings (Isa. 7:1616For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. (Isaiah 7:16)).
Being deeply exercised in heart on account of a people smarting beneath richly-deserved chastisement, the prophet Hosea was moved by the Holy Spirit to address both to Ephraim and to Judah the earnest heart-stirring appeal" Come and let us return unto the Lord; for Ile bath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up." Because Ephraim (i. e. the ten tribes) refused to return, this prophet foretold that they should be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hos. 11:55He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. (Hosea 11:5). Would Judah (i.e. the two tribes) also refuse?
Instead of profiting under the chastening hand of Jehovah, Ahaz trespassed yet more against the Lord. He sacrificed unto the gods of the Syrians which smote him, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God (1 Kings 16:1717And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. (1 Kings 16:17)), and presumptuously shut up the doors of the Temple (1 Chron. 28:24.)
Deprived of the privilege of entering the temple, there to pour out their souls before God, had the godly remnant now no place of refuge? Oh, the tender mercies of our God! though the temple was now indeed shut up, the Lord of hosts provided for His " disciples " a sanctuary, even Himself (Isa. 8:13, 1413Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 8:13‑14))! Nor was this all, for in these, the dark days of the kingdom the prophet Isaiah further testified of the " great light " which should presently shine even in Galilee! yea, of that " child " whose name should be called " Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God," &c. Isa. 9
But concerning the nation at large, how grave was the testimony of the prophets! From the house of Jacob the Lord was now hiding His face, Isa. 8:1717And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:17). " They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them," Hos. 5:66They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them. (Hosea 5:6). From His holy temple the Lord God witnessed against Israel. Mic. 1:11The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. (Micah 1:1). For they turned not unto Him that smote them, nor sought the Lord of hosts. Isa. 9:1313For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 9:13).
For all this the Lord ceased not to hear and answer the prayers of godly individuals, who waited upon Him at a time when the nation at large had forsaken Him; this was shown in a very marked manner, throughout the reign of Hezekiah, who succeeded Ahaz. " Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord," &c. He delayed not to re-open the doors of the temple. He repaired these, revived the temple-service, and did his utmost to restore and to re-establish the worship of Jehovah, throughout his kingdom. He moreover sent letters to the remnant of the ten tribes, who had escaped out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and invited these to assemble with his own people to keep the passover at Jerusalem, 2 Chron. 30. Most gladly would we linger here awhile, but must hasten on.
Concerning Hezekiah we read, " The Lord was with him; " why then do 2 Kings 18 six; 2 Chron. xxxii'; Isa. 36; 37 furnish so many points of contrast, when these are compared with that which occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat, as recorded in 2 Chron. 20? There must have been some reason for such inflictions, or Jehovah would never have suffered Sennacherib, an overflowing scourge, to take all the fenced cities of Judah (2 Kings 18:1313Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. (2 Kings 18:13)), yea, to "reach even to the neck" (Isa. 8:7. 8); for he sent one of his servants to Jerusalem with a great army (Isa. 36:22And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field. (Isaiah 36:2)). Why was Hezekiah suffered to humble himself before his enemy, and to attempt to appease his wrath by giving him all the silver found in the house of the Lord, and even the gold cut off from its doors and pillars (2 Kings 18:14-1614And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house. 16At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:14‑16))? Again, why was it that the army of Judah was in no way associated with the destruction of the army of Sennacherib? I would ask one question more, Why, in a day of national humiliation and distress do we read simply of the prayer of two individuals, viz. Hezekiah and Isaiah? (2 Chron. 32:2020And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven. (2 Chronicles 32:20)).
For all that a king, eminent for piety, now sat upon the throne, and for all that that remarkable threefold testimony of the prophet, already referred to, was mercifully preserved by a gracious and merciful God, in this reign; and for all that the hand of God was in Judah to give them one heart to obey the king (2 Chron. 30:1212Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 30:12)); these latter drew near with their mouth, and with their lips honored God, but their hearts were far from Him, Isa. 29:13. Isa. 28:14,1614Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 28:14)
16Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)
, reveals a state of things only rendered the more awful, when we contemplate its existence in the face of that prophet's glorious and sublime prophecies of the coming of Immanuel! In vain did He by the mouth of the prophet, appeal to Israel, " Hearken unto me, my people." In vain did the prophet anxiously exclaim, " Awake! Awake!" to a people content to sleep on in carnal security (Isa. 29;10); who believed not the prophets' "report" concerning Him who would be "despised, and rejected of men."
A "disobedient and gainsaying people " could not expect "great things" at the hand of Jehovah, but Hezekiah covered himself with sackcloth, and went into that temple which had not yet been "cast out" of Jehovah's sight; and there he spread Sennacherib's letter before the Lord, and prayed and said, " O Lord God of Israel, which dwelleth between the cherubim... Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear; open Lord, thine eyes, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib," &c. The Lord was "very gracious" to Hezekiah, at the voice of his cry (Isa. 30:1919For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee. (Isaiah 30:19)): He heard, he answered, He delivered. But the answer came to Hezekiah by one sent from the prophet Isaiah, not immediately to the petitioner, as we noticed in our last paper was the case in 2 Chron. 20:14,1514Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation; 15And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. (2 Chronicles 20:14‑15).
(to be continued.)