The Former Glory of the Temple: Part 4

Thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities."
That Hezekiah was one of those " kings " who longed to "see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the Jiving," his song of thanksgiving, because the Lord had, in answer to his fervent prayer, prolonged his life fifteen years, shows most clearly (Isa. 38). But though he was restored to health, who had been sick to the death, we glean from 2 Chron. 32:24-3124In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the Lord: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign. 25But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. 26Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah. 27And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honor: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; 28Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. 29Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much. 30This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:24‑31), that those extra fifteen years of his reign were not altogether to Hezekiah's honor. For he "rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, for his heart was lifted up," &c.; and in an hour of trial, yielding to temptation, he vainly displayed all his treasures before those ambassadors whom the king of Babylon had sent unto him, "to inquire of the wonder done in the land." (Comp. Matt. 7:66Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6).)
Isaiah now foretold that all of these objects of desire, together with the objects of his tenderest affections, should presently be carried away to Babylon (Isa. 39)
Hezekiah received these mournful tidings, and acknowledged this word of the Lord to be " good," for he " troubled himself for the pride of his heart." The inhabitants of Jerusalem also humbled themselves, so that these things came not upon them during the reign of Hezekiah. (2 Chron. 32:2626Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26).)
The nation was about to be put into the crucible; but before He did this, for this considerable interval, did the Lord " wait that he may be gracious unto his people " (Isa. 30:1818And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18).) Meanwhile some were commissioned to "comfort His people," by testifying to the cities of Judah, of the coming " Lord God."
We have already glanced at this portion of prophetic testimony; let us now examine it more closely. In these writings of Isaiah we have Jehovah's testimony concerning his " servant " (Isa. 42); and the Savior's personal testimony concerning Himself and the work He would finish (43-51:8,) followed by the prophet's inspired and earnest appeal to the nation to turn to the Lord, their Redeemer. He further spake of His beauty (52:7.), of the dignity of His person (v. 13), yea, of His rejection, humiliation, travail of soul, and death (53). Again in the following chapter, by a figure of speech he showed that one eternal bond of affection existed between the Redeemer and the nation of His choice (54:5); though Israel delivered Him up to be crucified.
But in Isa. 55 it is to individuals rather than to the nation that the prophet appeals. Why is this? Because the nation at large believed not the prophet, therefore promises (of personal salvation) are here made to " everyone that thirsteth "-not to Israelites only, for the repentant "son of the stranger" should also be made joyful, &c. (56:3-8). This word of the Lord did not return unto Him void; even in those days it accomplished that which He pleased and prospered in the thing whereto He sent it, as we shall presently see.
So long as Hezekiah lived, there doubtless existed a hindrance to the outward manifestation of the awful workings of evil (amongst some in authority at Jerusalem) which Isa. 28:14,1514Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. 15Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: (Isaiah 28:14‑15), exposes. But the time came that Hezekiah must die, and we wonder not that the Spirit of God, at about the time of his death, moved the prophet to lament, " The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men (or men of godliness) are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come." (Isa. 57).
" Woe unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning I " Manasseh ascended the throne at the age of twelve years, and " did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord." He built again the high places which his father had destroyed, reared up altars to Baal, made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven. Moreover he built idolatrous altars in the two courts of the temple, observed times, used enchantments, witchcraft, &c., and wickedly set up an idol in the house of God.
With such a monster of iniquity upon the throne there was no longer any magisterial restraint upon wicked men. Nevertheless by His prophets " the Lord spake unto Manasseh and to his people; but they would not hearken, though Isaiah, (being divinely commissioned to " Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression," &c.) shrank not from exposing their hypocrisy and from denouncing the evil deeds of a people whose hands were defiled with blood, whose feet ran to evil, and who made haste to shed innocent blood (59:1-7).
Let us now pause for a moment, to listen to a very remarkable lamentation, part of which we here quote:-" We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness...we roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves; we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us." This cry is raised by a repentant remnant of Israel-the fruit of faithful prophetic testimony. By examining the context we may also discover that they are a persecuted and a slaughtered remnant, hated, disowned, and cast out by their brethren of Israel. And all this at a time when prophets, who cannot be made to hold their peace day nor night (62:1-6), solemnly testify that the fierce wrath of Jehovah will speedily be outpoured upon an ungodly nation (Isa. 63:66And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth. (Isaiah 63:6)). But. those " wicked " individuals who have forsaken their " ways;" those " unrighteous men" who have forsaken their thoughts, and are now returning unto the Lord (who will have mercy upon and abundantly pardon them), those deeply exercised "humble" and " contrite " ones who tremble at Jehovah's word are meanwhile comforted by the mention of the " loving-kindnesses of the Lord," of the " mercies " of their Savior, and of His " love " and " pity " who is their Redeemer (63:7-9).
Doubtless these Scriptures especially treat of the time of " Jacob's trouble," viz., the period of the " great tribulation," during which they will be fulfilled to the very letter. But we are persuaded that there was a reason why this portion of the word of God was written at this critical period in the history of the kingdom.
Heb. 12:35-39 evidently refers to a most violent persecution of certain faithful ones who "received not the promise:" i.e. these suffered before Christ came in the flesh. Does any other portion furnish us with a clue as to when such a persecution raged? Who can doubt that Ezek. 34:2-62Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. (Ezekiel 34:2‑6), alludes to a general persecution that had already raged in Israel? And that 2 Kings 21:16;24. 3, 4, plainly mark the early part of Manasseh's reign as having been such a period. Indeed, we know of no other period in the entire history of Israel which furnishes so complete a picture of the yet future " great tribulation."
For here we find a wicked ruler, refusing all reproof, and compelling his subjects to sin with his idols (2 Kings 21:11Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzi-bah. (2 Kings 21:1)); a disobedient and gainsaying people adding iniquity to iniquity, and giving themselves over to commit most abominable wickedness (2 Kings 23:77And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. (2 Kings 23:7)). We also have a powerful and very fruitful prophetic testimony, which evil men are powerless to destroy, until these prophets have finished their testimony (2 Kings 21:10-1510And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying, 11Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: 12Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. 13And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. 14And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; 15Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day. (2 Kings 21:10‑15)); the fruit of which is seen in a repentant remnant, so very numerous that he who persecuted them to the death is said to have filled Jerusalem from one end to another with innocent blood (ver. 16). This may have been because these would not worship the abomination which stood where it ought not, i.e. within the temple. The picture is rendered only the more complete by the Assyrian, the rod of Jehovah's anger (Isa. 10:55O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (Isaiah 10:5)), coming upon the scene to chastise a guilty people (2 Chron. 33:1111Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11)). And if the faithful sons of Zadok (Ezek. 44:1515But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God: (Ezekiel 44:15)) could no longer enter into the sanctuary, because of the idol therein contained, it quite became these at such a time to " weep between the porch and the altar," and, on behalf of those tormented by the fear of merciless adversaries coming upon them from without, and slaughtered by equally blood-thirsty enemies within the city, to say, " Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them; wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?"
The faithful ones who escape the sword during the " great tribulation " shall be delivered at the moment of Christ's descent upon Olivet (Zech. 14:1-51Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:1‑5)); but those spared from he sword of Manasseh were relieved by the transportation of their chief persecutor to Babylon (2 Chron. 33:1111Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11)).
Manasseh was now a prisoner in fetters; and in his affliction " he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and He was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord, He was God." He took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built upon Moriah, and in Jerusalem: and, in some measure, restored the worship of Jehovah.
But though the Lord had abundantly pardoned the truly penitent Manasseh, the latter could not undo the mischief he had done; nor avert the calamities which retributive justice demanded should overtake a guilty nation, because both monarch and people (2 Chron. 34:2525Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched. (2 Chronicles 34:25)), had defiled His sanctuary, and shed innocent blood. These national transgressions the Lord would not pardon (2 Kings 24:33Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; (2 Kings 24:3)). Because of these His wrath was kindled against Jerusalem and Judah; but before that wrath was outpoured, a merciful and longsuffering God appealed yet again in grace to those who were no longer worthy to be called " His people "; as we shall see, (D.V.), in our next.
(to be continued.)