Set Your Heart on Seeking God

By on September 23, 2018

Part 21 in Sermon Series: A Region Ripe for Revival

Scripture reading from II Chronicles 30:6-27

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  1. Donald McMahon
    September 24, 2018

    “Set Your Heart on Seeking God” (2 Chronicles 30:6–27)(9.23.18)
    LET US PRAY.
    INTRODUCTION:
    The country was in a sorry condition…in every way. It was sorely divided and a form of Civil War ebbed and flowed for decades. With their forces weakened from internal strife, rival neighbor nations attacked and plundered the people. Eventually, a major portion of the country was taken over by an evil empire. The national capital was in ruins.
    Everywhere you looked, idolatry was celebrated. The people stopped attending places of worship. The sacred spaces became defiled. The people forgot the ways of God. The leadership was completely corrupt and the anger of the LORD was raised against them. Even the religious leaders fell from their faith and practices. They surrendered to the ways of the culture around them.
    Does this sound familiar? Could much of it be applied today? If not literally, it certainly could be applied metaphorically. In some instances, we might not be as bad, but in others we are far worse. I am thinking about our nation aborting or sacrificing one million babies a year.
    King Ahaz ruled in the nation I described and he was an instrument of the devil who led his country to ruin: he promoted idolatry; children were sacrificed in fires while worshiping other Gods; and he turned the people away from Yahweh, the God of their fathers.
    This was the kingdom that Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, inherited. 2 Chronicles 29:2 (NIV84) describes Hezekiah like this: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. Of course, David was one of his great great great grandfathers. So, with a heart like David’s, King Hezekiah knew something had to be done. Something big. Something drastic. Something fast. No doubt, it was a region ripe for revival.
    How could the nation be restored? How could the people be restored? How could God’s fierce anger be satisfied? They must return to God as soon as possible. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. We are having our front doors of the sanctuary repaired tomorrow!
    Then King Hezekiah called in the priests and the Levites into a square by the temple. He commanded that they consecrate themselves and begin consecrating the temple. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. As the king ordered, so it was done.
    The temple was purified and King Hezekiah brought all of Jerusalem’s officials into the Temple for a time of sacrifice. There was worship with music, singing and instruments, to praise the LORD God. All present, knelt and prayed. The Psalms were lifted up in song.
    2 Chronicles 29:35–36 (NIV84)
    35 There were burnt offerings in abundance, together with the fat of the fellowship offerings and the drink offerings that accompanied the burnt offerings.
    So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished. 36 Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly.
    Now that the political and religious leadership had repented and returned to the Lord. It was time to bring restoration to the people. It was time to celebrate the Passover. Hezekiah decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel. Now, let us turn to today’s scripture.
    {give scripture pages as Shirley plays Revive Us Again}
    2 Chronicles 30:6–27 (NIV84)
    6 At the king’s command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read:
    “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their fathers, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the Lord. Come to the sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
    10 The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but the people scorned and ridiculed them. 11 Nevertheless, some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. 12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.
    13 A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. 14 They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.
    15 They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord. 16 Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood handed to them by the Levites. 17 Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate their lambs to the Lord. 18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
    21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests sang to the Lord every day, accompanied by the Lord’s instruments of praise.
    22 Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites, who showed good understanding of the service of the Lord. For the seven days they ate their assigned portion and offered fellowship offerings and praised the Lord, the God of their fathers.
    23 The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. 24 Hezekiah king of Judah provided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep and goats for the assembly, and the officials provided them with a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep and goats. A great number of priests consecrated themselves. 25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled from Israel, including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    BODY:
    I know that I am supposed to preach this scripture today. How do I know? Well, I have been learning to hear God speaking through circumstances; through other believers; and, through the scriptures. Last week, I was late starting service. In the previous two weeks, the Facebook Live Feed video was rotated 90 degrees, making it difficult for people to watch. Before service started last week, I noticed that my phone was not on the Emmaus Network and thought that might be related to my problem.
    The previous week, I had changed my cell phone carrier and all my passwords must have been deleted. So, I went into my office to check my logbook for the Emmaus network password. I couldn’t find it and was late getting back into the sanctuary.
    Sunday evening, I emailed Shirley to see if she knew the password. She replied back, “I believe the password to the network and life is Matthew6:33.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV84) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. I think that is a great reply – seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and we will have access to the blessing of God. Yes, set your heart on seeking God – the Lord.
    To truly appreciate what is going on in Hezekiah’s restoration of Temple worship for Israel, we must understand the significance of Passover. We must understand Passover historically and in relationship to our Lord Jesus.
    When Moses was trying to free the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt under the Pharaoh, God sent a series of plagues. The heart of Pharaoh was hardened and it was not until the 10th plague that he finally relented. Yahweh went throughout Egypt and the first born, human and animal, in every household was struck down dead. Except…except those households where the doors were marked with the blood of the sacrificed Passover Lambs.
    The people of Israel were told by Moses, who was told by Yahweh, to mark their doors, the sides and the tops. Those covered by the sacrificial blood were protected as wailing was heard throughout that night in Egypt. Pharaoh was finally convinced to let God’s people go. They were freed from slavery and death. And, God commanded a yearly Passover celebration so that God’s people would remember the goodness of the LORD.
    Paul specifically calls Christ our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed. This echoes John the Baptist in the Gospel of John 1:29 (NIV84) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” And Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin; but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life. Romans 6:22 (NIV84) But now that “we” have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit we reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
    Yes, remember the goodness of God. We remember the birth of the Lamb of God. We remember Good Friday and the sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb. We remember that glorious Resurrection Sunday when the Son of God rose victoriously from the grave. We remember Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of God the Father. And, we remember Jesus’ promise that he will come again.
    When Hezekiah took over, the people had forgotten the ceremonial law about proper Temple worship. They had forgotten the necessity of purity. Many of the people had not consecrated themselves.
    A few weeks ago, we had a memorial service here. One of the guests started talking to me there at the doors of the sanctuary. She was somewhat excited as she told me she was interested in architecture. Then she asked me about the church history. As I started to explain that our sanctuary was built in 1869, she stopped me and asked, “Where is the sanctuary?” I tried not to change my expression as I explained that what we were looking at was the sanctuary.
    At one time, the Jews would make yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Temple. They were commanded by God to participate in the commemorative festivals and to make sacrifices. But after several generations, the Jews in the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell away from the things of faith. Notice that Hezekiah’s couriers were scorned and ridiculed by many people.
    In many parts of our country, religion, the practices of faith, and even God, are ridiculed and scorned. Sunday as the Sabbath is an anachronism. We have many in our congregation that have to choose between working and worship. We have other families where sports supersede gathering for worship. The culture has normalized lives that are centered on anything but seeking God.
    Hezekiah had to retrain the Levites in the ways of taking care of the Temple. He had to retrain the priests in their priestly duties. Because he was king, they obeyed his commands. It is hard to blame the people when Godly leadership is absent. Hezekiah’s father and the kings before him were hell bound heretics. The religious leaders were inept, unmotivated, or fell from God’s call on their lives.
    Surely, you can see the same things today. We have immorality and egotistical pastors in the Protestant Churches. We have child abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church. Fewer and fewer proclaim the Bible as God’s Holy Word and the church ebbs steadily towards the secular world.
    In May when I was in Massachusetts after my father’s death, I went to a United Methodist Church. The sanctuary was kind of dark and although it could probably seat 250-300 people there were only about 40 there on Mother’s Day. The pastor was in his 70’s and had just had surgery that week. The singing was weak. The preaching was monotone, rambling, and without passion or power. When it was time for the Pastoral Prayer they asked for praises and concerns from the congregation like we do here on Tuesday nights. But unlike our time of sharing, NO ONE lifted up a praise or a concern. That congregation needed to be on life-support.
    Let us proclaim with Hezekiah’s couriers, “People of God, return to the Lord, that He may return to you.” Last week, I proclaimed to you that if we want God to manifest his presence here, we must start our ascent of God’s holy hill. Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the Lord. Can’t you see that the Lord God punishes the unfaithful, makes them an object of horror? Don’t be stubborn.
    The last couple of times I have watched movies on cable it was very depressing. The so-called heroes in the stories were bad men. The bad guys were just that much worse. There weren’t any redeeming characters in the whole movie. They say that “art” just mirrors reality, which is a sad commentary on our culture. Our political arena is a cesspool. Where is our King Hezekiah today? And, the shooting in Aberdeen this week is a tragic reminder of how violence has become commonplace.
    Either the Lord God is punishing our nation or the Almighty has just washed his hands of us. The absence of heat is cold. The absence of light is darkness. In the absence of God there is evil. Hezekiah proclaimed, “If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion.” Yes, let us return to the Lord that he may return to us.
    There was a strong response to the king’s couriers. God was working and honoring Hezekiah’s faithful call on the people of God. Judah, those of the Southern Kingdom, had not been any better than their northern neighbors that had been conquered by the Assyrians. But here we are told that the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind, to follow their leaders, and to follow the word of the Lord. That is what it takes: human response to God and Godly blessing upon the people.
    A very large crowd assembled. God the Holy Spirt moved them to go throughout Jerusalem and tear down and destroy all the false places of idol worship. Where Yahweh takes up residence the false gods must fall. What spiritual strongholds as the Enemy created in your life? In your family? In your community? Return to the Lord and tear down every false god in your life.
    Hezekiah’s prayers were answered. He prayed for all those that came that were unclean. Normally, they would not have been allowed to participate. The prayer was for pardon. The people may have shown up, you may have shown up, and been unworthy of worship in the sanctuary. But the Lord Jesus advocates for us like Hezekiah advocated for the people. Lord God, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking you.
    The Lord heard and the Lord healed. Sin always wounds. There are no victimless crimes. The idea that we can do whatever we want as long as we aren’t hurting anyone else is a message from the Devil. The Prodigal Son learned, “Father I have sinned against you and I have sinned against God.”
    It was a Great Passover celebration, a great time of restoration that will never be forgotten. The Levites responded. The priests responded. The people responded. They didn’t want to stop worshiping. The whole assembly agreed to celebrate for another seven days. All were filled with joy, overflowing with joy.
    CONCLUSION:
    James 4:7-8 (NIV84) tells us:
    7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
    There is a terrible and foreboding message in Psalm 78:34 (NIV84) Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again.
    What have you set your heart on? Where is your head at? If you put ANYTHING before God it is sin. How bad will things have to get before we return to God? The death and destruction of 9/11 only temporarily nudged the consciousness of a nation fallen asleep. Will war have to be at our doorstep? Will an epidemic of disease have to strike? Will an apocalypse of zombies have to overrun us?
    Let us set our hearts on God. Let us seek first his kingdom and righteousness. Let us take seriously our responsibility to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
    This week, I was encouraged by my interactions with The Pilgrim Academy, a Christian School where my grandchildren attend. They have their highest enrollment that they have had in many years.
    I was encouraged by the Stockton Christian Fellowship. In their second meeting of the semester, which was their first publicized meeting, they had a great turnout. There were about 50 people there. The speaker this week was Alex Simpson who we helped sponsor a couple years ago to go for specialized training in Campus ministries.
    I was encouraged by some first-time guests here on Tuesday night. I was given an opportunity to share what the Lord is doing. I was encouraged by seeing how many of you are involved in the mission and ministries of the church. We fed people at dinner and with the Food Pantry. We are helping other churches. The Boy Scouts of Troop 77 started a God and Life class with six of their high school age boys. We had multiple church business meetings. There were over 15 people here early Saturday to help with the parking lot sale.
    We are doing the Lord’s work. Join me in praying with your whole heart that God the Holy Spirit will manifest in life transforming ways in this church, this community, and this region.
    I am going to give you a very specific prayer request so that we may focus with laser like preciseness. I want you to pray that the Lord Jesus grows this church, his church, to 150 people. I will explain more in the weeks to come about this specific number. Will you commit to pray for a 150 people in this body of Christ?
    Make it so Lord we pray.
    Amen and amen.

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