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Well, good morning to you all. It's good to be here with you, and good to see such a wonderful number out on a Bank Holiday Monday to hear the word of the Lord. It has been a privilege to be with you these days of convention. It has been a real blessing to my heart to fellowship with you all, and it's been good to know that the Lord has met with us as we have gathered around His word. We're expectant today, as has already been expressed in prayer and in the opening remarks, that the Lord will come and will meet with us in a very definite way.
I want you to turn in the scriptures with me to 2 Chronicles chapter 29. I have been taking a theme through the meetings that I've been preaching at, 'Solemn Assembly'. I'm not sure if you know what that is, I did say on Saturday night I think it was that it's not a depressing church! There are plenty of those around, that's why we need God to revive - but it's a different thing entirely. It's a very biblical concept, a part of biblical revivals: when God was just preparing His people to come and to move in their midst, He often did it by a solemn assembly. We're going to look at some of the common features, as we have been doing. We're looking this morning at 'The Solemn Assembly Under Hezekiah'. We've already looked at 'The Solemn Assembly Under Jehoshaphat', yesterday afternoon in the Family Service we looked at 'The Solemn Assembly Under Ezra', the priest - and now this morning we're looking at 'The Solemn Assembly Under King Hezekiah'.
Verse 1 of 2 Chronicles 29: "Hezekiah became king when he was twentyfive years old, and he reigned twentynine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, and said to them: 'Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and turned their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense'. Then these Levites arose: Mahath the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah; of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; of the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD. Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the LORD to the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron. Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. Then they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, 'We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offerings with all its articles, and the table of the showbread with all its articles. Moreover all the articles which King Ahaz in his reign had cast aside in his transgression we have prepared and sanctified; and there they are, before the altar of the LORD'".
Let us pray. I have invited you before I've preached each session thus far to pray for yourself. I want you to come to God now and open your heart, and say: 'Lord, please, would You speak to me?'. It's vital that we've come expecting to hear from God. We will not receive if we do not expect. God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him - He rewards faith. So why not come, if you haven't already prepared your heart, come now and say: 'Lord, I want You to speak to me'.
Let us pray: Almighty God, Holy Abba Father, we come to You in that name above every name, Lord Jesus Christ, the name that You have exalted far above all principalities and powers, and all things that exist. We acknowledge that name afresh in this place today. We say that Jesus is Lord, and we know that there is coming a day soon when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess - of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth - every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord to Your glory, Father. But Lord, we want to make Him Lord now of our lives, we want to make Him Lord of this place. We would long for Him to be Lord of our land. Lord, we just pray that You will come, and that You will be even pleased to make this gathering more than a mere meeting, that it might even become a solemn assembly of God's people seeking Your face and finding You as they search for You with all their hearts. Lord, help me, help us all. God help us, in Jesus' name, Amen.
I've been sharing with you some of the common factors that precede biblical revivals, particularly in the Old Testament. I've taken certain points that Richard Owen Roberts highlights, and using them, fitting them into each of the particular revivals and solemn assemblies that I have brought to you. The first factor that has been very common is that revival is preceded by a period of moral and spiritual decline among God's people. There is a tragic declension, something goes wrong among the congregation of God's people. We've seen that, and we will see it again today. Then secondly, there is the factor, very common, that because of the declension of the people of God there is a righteous judgement that comes from God's hand toward them. Without exception in Old Testament revivals, they have been preceded by some kind of judgement from God. We have said some of them are very drastic and final, and result in the death of some of the saints of the congregation - but more often God's judgement are gracious and remedial, and they result in a brokenness among the people of God, an unusual spirit of prayer and repentance, an extraordinary seeking of God's face.
First there is a tragic declension, then there is a righteous judgement from God, and thirdly there is often a raising up of an immensely burdened leader or leaders - some person that is willing to share the heart of God. We have noted Jehoshaphat on Saturday evening, yesterday afternoon we saw the priest, Ezra, and this morning we're going to look at Hezekiah the King. There are others, we will look at another this evening over in Trinity - burdened people who get that spirit that God has poured out upon them, of brokenness and a real need that there is among God's people. Then fourthly, very, very common, when this happens - after the tragic declension, after the judgement that God brings and allows upon His people, after the raising up of burdened souls - there is often an extraordinary action that is carried out that brings forth God's blessing, and the most common of these is the solemn assembly. Some of you, as I've been talking with you, have not known until now what a solemn assembly is. It is simply a gathering together of God's people: 'Gather My saints together unto Me' - but it's the Spirit of God doing it. He is drawing God's people from different backgrounds, different shades in the spectrum of profession, and He is burdening them with the same vision of brokenness and repentance, and a seeking of God in a very extraordinary way.
The tragic declension among God's people is very evident in this portion of Scripture. If you look at verse 3 of 2 Chronicles 29, we read: 'In the first year of his reign', Hezekiah's reign, 'in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them'. We know from verse 1 that Hezekiah is a relatively young man to be ascending to the throne, he's 25 years of age. The first thing he does is, he immediately reopens the doors of the Temple, the House of God. Now that implies that the doors of the Temple had been shut, the Temple had been closed down. We then read that he also repaired the doors - the implication is that the doors had become derelict by neglect. They weren't being used, people weren't going in and out of them.
Now it took great courage and zeal for this young man to behave in this way, opening the doors of the Temple, because his father, Ahaz, had defiled the Temple. It was he who had closed the doors and stopped Levitical ministry - you see that in chapter 28. So God's people now were His chosen, elect congregation, but they no longer believed that it's better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in tents of wickedness. It's perilous to think that God's people can get to such a place, isn't it? But they did.
Do you know that from 1980 until the year 2005 the United Kingdom population increased by 6.7%, yet in the same time period the total number of churches fell by 5.16%? To spell out what that means to you very simply: churches are closing in the United Kingdom almost at the same rate that the population is increasing. That is staggering - but that's only a figure that really relates to church buildings, church attendance is another story altogether! A report called 'Churchgoing in the United Kingdom' that was published by Tear Fund in April 2007 shows that only 15% of our population go to church at least once a month. The decline in church attendance forecasts a 55% fall from the level that it was in 1980 until what it will be in the year 2020. A European Social Study published in 2002 put the United Kingdom at the fourth lowest rate of church attendance in the whole of Europe. Do you remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the church at Philadelphia? 'See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it'. That is true, and it's still true today, and yet the fact remains that we as God's people, by tragic declension, can, ourselves, shut the door to God's blessing. We'll see the Laodicean church later, and the door is firmly shut, and Christ is outside knocking to get admittance.
Well, the first thing Hezekiah did after he opened the doors of the Temple was in relation to a solemn assembly. The first people he gathered to this great occasion, we find them in verse 4: 'Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square'. He first of all gathered together the spiritual leaders of the congregation of God's people. He started with the Levites, because the servants have to be clean if God is going to bless their work - as Isaiah said: 'Be clean, you that bear the vessels of the Lord'. Now this is a very interesting principle, and I believe it can be proven: a congregation seldom rises above the level of its leadership. Can I repeat that? A congregation seldom rises above the level of its leadership. That's not to say there can't be spiritual people in such a congregation, but they will be frustrated! The priests had to come together first - and if there's a message from God today, it's to the leaders of God's people in our land and wherever you're from: we need to be right with God if God is going to come and bless. The formula is very simple here: first of all the leaders had to get right, they had to be sanctified, and then the Temple, God's building, had to be sanctified.
Look at verse 5: 'Hezekiah said to them: 'Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place''. Here's the formula: sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of God. Those are my points, so let's deal with the first: first, sanctify yourselves. Here is a principle: whenever God is going to move, He prepares His people. I've been sharing my heart these days with you, I believe God is starting to move! I believe God is placing in the hearts, particularly of young people, a desire for reality, a desire to see God move. They are fed up with the sham, they are fed up with superficial, they are fed up with froth and bubble - they want truth, transparency, reality! They want God! Not all of them, but some of them. But you see, God has to prepare His people - as it was in Joshua's day, Joshua 3:5: 'Joshua said to the people, 'Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you''. There is a preparation work that God has to do before He does a new work, and He starts often with the leaders. Are you prepared for that today? Maybe you're a pastor here or a minister, an evangelist, a missionary - are you prepared for God to start with you? Maybe at conventions like this, when we have an appeal, or however we close up, we are looking at others to come forward - we should be the first to come forward, for God to do a work in our lives!
Now I believe one of the myths of Christian history is that revival comes through one man. I think those of us who have studied revival to an extent will know that there might be a personality who might be a public figure to rally the people, but it is the people, the people of God, who need to get to the point to seek God's face. There is a corporate seeking, a solemn assembly. Here in verses 12 through to 14 we have leaders who are named, men who set the example, they led the way for a new beginning for Temple ministry. I want to address servants of God in this place - and I know we all are - but those in full-time Christian ministry: will you lead the way? Are you hearing the call of God in your heart? Have you a vision for what God wants to do, something new? Are you ready for the new beginning in Temple ministry? We are the Temple now of the Holy Ghost, the church of the Living God, living stones - and always in these solemn assemblies, God calls His leaders to repent. Are we good at that?
I was reading recently about John Davidson of Prestonpans in Scotland. Many years ago he became burdened for the welfare of the church, and he give expression to his concern at the Synod of Fife in 1593, and the Assembly met in 1594. His presbytery of Haddington joined with him in petitioning the General Assembly of the Church to set aside time for a solemn assembly at the annual meeting of 1596. The Assembly was in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh in the month of March, and a very thorough catalogue of sins was prepared - that's right! A book of the sins of God's people that covered the misdeeds of every class and person from the King right down to the meanest subjects of the land - but listen: if you looked through that catalogue today, you would see that more space was given to the sins of ministers than the wickedness of other classes, all of them all lumped together. The solemn assembly occurred on Tuesday of the second week of the General Assembly, and some 400 men, mostly ministers, participated. Davidson preached on Ezekiel 13 and Ezekiel 34, and dealt with the lying prophets, and the shepherds who feed themselves and not their flocks. He then exhorted his brothers to enter into private meditation and confession, and it was then that the Holy Spirit of God came down, and the ancient cathedral church resounded with the sobs and cries of hundreds of ministers humbling themselves before God on the dirt floor. A public pledge of fresh surrender to God Almighty was called for, and all but one of those men - I wouldn't have liked to have been that man! - all but one waved their hand as evidence of a binding commitment that they would repent and seek God. There was a spirit of corporate repentance that was carried through the presbyterys, and eventually led to the revival of 1596. I believe that is what God is calling for us to do, and particularly the leaders among God's people - as Joel called: 'Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, 'Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'''.
Hezekiah presided over a solemn assembly where there was confession of sin. Look at verse 6: 'Our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and turned their backs on Him' - the sins of their fathers they were confessing. Now when the covenant keeping God of Israel met His people on the grounds of covenant, He revealed His character to them, and He revealed His attributes to them. We read it on several occasions that He revealed Himself to be the Lord, long-suffering and abundant and mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children to the third and the fourth generation. Now that is not an old covenant text that you can rubbish into some prior dispensation, it's a revelation of the character of God in patience and long-suffering - and yet there is a consequence for our sin, and that expression 'to the third and fourth generation' doesn't mean literally to the third and fourth generation, it means that there is an ongoing effect of sin from our fathers right down to us.
Now I know that this can be seen as a controversial subject, but I believe in it, and I've seen the fruit of it. I believe we see the fruit of it in our church, I believe there are personal applications in our own lives. I mean you can look at the facial expressions of a child, and say 'Oh, he has his father's nose', maybe that's not a good thing, or 'His father's ears', or 'His father's colour of hair' - and we have this genetically, and I believe it is the case spiritually. There are certain that are learned in our homes, learned in our churches, learned our land, but even passed down spiritually that can affect the next generations. We have this right throughout the word of God: Daniel, when he prayed, he confessed the sins of his fathers; Ezra, we saw yesterday, did the same; Nehemiah did the same. They actually went further, because in the congregation of Israel they weren't just confessing the sin of their father, and grandfather, and the rest, but they were confessing national sins - sins of their society and their community. They were pleading for God's forgiveness.
Now, I want to ask you: what are the sins that affect you, that maybe have been passed down in your family? Corporately I want to ask: what are the sins of our nation? How has the church of Jesus Christ, how has she played a part and contributed to the sins of our nation? I believe, historically and spiritually, we are at a very specific vantage point in our nation - and I'm talking about Ireland. I want you to consider just now, having exited many years of troubles and strife: where are we now in relation to confessing the sins of our fathers, and dealing with certain things that the church has played a part in? Now, when I was in school I learned British history, I didn't learn Irish history. I'm not an historian, but the more I learn of history the more I realise how little I actually know, and the more I realise how there is so much guilt on every part. There is a mass, a multitude of national sins that have been committed.
This year, 2012, is the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. I don't know if you know much about it, you should find out a good bit about it - you'll be hearing a lot in the media over the next months. That was a covenant that much of the Protestant clergy encouraged people to sign, which was a blood covenant. I'm not getting political here, I'm only interested in the spiritual. A blood covenant is a very serious thing. What has happened in our land, certainly over the last 40 or 50 years or more, there has been a politicising of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I believe is abhorrent in the eyes of the Living God! It is high time that the church confessed it and repented of it - whatever contribution we had to make in it. You say: 'Well, I didn't sign anything!'. Well, maybe you stand representing forefathers in your denomination, in your church, who did? There could be a spiritual bondage on us now because of it.
The entire nation of Judah had to face its sins and make matters right with the Lord. Johannes Facius writes in his book, 'The Powerhouse of God', listen: 'There is one major problem that stands in the way of healing the land, that is the unconfessed, historical sins of the nation. Unconfessed sin is the foothold of satanic forces, whether we speak of the individual or the nation. Unconfessed sin constitutes a basis for Satanic rule. We must therefore find a way of dealing with it if we are to see our people delivered from demonic strongholds'. In verse 7, Hezekiah says of the sins of his fathers: 'They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel'. The sins of their fathers had put out the lamp of witness, now that's highly significant. When we go to the seven letters to the churches at the beginning of the book of Revelation, we read to the church at Ephesus Jesus said: 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent'.
Do you know what I'm going to tell you? The reason we are in the state we are in this land is not the government's fault, whose is it then? Could it be the church's? Could it be? Certainly there must be a need for us to repent, because the light of our witness is going out. I know that Ulster is a spiritual utopia to many people who don't realise we are rapidly on the decline. We're going down on old steam, and we need God before the lamp is put out! I want you to understand that it is Jesus who is taking away the candlestick in Revelation, He is doing the disciplining because they're not abiding in covenant with Him.
Here in Hezekiah stay the incense altar was cold, and that signifies, surely, that no prayer was going up to God. There was no sacrifice, therefore, on the altar, and God is crying out to hearts here and now: 'I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may be able to prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect, will of God'. God is calling for all of us - one of the young men said that - it's not just for folk going to Bible College. I believe Brother Shearer was preaching on discipleship last night - that's what God wants: 100%, the whole man and woman, body, soul, and spirit; everything, all that we are, all that we have - and He deserves it! The blood of Calvary merits it! The slain Lamb is worthy of it!
First Hezekiah said 'Sanctify yourselves', and then the second call was 'Sanctify the house of God'. In verse 5 we read: 'Carry out the rubbish from the holy place' - what a statement! Rubbish had filled God's house. Now, what was it? Well, if you look at chapter 28 verse 24, we see what his father had done: 'Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and made for himself altars', pagan altars, 'in every corner of Jerusalem'. What was this rubbish that had been thrown into the house of God that had escalated? Could it have been the artefacts of worship? The Levitical priesthood and everything that Ahaz had abandoned, and he just broke it all up and threw it in a garbage pile! These were, if you like, the broken artefacts of a past devotion - rubbish in the house of God! We could liken them spiritually, perhaps, to the old wineskins that the Lord Jesus talked about in Judaism; the old wineskins, the form, the rule, and the rite of Judaism that was not able to hold the new wine of the new covenant.
These old artefacts were useless, they were broken, they were bursting like the wineskins. Can I say to you: we cannot worship a history broken by the passing of time. I say that to you in the Faith Mission - and I'm sure most of you know that anyway. I say it to everyone represented here. We glory in the heritage that we have in our land, and praise God for it, we do not take for granted - but we cannot worship a history broken by the passing of time. Hezekiah knew this, and he knew that it wasn't a case of taking superglue and putting all these things back together and doing things the way we did it before. It was a case of throwing all the rubbish out of God's Temple, and allowing God to do a new thing. In fact, in 2 Kings 18 verse 4 it mentions very specifically something that Hezekiah did, it mentioned how he destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had erected. You know in Numbers 21, when the people were being killed by a plague that God had sent for their sin, and they had to look to the bronze serpent to be saved. Well, what had happened in Judah was this had become a religious relic. They were starting to worship this, it had reached idol status - they even gave it a name: 'Nehushtan'. Hezekiah realised that this instrument that had been used in the hand of God for deliverance and salvation had to be discarded, because it had gotten in God's way of doing the new thing!
How easy it is for us to want to honour relish religious relics of the past that have no longer any power. It is high time in our land that we get rid of the rubbish out of God's house, the religious rubbish - and there's tons of it! It's high time we got rid of the political rubbish, got rid of it all! It's idolatry in the eyes of God, and I believe it's bringing a curse upon God's people! That's not all Hezekiah did either, he went to all those corners where his father had erected pagan, godless, sexual idols and altars, and he went to every one of them and he wrecked them, he destroyed them, he cleansed them, and he placed the Lord's altar where it belonged. On the first day of the first month, we read later down the chapter, they began to cleanse the Temple beginning in the Holy of Holies - that's interesting, in the very presence of God, where it was meant to be at least - then into the Holy Place they carried out all this accumulated rubbish, the remnants of idolatry. They took it down, it says, to the Kidron Valley - do you know where that is? That was Jerusalem's rubbish dump, that was the city incinerator, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched - and they burned it all! Then the leaders of God's house began to cleanse the vessels of the Temple and the instruments that were used in Temple service, and they put them back in their proper place. Do you know how long it took them? Sixteen days to complete the work, and they even missed Passover! Boy, that's something for a Jew, to miss Passover.
Passover was on the 14th day of the first month, however Hezekiah didn't hold it until the second month. Why? Because things had to be put right. There are some Christians I know, and they think it's the unpardonable sin to miss a meeting, they really do! But we're doing what Jesus said, many of us, we're going to the altar and we're not right with our brother, and there's things not right in our lives. As I read on Saturday evening from Isaiah chapter 1, that type of solemn assembly is abhorrent in the eyes of the Holy God of Heaven - He desires heart-righteousness. You know, when I talk about dumping the rubbish out of God's house, immediately some people, they go to certain modern trends that they don't like - the music, or the way young people dress - that's not what I'm talking about! I'm talking about the heart: God is interested in our hearts, the idolatry that is there that is competing for the rightful kingship of Messiah Jesus in our lives! Hezekiah was man enough to put things on hold, to suspend the programs till things were right.
Now please listen to what I'm going to say, because it's been a very heavy burden on my heart over these days: over the years individuals can gather rubbish in their lives. It can come from past generations, but a great deal of the time we invite it upon ourselves by the lifestyles that we live, the things that we do and the things that we leave undone. Churches, over their history, gather together a great deal of rubbish. Organisations, missionary and otherwise, can gradually accumulate a great deal of religious rubbish, while at the same time neglecting the essentials that really matter to God. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: 'You tithe mint and cummin an anise', and that you ought to do, 'but the weightier matters of the law you leave undone'. Even organisations, just like individuals, at times need cleansing. Maybe you're here, and you have identified with what I'm talking about, and you know there are things in your life that you need deliverance from. You need to be freed. Oh, you're a Christian, and you're born-again, and we think 'That solves everything, doesn't it?' - praise God it's the start, but it's only the threshold experience. Then God starts a cleaning up process, it's called sanctification, and it goes on until we get to heaven. Many of us stop at conversion, and we wonder why we're not getting through with God, and there's many things, rubbish, that has been built up and has never been dealt with, we've never brought to God. But what applies to the individual, we may not realise, often applies to organisations, it applies to denominations. Sometimes they need cleansing. For instance, if a structure of elders is not right before God, that oversight need cleansing, a presbytery, whatever you want to call it, a session. If a group of Christians has been affected by an ungodly authority, and they have come under that spiritual authority, or there has been underhanded or even immoral practices among God's leaders, that needs to be cleansed! We can't apply this to individuals and then say, 'Ach, well, that doesn't apply to groups' - it does apply to the groups! The wonderful news is: if we confess our sins, we can get rid of the rubbish! If we're honest with God, and if we're honest with ourselves, and if we desire to have a conscience void of offence toward God and others, and we walk in the light and we confess our sins, and we don't deceive ourselves, and we stay under the blood, we can know the blessing of God - but God wants reality! God requires us to deal with things like bitterness and unforgiveness. He says: 'If you do not forgive your brother his trespassers, I will not forgive you' - that's God's word! Now, you can jump around, and do exegetical somersaults all you like, but that's what it says.
We've got to deal with compromise. Then, when we confess our sins, and we light the lamps, and we burn the incense, and we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God - just like what happened in Hezekiah's day - He will see, He will hear, and He will send the blessing He longs to! But I have to tell you today, the alternative is terrifying, for there is judgement if we don't repent. Look at verse 8: 'Therefore the wrath of the LORD fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes' - what a statement! He gave His own people up to trouble. Now, I hope you agree with me that the church has become a laughing stock in the marketplace - that's not all her fault of course. The powers of darkness are rising, and there is an onslaught, as we saw on Saturday night, a multitude that is against us. We don't deny the world, the flesh, and the devil their strength - but we've got to ask ourselves: have we contributed, in any shape or form, so that the Lord has, in a sense, left us to this predicament that we find ourselves in in the decline spiritually in the Western world? I see a correspondence here with Romans chapter 1. Although this is God's people, we read in Romans chapter 1 about the Roman Empire three times: God gave them up, God gave them up, God gave them over! It wasn't a sign that judgement was coming, it was a sign that judgement was already upon them! This was a nation, and it is in the New Testament era, I know it's not referring to the church but it's referring to a Gentile people - God gave them up! Has God given the United Kingdom up? Has He? Our people are perishing!
Look at verse 9: 'Indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity'. Here was one of the signs of God's judgement: Judah was defeated in war, her sons were dying in war, her fathers were dying in war, their loved ones were in captivity. There's no doubt that we in the United Kingdom have been fighting a series of unwinnable wars, am I wrong? I'm going to tell you something that I believe, I'm not saying it has to be the case, but if the United Kingdom ever was to come under threat of an invasion as it did in World War II, I think she would be defeated. Our people are in captivity, they are in bondage, one of which is addiction. Do you know that deaths - listen to these statistics - from alcohol abuse are up 112% since 1991? Underage drinking is up 140% since 1991. Do you know that young Irish men spend four times more on alcohol than any of their European neighbours - that was in the Irish Independent. The Belfast Telegraph just last month recorded that children as young as 10 are more familiar with leading alcohol brands than those for popular snacks: 79% surveyed recognised the logo for Smirnoff vodka, but only 41% recognised that Mr Kipling cakes were food! The Irish are more addicted to antidepressants than anyone else in Europe, did you know that? Prescription drugs like Valium and Diazepam kill more people in Dublin each year than heroin and crack cocaine - the Irish Examiner.
Our people are in captivity to addiction, not to mention pornography and all sorts of other things that has a grip upon even God's people. There is so much immorality around. The BBC reported in June 2011, listen to this, that in 2010 Northern Irish men spent half a million a week on prostitutes. There are 88 brothels in Ulster, and that means that there is more demand - according to the population ratio - for prostitution in Ulster than anywhere else in Europe! That ought to shock you. BBC Northern Ireland did an investigation and discovered that hundreds of Ulster children, some as young as 13 are being lured into prostitution across the province, and family members are involved in grooming children for paedophile rings. Did you hear on the news last week that every twenty minutes in the United Kingdom a child is sexually abused? Such immorality. We are under pressure to change the definition of marriage. I preached in an evangelical church not that long ago and mentioned homosexuality from Romans 1, and a comment was made from the young people's fellowship: 'I didn't know that the Bible had anything to say about homosexuality'.
All these are signs, friends, that judgement is not coming - judgement is here, judgement is God withdrawing His gracious influence upon our nation! The way of the transgressor is hard, it applies to the corporate as well as the individual. God is not mocked, be not deceived! Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap! We have sown to the flesh, we're reaping a whirlwind! Where are the Hezekiahs? Where are the Ezras? Where are the Jehoshaphats? Do you know what 'Hezekiah' means? 'The Lord Strengthens'. His judgements are remedial, He wants us to see the need, He wants us to hear the broken hearts, He wants us to hear the unborn children that never see the light and are slain! He wants us to feel the beat of His heartbeat! He wants intercessors who will come under the burden and will intercede and break through with God! He doesn't want to withdraw His grace, but He's no choice!
Hezekiah was one of the few Kings who actually remove the high places and put an end to idol worship. Are you burdened for the sins of our people of the United Kingdom, of the island of Ireland, of Europe? Are you burdened with a passion for the glory of God? I ask this morning, this afternoon: who will be drastic enough? Who will be daring enough? Who will be radical enough to do something about it? I know some of you think: 'You're wasting your time' - but Hezekiah teaches us, and he's not the only solemn assembly, there are many more even into the New Testament I believe, shows us that it's not a waste of time! If we burn our bridges, count the cost, lose our reputation perhaps, and cry unto God - whatever it means - God will move! I don't need to remind you folk, you know more about the Faith Mission than I do: the Faith Mission in its origin was radical, I mean it was really radical. It was on the cutting-edge, so much so that it was a sign spoken against - every move of God is. That was your spiritual identity, I read a book recently and it encouraged people in the Lord's work to, when they feel that they are not getting guidance from God and they don't know which direction to turn, to go back to the origination of their call and the burden that God gave them at the beginning and renew it. That's your identity, Faith Mission, spiritual renewal - and the wonderful thing is: you're in a great position, because you're already interdenominational, you're already across the whole of the island of Ireland. You have known a series of revivals in your history - that, I think, perhaps, is unique. Most organisations that know revival, after the revival, well, they become a monument to something that happened way back in the past. But what I want to call you to, Trevor Matthews gave me this book yesterday - there's only four of them left, so you better rush if you want one! - he apologised for the cover, 'Spirit of Revival', I.R. Govan - it's your story, but do you know what needs to happen? There needs to be a new cover, not on the book, but on all our lives! We need to take the rubbish out of the house of God, and we need to let God do the new thing. We need to be radical again, whatever it costs - and the wonderful thing is this: things can change rapidly!
Look at verse 36: 'Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced that God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly'. Do you know what Alan Redpath says? Listen carefully to this: 'Half a dozen men on their knees for sixty minutes, waiting upon the Lord with the absolute conviction that they have no answer, that their human ideas and programs are ineffective and bankrupt - they will accomplish more than fifty men around a table discussing problems for a whole year'. We as the church ought to know this: 'And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting'.
Let us pray. Now we're not hurrying in the presence of God. God is speaking, thank God He is speaking. He's speaking to individuals about their sin, why they're not breaking through to God, about their need for freedom and deliverance. He's speaking to you, He's put his finger on specific areas of your life that only the Holy Spirit knows, perhaps, and you. He's speaking to you about a call, He's calling to you, He's perhaps planting this vision in your heart for renewal and revival in the church and in the land. He speaking to Faith Mission, He is speaking to the Faith Mission. He's speaking to some ministers and pastors, church leaders - you know what He's speaking to you about. Maybe He's speaking to you about a sectarian spirit? Who will respond to God this morning? Who will say: 'Lord, have Your way'? Who will, as an act of confession and faith, those downstairs come to the front, those upstairs rise to their feet, by way of taking the rubbish out of your Temple that is your body and dumping it in Kidron Valley? Kidron Valley is the picture of hell, and Jesus took our hell on Calvary - so what we're asking you is to come to the foot of the cross and leave it there, and claim the victory of the blood, claim the deliverance that you need by faith. There is no formula, there's no little ritual or routine, there's no wee prayer to pray - it's just you seeking God with all your heart, and with faith and repentance, and laying hold of His promise to meet you on those grounds. Who will come? Come to the front if you're downstairs, rise to your feet if you're in the balcony. Who will respond to God?
As people are coming, let me read a verse that we've already read: 'My sons and daughters, do not be negligent now', that's what Hezekiah said. Do not be negligent now, God is speaking now. Has God spoken to you here? Who will come? Are there any more before I pray with these dear folk? Some of you have come forward in other meetings, I'm not saying don't come again, you come again if you want to come again, it doesn't matter. We're dealing with God, some are seeking God over the whole weekend - who will come and lay down the rubbish?
I'm going to pray with these folk, I'm not going to lead you in prayer, you seek God yourself. You bring to the Lord now, where you are, the thing that He has spoken to you about, the issue, whatever it is. His voice has been heard in your spirit, you respond by faith and repentance, and He will meet you. Seek His face, just where you're at, and we'll all pray for you now: Abba Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray for these dear ones upstairs and downstairs at the front, and others who have not felt able to stand or come to the front, but You're doing a work in their heart. As they come to unite in the name of the Lord Jesus, Lord, I pray that You will give them the assurance that You have met with them, that Your Spirit will witness with their spirit; as they repent, Lord, that You will deliver them; as they cry out to You, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered, that You will deliver them from bondages, oppressions, spirits even that have hounded them, Lord - things that are upon their lives from past generations, things that they have dabbled in, break it in the name of the Lord Jesus, we pray. We pray that You will fill them with the Holy Spirit. O God, start that process of deep, deep cleansing; O God, move in, even in this place; O God, we need to get the rubbish out, and we need to let You come in all Your Shekinah glory. Lord, come and meet with souls, and start something Lord - we believe You already have, but we pray: accelerate it, intensify it, even throughout this day, for the glory of Jesus alone and for the benefit of His church and our perishing countrymen and women, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Faith Mission Easter Convention in Bangor, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'The Solemn Assembly' series, entitled "Under Hezekiah" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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