Essay 2- Order in the House
“Good order is the foundation of all good things.”
–Edmund Burke (1729-1797), English statesman
If vision is the first piece in a revival pattern, order comes in at a close second. Remember, in our working definition of vision, we said, “It can harness, cover, and perpetuate that which otherwise might be unrestrained (without purpose), exposed (in the sense of being made vulnerable to harm), or destroyed.” Revival is dependent on order, not in a restraining way but in a directing way. Each piece is in its proper place, each actor in their proper role, and each member functioning as they should. Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Prophets, as we have already discussed, seek order in the Church. As the new prophet/king, Hezekiah recognized not only the disorder in the physical Temple but also in the religious leadership in Judah. New Zealander Ron McKenzie says:
The Church needs prophets who can give this clear call to battle. At present it is losing the battle because it has no clear goal. We are surrounded by a great babble of voices all claiming to have the truth and many Christians are tossed around by every new wave that comes along. A clear prophetic word is needed to prepare the Church for victory.[i]
Hezekiah proclaimed a clear message with an unmistakable sound to bring order to a kingdom unharnessed and in disarray:
He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the public square on the east. Then he said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out of the holy place. “For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and they have abandoned Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. “They have also shut the doors of the porch and extinguished the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. “Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. “For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this.
(2 Chronicles 29:4-9 NASB)
We see that Hezekiah, a type of the prophet, first provided a prophetic object lesson and then called leadership in God’s house to accountability and service. He calls religious leadership to clean up their lives and then cleanse the house. Revivalist and apostolic minister Ryan Johnson said the following about the messy side of cleaning up in describing a prophetic dream he had:
I believe God is going to use men and women to come into congregations with a message, an anointing, a specific purpose and a direct assignment. When these men and women release the word that God has birthed within them, we will see an increase of the demonic on levels we haven’t yet dealt with. The cockroaches are a type and shadow of a demonic spirit. It will be the anointing that is within these men and women that will begin to draw out the cockroaches (demonic activity) that has been happening in the darkness of congregations. There will be quick manifestations, but soon afterward, there will be an increase of the demonic activity. When the time arrives for the men and women of God to properly deal with these demons (cockroaches), it will become very nasty. People will get upset, and there will be a mess to clean up. However, if there is anything that has been going on in the darkness, whether it be a pastor, deacon, elder, member, visitor—it will be revealed. There is a housecleaning coming to the Church.[ii]
Despite the messy cleanup he knew was ahead, Hezekiah put forth a call to gather the priests and Levites, the religious leaders, as a starting point for revival. Under his father’s rule, the priests and Levites had been scattered, replaced by the keepers of the high places Ahaz had erected in every corner of Jerusalem. Many had found new, secular lives in Jerusalem. They knew who they were by lineage and calling but could not function in that capacity. We can imagine a sense of complacency settling over them and perhaps a complete turning away from the faith by some, following the way of others in the general population.
Hezekiah did not shy away from calling his own into order and accountability. His approach to his leaders was clear and direct, much like a father would instruct his sons. Apostle Jonas Clark has this to say, in part, on spiritual fatherhood:
Spiritual fathers provide a safe environment to grow. Fathers train and prepare their sons and daughters for the transition from adolescence to adulthood. They get you to think. Everyone gets older, but not everyone matures. Maturity is vital in your life, and spiritual fathers will put a demand on you to grow. Spiritual fathers inject a spirit of excellence in their sons and daughters. Demand is good for you and helps you face personal challenges that buffet success and achievement. As you submit to their instruction you will enter new levels of triumph. Expect them to motivate you to set goals and achieve objectives (2 Timothy 1:6-7).[iii]
The apostle Paul, who was a spiritual father to many, said to the Thessalonians, “just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1Th 2:11-12). Hezekiah put an expectation of growth upon his religious leaders. Still, he did so by encouraging them to do what God had called them to do. He motivated them to set goals and achieve objectives, both personally and for the Temple’s cleanup.
Outlining that chastening, correction, and instruction are hallmarks of a good father and that rejection of such fatherly love carries consequences, the writer to the Hebrews gives insight into the heart of God as a father:
and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE PUNISHED BY HIM; FOR WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE PUNISHES EVERY SON WHOM HE ACCEPTS.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems not to be pleasant, but painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
(Hebrews 12:5-11 NASB)
Historically, another excellent example of a clear prophetic voice gathering people with a call to personal spiritual responsibility is the Prayer Revival of 1857 in New York City, started by Jeremy Lanphier. Dan Graves, writing for Christianity.com, shares the story:
In lower Manhattan, a Dutch Reformed church had been steadily losing members, largely because of population changes owing to immigration; they hired the layman Jeremy to reverse the trend with an active visitation program. Despite his visits, church members were listless. So he rented the hall on Fulton street and advertised prayer meetings. He himself enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord and thought others might, too. Conditions in the United States got worse; maybe that was a good thing. Sometimes trouble makes people turn to God. The Bank of Philadelphia failed. The third week of Jeremy’s program, his prayer meeting had forty participants and they asked for daily meetings.
On October 10, the stock market crashed. Suddenly people were flocking to the prayer meetings. Within six months 10,000 people were gathering daily for prayer in New York City alone.
Other cities experienced a renewed interest in prayer, too. In Chicago, the Metropolitan Theater was filled every day with 2,000 praying people. In Louisville, several thousand came to the Masonic Temple for prayer each morning. 2,000 assembled for daily prayer in Cleveland, and St. Louis churches were filled for months at a time. In many places tents were set up for prayer. The newly formed YMCA also played an important role in holding prayer meetings and spreading the revival throughout the country.[iv]
We see similarities between the conditions Hezekiah faced and Lanphier experienced. Notice in both cases a lack of zeal in the Church and society at large. A crisis is another common element of the two stories. But the most striking similarity is that both Hezekiah and Lanphier were men with a clear vision for reform. They communicated it clearly and called specific leaders (religious and business leaders, respectively) to set the vision in motion.
Hezekiah also rehearsed before them what devastation turning away from God brought upon them. There is a compelling story regarding verse 9, “For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this.” At one point, as part of God’s judgment against them, God allows Israel to route Judah in a great battle. Israel then carried off the children and wives as spoils of war to Samaria, their capital at the time. A prophet named Obed met the returning victors and their spoil at the gates of the city. He told them God was none too happy with them, either, and convinced them to return the captives to Judah or face their own consequences at God’s hand. Hezekiah was calling to mind that awful time in their history. We would do well to remember the devastation our collective turn from God has brought about in our country. Abortion, homosexual union, and God-denying ideologies have become the norm in our society.
Hezekiah’s call to the priests and Levites was not only to gather but to sanctify themselves. Certainly, sanctification is the capability of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Still, it takes our cooperation with Him to see the most benefit on this side of heaven. Our cooperation is not works-righteousness but rather obedience. Obedience to the prophetic call to gather and sanctify opens the door to blessing.
When my wife is doing spring house cleaning, everything not nailed to the floor gets cleaned. During this process, stuff fills up our small living room as things get sorted, cleaned, moved around, and then put back in order. During the process, it looks messy, but the result makes the house sparkling clean. In watching her in action, the Holy Spirit gave me a profile of the prophet’s ministry in the body of Christ. Prophets are church cleaners, but the cleaning doesn’t wait until Spring. The cleaning gets done when the house needs it! In Hezekiah’s mind, it was the time for cleaning, both in the hearts of the leadership and in the physical House of God.
Prophets make more than their fair share of people angry because of their boldness for holy living. They are no respecter of persons when they call for the people of God to walk pure and clean. They desire God’s people not just to seek God for His blessing but be a blessing back to the Lord. No one enjoys doing the hard work among the people of God, and prophets are no exception. However, they willingly speak and do as the Holy Spirit directs them to get the job done.
Prophets like things done decently and in order. They like the house of God clean and pure. They inspect areas of clutter, discerning motives, and the spiritual vision of people. They test the spiritual quality of the atmosphere among the people of God. Many times, they have open visions of the condition of individuals, churches, or nations. Today’s prophets have a calling like John the Baptist had; to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord among His people. John preached and taught repentance. He targeted church people to put away their religion and rend their hearts, not their garments, for the coming of the Lord.
True prophets are more concerned about God’s people repenting and getting clean than with people in the world. Prophets know that when God’s people sin, they sin against a more excellent light than those outside the family of God. In many cases, God’s judgments on His own people are more severe because of their call to be an example to the world, rather than being a stumbling block to it. Prophets hate and despise false teaching among the people of God and lifestyles of hypocrisy. Hezekiah hated these same traits in his father, Ahaz.
The call to gather and sanctify sometimes comes from God through the prophet’s voice, but it can also come directly from heaven itself. Scotch revivalist Duncan Campbell (1898-1972) asked:
How did they get the people at Pentecost? How did the early Church get the people? By publicity projects, by bills, by posters, by parades, by pictures? No! The people were arrested and drawn together and brought into a vital relationship with God, not by sounds from men, but by sounds from heaven. We are in need of more sounds from heaven today. It seems to me that heavenly sounds are dying out. I am sure you must have noticed that Pentecost was its own publicity.[v]
Hezekiah’s call to the priesthood and leaders to gather and clean up their lives and the Temple of God preceded a call to specific work to accomplish the vision. This call to action was a call to faith, a tangible expression of them hearing and seeing the vision he set before them and their willingness to carry it out.
Hezekiah next laid out both the corporate and personal benefits that awaited them. A true leader motivates not only by presenting a plan but by sharing his heart. A true leader draws out other’s worth and looks for ways to see that value manifested in their lives.
The following verses show the magnitude of Hezekiah’s heart and his fatherly approach to restoring effectiveness:
Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, so that His burning anger 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 to be His ministers and burn incense.” Then the Levites arose: Mahath the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, from the sons of the Kohathites; and from the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and from the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah; and from the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; and from the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; and from the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and from the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. They assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves, and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD, according to the commandment of the king by the words of the LORD.
(2 Chronicles 29:10-15 NASB)
Hezekiah makes his intentions known and calls the leadership to clean up their hearts, rid themselves of complacency and sin, and prepare for their sacred service. I think it is telling here that they went and found their kinsmen that did not appear at Hezekiah’s first bidding. Here again, perhaps some were reluctant, some in rebellion, and some lived in the provinces. But those who initially responded tried to seek out the other sons of Levi and sons of Aaron. Some of the best encouragement comes from our peers.
We see what happens when vision is caught. Hezekiah owned the vision, clearly shared the vision, and decisively called others to partnership and action. The result of leadership obeying the call brought quick multiplication of the vision as it reached the masses. As Hezekiah shared with his leadership, now the leadership communicated with others. And then they got to work:
So the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and they brought every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD out to the courtyard of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received it to carry out to the Kidron Valley. Now they began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they entered the porch of the LORD. Then they consecrated the house of the LORD in eight days, and finished on the sixteenth day of the first month. (2 Chronicles 29:16-17 NASB)
Notice that they worked in harmony with one another and did so in an orderly manner. The apostle Paul would have been proud of them! The priests cleaned the area it was lawful for them to enter while the Levites the outside court areas. They now reported to the King:
Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the showbread with all of its utensils. “Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness, we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 29:18-19 NASB)
When a prophetic word or vision comes to us, there are areas of housekeeping we must do in our lives before we can move into the fullness of what God has spoken. God is a God of order. Be careful what you let into your environment. Be a gatekeeper in your own life. Be a prophet over your household. Shut out what needs to be shut out and open up to what you need to be open to. Be careful what you hear as well as what you see. Be careful.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The King James Version renders careful as “circumspect.” It means to carefully survey the whole situation and consider the consequences a misstep would bring.
There was an evident pride of accomplishment in what the leaders had done. A healthy pride in a job well done can be an incredible motivator, spurring us on to other tasks. Nevertheless, as the priests and Levites cleaned, they were also confronted with and reminded of the filth of sin. The spiritual atmosphere needed cleansing, too, not only the dirt, dust, cobwebs, and rubble that would have naturally accumulated. And I believe that in putting the house of God in order, they accomplished more than they realized. Their work in the natural to cleanse God’s house was reflective of what they had done to sanctify themselves.
In an article for Truth magazine, Bobby Witherington speaks of order in the house of God. His example is Paul leaving Titus in Crete, but the principle is the same in our study of Hezekiah:
In view of the close personal ties that existed between Paul and Titus (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:6; 8:23), one might wonder why Paul would leave him behind when he (Paul) left Crete. However, from our text (Tit. 1:5) we learn why Titus was left in Crete — it being to “set in order the things” that were “lacking.” Apparently certain important items were not “in order.” The expression “set in order” is translated from the Greek epidiothoo which, according to Robertson’s Word Pictures In The New Testament(4:598), was a compound word, meaning “to set straight (orthoo) thoroughly (dia) in addition (epi), a clean job of it.” Worded a bit differently, it meant to do a thorough and clean job of setting things straight. According to Weust (Word Studies In The Greek New Testament, Vol. 3), this expression was “used by medical writers of setting a broken limb or straightening crooked ones.” From each of these definitions it is apparent that the command to “set in order the things that are lacking” implies that some items were crooked, or in a state of disorder, and were in need of being straightened out. God obviously wants order in the Church!
The opposite of “order” is disorder. The very charge to “set in order the things that are lacking” implies that a failure to so act will leave the Church in a state of disorder. The implied “disorder” may (or may not) be evident to men, but rest assured it will be obvious to God![vi]
[i] Mckenzie, Ron. Prophetic Ministry. Kingwatch Books; 1st edition (October 3, 2012)