We pray: “Most merciful Father, with compassion You hear the cries of Your people in great distress. Be with all who now endure affliction and calamity, bless the work of those who bring rescue and relief, and enable us to aid and comfort those who are suffering that they may find renewed hope and purpose; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Amen.
Hear the full audio of A Matins Meditation for 11 September 2019
Today’s readings include:
2 Chronicles 29:1-24 (an excerpt below)
29:1 Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.
3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east 5 and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. 6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. 7 They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9 For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
12 Then the Levites arose, Mahath the son of Amasai, and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; and of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi, and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah, and Eden the son of Joah; 13 and of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel; and of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 and of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel. 15 They gathered their brothers and consecrated themselves and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord. 16 The priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it and carried it out to the brook Kidron. 17 They began to consecrate 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 for eight days they consecrated the house of the Lord, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. 18 Then they went in to Hezekiah the king and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the table for the showbread and all its utensils. 19 All the utensils that King Ahaz discarded in his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and consecrated, and behold, they are before the altar of the Lord.”
Almost unthinkable to me, that the temple should have fallen into such polluted disrepair. The doors are broken. The temple furnishings commanded by the Lord had been removed. In their place stood the paraphernalia of false gods, unholy images and idols, pagan trinkets and totems.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” Literally, the Commandment says in the Hebrew tongue, “You shall have no other gods before my face” –never even to be brought into My presence. Thus wrote the Lord with his own finger on the first tablets Moses brought down the mountain in days of old.
This was no permission to cheat on the Lord by running around with other gods behind His back–by some technicality “not in front of his face.” The Lord commands good faith and faithfulness of His people. He promises no lesser fidelity to them. God is faithful.
But as in the days of Moses interrupting and confronting the worshipers who frolicked before the golden calf, so centuries later in the days of King Hezekiah. God is faithful. But the people He loves often prove unfaithful.
Hezekiah finds the temple a filthy mess. Unkept and in disrepair, looted of the holy furnishings and polluted with all the popular false gods’ images and symbols. King Hezekiah refuses to stand idly by, refuses to be silent and do nothing, while the house of the Lord is desecrated and defiled.
“Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place.” (v.5)
Consecrate. Make it clean and sacred again. “Sanctify yourselves” and “Sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers” we read in the New King James. Set yourselves apart to serve God’s will and purpose.
When the Lord claims our very bodies as His temple, he never urged us on to better dieting or mere physical fitness. “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) He proclaims we are cleansed and granted spiritual fitness such that the Holy Spirit there happily dwells and works in you. For this reason, our bodies are consecrated to spiritual pursuits and spiritual service of our neighbors.
As the routine year begins, we rightly pause to consider the ungodly clutter of sin in our lives, the unholy images we take in and treasure more than Christ. What disciplines of devotion and sacrifice of love have we forsaken in pursuit of ungodly pleasure or purpose?!
To our Baptism we must return, living in its cleansing flood. There we find Christ as High Priest still cleansing us to be consecrated, sanctified temples. His sacrifice is offered on the cross, applied now to our own bodies and lives “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” By such daily baptismal contrition and repentance, we find ourselves consecrated, our bodies consecrated, to serve God’s holy pleasure and pure purpose.
I remember the common responsory we sing in Matins or speak in our Service of Prayer and Preaching:
O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells .
With delight I sing, in the quiet moments spent praying in the sanctuary, along with those moments wherein God’s people are joining their voices to mine as one in the same songs. Still today, I must contemplate the thought that Christ Jesus, the Anointed King and our High Priest cleanses and consecrates my body to be His temple, a place for His Spirit to dwell. He does no less for you. Amen.