Revivals Under The
Good Kings Of Judah 9
The House of God
In each of the revivals during the reigns of the five great and good kings of Judah the House of God was the prominent centre. When it had been defiled, purification was necessary; when plundered, renovation was undertaken and funds collected for that purpose; when abandoned, it had to be restored to its place of preeminence; and when it was later destroyed, its reconstruction was the first duty of the returned exiles. Revival must begin at the House of God. The hearts of God’s people must be right, and the Church of God revived before the apathy of men of the world can be broken down.
It is necessary to distinguish carefully between the House of God in the age of the law and the House of God in this day of grace. In the Old Testament God’s temple was a material building: under the New Covenant it is “a spiritual house.” The materials for the temple in Jerusalem were quarried stones: God’s spiritual house is being built now of living stones. The temple in Jerusalem was a witness to the Old Covenant: God’s House now is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The temple built by Solomon was magnificent in its outward appearance, but the glory of the House of God in this dispensation is its inner holiness.
Ezra, in his confessional prayer (Ezra 9) cried, “Now for a little space grace has been showed from the Lord our God…that our God may lighten our eyes and give us a little reviving in our bondage.”
“For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage but hath extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the House of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof” (Ezra 9:8,9). In their activities the returned exiles had followed the divine order, first setting up an altar to approach God in His appointed way on the ground of sacrifice, and next building God’s House so that He might again dwell among them.
The “little reviving” for which Ezra was so grateful was the “setting up of the House of God” which involved three sets of concurrent activities. In any material building in modern times, when a house is “set up,” these activities succeed one another in orderly sequence. The first of these was the building of the House of God.
The Building of the House of God
Reconstruction was commenced by two men, Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua (or Joshua) the high priest, types of our Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Sovereign and as High Priest over the House of God. The messages of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:2), encouraged the people to proceed with the building of the House. Their ministry has had its part in God’s spiritual House in the laying of the foundations by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” The building of the House of God is a solemn and important work, and yet it is an unspeakable privilege to be among the builders. But, “let each take heed how he buildeth thereon” (1 Corinthians 3:10). The coming day, and the test of fire, will reveal how each has built, and quality, not quantity, will count then. Meantime the building goes on apace, and our Lord’s return will announce its completion.
“View the vast building, see it rise,
The work how great, the plan how wise!
O wondrous fabric! Power unknown,
That rests it on the Living Stone.”
The Beautifying of the House of God
The beautifying of the House of God also forms part of every true revival. Ezra in his day thanked the Lord God of his fathers for inclining the heart of the king “to beautify the House of the Lord in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:27). The people played an important part in beautifying the material temple built by the returned exiles. The prophet Isaiah (chapter 60:13) foretells the glory of the future temple when the chosen people will bring to the House timber from Lebanon “to beautify the place of His sanctuary;” and the Lord Himself adds, “I will make the place of my feet glorious.”
Ezra, chosen in his day to beautify the Lord’s House, was a priest with a pedigree, a preparation and a purpose (Ezra 7:10). For His spiritual House God has. His spiritual priests, saints of heavenly birth who have a prominent part in beautifying the House of God, not with personal embellishments of outward feature, figure and fashion, but with the adornment of good works and godliness of character (1 Timothy 2:9, 10). Christian bondslaves, reckoned in apostolic days lower in the social scale than the more privileged freeborn, might add the loveliness of fidelity and thus “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). Thus brothers and sisters, servants and masters, young and old, can by their lives and service add to the beauty of the House of God.
Another important item in the beautifying of the House of God in Ezra’s day was the liberality of the people and priests. Their offerings and sacrifices were dedicated to Jehovah and placed upon His altar. The spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5) and freewill offerings of God’s people today add beauty to His House.
The material temple in Jerusalem also derived some of its lustre from the sacred vessels of gold, silver and shining copper dedicated to its service (Ezra 1:10). These vessels, carefully and precisely weighed at the beginning of their journey, were weighed again and their weight verified within the precincts of the temple. To the brilliancy and splendour of the metals were added the lovely traits of exactness and watchful care. All the vessels that are purified and dedicated to the service of the Master, the Head of the Church, are “vessels unto honour” beautifying His House (2 Timothy 2: 20,21).
The Business of the House of God
The setting up of a house is not completed until some orderly daily arrangement for its smooth running has been made. To our God it must be very pleasing when beauty and business go hand in hand, for He says, “Let all things be done decently and in order,” and He is not the author of confusion. In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah four sections of the community were largely responsible for the business of God’s House.
The overseers, mentioned several times in the eleventh chapter of Nehemiah, were Levites whose special care was “the outward business of the House of God.” The Greek word in the LXX translation of the Hebrew Old Testament is that from which the English word “bishop” is derived, and means “supervisor.” Paul uses it in his address to the elders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28, and in his letters to Timothy and Titus. Revival depends on the efficiency and faithfulness of the overseeing elders in the business of God’s House.
Singers, also chosen from among the Levites, were over the business of the House of God (Nehemiah 11:18, 23). Their work was to lead God’s people in their anthems of praise to the Lord. This is a service open to a limited number of the saints, and for it consecrated men endowed with musical talent are needed. In the early church psalms, hymns and spiritual songs were sung, and were the audible evidences of the Spirit’s fulness. The lack of recognition of musical gifts in the assemblies of God’s people sometimes produces discordant notes instead of melodious praise. Nowhere in Scripture is the accompaniment of musical instruments condemned, as is evident from their mention during the revivals recorded in the Old Testament when the song of the Lord was sung to the glory of God.
Treasurers, faithful, honest and reliable men who could be entrusted with the Lord’s money, were also among those who assisted in the business of God’s House (Nehemiah 12: 44; 13:13). In the early church the need for trustworthy stewards was quickly recognized, and men of irreproachable character, endowed with heavenly wisdom and filled with the Spirit, were chosen for this service (see Acts 6).
Doorkeepers are also mentioned in connection with the service of God’s House. (At the time of the translation of the Bible and the publication of that version known as “the King James Version” or “the Authorized Version” the word “porter” did not mean one who carried baggage, but one who attended at the door.) It is still true that the tactful doorkeeper at the place where God’s people meet, is an invaluable helper in the outward business of the local assembly. Some of us remember with great respect doorkeepers at the meetings of the local church who by their kindly welcome and gracious tactfulness furthered the work of the Lord and earned the gratitude of the Lord’s people. Psalm 84 is a Psalm of the sons of Korah, who were graciously spared when their father was punished for his rebellion (Numbers 26:11). Korah himself had coveted a higher position in Israel and desired the priesthood, and for this he perished. His descendants, possibly remembering this, were satisfied to be doorkeepers, and in Psalm 84:10 they exclaim, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”