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Song and Sacrifice

2 Chronicles 29:27-28 - Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. While the whole assembly worshipped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

Read 2 Chronicles 29-31.

King Hezekiah of Judah is no stranger to students of ancient history. His name and military activities are well documented in the Assyrian records of King Sennacherib. These inscriptions on clay prisms date from the 7th century BC, and support and corroborate the inspired record of King Hezekiah's activities as given in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. The rock-hewn water tunnel which Hezekiah constructed underneath the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30) is documented in the Siloam inscription which was inscribed on the wall of the tunnel itself. This underground passageway is well known to Holy Land visitors today and still carries water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. But Hezekiah's important spiritual activities are known to us only from the Bible. Hezekiah was one of the good kings of Judah and there are a number of spiritual principles that emerge from the biblical account of his life. Students of history may learn quite a bit about King Hezekiah from the secular records, but growing Christians can come to know and appreciate the divine lessons from Hezekiah's life that God has incorporated into the scriptural record.

King Hezekiah's father was wicked King Ahaz. This evil king had shut down the Temple (2 Chronicles 28:24) and even stooped to the idolatrous practice of burning his sons in pagan sacrifice (28:3). But when Hezekiah came to the throne, "he did right in the sight of the Lord" (29:2). The first thing that he did was to re-open the doors of the Temple (29:3), cleanse the Holy Place (29:5) and re-establish the public worship of the Lord (29:35). A great revival began and swept through Judah. This revival is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-31.

As you read through the record of Hezekiah's revival, think of revival today--in your own soul or in the life of your church or fellowship group. In this frame-work you will see some divine principles for revival begin to emerge from the text. For example, all of King Hezekiah's activities in repairing and cleansing the Temple in chapter 29 certainly have their spiritual counterparts today. Remember that Christians are now the temples of the Holy Spirit both as individuals (1 Corinthians 6:19) and collectively as the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we want revival, we must be prepared to remove unholy things from our temples. What unholy thoughts or habits need to be removed from the temple of your body and life for revival to begin? What practices or traditions need to be corrected in your fellowship in order for revival to sweep through your church? Many other principles for revival are scattered throughout these chapters. Principles such as obedience to the laws of God (30:16), renewed giving (31:4), and total commitment in service (31:21) are all significant and necessary ingredients for true revival.

Another important principle of revival or, for that matter, a principle for just plain Christian living, comes out of our text above. In these verses (29:27-28) we see that singing accompanied the burnt offering. Song and sacrifice went together. When the sacrifice began, the song to the Lord alsobegan (v27) and continued until the sacrifice was completed (v28). It was God's intention that the singing and the offering take place together. Let us call this the divine principle of "song and sacrifice". "Song" to the Lord is an expression of joy and thanksgiving. It's hard to sing praises with the mouth without joy in the heart. "Sacrifice" involves a solemn recognition of the seriousness of sin and the payment for sin. As the Old Testament believers viewed the burning flesh of the sacrifice they were solemnly reminded of the gravity of their sin and the cost of maintaining a relationship with God. Believers today who understand and practice the principle of sacrifice will invariably be sincere and solemn and serious about a holy walk before the Lord.

Both song and sacrifice should characterize every growing Christian. They go together--simultaneously. There should be an unmistakable joy as well as a sobering solemnity marking every believer. Unfortunately, some Christians go to one unbalanced extreme or the other and consequently distort the gospel--especially when they try to "correct" their fellow-believers! Christians who go around looking morbid and gloomy with no smile and no expression of joy really convey a distorted concept of Christianity. These Christians may be very earnest and understand the solemnity of the faith, but they need some more of the principle of song in their everyday living. After all, they have been saved and their sins are forgiven and they're on their way to heaven! On the other hand, Christians who constantly run around shouting, "Praise the Lord!" and "Hallelujah!" in any and all situations misrepresent the good news as well. These Christians may be very genuine and greatly appreciate the joy that only Christ can give, but they need to remember the truth of "sacrifice" as well as "song".

There must be that sober and solemn reflection and meditation (even with weeping) concerning the awful price of our redemption, as well as our obligations as "redeemed slaves". (See 1 Peter 1:17-19.) The principle of song and sacrifice means that both joy and solemnity are vital aspects of Christian living. They are not mutually exclusive; they should be kept in balance in every believer's life. They should be kept in balance in the worship of the church as well. Congregational worship that lacks the joy of celebration and comes off as a funeral service is worship without "song". But worship that is only a happy self-centered emotional experience, forgetting that the focus and theme of worship is the Lord (not us!) who created us and loved us and gave Himself for us, is irreverent worship without "sacrifice". Do you practice the divine principle of song and sacrifice in your individual and corporate worship? (See 1 Peter 2:4-10 and particularly note verses 5 and 9.)

Song and sacrifice as a divine principle is particularly emphasized in verse 25. Here we see that the combination of singing with the burnt offering was not an innovation of King Hezekiah. This order was brought about years before by King David according to a commandment from the Lord. We read about David's organization of the musicians in 1 Chronicles 25 as part of the plans for the Temple which was to be built by his son, King Solomon. 1 Chronicles 28:11-21 emphasizes that all these plans for the new Temple, both building and service, were given to David by direct revelation from the Lord. It is significant that God wanted singing in connection with the Temple worship, because singing had not been a part of the tabernacle worship during the wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan. Song with sacrifice was not commanded in the Law of Moses. To sing while animals were being slaughtered and burned upon the altar would be most unusual--especially when the somber implications of the sacrifices were realized. But God wanted singing in connection with the Temple worship. Why?

There may be a number of reasons why God waited until the Temple was built to "officially" bring in singing--reasons that we cannot fully comprehend now. Remember that God's thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). One possible reason is that singing could not characterize wilderness worship because God's people were being disciplined in the wilderness for their sins of discontent and unbelief. There they wandered for 40 years--apart from God's will, with no song. The Hebrews could no more sing the Lord's song in the wilderness than they could sing the Lord's song in captivity in Babylon years later. (See Psalms 137:4.) After the crossing of the Red Sea and the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, there is no singing to the Lord in the inspired record until Numbers 21:17, which is at the end of the 40 years of wilderness wandering. What a joyful relief it is to see the Israelites moving forward once again--in the will of God and ready to enter the Land of Promise.

It seems that God's intentions were to formally bring singing into the worship as soon as the land of blessing was fully conquered and occupied and the central sanctuary was established at Jerusalem--the city of God's sovereign choice (Deuteronomy 12:1-14 and Psalm 132:13-18). Complete conquering and occupation of the holy land did not take place under Joshua or the judges. It remained for King David to capture Jerusalem and bring the Ark of the Covenant up to God's chosen city (1 Chronicles 15). And then, at the direction of the Lord, David drew up the plans for the Temple and the worship to be connected with this final resting place of the Ark--the worship of sacrifice with song.

What is the lesson in all of this for the growing Christian? The worship of song and sacrifice is not possible in the "wilderness" but only in the "land of blessing". That is, the proper balance of joy and solemnity is never characteristic of a Christian who is wandering off the path of a close walk with the Lord. A Christian who is being disciplined by the Lord cannot really sing praises to God from the heart. And neither can a wilderness Christian be really serious and earnest in worship. In fact, if the wanderer attempts solemn reflection and worship without repentance, that worship is nothing but a kind of hypocritical front. Only the growing Christian can truly experience the worship of song and sacrifice.
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