SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- For a long time, people had ignored the one true living God and worshipped idols (statues carved of stone or wood). They had put their hope in lifeless idols who could not do for them what they wanted. Here (verse 1), we see the people trying to put an end to idol worship by physically destroying the idols and the alters where people worshipped false gods.
- Now that the temple was re-opened (which happened in chapter 30), it would need to again be staffed by priests and Levites, who would lead the people in worship and take care of the administration of the temple (verse 3). The priests and Levites were to give their full-time attention to their duties and so had no other way to make a living. So Hezekiah reinstitutes the practice of tithing. God had repeatedly commanded His people to give the first 10% of their income back to Him, through the temple, in large part to provide for the priests and Levites. The people faithfully respond by giving generously (verses 5-8).
- God blesses Hezekiah and the people for their faithfulness to Him (verse 21).
- You may think that "idol worship" isn't an issue for us today, since we don't bow down to statues. But idol worship is still an issue, because the heart of idol worship is our hearts. In fact, God says that the way we really set up idols to worship is not through carving a statue, but that people "set up idols in their hearts" (Ezekiel 14:3). An idol is anything we put in a higher place than God. It's what we put our trust and hope in, what we seek above everything else. So the idol you worship could be ... financial gain, or getting married, or sex, or success, or popularity, or your parent's approval, or having nice things (bigger house, newer car, great vacation, etc.).
- In the Old Testament God set up the practice of tithing - giving the first 10% of your income back to Him through your church's offerings. Part of the reasoning was to support the priests and Levites so they could focus all their work on leading the temple. In the New Testament, God tells people (who had always given 10%) that because Jesus came and died for them they should now give "generously" (see, for instance, 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9). Obviously, people who had always been instructed to give 10% would not have viewed anything less than 10% as being generous. God wants us to give at least 10% of what we bring in back to Him. Part of the purpose is to pay for the staff who lead the church, though the money goes to many other purposes (ministries, missions, benevolence, facilities, utilities, etc., etc.) as well.
- If you were found guilty of worshipping (giving your best attention to, putting your hope in) an idol (something other than God), what would the idol be? Can you see the similarity between what you're trusting in and a wood statue? For instance, just like a wood statue, the thing you are putting your hope in can not deliver what you hope it will. Only God can. So, how can you lower the priority of the other thing, and raise the priority of God in your life?
- Do you obey God in giving 10% (or more, if you want to give "generously") back to Him through your church? If not, why not? If the reason is that you're afraid to, does that show that financial security is an idol you worship (since you put it above obedience to God)? How could you grow your trust in God and start obeying Him with your finances?