This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

II Chronicles: Josiah

Josiah "did right in the sight of the LORD . . . and did not turn aside" (II Chronicles 34:2). Who influenced him to walk that way? His very wicked father (mercifully) may have had little impact. Josiah's father was only sixteen when Josiah was born and died at age twenty-four when Josiah was only eight. Josiah's father was king for only the last two of those years; for the first six years of his life, Josiah would have seen his repentant grandfather rule. It seems likely that, even at his young age, Josiah saw the difference between the two men and was influenced toward righteousness by his grandfather.

Nevertheless, Josiah's spiritual journey was gradual. With his limited understanding, he apparently did right from the beginning of his reign, but as he grew in understanding over the years, he accordingly took progressive steps of obedience, developing a heart increasingly devoted to God. This progression can be seen by observing that it was eight years into his reign when "he began to seek the God of his father David" (34:3). Four years after that, "he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places . . .  and the molten images" (34:3). It was another six years before he repaired the house of God (34:8).

It seems uncertain that Josiah knew precisely what to do in following God, and no helpful godly advisors are mentioned. The steps Josiah took in his early years were good; he thoroughly destroyed the false gods (34:3-7). It is a bit of a wonder, however, that he didn't do anything with the temple until his eighteenth year as king. Only when he finally took this action was the book of the law discovered, and only then did Josiah really have clear guidance for how to proceed.

His amazing Passover celebration took place within the same year that the temple repairs started and the book of the law was found. When Josiah knew what God said, he acted quickly, but he could have followed God more thoroughly if he'd found God's written words sooner. Josiah's experience mimics that of so many Christians today. Too many Christians acknowledge that they want to follow God, but they have little idea of what that means practically because they do not read God's Word to see what He wants. In the absence of such knowledge, they do what Josiah did; they do what they think is right, probably even doing some good things, but they leave other very important things undone, simply because they haven't read the Bible to know what they ought to do. Their service to God is shallow because, frankly, they don't know what God wants, so they settle for their best guess of what a Christian should be like.

This lack of knowledge does not question the sincerity of modern-day believers any more than it did for Josiah. Josiah truly sought God, and he had a heart that was very tender to God, evidenced by his response to hearing the Word of God (34:27). Josiah was appalled at his and the people's sin in failing to obey God's instructions. He sincerely humbled himself before God and immediately sought God's prophet for spiritual guidance. These responses demonstrate what a truly seeking heart does when confronted with truth.

Josiah continued his progressive spiritual growth by responding to this new truth. In addition to humble repentance and purposeful inquiries of the prophet, Josiah shared God's truth with those around him (34:30). He then took an additional step of commitment when he "stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD to walk after the LORD . . . with all his heart and with all his soul" (34:31). Josiah continued what he had already been doing right (34:33) and showed such strong spiritual leadership that "throughout his lifetime [the people] did not turn from following the LORD God" (34:33).

As in the lives of so many kings before him, Josiah's life also reveals the balance between God's anger and His mercy. Josiah realized, and the prophet confirmed that Judah's ongoing disobedience would bring God's impending judgment. "Behold, I am bringing evil on this place . . . because they have forsaken Me . . . that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands" (34:24-25). Once again, however, God responded to humble repentance, delaying His judgment when He was entreated. "Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself . . . when you heard His words . . . behold, I will gather you to your fathers . . . so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring" (34:27-28).

While Josiah gradually grew closer to God, he did have one significant failure, which ended up costing him his life. King Neco of Egypt passed through the area with his army, and Josiah decided to fight him. Neco neither intended nor wanted to fight Josiah and warned Josiah not to come out against him. Josiah's insistence on fighting could have been just an error in judgment, but it became more serious when Neco informed Josiah that he was on a mission for God and that Josiah was actually hindering God's work by coming against him (35:21). While Josiah (perhaps understandably) did not trust that warning, verse 22 makes it clear that Neco was telling the truth. His caution really was intended as a warning from God, and Josiah did not heed it. In this sad conclusion to Josiah's life, he died in a battle that he should not have fought and also hindered God's work in the process.

In spite of this final failure, Josiah provides a wonderful example of life-long spiritual growth. As he learned new truth, he consistently embraced and followed that truth, rising to increasingly higher levels. His story also highlights the necessity of accurately knowing what God expects by actively seeking guidance and truth in the Bible.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

II Chronicles: Amon

The brief reign of Amon is recorded in a mere handful of verses. His story is explained by relating it to his father Manasseh's story. The two verses that describe his life contain three connections or comparisons to his father.

The first statement is a comparison, stating that Amon "did evil in the sight of the LORD as Manasseh his father had done" (II Chronicles 33:22). While Manasseh dramatically turned to God in his later years, the sad truth of his evil reputation lingered. Manasseh's early years had been incredibly wicked, and those were the years that Amon chose to emulate, even though he had probably not been alive to see any of them.

The second statement reveals a consequence: "Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them" (33:22). Manasseh had tried to do the right thing after he turned to God. He had removed idols and destroyed altars, but apparently his work was not thorough. Whether Amon found those idols in a warehouse or a rubbish heap or some other place, he chose them as his objects of worship. He undid the spiritual reform that his father had initiated, and he re-established the false gods that his father had rejected. Manasseh's days of evil had a lingering effect that the reformed Manasseh would never have wanted to see.

The third statement is also a comparison. Amon "did not humble himself before the LORD as his father Manasseh had done" (33:23). God always offers the possibility of repentance, as had been powerfully illustrated in the life of Manasseh. Amon likewise could have turned to God. He could have humbled himself, but he chose not to. Amon did not give even a moderated show of repentance. Instead, he "multiplied guilt" (33:23). His stubborn rebellion and his insistence on walking away from God brought an abnormal increase in the level of guilt. Amon had grown up under a father who must have exuded the excitement of a changed life and who had enjoyed the spiritual refreshing that accompanied a humble, repentant heart. Amon had been given a golden opportunity to choose righteousness; he rejected that advantage and chose the way of evil instead. The passage suggests that in light of his potential, his blatant rejection yielded guilt that extended beyond the ordinary.

Amon's wickedness is not described in detail, but then he was king for only two years, so there weren't a lot of details to share. What is clear is that even his servants recognized the danger of his evil ways and were unwilling to endure a prolonged wicked reign. Amon's reign was apparently so unpleasant and was viewed so negatively, that after a very short time people realized his reign was going to be miserable and disastrous if allowed to continue. "Finally his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his own house" (33:24). The word "finally" is telling. Amon's reign hadn't lasted very long at all, but apparently it seemed like it. By the time two long years had passed, these servants had endured as much as they were able to endure. They had put up with this king's wicked ways long enough, and they assassinated him at the cost of their own lives.

The brief life of Amon illustrates that parents do have an influence on their children, but that ultimately each child must make his own decisions. Manasseh's life offered two possible models for imitation: the evil lifestyle of Manasseh's early years and the repentant lifestyle of his later years. While Amon did imitate his father, he made the wrong choice. He chose to imitate the wrong segment of his father's life, and did not follow that up by also imitating the right segment. Like his father, Amon could have turned God's anger away, but by his choices, Amon increased that anger instead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Election Perspective

Even non-Christian Americans are troubled by the Presidential choices and are deeply dissatisfied with the two major candidates. There seem to be three options. First, vote for the lesser of two evils. Second, vote for a third-party candidate. Third, don't vote at all. Which is correct?

The answer will not be the same for everyone. However, some proponents of each option are so dogmatic that they seem to condemn anyone who does not share their position. As Americans, we have the right to voice our opinions, and even as Christians it is appropriate to share insights that can be helpful to others, but we must maintain a proper perspective. While Romans 14 treats the specific examples of diets and holidays, it teaches an underlying principle that easily applies to the election dilemma.

This dilemma comes down to a matter of conscience. One person's conscience tells him to follow option one of the opening paragraph, while another's conscience directs him to option two or three. This difference leads to contention, arguing, and rebukes. In the Biblical example, "One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him" (vs. 2-3). Also, "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God" (vs. 5-6).

If one person's conscience allows him to do something that another person cannot in good conscience do, the two are neither to regard each other with contempt nor to judge each other. (As a point of clarity, this principle refers to situations that the Bible does address either directly or by clear principle, and the election falls within that undefined realm.) Verses 5-6 provide an important perspective. Whichever decision one makes, it must be for the Lord. In other words, "voting my conscience" is not an excuse or a cop-out, neither is it something to be taken lightly. It is not based on political preference or on human logic. Rather, it is based on a careful and prayerful consideration of what one knows about God, how one understands the Bible, and how one believes he can honor God.

It is indeed God to whom each person will answer. "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God" (v. 12). Each person is responsible for carefully considering the situation, seeking God's guidance, and then following through with what God shows him. Any lesser response would be sinful. "But to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean" (v. 14b). "All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense" (v. 20b). "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin" (v. 23). (emphasis added)

The first application is that each individual must earnestly seek what God would have him to do. Then, in spite of the opinions and pressures of others, he must steadfastly follow through. If God directs him to option one, two, or three, then he must not do anything else. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (v. 22).

The second application is that each Christian must be sensitive to his brothers. Another's belief of conscience can be just as strong as one's own. It is appropriate to present (in a humble spirit) one's insights, and even to gently try to persuade, but when someone argues that a Christian cannot possibly have an opinion different from his own, he has crossed the line. I have seen and read statements that in essence say, "My position is the only correct position, and if you disagree, you are dead wrong." Because of the weight of their opinions, those in positions of respect must be especially careful, never trying to impose guilt or sway someone from following what he believes is right before God.

God reveals how serious such intimidation is. "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way" (v. 13) "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died" (v. 15) "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food" (vs. 19-20 emphasis added).

Some will recall that Romans 14 refers to a "weaker brother"; they might protest, "Why should America be destroyed because weaker brothers are voting for the wrong person?" Let us not be so confident to believe that we are the stronger brother. Might not those who condemn others as being wrong actually be the ones who are weak? Indeed the dilemma is complex enough that any one of us could, if we tried, successfully argue for either of the other two positions. Allow me to illustrate.

Option one: Vote for the lesser of two evils.
Only a vote for a major-party candidate will count, and I cannot waste my vote when God has given me a responsibility to fight for righteousness. I want to be salt and light and want to influence my government as much as I can and protect my country as much as I can, so I must cast a vote that will matter. While both choices are undesirable, one will cause a greater threat to Christian values and freedoms, so I must vote for the other choice. Inasmuch as rests in my power, I cannot allow a more precipitous decline for America and cannot allow America to be a harder place for my children to live in and a place that will threaten their faith.

Option two: Vote for someone other than those two options.
I cannot make a choice based on human reasoning, but must think of what would honor God. I am a Christian first and an American second, so if at all possible, I will not vote for a candidate whose entire life mocks God's righteousness. Instead of a short-term view that assumes this is America's and Christianity's last chance, I will take a longer-term view that raises a cry for morality and decency both now and in the future. Even if my candidate does not (or cannot) win, I believe that God will still be in control and will carry out what He intends in America. Many Bible characters were called upon to stand for righteousness, even if it meant loss or death, and voting for an honorable candidate is more important than seeing a political victory.

Option three: Don't vote at all.
Neither candidate is worthy of the office and therefore I cannot vote for either of them. The situation is so confusing that I really don't know what God wants or what would be best. On the one hand, it seems that God could not possibly be honored by either choice, and on the other hand, regardless of who is elected, God can do what He intends to do in the hearts of people and in America as a whole. Neither candidate is beyond God's grace, so it is possible for either one to be truly saved and begin to rely on God's help. Since human understanding is so incapable, I will leave the decision entirely up to God and His sovereignty. After all, God (through various means) sets up and takes down rulers, and maybe it is best to allow God to do so without getting in the way.

I earnestly believe that God will legitimately direct individual Christians to each of the three options given, and that He will do so in the proper combination to work out His plan. If each Christian considers the questions and arguments above and in earnest prayer asks God to direct him, he can know what action to take. Additionally, a believer who considers the truths above will not condemn, revile, or insult his brother who comes to a different conclusion. One thing is certain; whatever outcome results, it will be the one that God has ordained. Therefore, after the election, no one should cast blame at those who "ruined" the election by choosing the wrong option. "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven  and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’" (Daniel 4:35).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

II Chronicles: Manasseh

By the time Manasseh came to the throne, Judah was rapidly approaching the time of God's judgment. In approximately 110 years, the nation would be destroyed and its inhabitants taken captive. The impending judgment was not unpredictable. Though there had been some positive segments in Judah's history, the overall trend was one of increasing godlessness, accompanied by tastes of God's judgment.

Manasseh "did evil in the sight of the LORD according to the abominations of the [heathen] nations" (II Chronicles 33:2). He hastened Judah's decline toward judgment. The only previous king to approach Manasseh's level of wickedness was his grandfather Ahaz. Astoundingly, Manasseh was wicked from the young age of twelve, when he became king. His entire life fell after the sad change in his father, when Hezekiah's devotion to God declined. Nevertheless, considering his heritage, it seems unusual that Manasseh could be so depraved. He apparently came to the throne with a heart of rebellion against everything - rebellion against his father's reputation, against the social and spiritual status quo, and especially against God. Manasseh blatantly exercised that rebellion, allowing it to permeate his actions and push him into unprecedented expressions of evil.

Manasseh started with the predictable wickedness of someone who opposed God. "He rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim" (33:3). Manasseh did not stop there. He "worshiped all the host of heaven and served them" (33:3), and he built altars for serving the host of heaven "in the two courts of the house of the LORD" (33:5).

This was only the beginning of Manasseh's desecration of God's house. Twice (v. 4 & vs. 7-8) the passage highlights what an abomination it was that Manasseh would establish idols for false gods in the special place that God had reserved for Himself. Manasseh actually "built altars in the [very] house of the LORD" (33:4) and he carved an idol which he placed "in the house of God" (33:7).

Beyond these heinous insults of worship, Manasseh "made his sons pass through the fire" (33:6). "He practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists" (33:6). Essentially, Manasseh was not satisfied with simply neglecting God. Even beyond simple rejection, Manasseh actively pursued spiritual powers that were wholly opposed to God. He embraced those evil powers and brought them into God's house to usurp the place of God. As the king, Manasseh "misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel" (33:9). It is no wonder then to read God's summary that Manasseh "did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger" (33:6).

God could have brought swift and certain destruction on a king so wicked, but He didn't. He gave Manasseh a chance when He "spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention" (33:10). With this continued rejection, God took unprecedented action toward Manasseh's wickedness. The king of Assyria brought his army, "and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon" (33:11). What a disgrace both for him and for the nation, and what a fitting end that this wicked king would be led away in chains as a Babylonian prisoner!

The most incredible part of Manasseh's story is that this very predictable and deserved end was, in fact, not the end. Something amazing happened in Manasseh's life. As he languished as a prisoner in Babylon, "he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers" (33:12). Manasseh prayed to God with "entreaty" and "supplication" (33:13). This earnest and sincere prayer was so worthy of note that it is mentioned again in verse 18 and again in verse 19, and his humility is mentioned again in verse 19.

Manasseh's prayer was important and life-changing, and God's response to it is almost unbelievable. The extent of God's judgment on Manasseh would seem irreversible. Because of God's character, it should not be surprising that God heard and forgave Manasseh. It is incredible, however, that God actually reversed his captivity, restored him to his land, and lifted him up again to be king. The unexpected reversal is an indication that God extended abundant grace when He saw a truly humble and repentant heart.

The proof of Manasseh's sincerity was his changed life. Manasseh made every attempt to reverse the evil he had previously done. He removed from the temple the idols that had been so heinous to God. He discarded the false altars and set up the altar of God instead. He stopped his false worship and offered true sacrifices and offerings of thanks. He ordered the people to serve God also; while their revival was not complete, they did make significant strides toward God. The change in Manasseh was so great that his story's conclusion (v. 19) again recounts his great wickedness and his subsequent change to true worship when he humbled himself before God.

Only after Manasseh turned to God did he do anything worthwhile as king; the previous years record no accomplishments whatsoever. After his restoration he helped his country militarily by building walls and defenses and by effectively utilizing his military leaders. He also strengthened the nation spiritually by openly and publically returning to God and by encouraging true worship.

The wicked actions of Manasseh's early reign did have consequences. God foretold the destruction of Judah, saying, "I will make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 15:4). Nevertheless, this is an amazing story, illustrating that no one who humbly repents is beyond the reach of God's grace. God restored Manasseh's heart and his kingdom and even used this previously wicked man to promote God's work in the hearts of others.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

II Chronicles: Hezekiah - Part 2

King Hezekiah's heart for God was revealed spectacularly in his early years, as he made the spiritual restoration of Judah his first priority. His personal passion for God influenced and encouraged godliness throughout his realm. One manifestation of Hezekiah's godly heart was his habitual dependence on prayer.

Hezekiah prayed during the revival. He knew that the great sins of his nation had aroused God's anger. He also knew God's graciousness and compassion were great. Realizing that past unfaithfulness was prohibiting the pure celebration of the Passover, he prayed for God's grace on his people: "May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, . . . though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary" (II Chronicles 30:18-19). God heard Hezekiah's prayer and "healed the people" in spite of the unavoidable irregularities of their heart-felt worship (30:20).

Hezekiah also prayed when his greatest challenge confronted him. The king of Assyria came against Judah, setting siege around the cities and threatening military takeover. Hezekiah took practical steps to protect his country (32:2-6), but he culminated his preparations by encouraging his military and citizens to trust in God: "Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles" (32:7-8).

The king of Assyria neither shared nor understood Hezekiah's faith in God. Sennacherib was confident that the gods who had helped him conquer every other nation would also help him conquer Judah. Sennacherib believed Hezekiah was giving his people false hope and further saw himself and his army as unstoppable. Of all nations, Sennacherib asserted that Judah would be least successful in defeating him, since Hezekiah had actually destroyed all the gods who potentially could have helped him. He did not realize that Hezekiah had destroyed powerless false gods, gaining support from the one omnipotent and true God.

As Sennacherib mounted his verbal onslaught of propaganda on the citizens of Judah, Hezekiah summoned Isaiah the prophet; these two godly men "prayed about this and cried out to heaven" (32:20). God answered their prayer in a miraculous way, sending "an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria" (32:21). God gave a dramatic victory, with Hezekiah not even needing to fight. Sennacherib himself "returned in shame to his own land" where "some of his own children killed him" (32:21).

The third significant prayer of Hezekiah came at a time of serious personal illness. "Hezekiah became mortally ill; and he prayed to the LORD" (32:24). Isaiah had actually told Hezekiah that he would die from his illness. Hezekiah prayed, "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight" (II Kings 20:3). God immediately responded to Hezekiah's prayer; Isaiah re-entered the room with God's new message: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. . . . I will add fifteen years to your life" (II Kings 20:5-6).

In the final recorded incident of Hezekiah's life, Babylonian envoys arrived to inquire about "the wonder" occurring in Judah (32:31) and also about Hezekiah's illness (II Kings 20:12). The Chronicles passage states merely that God used the incident "to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart" (32:31), but doesn't reveal whether he passed or failed the test. The Kings passage alleges that Hezekiah was at best naive and at worst foolish by showing all his riches to these envoys. God predicted that Babylon would later capture those tempting riches.

The end of the story of this great follower of God is sad. In the additional years that God graciously gave after Hezekiah's illness, "Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud" (32:25). This is a familiar pattern that had been seen frequently in the lives of godly kings that had gone before Hezekiah. A number of kings started out very well, but their pride in later years was their undoing. Hezekiah was so blessed, so victorious, and so prosperous, and he had seen such great victories and interventions from God that eventually he became proud.

The turning point for Hezekiah was the illness from which he nearly died. He did the right thing by calling out to God for help, but after God healed him, something changed. Perhaps Hezekiah thought he deserved God's favor, that he was invincible, or that his devotion should guarantee a tranquil life. Whatever the specific manifestation, his pride was so displeasing to God that He declared judgment. "Wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem" (32:25).

Even in this failure, Hezekiah showed some spiritual sensitivity beyond that of his predecessors. When he became aware of God's wrath and his personal pride that had awakened such wrath, "Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart" (32:26). His heart was sensitive enough to respond appropriately when he had failed. Because of Hezekiah's humble response, God delayed His wrath, maintaining peace for the remainder of Hezekiah's reign.

While Hezekiah apparently still followed God in his later years, it seems that there was something missing, something that was not the same as before. God was pleased with Hezekiah's response of humility, and He did delay His judgment, but His summation of those years is that "Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit" of the added years (32:25). He did not redeem those years as he should have and did not use them as profitably as he had his earlier years. Though imperfect, Hezekiah regardless had an amazing testimony and displayed a heart sensitive to God even in his failure.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

II Chronicles: Hezekiah - Part 1

Hezekiah occupies one of the high spots in Judah's history, and his righteous reign comes at a critical point. His father Ahaz had been extraordinarily wicked and had brought about a time of heavy losses and precipitous decline for Judah. God's judgment was imminent; in fact, it had already begun.

Hezekiah wisely realized his nation's precarious position and the reason for it. At the beginning of his reign, he told the priests and Levites, "Our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him. . . . Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem. . . . For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this" (II Chronicles 29:6-9). He told these leaders he wanted to return to God so "that His burning anger may turn away" (29:10).

Hezekiah understood accurately. His turning to God, however, was not merely political posturing or self-serving conformity. His desire to follow God was sincere. "He did what was good, right and true before the LORD his God" (31:20), and he did so "with all his heart" (31:21).

Hezekiah was so sensitive to the danger of being under God's anger that he wasted no time in reversing the evil practices of his father and replacing them with righteous practices. "In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD" (29:3). In fact, if 29:17 refers to Hezekiah's reign (as opposed to calendar year), the renewal started on the very first day.

The extent of Hezekiah's changes was comprehensive and plentiful. He assembled the priests and Levites, urging them to consecrate themselves; he then instructed them to consecrate the temple, which had been defiled for years and ultimately closed by his father. They repaired and cleaned the temple structure, removed the unholy objects, and restored the proper utensils.

With the temple properly restored, Hezekiah ordered a notable sin offering to atone for the wickedness of the people. When those who had gathered were thus consecrated, Hezekiah instructed them to bring sacrifices and thank offerings to God. This beginning of revival quickly led to a celebration of the Passover, which was celebrated on a scale not seen since Solomon's day. The joy of the event was so great that the celebration continued an extra week, after which the people scattered throughout the land, tearing down heathen altars and destroying idols.

Hezekiah continued to promote righteousness by re-establishing the structure of the priesthood, by making significant personal contributions for worship, and by restoring the proper means of meeting the priests' needs. He was a leader in revival, as he challenged others to properly follow God also; he interacted with the priests and Levites, the princes of the city, the military leaders, the whole assembly, those who lived throughout the land of Judah, and even the remnant of people who remained in Israel.

The early part of Hezekiah's reign was consumed with renewing the spiritual condition of his nation, and he did so because he was "seeking his God" (31:21). He was so serious about this that he chose "to make a covenant with the LORD God" (29:10). God refers to Hezekiah's kingly actions as "acts of faithfulness" (32:1) and "deeds of devotion" (32:32).

Predictably, this return to God had a positive impact on the nation. An immediate change was the return of joy and singing, something that had been sadly missing. Under God's judgment, Judah had been "an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing" (29:8). With the revival, however, came the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres (29:25), musical instruments and trumpets (29:26), song accompanied by instruments (29:27), singing and trumpets (29:28), praises of joy sung to the LORD (29:30), rejoicing (29:36), great joy, daily praise to God, instruments (30:21), extended celebration (30:23), universal rejoicing (30:25), and great joy (30:26).

Because Hezekiah and the people had "one heart" to follow God (30:12), "their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place" (30:27). God turned back His anger, "so that the wrath of the LORD did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah" (32:26). Instead, the people were at peace to pursue the religious revival; Hezekiah's reign was free from the overwhelming defeats that had plagued his father. Foreign leaders took note of "the wonder that had happened in the land" (32:31). The military was strengthened, crops and herds prospered, and new cities were built. When battles did come, Hezekiah was victorious (32:22). He "prospered in all that he did" (32:30) and was blessed with incredible wealth as well as great respect at home and abroad (32:23, 27-29).

Hezekiah's story repeatedly reveals the graciousness of God. Conditions in Judah had been so wrong for so long that it had actually become impossible to properly worship God. There were insufficient consecrated priests to manage the offerings the people brought (29:34). The Passover could not be celebrated at the proper time due to the shortage of priests and the time needed to rally the people (30:3). Many of the people did not have enough time for the prescribed purification (30:16). In each case, the people came as close as they could to proper procedures,  while not using the discrepancies as excuses to further delay revival.

Although their worship was technically outside God's parameters, He accepted the sacrifice of a humble and contrite heart, which was more valuable than adherence to external ritual. In spite of Judah's history, God extended grace. He would have done the same even for the remnant of post-captivity Israel. Hezekiah encouraged Israel's people, "If you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons will find compassion. . . . For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him" (30:9).