2 Chronicles 29:12-17 NLTse (12) Then these Levites got right to work: From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah. From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel. From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah. (13) From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel. From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah. (14) From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei. From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel. (15) These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the LORD, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the LORD’s instructions in their work. (16) The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the LORD to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley. (17) They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year, and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the LORD’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the LORD itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days.
Two questions here. What does it mean to purify yourself? What did they do to purify the temple? People may think purifying the temple consisted of clearing out the pagan elements, scrubbing the walls and floors from top to bottom, and offering up a few burnt offerings. What did Jesus say about cleaning the outside of the bowl, and not the inside. It may seem like they concentrated on the inside of the temple. But is that what Jesus meant by cleaning the inside? Where do we find that spiritual inside?
Now we can look at how Levites purified themselves. I wish we had details telling us exactly how they accomplished that task. We are left with nothing to do but speculate. Did they begin by bathing the outside? When we look at the physical picture those few words painted, we can see a group of Levites cleaning out Pagan articles from the temple. Think of what kind of attitude that could create.
Cleaning up someone’s mess can create a certain attitude. You can quickly find yourself looking at how low other people have fallen to sort of make it appear like your on a higher, more holy level. That is a dangerous game to play, but people play it all the time.
What does comparing yourself to other people do to clean up your own life? Those Levites cleaning out the temple could have looked at all that useless garbage the Pagans dragged in there, and walked away thinking they are where they needed to be on a spiritual level. They could have convinced themselves, they really accomplished something. But did that physical cleansing get them to where God wanted them to be? Where did God want them to be?
After a few generations, God sent someone to explain what He wanted all along. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40 NLTse).
Each of the Gospels explains what God wants us to learn in a few different ways. Some of those stories will reach some people, other stories were designed to reach other classes of people. And some people just don’t want to pay attention long enough to learn anything.
What does it mean to love God and your neighbor? Can you love one without the other? Doesn’t it take more than a physical effort? Is helping someone across the street, opening a door for them, giving them money, or helping them move, enough to display the type of love Jesus referred to? What was the type of love towards God Jesus was looking for? Is that the type of cleansing God was looking for from those Levites? Was God looking for more than cleaning out the temple and a few burnt offerings?