Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Josiah's Reform

Near the end of Judah's existence we meet a couple of Kings that deserve some notice.  Hezekiah is a king of whom the Bible says had a faith that exceeded all other kings including those before him (David).  He trusted in and obeyed the Lord when the mighty Assyrian army came up against Jerusalem and was delivered from them.

His great grandson was Josiah who reigned to about twenty-two years before Judah's fall.  Of him it was said that he walked after God in all his ways and turned not to the left or to the right.  (I guess he was an independent)  He was an example of one who will not compromise when it comes to obeying the Lord and his life bears this out.  While some kings before him stopped the worship that took place in the high places, Josiah made it a point to desecrate them so that they would be useless for those who came after him.  He took honoring the Lord seriously.

From an early age he gave his heart to the Lord and was busy reforming the nation and repairing the Temple and restoring its ceremonies.  When they found the Book of the Law that had long been forgotten he has it read and immediately starts to conform to it.  There are no excuses; he just does what God's people do, he obeys.

But perhaps the most amazing thing is that right in the middle of his life's calling of reforming the nation so that it would serve the Lord as He commanded, the Lord comes to him through a prophetess and tells him that none of these reforms are going to do any good; the nation is lost and no amount of "repentance and obedience" is going to change this.  2Ki 22:16  Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 2Ki 22:17  Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 2Ki 22:20  Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.'" And they brought back word to the king. 

As we read on into chapter 23 we learn that right after Josiah heard this he gathers the people together and has them renew their covenant with God.  Why do this if it isn't going to change things for the better for the nation?  The answer is he does the right thing because that is what God's people do.  He does not confuse obedience with pragmatism.  He doesn't serve only for whatever practical benefits he can derive from the Lord.  It doesn't matter how miserable one’s life becomes because we know that serving the Lord is the right thing to do and in the end all things will be worth the effort.  He serves not because it is going to change the present dilemma, because it won’t, but because this is the will of God.  He reforms because that’s what God's people do because that is the kind of people we are in Christ.  We serve the Lord even when he doesn't answer our prayers and even when we don’t understand the direction he takes, even when it may not resolve personal problems, bring economic success or relieve emotional distress.  Either he is God or we try to be.  When we obey only to the point that it seems to be "working" we have overstepped our bounds.

He offers an amazing example of true godliness much like the young girl with Naaman who pointed him to healing even though he had stolen her out of her home.  It shouldn’t be lost on us that all this takes place before he is thirty.  Here is biblical godliness.  His relationship with the Lord isn't about what he will get out of it in this life; his ministry doesn't revolve around pragmatic ends.  God is his life and so everything he does is to honor him.  Whether this leads to a successful life or one of humility and suffering, he just does what is right.  May God give us this type of love and faith.

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