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Calling All Josiahs

Right now we are living in one of the most tumultuous times in recent memory. Depending on which apocalyptic news outlet you choose to listen to, we have never lived in a worse time. Frankly, there are days when I could not agree more. Then, I remember what infant mortality rates were at one point, I remember the Great Depression, Hoovervilles, two World Wars in three decades, disease, etc... You see where I am going with this. However, whether or not you think this is the end of the world or just another low point on the sinusoidal graph of human history, we can all agree that we are facing some rather dark times. I use dark with the intention of portraying darkness. Darkness of the evil one. Darkness as a contrast to light. Some of the things that are happening in this country are happening due to a culmination of cunning from the evil one, depravity of man, and everything that stems from the flesh (i.e. greed, malice, envy, power-hunger, domination).

I do not have a particular flow of thought in mind to convey what it is that I am mulling over. I do, however, have scripture. One of the beautiful realities of the Old Testament is how impregnated it is with little nuggets of wisdom. I'm not talking about just in the book of Proverbs. I am talking about all of those boring places where we tend to zone out in the middle of reading. Maybe not Numbers, I still have not been quite sanctified enough to see beauty in a census! I am talking about specifically all throughout the historical books, and even more specifically for this discussion the events that unfold in 2 Chronicles 33 & 34. If you have time, go and read them for yourself. If not then you can trust my quick overview. I beg you, please hang with me:

-Manasseh begins to reign as king at the age of 12 after his father, Hezekiah, died. Hezekiah was overall a good king.

-As expected, a 12 year old plunged the nation of Israel into idolatry quite quickly. Note verse two: "And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel."

-He set up high places to sacrifice to the Baals, he worshipped his own gods, he sacrificed his children.

-Verse 9 brings this into bone chilling perspective: "Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel." I want you to pause and really let that sink in. Of all the wickedness of all the nations of the promised land that was given to Israel by God, Manasseh made them look like Bush League.

-As punishment, God sends the King of Assyria to capture Manasseh and bring him in slavery back to Babylon where he repents and turns to the LORD.

-God recognizes his repentance and brings Manasseh back to Jerusalem where he righted all of his wrongs, removing the high places and commanding all of Judah to serve the Lord.

-Manasseh dies and his son Amon had a brief reign and was killed.

-Josiah takes over after Amon, "And he did what was right in the eyes of the LROD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." ( Chapter 34, verse 2)

-Josiah picks up the ruins 18 years into His reign when the Book of the Law (the first five books of our Bible) was found in the house of the Lord. (Remember this)

-Josiah realizes that Judah and not been obeying the actual Word of the Lord so he "tore his clothes."

-Huldah the prophetess speaks disaster upon the people, except for Josiah. The Lord spares him of seeing all the disaster that will come.

-Watershed verse: "And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers." (v.33)

Unforgettable Words

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United

States where men were free." -Ronald Reagan, 1964

These harrowing words were spoken three years before Reagan ever took office. I "lead" with this because most of you that read this will be extremely familiar with this quote. But why aren't we, I definitely include myself in the we, so quick to see these patterns laid out in the bible 2,500 years before Ronald was ever born? I don't know the answer except we are all guilty of breezing through passages like this. Ronald Reagan wasn't a prophet, though he was considered a wise man. But any school kid with a Bible could look at the pattern of Israel and Judah's kings and tell you what Reagan said. The overall take away of this article is that it took Manasseh less than one generation to plunge Judah into ruin, but it only took one generation for Josiah to bring it back. The battle is never too big.

Two Principles

I want to show you two principles to be learned from this story of Manasseh and Josiah.

  1. No matter how wicked you are, no matter how wicked this nation has become or will become, we must still repent.

  2. When repentance comes, someone has to be ready to pick up the ruins.

Recognition of Lordship

There is so much to be learned in 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 that I'm not sure where to begin so get ready for word vomit. For starters, time and time again, going all the way back to the wilderness, the LORD has punished the iniquity of the Israelites and restored them after their disobedience. I can tell you with absolute confidence that Manasseh knew this even as a kid. However, his actions allow us to see the heart of man in rebellion against God. As Romans 1 says, it's not that we do not know the truth but that we suppress it.

Secondly, v.10 says "the LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention." Through His prophets, the LORD was always warning Israel. This wasn't a Monty Python, God speaking through the clouds event. So, from this we can throw away our sentiment that the people had just forgot and it was unfair that Manasseh, the boy king (grown up at this point), was taken away with hooks to a far country.

Thirdly, I want to double down on the suppression of truth. As stated earlier, Romans 1:18-19 says: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." Manasseh didn't care that God was continuing to reveal to them. It's like when a child is going for the cookie jar and you remind them what happened when their older sibling went for the cookie jar last time and the child just stares into your soul as they continue to move towards the jar of cookies. They know what happens. But in their pride they think this time might be different. So goes our modern culture. We are so new age and progressive that we do not take the time to compare our current ideologies to similar ideologies presented and implemented in the past and what the outcome of that implementation was. "I know that's Venezuela but this is America and they just didn't...."

Number 4: "Therefore the LORD brought upon them.." This was not a God acting in reactive anger. This is Jehovah God being faithful to His promises.

Fifth, "and when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD.." Manasseh had to be made as lower than he had ever been before he recognized God's authority. So it is with many today. We refuse to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, King of kings, because things are going good. Sometimes God must break us on an individual level and thus on a national level so that we may then recognize our need for His saving grace.

Lastly, Manasseh prayed and the Lord restored him to his kingdom. And Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. In the original language, this would have read, "Manasseh knew that Jehovah was God." This shows that Manasseh realized that above all the Baals and Asherah and Molech, this Jehovah was the God of all things, the true God.

Notice the unsettling comparison of Manasseh to many of us today. By God's grace we have discovered so much and advanced so far that we no longer see a need for Christ to be our Lord. It reminds me of Deuteronomy 8:11-14;17.

"“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,... Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Nevertheless, this great country, you, and me can repent and recognize that Christ is King over all in hopes that God, in his forbearance, may once again restore us to fellowship with him.

Ruin Picker Upper

When a nation repents it cannot stop there. Repentance without action is dead faith. You are heaping up empty words. This is probably one reason why the writer of Chronicles was careful to note what Manasseh did afterwards. He put away his false gods and the false gods that the people served and "commanded Judah to serve the LORD." What's interesting is that we read in chapter 34 that the Book of the Law of the LORD had been found. What does this tell us?

Manasseh had indeed genuinely repented, and the nation of Judah turned to serving God, but by what standard? I want to offer some food for thought without elaborating that many today worship the God of scripture without reading scripture. What does this make their worship? There's something to it because of what we read with Manasseh. Anyways, it's safe to assume that the Book of the Law of the Lord had been neglected for quite some time now because of the ensuing party they had. What's bad about this, and yes here comes another comparison to our modern church, is that they found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord. Meaning, in the temple where all of the religious proceedings were taking place. They were worshipping God in His house without using His word that showed them how to worship. Josiah, however, put immediate importance on the Book of the Law and held feasts and roasted the Passover lamb and sang songs and offered burnt offerings.

We finally wrap up with the watershed verse of these two chapters: "And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers." (2 Chronicles 34:33)

Josiah received the Law and his eyes were opened to what was right in the eyes of God. He immediately led the nation on a path of righteous living before their creator God. Josiah understood the demand and did not back down from the call. He had the Word of God and understood what was right and did it. Can we? Can we read the Bible, 61 more books than Josiah had, and call for this country to repent? Can we make an effort to build Christian communities that contribute to this country's repentance? Will you obedient to God's Word and not follow the lusts of the world? If we don't have several thousand Josiah's take action then we will be setting our children up for failure. If Manasseh repented so can we, if Nebuchadnezzar repented so can we, if Paul repented so can we. There have to be Josiah's to come in afterwards and pick up the ruins.

That can be you and me, or our children. Who will it be?

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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