[This post has been updated with more information in the written piece than in the video]
We have established God’s involvement as soon as we get busy with His Word, according to Malachi 3. The joyful promise of our names being written in the Book of Remembrance, combined with God’s declaration that we are His treasure and His precious jewels, should fill us with expectation and energy. The study of God’s Word, the Bible, is not solely human; it has a supernatural response built into it.
Anybody who chooses to commence with this very unique study of the most well preserved ancient writings in the world is privileged to learn from the powerful history of God’s dealings with man from the earliest times. We live day by day, but an eagle’s view of history affords us a hop, skip and jump over thousands of years – backwards.
David lived more or less 1000 years before Jesus walked the earth. It is always such a joy to read his psalms and find strength and purpose in the way He rejoiced in the same wonderful Father that we worship today. After David, his son Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, which was by far the grandest building in the ancient world at the time and symbolized the climax of the Hebrew civilization. Solomon took pagan wives and fell into idolatry. The divided heart of the king left a divided kingdom. The north rebelled and formed Israel with the royal seat in Samaria and the south, loyal to David and Solomon, became Judah with Jerusalem as capital.
Israel had 19 kings until they were driven into exile by the King of Assyria and all those kings were labeled by the terrible words: and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. Judah had 20 kings and only eight of them were labeled by the commendation: he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like his father David. We have talked about the worship of David and why he was a man after God’s own heart. Eventually Judah was also taken into captivity by the King of Babylon.
The history written in the books of Samuel and Kings is not a chronological, detailed history of the 400 years that Israel and Judah were ruled by kings, rather a selective narrative with a theological purpose. Opinions differ and there is no certainty, but most commentators accept that Jeremiah wrote most of it, not all. It is precious to see the spotlight of the author emphasizes people and events for religious significance with God in control of human affairs. Sometimes whole chapters are devoted to one person and other regents are only mentioned in a verse or two. The blessing of obedience to the Covenant relationship and the destruction as a consequence of disobedience is a golden thread throughout the stories.
Fly with me to the second book of Kings, chapter 22, the story of the young king Josiah.
He was only 8 years old when he became king on the death of his father. His great grandfather was Hezekiah, a godly king. His grandfather was Manasseh, an evil king whose sinful ways led the nation astray. The account of his abominations and idolatry takes up a full chapter. He is captured by the king of Assyria, led away by nose hooks and thrown into jail in Babylon. Alone and in pain he calls out to God, who forgives him and restores him on his throne – a wonderful confirmation of God’s forgiveness and restoration. His son Amon, ruled for two years, but learns nothing from his father’s humiliation and restoration. Amon was so evil that his servants conspired against him and killed him, causing Josiah to be crowned at the tender age of 8.
Even so young, he secured the most complimentary definition by which the reign of a king of Israel and Judah is described:
And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. [2 Kings 22:2]
There is no doubt that his zeal to serve God according to the ways of David, led him to the very special circumstances that would change the quintessence of his reign. Still very young he cleansed the land of bad religious habits and worship practices. Idolatry, corruption and symbols of foreign gods were eradicated. In the eighteenth year of his reign he tackles the long overdue repair on the Temple.
In every age of the history of Israel, especially during the reign of evil kings, the faithful remnant is protected and guided by God. People who served Him with pure hearts and devotion, diligently made their prescribed contributions for the maintenance of the Temple. This money is collected and brought to the high priest, Hilkiah. The money is then given to the foremen and workers, charged with the restoration of the building. As they worked, they discovered a book – most probably the parchment of the book of Deuteronomy – the Law as given to Moses. Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, the scribe, to present to the king.
After recounting how the book was found, Shaphan read it to the Josiah. Verse 11:
Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.
Josiah reacts with tears as he hears how far he is from pleasing God. The word of God touches his heart and stirs his spirit. He commands the priest to go out and enquire of the Lord on his behalf, concerning the words he has heard. Hilkiah and a few others appointed by the king went to Huldah the prophetess and wife of the keeper of the king’s wardrobe. (Could her husband have been a royal fashion designer?)
Huldah answers with a wonderful message of hope and restoration. God revokes the curse and calamity on Judah that would have been the result of the sin of his fathers, and declares restoration, abundance and wealth on the land and the people. Verse 18 and 19:
In the words of Huldah:
But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard — because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.
My heart jumps for joy when I hear this heavenly response to a humble and contrite heart, touched by God’s Word. Curses are revoked, blessing declared, people restored and the land healed. God is still the same God. Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
His Word is forever. His Word called the world into being and flung the sun, moon and stars on their courses. That same Word speaks your world into order and health. Nothing is impossible for Him and He is a rewarder of those who seek him.
When we decide that we need divine intervention in our lives, maybe at a time when you realize that all your own scheming brought you nowhere, we hesitantly approach religion, church and all the traditional God-stuff with the prejudice of disappointment in the church and its people. It is good to remember that Christians are “under construction” and not perfect in any way. They are in actual fact the people who realize or at least should realize their own imperfections and failure in life. They have chosen a life of dependence on God. Unfortunately Christianity always runs the risk of losing sight of the Truth, which is a humble and contrite heart open to conviction by the Holy Spirit. When this happens, legalism with its evil twin pride, sit in judgment over other people without grace and love for which the church should be known. Love is the test. Love is the law in the Kingdom.
If you are disappointed by the church and Christianity, you are not alone. Many centuries ago, around the turn of the 13th, the Catholic friar, well known as St Francis of Assisi, said:
All the world would have been Christians if it weren’t for the Christians.
I chuckled when I heard this and relaxed a bit. My heart’s desire in this ministry is to bring a new understanding of how much your Father loves you. James 4:6, 10:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Humility is not a pathetic, false pretense of weakness. It is the powerful ability to know your gifts, talents and strength and to acknowledge your weaknesses. This insight is a gift of the Holy Spirit and enables you to choose wisely and decide constructively. Wisdom comes from God. Psalm 111:10:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
Humility is the only answer to arrogance and pride in others. This attitude of submission to God and His principles will lift you up in situations of shameless arrogance and unbearable boasting.
We as Christians have to learn about and exercise ourselves in these life-changing principles. We are not perfect and fail often. We can only achieve spiritual growth through the inner working of the Holy Spirit and not through our own efforts of good living. We give offence and cause others to stumble over the humanity of the church of Christ. Sometimes the realization of failure fills us with excruciating guilt and shame. If you are under the impression of offence given, bring it to the Lord in confession and prayer so that you can be lifted up in forgiveness and grace and be given the wisdom to repair and restore relationships.
If you have taken offence against the church of God (the universal church consisting of all Christians, including denominational factions) because of the judgment and conceit of church people, bring your hurt to God. Only He can heal the deep wounds of the spirit and renew you inner being to see His grace and love. We cannot let people hinder our walk with God. We need to fix our eyes on Him and Him only. He can never disappoint you. He is the Author of our salvation and the Finisher of our faith. Hebrews 5:9 and 12:2:
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
Rejoice then in what we have and where we are going. We are never alone. We have our loving Father to guide, help, forgive, restore and bring us into triumphant living in Him through Jesus, no matter where you are at this moment. 1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
Until next time.