The Bible is anachronistic or old-fashioned to some. Yet the fascinating story of what happened to an 8-year old King is very relevant and applicable to any nation in this world today. ◊
I was chatting recently with a young adult who admitted to me that he was not really familiar with any of the songs of Elton John. He was going to see the upcoming movie about the rock superstar but wasn’t that aware of his music. I sent him on a little musical research project to get quickly up to speed. I suspect it will help him appreciate the movie a bit more.
Interesting how a global musical icon like Elton John can be missed, perhaps even forgotten, over a 50-year period. If it can happen to people, it can happen to ideas, lessons, and history.
Think Back When
But then again, one really shouldn’t be surprised as we gaze across the social culture. There are many long-standing standards, staples, and mores of human life that have been forgotten, obliterated, or are in the process of being pasted-over by a new wave of ethics, teaching, and cultural rewrites.
Think marriage between a man and woman. Think a family as a father, mother, and 2.5 children (at least in the US). Think sex education taught to children by parents. Think the Bible’s 10 Commandments publicly displayed in civic buildings and courthouses. Think prayer openly allowed in schools. Think God mentioned openly in the public arena without recourse. Think Sunday mornings set aside for church only.
The list can go on and on, actually sounding more anachronistic or old-fashioned as you read it.
A Parallel Bible Story
There’s an interesting parallel story in the Bible that reflects this same type of national cultural shift within a couple of generations. It involves one of my favorite characters in the Bible, Josiah. (2 Kings 21 and 22)
Josiah has always intrigued me because he comes on the scene as an 8-year old boy-king of the Jewish southern kingdom of Judah, based in Jerusalem. His great-grandfather, Hezekiah, was a good king who reigned for 29 years (716 – 687 BC). “Good” kings in the Bible are those that “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” His grandfather, Manasseh, was an evil king who then reigned for 55 years (697 – 642 BC; 10 years co-regent with his father). What is said about the notorious Manasseh is the following:
And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel….He erected altars for Baal and Asherah (Canaanite pagan god and mother goddess of fertility)…. And he burned his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards….And [he] seduced the people to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:2-9)
Manasseh’s son, Josiah’s father, Amon, ruled for only 2 years (642 – 640) before he was killed by his servants in his house. He too “…did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…and served the idols that his father (Manasseh) served, and worshiped them.”
Quite a legacy to live up to, or move away from.
But King Josiah reigned 31 years (640 – 609) as a good king who “…did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of David his [fore]father, and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:1-2) But it was in his 18th year of reign, at the age of 26, that he made a discovery that triggered a spiritual reformation in his own life and subsequently in the nation he ruled.
In the year 622 B.C., he oversaw a construction/repair project of the Holy Temple in the kingdom’s capital city of Jerusalem. While this repair work was being done, an old copy of the Book of the Law (actually an Old Testament scroll – most likely a copy of Deuteronomy given his response) was found and brought to the king. It was read in his presence. His reaction was dramatic. He tore his clothes (a known expression of grief and anger) after realizing how far from its teachings the people of Judah had strayed.
Shortly thereafter the dire consequences for their national disobedience was spelled out to him by one of God’s prophets:
‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ (2 Kings 22:16-17).
Undaunted, Josiah set in motion a comprehensive set of reforms (2 Kings 23:1-24). He started with a public meeting and scriptural reading of the text throughout the region of Judah and city of Jerusalem to unite and awaken the people to the darkness that had infiltrated their culture.
King Josiah transformed the kingdom to once again honor and worship the Lord God until his death in 609 BC. Unfortunately, over the next 23 years, his own 2 sons, 1 grandson, and an uncle, oversaw the exile of the Jewish nation and full destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah at the hands of the Babylonian empire led by king Nebuchadnezzar.
Treasure Lost and Found
The lesson for this nation or any nation is to not lose the Treasure, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, given first to the Hebrew nation but then also to the entire world, even the Gentiles.
No, God will not be mocked.
He knows obedience and ultimately punishes disobedience. Under Josiah, for only 13 years, the kingdom of Judah lived in obedience to God. However, true to God’s word and promise, they were decimated after the end of Josiah’s reign.
God-fearing leaders and nations matter. May all nations discern their own state of obedience and disobedience in light of the Treasure that has been handed down and clearly unveiled for us, should we open our eyes to see.
Have you found the Treasure?
Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. – 2 Kings 23:25