Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

A tale of two kings

leave a comment »

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Okay, apologies to Dickens, but it fits the content of this post. Let us look at the biblical record of two Judean kings and examine how they pleased or displeased God.

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

7 He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” 9 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. {2 Kings 21:1-9}

Wow! To do more evil than the nations that had previously inhabited the land is saying something. God had ordered the Israelites to destroy those nations because He did not want their sinfulness rubbing off onto His people. That is also why they were prohibited from inter-marrying peoples from other nations (and even now the apostle Paul has instructed us to not be yoked with unbelievers). Manasseh even sacrificed his own son! Manasseh was indeed a bad, bad man.

0 The LORD said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, 15 because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.”

16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

17 As for the other events of Manasseh’s reign, and all he did, including the sin he committed, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh rested with his fathers and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza. And Amon his son succeeded him as king. {2 Kings 21:10-18}

Critics may claim that the many are punished for the sins of the few, or even one. Why punish all of the Isarealites for the sins of Manasseh? Because they went along with them. They sinned themselves. While the translation says, “..the sin that he (Manasseh) caused Judah to commit” it’s not as though there had been an uprising against him because Manasseh was forcing them to sin. Truly, we are all answerable to God individually. Just as three refused to bow in worship to a foreign king, those who did bow are all answerable for their actions. While God may not protect us from a fiery furnace, or other punishments the wicked hurl our way, if we stay true to Him all is well ultimately. You can kill me here on earth but you have no power whatsoever to determine what becomes of me in the life to come. Only God has authority over that realm, and I belong to Him.

If you read the history of the kings of both kingdoms you will note two things. Firstly, the northern kingdom of Israel had nothing but bad kings, while Judah has at least some good ones. Secondly, the peoples of those kingdoms tended to follow the example of their king. When bad kings reigned the nation was polluted with sin, but when good kings reigned there was less pollution (it always existed because man is sinful, then and today). After Manasseh, Judah really needed a good king. Alas, they instead got Amon, Manasseh’s son (who obviously wasn’t sacrificed like his brother), and he did all the evils of his father. However, he reigned only two years and then came Josiah, Amon’s son. And he is who we observe next.

1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. {2 Kings 22:1-2}

What a breath of fresh air. One wonders how such a godly person sprung from the loins of Amon, but with God all things are possible. Note that Josiah walked a straight path, “not turning asside to the right or to the left.” He did not sway in his beliefs, going first one way and then another. Wishy-washy he was not, nor did he swing to and fro between sin and repentance. He walked straight, as David had. But David was a murderer, right? He sure was, but God judged his heart, and though he sinned greatly at times his heart belonged to God. In fact, God described David as a man “after my own heart”. We will remain sinners as long as we reside in this flesh, but I cannot think of any better compliment from God than for Him to say someone is “after my own heart.” After all, it is where our hearts lay that will be judged.

3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the LORD. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the LORD, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the LORD – 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are acting faithfully.”

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. {2 Kings 22:3-10}

For any of us who have back-slidden we can relate. The Bible on the shelf sits there and begins collecting dust. Pretty soon it gets covered by other books and forgotten about. So too goes our prayer life, acts of service and so on. We live worldly, carnal lives and commit sin, ala Manasseh. No, we may not commit those sins, but sin is sin, and all sin results in condemnation. It’s not as though an unrepentant sinner can stand in judgment before God and say, “I wasn’t as bad as Manasseh, or Hitler! Come on, give me a break!” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), so there is no defense for sin. So one day you realize you have slid backwards and feel ashamed. You uncover your Bible, blow off the dust and find a spot to read. You think to yourself, “Why did I stop reading this? It’s wonderful.”

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District.

15 She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘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. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’ ”
So they took her answer back to the king. {2 Kings 22:11-20}

When the word of God was read to Josiah he immediately realized that the nation had not been observing God’s law. He was ashamed and showed true repentance. He also did an immensely wise and righteous thing–he wanted to hear from God what God wanted him (and the nation) to do. Thus, Josiah sought out the word of a prophetess whom he knew spoke for God. Just as when we are ashamed at the realization of our backsliding, we should inquire what it is God wants us to do. Not my will, but thine be done. It’s a humbling step to take, and an uncomfortable and difficult one as well. I’ve been doing my own thing and enjoying the freedom. If I inquire of God what He wants me to do He may direct me to do something I really don’t want to do. Yielding ourselves to God is what He tells us to do. When you understand that it is better to do His will than your own, and that He will guide and provide for you along the way much of the anxiety or fear involved vanishes. That is the Holy Spirit working within us, and it allows us to know that doing what pleases God is a far, far better thing than that which pleases us. Knowing that our time here on earth in this body is only a temporary thing, and that after this comes an eternal life only serves to edify and strengthen us. Forever in heaven is a magnificent thought, but forever in torment (hell) is a terrifying one. There we have the classic fear of God, and it still proves motivational to me this day, even though I know I am saved and will not spend my eternity in hell (1 Peter 1:3-9, John 6, among many others). Back to Josiah…

1 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. {2 Kings 23:1-3}

Josiah didn’t content himself with his own security, though he could have. He did another godly thing: he gathered the people and read to them the words of God. Josiah renewed the covenant between God and His people. Yet, Josiah did not rest there.

4 The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. 5 He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 6 He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. 7 He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah.

8 Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate. 9 Although the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, they ate unleavened bread with their fellow priests.

10 He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech. 11 He removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melech. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.

12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the LORD. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the people of Ammon. 14 Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.

15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things. {2 Kings 23:4-16}

This is a great story. One of the places Josiah had destroyed was Topheth, where children were sacrificed to the false god Molech. This is where Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, sacrificed Josiah’s uncle. Josiah went on a godly rampage and purged the nation of all sources of false worship and idolatry. Josiah did what God had always instructed His kings to do, but that even other so-called good kings had fallen short of. He wiped them all out.

17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”
The men of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”

18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria. {2 Kings 23:17-18}

Josiah respected a previous man of God who had spoken out against what Josiah had just destroyed. By doing this he wasn’t paying reverence to the man, but to He who had sent the man. The reverence, I would say, was paid to the work and person of God.

19 Just as he had done at Bethel, Josiah removed and defiled all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built in the towns of Samaria that had provoked the LORD to anger. 20 Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. Then he went back to Jerusalem.

21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem.

24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD. 25 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 23:19-25}

Surely the purge of Josiah wasn’t accomplished overnight. I suspect it took some time, and coupled with the list of things he purged we see how replete was the sin of this people. Now we understand why they were not merely judged by the actions of their king. Also noteworthy is verse 25, which seemingly implies Josiah was greater than David. I would say he was not. His righteousness as king may be on par with David, and we see no mention of Josiah committing sins as David did, but God made a covenant with David and Jesus’ human lineage linked to David. God chose David to hold a special place (he will have an office in the 1000 year reign of Christ which is to come). I respect and admire Josiah and his actions, and he should be remembered as a great king, but he was great because he walked with God, which is what also made David great. God’s providence was that both would be great kings, but that David would hold a special place. Josiah also holds a special place, but not that of David.

Now then, do you recall when God pronounced judgment upon Ahab, but Ahab showed true repentance? God saw this and delayed His judgment (1 Kings 21:26-29). We have a similar case here, only the judgment from God was not due to Josiah’s actions but because of the actions of the kings before him. Josiah was a godly king, and so the nation was spared from God’s wrath during his reign. We could find a parallel with the intercession of Jesus Christ. However, Josiah’s intercession only delayed the just judgment of God; Christ’s intercession spares us from the just judgment of God. Where Josiah, a mere man, was only able to delay, Jesus, true man and true God, is able to save us from wrath.

26 Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger. 27 So the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘There shall my Name be.’ ”

28 As for the other events of Josiah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?

29 While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Neco faced him and killed him at Megiddo. 30 Josiah’s servants brought his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father. {2 Kings 23:26-30}

Yes, even though he was a godly man Josiah was not spared from a violent death. If anyone ever tells you that as a Christian you will be spared from earthly harm they are wrong. While it is true that God does protect us that does not mean that He does so with impunity. If an armed man broke into my house at this moment and shot me dead could we say that the man overcame God’s will? Certainly not. Bad things happen in this world because God does not watch over us with impunity. He has given us a great amount of freedom upon this earth, and we abuse that freedom with our sinful natures. Thus, bad things happen and even those who trust in Jesus Christ in faith can face hardshipt, trials and even death. In the grand scheme of things what happens to me here is of minor consequence at best. My focus is to be on the hereafter, the life to come, and how I depart from this life into the next won’t be remembered when all the dust has settled. We hope to die peacefully, and we hope the same for friends and loved ones, but we are guaranteed nothing in that regard. Josiah was promised by God only that he would be buried in peace, not that he would die peacefully. Likewise, Jesus said:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We can learn valuable lessons from Manasseh and Josiah. Of course, we know to follow Josiah’s example in life, but we learn even from his death that sin is an ugly thing. It is truly too ugly to put into words. God can have no part of sin, and so when we are with Him we will be in new glorified “bodies”, free from the sin that is part of our soul and our flesh. Because Josiah died in battle and not peacefully I have lost no faith in God. His will be done! God blessed Josiah and guided him. Would that I could do as well as Josiah! I will not get to choose how I die (seeing as how suicide is not an option for me), but I can choose to serve God. Josiah did, and so did many others whose lives and acts are recorded in the scriptures. Let us learn from them, and also from those who did not walk with God. The lesson is that we all would be as Mahasseh were it not for God Himself.

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. {Romans 3:21-26}

I may never come close to the righteous acts of Josiah, but I know that God called me to be one of His people as well, and because of that I too am spared from his wrath. Lord, thank you for your servants, such as Josiah. Thank you for teaching us the lessons we can learn from them, and showing us your goodness through your word. As Josiah did what is right let us do what is right. May all those whose hearts desire to walk with you know that you will give them the strength, guidance and ability to do so. May our thoughts toward you always be filled with thanks and praise, and may we find peace in knowing that whatever befalls us here on earth, we have a life to come where we will be freed from the bondage of sin and will spend forever with our Lord and Savior, the God Who saved us. Thank you for these things and may your name be praised forever and ever. Amen.

Advertisements

Written by Shawn

March 5, 2006 at 5:39 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: