In a culture of uncertainty as to who we should be, and what is right and wrong, I find Josiah from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles a fascinating figure.
Have you ever been caught up in the pressure? Maybe peer pressure, or the pressure of expectations from parents, friends, society, or a subculture? Maybe the weight of the world felt/feels like a never ending barrage of depression, exhaustion, overwhelming odds, and temptation?
I hear you. We’re all in the same boat. Everyone has expectations for you. Everyone seems to know best. Everyone tells you what’s cool, and what’s not. Sometimes you just want to scream, but then you’d be labeled crazy. Am I right!!??
You’re supposed to just suck it up; act like it’s all okay. When you try to stand out, people crush you for it. In my American culture we’re taught to “be ourselves”, and to always “stay true to who you are”. We are told to be weird, different, to break the mold, and to believe in what makes you happy. As a matter of fact, we’re even told to do whatever makes you happy. It’s a selfish, me-first attitude. However, the agenda pushed is simply a mask for intolerance, although tolerance is shouted from the mountain tops. The reality of such a utopia is far from reality unfortunately.
You can say and do almost anything you want here, unless you think someone else is wrong…
You are not allowed to disagree. If you do, then you’re a bigot, a hater, or a vile disruption to the flow of happiness. God forbid you disagree on religious grounds, or because of your faith as a Christian… Everything is supposed to be accepted, and if it isn’t, then you are an outcast, and a rebel without love for others.
HOW INSANE IS THAT???
It’s more than just difficult to stand up, and stand out nowadays. Especially with the gray area we as a people, (Christians and non-Christians) place around so many things. We speak how we want, act how we want, participate in what we want, and accept/disparage what we want with almost no second thought of prayer. We rarely spend longer than five minutes here and there asking, talking, and communicating with our Heavenly Father.
We blame our circumstances and upbringing as a way of justifying our wrongs, and pushing our own personal agendas forward.
My point? We don’t stand out from this world…
It doesn’t matter your accent, your fashion, or cultural tendencies. It doesn’t matter your political views, whether you drink your coffee with or without sugar, or live on a farm verses in a penthouse. You could be black, white, red, yellow, or rainbow colored, and it wouldn’t matter. The differences we think matter, really don’t matter at all. We usually still follow the crowd. Just because we have different interests, and do different things doesn’t mean our spirits look any differently. That is the most important part.The differences we think make us stand out, really don’t, because the difference that makes you stand out the most comes from within, and not from outside appearance, and actions that seem to break the mold.
As a Christian, this should be much more alarming than ever.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you. Which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
The book of Romans seems to sum it up, but Josiah gives us a deeper, more profound example of someone who had every right to follow the crowd, and didn’t. We follow the expectations placed upon us by those who surround us; but why? Jesus has an expectation, and His matters the most. Josiah stood out, and he even changed his nation. To understand the process, you must first examine his culture, and his family.
Manasseh: A bad grampy.. 😦
The setting is in the land of Judah. God’s people are under the reign of a man named Manasseh. (The grandfather of Josiah)
Although he occasionally humbled himself before the Lord, he was vile. During Manasseh’s rule over Judah, “…he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nation’s the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.” (2 Ki. 21:2)
Manasseh built altars to Baal, and made an Asherah pole, (Carved wooden pole honoring the pagan goddess Asherah) all while destroying his father Hezekiah’s work by rebuilding the pagan high places. (2 Ki. 21:3)
He began his reign at the age of twelve, and served as King for 55 years over Judah. During that time, he brought more evil upon the land of Judah than the nation’s God had wiped out just a few generations earlier. Manasseh set in motion the following:
- Erection of altars to false God’s (21:3)
- Bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them
- Built altars to the starry hosts in both courts of the Lord – Also in the temple. (21:3)
- Sacrificed his own son in the fire (21:6)
- Practiced sorcery and divination, consulted mediums, and Consulted spirits (21:6)
- Defiled the temple of the Lord by taking the Asherah pole and placing it in the temple where God said “In this temple, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever.” (21:7)
- Led the people of Israel astray (21:9)
- Shed innocent blood
So we know Manasseh was a baaaaad dude. His reign was centered around the premise of idolatry. Idol worship was his main focus, which led the people of God astray. This is a wonderful insertion point for the culture of the world today. We place TV, friends, school, social norms, games, money, and so much more over Christ. We worship these things whether we believe it or not.
By the time Manasseh died, his legacy of 55 years had been heavily supplanted upon Judah. Idolatry, wicked rituals, unholy practices, and evil worship were now the norm.
Amon: A bad daddy.. :((
After Manasseh, came his son, Amon. He carried out his father’s evil ways. He was 22 years old when he took power, and wasted no time in further entrenching Judah into the customs of his ole pappy ‘nasseh. (I know…just go with it)
Although Amon was raised in dire circumstances and shown nothing more than evil, he STILL HAD A CHOICE. The prophets, and those who still followed the Lord, were present. He was not ignorant to God, just in defiance.
The Bible even states that he “…walked in all the ways of his father; he worshiped the idols his father had worshiped, and bowed down to them.” (2 Ki. 21:21)
Verse 22 states Amon “…forsook the Lord, the God of his fathers…”
To forsake something you must have knowledge of what you have chosen to forsake! The definition of “forsook” is to “give up completely” or to “relinquish”.
To say that Amon was a puppet under his father’s rule is wrong. You cannot relinquish, or give up something you never possessed knowledge of, or had the the opportunity to seize.
Just like his father before him, Amon made a choice. He could have changed the culture of evil, but he chose to remain comfortable in his evil ways.
He was not too young, and naive to hold such a position either. We ARE able to understand good, and evil at a young age. That excuse does not fly. Wisdom is not directly linked to age. Your spiritual age does not always reflect your physical age.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
The Lord is speaking to more than just not disrespecting the young and casting them away. He is saying that this generation, the millenials, have a duty!!! I am days away from being 23 years old, and this hits me hard. I should “…set an example for the believers…”.
I am young, and I am a part of a generation that is meant to do more than just learn from wise elders and then replicate that wisdom. Yes, we should take that wisdom and apply it, but we should also seek new wisdom from the Lord!!! A new, heavenly wisdom that has never been seen or felt before is what our hearts should be seeking!!!
I am meant to “…set an example…”.
How can I continue to be complacent in so many areas? Yes, I’m trying, but how heavy is my heart for true change?
Here’s the toughest realization of all…
Do I even want to be an example? To be an example means to stand out above the crowd. My speech, conduct, love faith, and purity cannot stay where they are at…
It means that I now have to live up to the example given to me. If I can’t give up my heart completely, in all the ways listed to mirror after Christ, then I don’t want to be an example. Before I can set an example, I must follow THE example; Christ.
“Before I can set an example, I must follow THE example; Christ.”
1 Timothy cannot apply to me unless I realize that I don’t create the example, I follow the example and then do my best to reproduce it. I have to let God change it to fit His plan. (Fit for my environment, and times)
Manasseh and Amon chose to remove themselves from any anointing or blessings from the Lord by refusing to die to themselves. They KNEW THAT they were not living as an example God would be proud of.
Josiah: The Last Righteous King of Judah
Now, this is where Josiah comes in. At eight years old he took over as King. After years of turmoil, the land of Judah was lost. They needed a leader to bring them back to the Lord. They needed someone to stand out and be different. In 2 Kings much of the story is told of Josiah, but the elaboration of his growth is highlighted the most in 2 Chronicles chapter 34.
In Josiah’s eighth year of his reign when he was just 16, “…he began to seek the God of his father David.” (2 Ch 34:3)
In Josiah’s twelfth year “…he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols, and cast images…” (2 Ch 34:3)
Josiah knew he had to make a change once he began to have a relationship with the Lord, and he was aware of this at eight years old!!! Even at a young age he started to bring about change. At 16 he grew more, and then he went a step further, and decided to deepen his walk with God to a place much more unheard of. He wanted even more communication with his King. He decided to rebuild the Temple of the Lord from the rubble that it had been allowed to fall into.
The temple of the Lord housed the Lord’s presence in those times. That was where the presence of God moved and provided the opportunity to talk, and communicate with Him on a deeper level. What Josiah was doing by rebuilding the temple, was rebuilding the relationship between God and his people. He didn’t know all of the rules and regulations, he just knew he had to rebuild the relationship.
During the rebuilding of the relationship (The temple), something amazing happened. They found the lost rules/law. (The Book of the Law)
My point is that the rules and regulations of Christianity, mean nothing without the relationship between you and the Lord. If you follow the rules your whole life but lack communication, love, and a true walk with Him, you have simply worshiped the book of your God, and not your God. He created Adam and Eve to walk with Him, talk with Him, and love Him. They had one rule in the beginning, and it was simply there in order to make their love a choice, and not a forced love. That is really all He has ever wanted from us…Our love. The Biblical rules of do’s and dont’s are to help us know how to love Him even more. They are the blueprint for what is actually the most important thing.
Josiah chose to stand out, and be different. He chose to focus on his relationship with the Lord when he knew next-to-nothing of the law, and once God showed him the law, he began to follow it as well.
I want everyone to see that I do not condemn the law. It is wonderful because it helps us grow even closer. So we need both the relationship, and the law in order to be pleasing to the Lord. They coincide, they do not clash.
My goal is to open our eyes to see that the Bible and its rules are so very important, and that they are the Holy word of God. They are in place to help us go so much deeper. We should at the same time never forget the substance of why we even have the law/rules; so we learn how to love Him more.
Let’s stand out like Josiah, and not conform to the ways of this world. Let’s seek a relationship with our King, and since we have the Bible (which contains the law) we should follow it whole heartedly in order to feed that relationship we seek so fervently!!!
Do not let the past define you. Do not allow the people that have been defining your view of who you can be, to win. Stand up, stand out, and become who God has always made you to be. Be different.
I never want to fall into the customs of a world that defies my God. Instead I want to stand out and be different from them. I want to grow my relationship with the King of the Universe.
Be the real you, because that you, is backed by the Lion of Judah.
With much love, as always,