Robert E. Surgenor
In the lives of men there invariably comes a time when a decision is made as to the way of life. Unfortunately, most mortals choose the way that leads to destruction. It would seem that this is what our Lord is referring to when He says, " Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt.7:13-14). I have often heard it preached that we, as sinners, are born on the broad road. Then I hear that if one dies on the broad road he goes to hell. Then I ask the question, "If a week old infant dies, who as you say, is born on the broad road, does it go to hell?" If one understands Godís divine plan, they can see the folly of such an interpretation. In fact, there are no ROADS in the Lordís statement. What He is referring to is oneís WAY. Many (not all) choose the broad way. Few choose the narrow. All make a choice as to their path in life. One must make a choice to seek Christ before He can trust Christ. It is unscriptural to tell a sinner to choose Christ for salvation. It is not a matter of oneís choice at all, but a matter of oneís trust and this trust cannot become a reality until one chooses (desires) the right way.
When we turn to the history of the kings of Israel and Judah, we find men choosing ways. Unfortunately, most of these kings discarded Godís way and chose their own way to their own destruction, and to the destruction of those under their leadership. The history of most of these kings is very depressing. Following the death of Solomon we have nineteen kings of Israel, mostly all evil men. Consequently Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria. Running parallel to these kings we find nineteen kings of Judah, prior to the Babylonian captivity, out of which eleven did evil in the sight of the Lord. How refreshing it is then to read amidst such degenerate conditions certain kings that went against the tide and chose the right way and made a stand for God. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, were kings of whom it could be said that they did right. Perhaps the most outstanding one in this category was young king Josiah, the last of the faithful kings of Judah. The kingdom was degenerated and hastily coming to an end. The testimony, once glorious, was about to close in utter disgrace. The Babylonian captivity was drawing near. One might say that the arising of Josiah on the scene was THE FINAL FLASH OF A DEPARTING GLORY. Let us draw near with holy awe and consider this most unique individual as he moves for his God and Godís testimony. Considering my headings consist of all Aís, it will be fitting just to term our considerations - "Josiahís ĎStraight Aí Report Card."
I have heard it stated that oneís environment molds their way of life. Not so with Josiah! His grandfather Manasseh was the vilest of all kings in Judah, yet he reigned the longest of all Judahís kings - 55 years! Commencing at the age of twelve, he did evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen. Whatever his godly father Hezekiah had accomplished in Judah to bring his subjects back to God, Manasseh effectively destroyed. Anyone that dared to oppose this godless individual was slain. It was said of him that, "he shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other." "He did wickedly above all that the Amorites did." Jewish history relates that he had Isaiah sawn asunder. He built again the high places his father had destroyed. He reared up altars for Baal, worshipped the host of heaven and built heathen altars in the house of the Lord. Not only this, he sacrificed his son in fire and dealt with them that had familiar spirits and with wizards. Bound in fetters, he was carried to Babylon where there he was converted to God. There is none too wicked, but what God can save. Returning to Jerusalem he "knew that the Lord He was God." At his death, Josiah was a lad of six and perhaps his grandfatherís unique awakening and salvation had an impact on young Josiahís soul. However, his 22-year-old father Amon took the throne and the six-year-old Josiah witnessed a father of whom it was said, he "trespassed more and more." Amonís reign was short. After two years he was murdered by his servants.
It is to be observed that God told Moses to instruct His people that they were not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deut 5:32; 28:14). God also imposed this law upon future kings that were to arise in the nation. Kings were also told to write a copy of Godís law in a book and it was to be with him, and he was to "read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them" (Deut. 17:18,19). The scriptures and the scepter were not to be divorced. Joshua was told, "Be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left" (Josh 1:7). Years later, Joshua, as an old man, exhorts the nation before his departure, "Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left" (Josh. 23:6).
It was said of Josiah, "he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left" (2 Chron. 34:2). Notice, the words, "to the right hand or to the left" are not recorded as exhortations, as in the former passages, but they are recorded as a reality in the life of this lad between the age of eight and sixteen. It is interesting that when Josiah was twelve, Daniel was born and Jeremiah commenced his tearful ministry in Jerusalem. Could it be that Jeremiah had some influence over this unique king? I remember William Warke saying that the left hand was the place of weakness and the right hand the place of power. A man turning to the left hand would be a person that was too weak to uphold the whole Word of God. While on the other hand, a person turning to the right hand would be a person going beyond the Word of God to promote his own ideas. Thus, the right hand would characterize legalism and the left hand looseness.
Let me relate two things that were actual experiences in my own life. As for turning to the right hand, years ago I was visiting an assembly where a young brother had applied for fellowship. He was told that he must shave off his mustache before they would receive him into the assembly. As far as I was concerned, his pencil-line mustache was becoming to him. However, according to the oversight, it was the choice of either wearing a mustache or being in the assembly. The young brother was to be commended, for he took the ultimatum well, even though it wasnít scriptural. The following Lordís Day, an afternoon ministry meeting was arranged. While sitting up front, five minutes before the meeting was to commence, one of the brethren hurriedly came up to me and whispered, "Brother Albert Ramsay just walked in the door and we were wondering if you would share your meeting with him?" Seizing an opportunity to prove a point, I seriously replied, "No." The brother was taken back and asked me, "Why not?" I told him, "If you will not allow a young brother to come into this assembly because he has a mustache, then how can you allow a man to get up on the platform and preach to that assembly when he has a mustache?" The brother stuttered and said, "But heís a Lordís servant." I replied, "Yes, but as a preacher, he is more responsible than the young brother, not to have a mustache, according to your judgment on mustaches." The brother looked very dismayed and then I smiled and said, "I only wanted to prove a point to you." Brother Ramsay and I shared the meeting. The assembly had turned to the right hand.
As pertaining to the left hand, I know of an assembly, that before receiving a saint for fellowship they would be questioned regarding various former things seen in their lives. Sisters were asked, "Do you intend to let your hair grow?" Applicants were asked, "Would you still feel free to occasionally participate in religious services in denominationalism?" Sad to say, that assembly never brings these issues up anymore. They are manifesting a left hand turn.
Josiah was a man that fully kept the word of God, yet, in his zeal, did not go beyond its divine precepts. He was what we would call a well balanced man, "he declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left." In spite of his ancestry, he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. His attitude was spiritual, "he declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left." We justly give Josiah an "A" on both counts. How does your report card measure up? God willing next month we shall examine further, this unique king, with a report card of straight "Aís."