Robert E. Surgenor
In the two previous articles we have noticed Josiahs ANCESTRY; HIS AWAKENING; HIS ATTITUDE; and his ACCLAIM. Josiahs awakening produced ACTION, which I think will be well to consider this month.
When a person is divinely awakened as Josiah was, there comes a change in his way of thinking, lifestyle and goal in life. This can be readily seen in the young king. Considering the corruption that surrounded him, he begins to act and move with kingly authority. His peers had no influence over him, neither did the "religion" of his father Amon or his grandfather Manesseh. Josiah was a man of godly convictions.
Young folks, especially those still in the schooling system, seem to be greatly influenced by their peers. Others are influenced by sports or theatrical stars. People seem to have "idols" that they mimic or imitate. We also have more sensible people, but they too imitate others. They follow the path of their ancestors, whether that path was right or wrong. Did you ever hear that old-time religious song, "Give me that old-time religion. Give me that old-time religion. It was good enough for father and its good enough for me?" There is a perfect example of one following his ancestors, whether they were right or wrong. In other words, you will find people that are followers, having no convictions of their own. They attend the church of their fathers faithfully, whether it is a scripturally correct place or not
Let me ask you a searching question. If you are saved and in a scriptural assembly of God, why are you there? Is it simply because your friends are there and it seems the popular thing to do? Or, is it because you were raised by parents that were, or are, connected with a scriptural assembly? If you are in these categories, you may find it very easy to leave a gathered out company of Gods people when you become dissatisfied. If you have never had your own deep convictions as to such a gathering, you will find no problem in severing your connections when unpleasant conditions arise. Josiah was not of that character at all, he possessed very deep convictions, convictions that were from God Himself - and ACTION was the result!
At this point it would be good for all of us to search our own ways. Ask yourself, why am I in a scriptural assembly? Is it because I am convicted through a knowledge of the scriptures, that the gathering is ordained of God? Is it because I realize that the Lord has only one pattern for His people to function in assembly capacity, and that His pattern is being carried out where I am in the fellowship? Is it because I fully perceive the corruption of Christendom and the unscripturalness of clergy and laity? I would say that if you can answer all these pointed questions in the affirmative, that there is a very rare chance that you will ever abandon such a fellowship.
Josiah was a man, as we have stated, of deep and abiding convictions. It is one thing to have convictions, it is quite another thing to make them known through ACTION! I have sadly witnessed believers that have possessed godly convictions, associated in an assembly that has begun to slip in spiritual principles. Instead of expressing their convictions to help stem the tide, they remain silent. One is reminded of five of the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2,3) and the inconsistency that was prevailing, yet seemingly, those with scriptural convictions in those assemblies were not coming to the front with objections. They remained passive. Is this sin? I consider it to be so. Remember the words of Samuel the prophet. "Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way" (1 Samuel 12:23). In other words, Samuel made it known that he could sin by remaining silent. Sometimes doing nothing can be classified as sin.
However, there can be the other extreme. Many years ago, I knew a man who saw an error in the assembly in which he was associated. He objected, and that in itself was fine. He made known his views. However, he was so distressed that he repeatedly made known his objections publicly. He was warned to cease but heeded not. Finally he was dealt with as a railer. This was extremely sad. He had made known his convictions to the responsible element in the assembly and he should have rested his case there. They knew where he stood, thus all the responsibility rested upon the elders, not him. How unwise for him to continue his ranting, week after week. He accomplished nothing. Let us be careful to make our convictions known in a humble, wise, and scriptural way and leave the rest with God.
It is most interesting to consider the atmosphere that surrounded the young king as he began to move into ACTION. The weeping prophet Jeremiah was on the scene at that time. God had said to him, "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.. .Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth... they are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain.., they that handle the law knew Me not. the pastors also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baa 1, and walked after things that do not profit.. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 1:8,9; 2: 5, 8, 13).
We also find another prophet at this time, named Zephaniah. God said to him, "Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD, she drew not near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions, her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law" (Zeph. 3:1-3).
Saved at sixteen years of age and going into action at a mere twenty years of age, what a courageous person Josiah was, considering the conditions of his day. What a testimony! He didnt just sit upon his throne delivering orders to others. He got personally involved in the action himself! Notice the divine account.
"For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 34:3-7).
Josiah commences his purging by eliminating first of all, the high places. Im sure Jeremiah would have been a source of encouragement to him. Such places had an interesting history in the nation. We find high places being used for the offering of sacrifices to the Lord in the days of Solomon in First Kings chapter three. However, in the days of his son Rehoboam we read, "And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree" (1 Kings 14:22,23). Instead of bringing their sacrifices to Gods appointed center, they altered His pattern by sacrificing in various high places.
Asa was a good king, and even destroyed his mothers idol, yet even in his day it was said, "But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asas heart was perfect with the LORD all his days" (1 Kings 15:14). When Asas son Jehoshaphat came to the throne, even though a good king, he too allowed the high places to remain (1 Kings 22:43). Later, even Jehoash, considered at first to be a good king, never made any attempt to eliminate the high places in Judah. "And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places" (2 Kings 12:2,3).
The list goes on; Azariah, Jotham, until we come to Hezekiah of whom it was said, "He did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel" (2 Kings 18:3-5).
However, this noble kings son Manasseh was an evil man. Consequently, when he came to the throne, wicked changes were made in the nation. The sad record states - "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baa 1, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put My name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever" (2 Kings 21:2-7). How revolting! This was Josiahs grandfather. He reigned longer than any king, fifty five years, and even though saved toward the end of his days, when his son Amon assumed the throne "he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did" (1 Kings 2 1:20).
Josiah could have reasoned and said, "The high places are not that evil. After all, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Azariah, and Jothem were all good kings and they allowed them to remain. However, human reasoning didnt prevail, but the commandments of God did, and Josiah sprang into ACTION as we shall see in next months article.