Robert E. Surgenor
Tracing the history of high places last month and the many good kings that allowed such to remain in the land, we noticed that 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. To be reasonable, if I do the same, it will make it far more convenient for the people to offer sacrifices unto the Lord, instead of trudging all the way to Jerusalem." However, Josiah was not a man of human reasoning. He was a man of divine principles, knowing that God had repeatedly warned His people in Moses day, "Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee" (Deut. 12:13,14). Josiah, regardless of cost, was ready to enforce the law of God relative to the place of gathering upon the nation. He was a man of ACTION!
To apply what we have been considering to todays conditions, we may say that we too have high places. Such places may present the gospel acceptably and follow many divine truths, but when it comes to holding every precept of the divine pattern for a scriptural assembly, they fail. A hired ministry; a democratic or dictatorial government; a one-man pastor; the employment of musical instruments; the lack of the sisters head covering; the use of multiple cups and wafers for the Lords supper, all indicate a coming short of Gods pattern and can be considered high places. It is certainly not our position, in this day of grace, to destroy such places. Perish the thought! We are called upon to simply avoid them. The call is loud and clear. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6: 17, 18).
We may have many lovely, well-meaning brethren and sisters in such places, yet let us remember this - God has a divine pattern and having been taught that pattern we are called upon to obey it. Let us "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3). Thank God for scriptural assemblies, where the government is theocratic, being composed of a plurality of elders (Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17); where the Lords supper is carried out every Lords day (Acts 20:7); where discipline is enforced and wicked ones put out of the fellowship, until they are restored (1 Cor. 5:13); where sisters are veiled, and silent in the gathering (1 Cor. 11:6,10; 14:34); and where only morally and scripturally clean saints are allowed into the fellowship (Acts 9:26,27; 18:27; Romans 16:1,2). Brethren, let us be careful to love all the saints, but let us also be careful to be only in fellowship where the Lord has been pleased to place His name. Josiah eliminated the high places!
The next thing we observe is that he made an effective attack on the groves. This particular word in the Hebrew language is "asherah." This could mean a Babylonian-Canaanite goddess of fortune and happiness, the supposed consort of Baal, or simply trees or poles set up near an altar. The evil influences of Babylon and the heathen people of Canaan had always been a snare to Israel and Judah. Their false gods seemed to have a strong appeal to people that should have known better. Josiah purposed in his heart to totally eliminate such snares, not only in Judah and Jerusalem, but even unto the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim, areas north of Jerusalem. Paul warned Timothy, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier offesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:3,4). Josiah eliminated religious snares. Paul is not warning Timothy of religious snares, but he is warning him of a snare, the snare of being entangled with the affairs of this life. In other words, dont get too involved with the occupations of this fleeting life. It is true, we are in this world, but remember, we are not of it. Most of us, of necessity, are engaged in a form of employment. There are responsibilities of a temporal nature that need to be attended to in this life. However let us be very careful not to let such legitimate things become a snare. For example, I have a home and a yard. My lawn is to be kept in a decent fashion. My evergreens are to be trimmed occasionally. I have a responsibility to maintain a decent looking place in the eyes of my neighbors. However, if I decided to dress up my yard, decorating it in an ornate fashion with exotic shrubs and flowers that required constant care, and commenced to work for hours each day on my lawn to make it look like a golf course green, I would say that my yard had become a snare. In other words, the hours unnecessarily spent to keep "above the Jones," could have been more profitably spent for the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
When I was five years of age, my father bought me a Lionel train. That was great for a child. However, I once met an elder who purchased a train set and had quite a setup in his attic. While aged and infirm saints were longing for a little visit and a word of comfort, this so-called "shepherd" was up in his attic with a railroad engineers cap on his head, a railroad scarf around his neck, engaged in running his little trains around the attic floor with an occasional blow of the whistle. What a snare! What a waste of money and time! Let us be honest and search ourselves. Have we been snared by some of the affairs of this life? May God help us to be sensible and moderate as we use the things of this life. Let us be very careful to give the Lord the first place in all that we purpose and in all that we do. That is the secret of blessing! Josiah eliminated the groves.
Next comes the carved images and the molten images. It would seem like Josiah acted with a vengeance! He not only broke them in pieces, he made dust of them. Nobody would be able to come along later and glue the broken pieces together. He left no door open for a return to those idols. Not only this, he desecrated the graves of those who had sacrificed unto them. Then he went so far as to exhume the idolatrous priests bones and burn them upon their altars, thus defiling the place with their ashes. What a man!
Tracing the history of molten images, the first recorded one was fashioned by a man that should have known better. Poor Aaron fell while his brother Moses was up in the mount with God. Notice the divine account. "And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf and they said, These be thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:3,4).
There are a few things that I see in this narrative. First: Earrings are connected with idolatry. Sister, do you wear them? If so, why? Jacob had them in his family at Shechem, but before he returned to Bethel, the House of God, he buried all the strange gods with the earrings under the oak which was by Shechem. There was no returning to Bethel until cleansed of these abominations. Whenever you read of women being adorned with jewelry, they are away from God and in need of restoration. A careful reading of Isaiah 3:18-20; Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:40 and Hosea 2:13, will confirm my straightforward statement.
Second: God was entirely displaced in the minds and hearts of the people He had so wondrously redeemed. They were presented with a new redeemer - a golden calf! To turn the situation to our day, is not God displaced in many religious circles? Mohammidism, Buddhism, and a host of other "isms" totally deny the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole Redeemer of men. Even in some so-called Christian circles, He is denied as being sufficient in Himself and in His sacrifice on the Cross to redeem men. People are told that good works, penance, prayers and a list of other things are necessary to obtain redemption. Yes, the golden calf still exists today!
Six times God through Moses had warned the children of Israel not to make a graven image. The warning went unheeded. The first recording of a graven image being fashioned is found in Judges 17. There was a man of mount Ephraim whose name was Micah. He seemingly lived with his mother. The account goes on to say, And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:5,6). The sad thing is, in their total ignorance of divine principles, they actually were doing what they thought was right. We find the same today with many "religious" people. They are so far removed from the truth and totally ignorant of it, yet they are absolutely sincere and devoted to their "religion." They are doing what is right in their own eyes. Brethren, such a standard will never do in the assembly. When issues arise, it is not a matter of how I feel about it. It is not a matter of what the majority think. It is not a matter of what will be the easiest way out. Let me put it this way. We are absolute slaves, bound to the Word of God. The only solution is, "What saith the LORD?" That is the all-important thing. Gods word must be bowed to, no matter what the cost. Josiah had no concern about his public image. What he was concerned about was cleansing the land for God so that the favor and presence of the Lord might be seen in their midst.
It is also recorded that "they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence." Baalim had obtained a footing in the nation after Joshua died (Judges 2:11). Through the influence of Samuel, the children of Israel put away Baalim, and served the LORD (1 Sam. 7:3,4). However, Baalim was established firmly in the ten tribes during Ahabs day. Jezebels daughter Athaliah then introduced it into Judah. Thus the two hundred and forty five years the nation had been plagued with the worship of this Phoenician god, called Baal or Baalim. What a host of kings had not done before Josiah, the young king accomplished! Josiah did a thorough job of elimination. He was a man of ACTION. May God raise up more men in our midst with Josiahs attitude and wisdom, that we may continue to experience the favor and presence of the Lord in our midst.