Robert E. Surgenor
It was noticed last month that Josiah made a clean sweep of the land, utterly destroying everything that was foreign to the worship of his God. It is one thing to exterminate the evil, it is another thing to restore the good. After six years of purging the land, the king, now twenty six years of age, turns his thoughts to the house of the Lord his God (2 Chron. 34:8). The first mention of that expression, "the house of the LORD" is in Exodus 23:19 and is connected with two things. First, the bringing of their firstfruits unto the LORD. Second, the prohibition of seething a kid in his mothers milk. Thus we see crops and cattle. As for the crops, God was to have the firstfruits. Josiah was giving God the best days of his life, the firstfruits of his sojourn here. It is noble to see a young man bearing the yoke for God in his youth. When God calls a man into the great harvest field with the gospel, in total dependence upon Himself for pioneer work, he calls young men with their best days before them.
As for the cattle, a tenderness to natural relationships must be shown. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, and to wrench away a baby calf from its mother and to slay it could hardly be called a compassionate act. Josiah was not only a man with strong convictions, but he was also a man of tender compassion. When he considered the sins of the nation against his God, he wept (34:27). The Lord Jesus used the scourge in the temple, but he also wept at the tomb of Lazarus.
Whenever one seeks to accomplish something for the house of the LORD (the assembly), is it not wise to seek counsel? Before commencing his work on Gods house, Josiah makes contact with Shaphan, the secretary of state. He had charge of the finances and trained the young prince in political economy. Also Masseiah, the Governor of Jerusalem and Joah, the son of Joahaz, the official historian; Hilkiah, the high priest, who had charge of Josiahs religious education; and Huldah the prophetess, with her husband Shallum, who were in close attendance as guides and advisors. Josiah also had a young companion noted for his piety, patriotism, and clear insight into divine truth - Jeremiah the prophet. Thus the work was delegated to these highly-placed officials, reminding us of the words of Solomon: "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Prov. 11:14). Never had there been in the Jewish court a more noble band of God-fearing men. When things are to be accomplished in the assembly of God, a wise move is to do it through counsel. Josiah placed confidence in capable men.
What a contrast in the assembly where Diotrephes prevailed. John says, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not" (3 John 9). What misplaced affection - to love to have the preeminence! There should be no allowance of dictators in any assembly of God. The plurality of elders is the scriptural pattern. Not just one pastor (shepherd) but a multiplicity for each scripturally gathered company of Gods people. Anything that we do relative to the testimony must be done in fellowship with our brethren. Reception into the assembly is not a one-man decision. Putting away from an assembly is not a one-man act. There is no such thing in Holy Scripture as a free lancer launching himself into full-time gospel work. There must be council and wholehearted commendation from the overseers before a man takes that tremendous step of laying down his secular tools and launching out in total dependence upon God in the gospel. Josiah, even though a king, saw the wisdom in working with others of like mind.
It is interesting to notice, that the expression, "the house of the LORD" is mentioned nine times from 2 Chronicles 34:8 to 35:2. Then the next mention of it is in 36:7, which is exceedingly sad. "Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon."
Regarding the various times the house of the LORD is mentioned in Josiahs day, it is interesting to notice the settings. In 34:8 we have preparations made for the repair of the house of the LORD. In 34:10 we find workman that had the oversight of the house of the LORD. In 34:14,15 we discover a book of the law found in the house of the LORD. In 34:17 we notice money delivered to the overseers and workmen for their labor relative to the house of the LORD. In 34:30 we observe the king reading all the words of the book of the covenant in the house of the LORD. Finally, in 35:2 we observe the priests in their charges being encouraged in their service relative to the house of the LORD. What a beautiful picture of revival, godliness, unity and accomplishment!
In the repairing and future maintaining of Gods house a variety of workers are mentioned. Workmen that had the oversight; Workmen that repaired, perfecting that which they commenced (amend, vs. 10); Artificers; Carpenters; Builders; and Masons (2 Kings 22:6); Skillful musicians; Bearers of burdens; Scribes; Officers; and Porters. It reminds me of what we have in the maintaining of a scriptural assembly today. We have gifts given to every individual for the scriptural functioning of the testimony. In Romans 12 we have God dispensing the gifts of, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, ruling, and showing mercy. In Ephesians 4 it is Christ imparting the gifts of evangelism, shepherding,and teaching. In 1 Corinthians 12 we discover the Holy Spirit dividing diversities gifts to every man severally as He will. Thus we see the Trinity working in the dispensing of gifts for the preservation and functioning of the local assembly.
It is very encouraging to read 2 Chronicles 34:10. "And the men did the work faithfully." There was a firmness, fidelity and steadfastness associated with their labors. Do you remember the war in Exodus 17? Amalek fought with Israel. Moses is on the top of the hill interceding for Israels army and as long as his hand was held up, Israel prevailed. However, when his hand was let down, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur provided the solution to Moses weariness. The scripture states, "But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun." That word steady is the same word as the word faithful in our consideration. Exodus 17 provides the first occurrence of that word in the Bible. Moses hands were made steady through the help of others.
In our day, many persons have remained faithful in their work for God through the service of others. When I see a faithful saint, it encourages me to be faithful. When my wife and I were newly saved, we became acquainted with an extremely godly man in the assembly, David L. Roy. He became our model and had a tremendous influence over us regarding our desires to live for God. We loved his company and treasured his advice. He helped us to be steady for God. He played a tremendous part in our desire to be faithful to the house of the LORD. Shepherds in a local assembly have a tremendous responsibility to be ensamples, or models to the flock. Peter writes, "Neither as being lords over Gods heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3). If you are an overseer, let me ask you, is your life Christ-like and a good example for your sheep to follow? I have seen so-called shepherds retire, purchase a motor-home and absent themselves from their flock for months, touring the country. Is that an example conducive to godliness in others? Hardly! Remember my dear overseer, you shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of all the time that the Lord has given unto you. How are you using your time? For the good of the flock, or for self?
Paul wrote Timothy, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example (a model) of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). Young men, what sort of pattern are you setting forth in your life for others to behold? Are you Josiah-like, all for God, or are you of the same nature as Demus of whom it was said, "Having loved this present world" (2 Timothy 4:10). Paul informs the assembly at Thessalonica that they were "ensamples (a model) to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thes. 1:7). How wonderful to see an assembly that all other assemblies would do good to imitate. Is the assembly with whom you are associated setting forth a godly example for all to see? Do you thunder out the gospel to a perishing world? Have the saints turned from their worldly idols to faithfully serve the living God? Are the saints looking upward with great anticipation, waiting for the Lords coming? Is there manifested a work of faith, a labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and your Father? Such was the case at Thessalonica. How does your assembly compare?
Finally the apostle says, "Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul, like King Josiah, was a man wholeheartedly for God. May it be so with all of us, the author included!