Tag Archives: Reform

God’s People, part 87: Josiah

Read 2 Kings 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.’” (John‬ ‭4:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 87: Josiah. Josiah was one of the most important kings. It could be argued that he was was beneath only David and Solomon in importance. This is because Josiah is seen as a reformer, as someone who had the most success in bringing Judah back to a right relationship with God.

This reform started when the high priest, Hilkiah, found a scroll while clearing the treasure room of the Temple. This scroll is believed by most scholars to either be a copy of the Deuteronomy or went on to become a part of Deuteronomy, had that book already existed during the time period. Either way, this scroll magically appears in the Temple where no one, evidently, had ever seen it before. It is, when one thinks of it, kind of odd that a sacred scroll was left “hidden” in the treasure room; however, that will be dealt with later.

According to the story, Hilkiah brought the scroll to Josiah’s attention. The king sent Hilkiah and other leaders to consult with the prophetess Huldah, who told him that indeed God was going to allow the curses mentioned in the scroll to befall Jerusalem, and all of Judah, as a result of their sins; however, she also assured that this would not take place during King’s reign due to his humility.

This word from the prophetess, according to the Chronicler, sparked a fire within Josiah, who had the entire scroll read to the people. He then set into place new rules. There could only ever be one place to worship: the Temple. All foreign idols and shrines were to be destroyed. In fact, Josiah had all areas of worship (outside of the Temple of Jerusalem) destroyed, even if they were to Yahweh. Thus, Josiah centralized worship and mandated that the Jerusalem Temple was the ONLY place that God could be properly worshiped. This had NEVER been the case prior to Josiah.

He didn’t just reform Judah either, but he had his troops march up into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had their places of worship destroyed and their high priests put to death. In fact, he exumed the graves of religious leaders who were already dead and had their bodies burned on the pagan altars. Nice, right?

Josiah is seen as one of the greatest kings of Judah’s history. His unwavering zeal for God has been recorded and endured the test of time; however, it must be acknowledged that this opinion of Josiah comes from those who wrote his history. These were people who were in favor of his reforms. Surely, his methods of reform were sometimes questionable and there had to be people who saw him as a power hungry tyrannt who wanted nothing more than to bring all of the tithes and wealth into Jerusalem (through making the Temple the only place one could worship).

What’s more, it is certainly “fishy” that a scroll miraculously appears in the Temple where it had never been seen before. It is not impossible that such a find happened; however, it is suspect at the very least, and seems improbable. Many scholars conjecture that Josiah had the scroll created in order to lend Scriptural authority to his reform agenda. If it was God’s will for this to be done, who could then rightfully argue with the king?

That begs the question, was it God’s will that all worship be centralized in one place? Was God upset with people worshiping (so long as they were worshiping the one, true God of Israel) up in Samaria (aka Northern Israel)? Was this reform agenda completely God’s will, or was Josiah seeking more power and control. Perhaps it was a combination of those two things? One thing is for sure, Josiah’s descendent, Jesus of Nazareth, pushed back against the centralized worship policy when discussing who he was to a woman at a well in Samaria.

Have you ever gotten over zealous in your religious beliefs? Have you ever gone too far in pushing your religious agenda? Have you ever burned others with your attempt to show them the “love” of God? We cannot be sure, one way or the other, as to whether Josiah falls in this category; however, I find it unlikely that God would want dead corpses exumed and burned at the very least. Let us learn from this. Even when God is calling us to bring reform into the world around, that does not mean God wishes for us to overzealously abuse our authority in doing so.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Wisdom without faith is dead. Faith without wisdom is deadly.”

PRAYER

Lord, grant us the wisdom to know when we are going to far to carry out our faith. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #1: Immortal, Immune, and Indispensable

Read Galatians 1:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.” (Romans 11:19-20 NRSV)

FaceOfGodWell, it is Christmas Eve. It is the day that Christ was born. It is the day that you are probably expecting to find a writing on the little baby Jesus, silently asleep on the hay; however, that baby is never quite as quiet as we would like him to be. We often wish we could keep Jesus in his infantile form, right where we would like him, so that we can continue on doing the things as we have been without any questions or cause for self-reflection. But to bring you that silenced baby would be to NOT bring you Jesus.

Just the other day Pope Francis I gave a speech addressing a list of what he called “ailments of the curia.” The bishops and cardinals were not all too pleased to hear that list as it was directed at them, but it is a list that needs to be brought forward. It is not just a valid list for the administrators of the Holy See, but is a list that the Church as a whole could benefit from examining. So over the next seven and a half weeks, I will be addressing those 15 Ailments of the Church.

Ailment # 1: Feeling immortal, immune, or indispensable. Over the last 1500 or so years, the Church has been the center of community. The church had a say in all of communal life, from politics to family life, the church was the driving force behind it all. In times of celebration, in times of need, in times of confusion, in times of war, and in times of peace, people relied on the Church for support. As a result, the Church grew to a place of prominence, a place of pomp, and a place of power. It grew to see itself as immortal, immune and indispensable. As such, it bred a culture in which its leaders and its laypeople began to believe that their faith worldview and their church institution and themselves were indispensable and immune from the need to self-examination.

But that Church has since found itself wanting. A Church that once thought itself indispensable is finding less and less people seeking it out. In times of need, times of confusion, times of war, and times of peace, people are simply going elsewhere! Yet the attitude of indsipensiblitly is still prevelant in the church and still prevelant among its members. Within every church are the people that would see themselves as the “pillars” of the church. Such people see themselves as indispensable, as immune to accountability, and immortal. I wish I could get a dollar for everytime I heard the phrase, “this is my church.” What’s worse is that those who think themselves to be indispensable often view and treat others as though they are dispensable.

I tell you the truth, the Church is NOT yours! Nor is it mine! The church doesn’t belong to the United Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Evangelicals, the Baptists, the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, or any other denominations! Behold, the Church is the body of Christ and, as such, belongs to Christ! We are not immune to accountability, nor are we immortal gods who can hold ourselves higher than anyone else, either within the church or outside of it. Remember that Christ is with those on the fringes and Christ is the voice of the silenced, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the neglected. Christ lived the life of one who was viewed to be dispenisble, and he resurrected from dispensibility into immortality. Remember that God exalts the humble and  humbles the proud. Today’s challenge is for you to humble yourself and live your life as a part of Christ’s exalted body, equal with all of the other parts. Don’t forget that you, too, were grafted into this tree of faith and that a grafted branch can just as quickly be removed. Christ calls us to humility on this Christmas Eve.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 NRSV)

PRAYER
Lord, I humble myself before you. Gift me with the ability of self-reflection so that I may grow in your love and grace. Amen.