Yesterday I was reading the account of King Josiah in my Women’s Devotional Bible and was really disturbed by reading about how he died (2 Chron. 35:20-25). It’s been on my mind since then, and since it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, I thought I would share my thoughts with you.
I have never really focused before on the death of Josiah, only on the great accomplishments of his life. As a child, I was encouraged by the story of the boy who became king at the young age of eight years old. In spite of the wicked examples of his father and others before him, Josiah began seeking the God of his forefather David at the age of sixteen. At the age of 20, he began to purge the land of all its false idols, altars, priests, and images. At the age of 26, he began to repair the temple of God, during which time the Book of the Law was discovered. This discovery in itself shows the abandoned, forsaken state of the temple at that time. Upon discovery, the Words of the Law were read, and Josiah immediately sent to inquire of the Lord.
I love the fact that the men that were sent to inquire of the Lord went to a woman, the prophetess Huldah. Upon receiving her response, Josiah immediately gathered together all the people, and they renewed their covenant with God and pledged to serve Him. Next, there was a great celebration of the Passover such as had not been observed since the time of Samuel the prophet.
Yet, after all this good that Josiah had accomplished, at the age of 39 Josiah died needlessly in a battle that wasn’t his to fight. Neco, the king of Egypt had approached to fight the king of Assyria, and Josiah went out to meet him in battle. Neco warned him against it, at God’s command. Instead of listening, or even inquiring of God for himself, he bullheadedly disguised himself and engaged Neco in battle anyways. He was fatally wounded by archers and taken back to Jerusalem where he died. It became a tradition for the singers to commemorate him with laments for years to come.
Such a sad ending to such a great life! What happened? What changed? Why did Josiah’s life end so tragically when it began so heroically?
After reflecting on this story, I am taking to heart the following thoughts for my own life:
• Don’t see others as imagined enemies.
• Choose your battles wisely.
• Don’t question who God can speak through; He once used a donkey.
• Pray before making reckless or rash decisions.
• Don’t allow arrogance, pride, stubbornness, or self-importance to ruin your life.
• Ask “Will this decision/choice/action allow me to finish my life well?”
I couldn’t help but contrast Josiah with the Apostle Paul, who started out badly with his cruel persecution of the early Christians, but at the end of his life could say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim. 4:7
It’s been a little crazy, sometimes painful, yet at times funny around our house these past few weeks. We have been trying to downsize, deciding what to keep, what to sell, and what to throw away. Since I am a keeper and my husband is a tosser, there have been a lot of decision-making discussions going on! We are transitioning from a home to a small basement apartment, so you can imagine the dilemma.
What I have found to be interesting is, although I don’t like to part with stuff or change in general, the more I eliminate, the better I feel. There is a sense of freedom that comes with getting rid of excess things that you really don’t need, or haven’t used much, even though it seemed like a great thing when you acquired it. There is a saying that there comes a time when you don’t own possessions, but your possessions own you! There’s a lot of truth in that saying!
In reflecting on all this, I better understand how this applies to our spiritual lives and why the Scriptures instruct us over and over to declutter spiritually. Without realizing it, we tend to collect attitudes, habits, relationships, false doctrines, behaviors, etc. that are not in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. They become a way of life that will lead us away from a close relationship with God and leave us feeling weighed down, spiritually cold, passionless, and depressed.
Is it time to declutter? Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us.” Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us we should “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice,” and to be “kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
We sometimes forget that the Scriptures that advise us to get rid of lying, selfish ambitions, anxiety, fears, abusive language, gossip, worldly desires, love of money, and all other forms of self-serving behavior were written to believers, not to sinners.
How about we all try to declutter spiritually in 2018 and intentionally spend more time in prayer, studying the Bible, growing closer to God, and loving and treating others as we would Christ?
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
I thirstily took a big gulp of water and then almost spewed the whole mouthful across the restaurant table. Almost. Presence of mind kept me from making such a scene and embarrassing my husband; but seriously, that water was nasty! I like to drink water, so I usually order ice water with lemon whenever we eat out. This time, however, I simply could not make the water drinkable. I added more lemon, even some sweetener, but nothing helped.
We have been doing some traveling/evangelizing, and it has sure made me appreciate good drinking water! You know the old saying, ‘You don’t miss the water ‘till the well runs dry!’ This means, of course, you don’t really appreciate what you have until you no longer have it.
This got me thinking about all the Scriptures regarding water in the Bible, especially those that are referring to the Holy Spirit. How satisfying and refreshing it is to drink from the well of living water that never runs dry! When we try to satisfy our souls with anything else, how it pales in comparison! We can try a lot of different ways to make it work, but nothing in this world can satisfy the thirsty soul like God can with His sweet, life-giving Spirit.
If your life feels like a desert today, try spending time in His presence until your thirst is quenched by the Holy Spirit. Drink deeply from the well of living water and find new, refreshing life springing up inside you. You will think you have discovered the Fountain of Youth, because God’s Spirit gives us eternal life.
Drink deeply, my friend, drink deeply!
John 7:37-38 (ESV) On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
Jeremiah 2:12-13 (ESV) Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
There is a chorus our Sunday School children used to sing, “You’ve got to be plugged in, turned on, connected to the power...”
Thinking of this chorus, I recall when one of my sons was small and wanted to help me vacuum the house (somehow, he lost that desire when he got older!). I would give him one of the vacuum cleaner’s attachments, but didn’t have it connected to the vacuum cleaner. He would happily work beside me “cleaning” the stairs. Although we were both going through the same motions, only one was getting results. Being connected to the power source makes a BIG difference. Without the power of God’s Spirit in our lives, we cannot be effective Christians. We will just be going through the motions, with no results.
Then there is always that temptation to go just a little farther. The cord is stretched to the limit, but there’s that one corner you’re trying to reach! Suddenly the vacuum cleaner goes silent and you realize that the cord has been pulled from the outlet. Isn’t that how we all try to test the limits of God’s love? As we get farther and farther away from the power source, we try to reach for one more thing to satisfy, entertain, or further our earthly goals, and suddenly we find ourselves disconnected from God, the true source of our strength.
There is nothing more irritating than trying to vacuum with a loose connection. First it’s running, then it’s not! You wiggle the cord, and it starts running again, then off, then on, then off again. So it is with us when we don’t maintain a consistent spiritual connection through prayer and reading God’s Word. We become an irritating on again, off again Christian.
If the bag become too full of dirt, the vacuum cleaner becomes ineffective. If we take in too much of the corruption of this world, we will not be a very effective worker for the Kingdom of God. We may look the same and sound the same, but we are not getting the job done. We need to find a place of repentance and ask God to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. Some vacuum cleaners come with a reset button. Fortunately for us, God supplies one as well: His Grace and Forgiveness.
Just as there are different attachments to use for special purposes, such as hard-to-reach spots, corners, blinds, and upholstery, God has provided spiritual tools to meet every need in our hearts and lives.
The next time you vacuum, reflect on these thoughts and assess if you are abiding in Christ, being effective, and making a difference in your world.
My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. and I sleepily turn it off. I am NOT a morning person, but I know I can’t put it on snooze, because we are driving this morning to a church about two hours away to minister. I feel my way to the shower to help me wake up, turning on the Keurig on my way. (My sweet husband put this in the bedroom so I could have my morning cup of coffee first thing. Not sure if he did this for me or for him.)
“You’re driving,” my husband says as we are headed out the door. I don’t mind, because I know he likes to take advantage of the time on the road to listen to hymns, meditate, and confirm what he feels that God would have him share with the church.
We no sooner get on I-270 East when we run into fog. Great! Knowing that I really don’t care to drive in iffy weather conditions, my husband offers to drive. I decline his generous offer and continue driving, figuring surely we would be clear of the fog as soon as we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois . . .
Wrong! The bridge was actually clear of fog, but we hit fog again as soon as we crossed the river. My husband explained all about the reasons for fog, warm earth versus cooler air, cooler river so no fog, warm earth again so more fog, etc. I really didn’t care about the reasons, I just wanted to drive fog free. Surely, it would clear up in a few miles!
Wrong again! For 55 miles my thoughts went like this: Wow, above the fog the sky is so pretty this morning! Oops, another fog bank, better slow down. I know there was a car ahead of me, where did it go? Here’s a break in the fog, better speed up to make up for lost time, don’t want to be late for church. Good thing we always allow extra driving time for the unexpected. Oh, the sun is so pretty through the fog. I hope it hurries up and burns off this fog. This fog bank is pretty thick, I wonder how close that trailer truck is behind me! Hills and valleys, in and out of fog. I’m cresting another hill, sure hope there’s no pileup ahead, I’d never be able to stop in time, better slow down! Finally! No more fog, it sure is a beautiful day!
In reflection, I realize how this experience is so like walking by faith! We are in a time of transition, trying to figure out God’s will and direction for our lives. This is not a new thing for us. We have gone through many phases on our ministerial journey. We both had fathers who were ministers, so the pattern of our lives have similarities. Teaching Sunday School classes at a young age, following a call to ministry, starting new churches, working in the mission field, evangelizing, pastoring, teaching, and now evangelizing again.
Each new phase is like going through a fog bank. Are we going in the right direction? Are we going too fast or too slow? Shouldn’t we be through this valley already? I think this may be the direction God is leading us! No, maybe not . . . God, please protect us and direct us. We don’t want to get off on the wrong exit or miss the exit we are supposed to take!
Once again, I reflect on Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT): “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
And I keep on going, walking by faith . . .