October 1, 2006
Pastor Brian Shimer
"Connecting with God: Bible Study"|
2 Kings 22:1 - 23:7
- I am 47years old. To some of you that is over the hill and others consider me just a pup, but the fact remains that I am three years from 50. I was blessed to grow up in a home with parents who were Christians, we had Bibles around, they read from them occasionally, took me to Sunday School and church and exposed me to the Good News of the Gospel. They made their errors and I made mine, but there was the opportunity to hear and respond to the Truth as I grew.
I wonder as I hear the story of King Josiah - what life might have been like if that had not been the case…If not just for these 47 years but over the past 75 years no one had consulted or even had a copy of the Bible around? That was the story of King Josiah. His father and grandfather had rejected the Word of the LORD and in their rejection had led the entire nation into greater and greater sin. They had rebelled against the Lord.
Manasseh, Josiah's Grandfather, had known the law of the Lord, but in rejecting it, did more wickedness than any king before him. And even though he repented of his ways in the end of his life, it was too late to reform the nation. Amon, his son, had followed in his father's evil footsteps and after a two year reign was assassinated. Josiah began to rule at age 8 a mere child on the throne and for 18 years the Law remained hidden away, lost in the temple.
No one was looking for the Book of the Law. Solomon's glorious temple itself had fallen into disrepair. No longer the center of worship for the Most High God, It was now used to worship Baal. There was an altar dedicated to Baal and a pole to Asherah and quarters for the male shrine prostitutes within the Temple of the Lord. This was a huge perversity being tolerated as normal, as appropriate. No one thought another thing about it, except with the advent of the written Word, the king.
What does it mean that such "worship" was happening in the temple? Baal worship was an aspect of the worship of a pantheon of gods and goddesses with cultic practices that included animal sacrifices at high places, sacred groves, trees and carved idols, snake worship and ritual prostitution. Sexual rites (homosexual and heterosexual) were believed to ensure the fertility of people, animals and lands. The detestable god Molech worshiped by Manasseh (Josiah's grandfather) to whom he sacrificed his own son in the fire (2 Kings 21:6). These were the religious practices of all the people in the Promised Land before God gave the command for Joshua to lead the people to take the land and wipe out the inhabitants, saying, "you must destroy them totally… show them no mercy" (Deuteronomy 7:2). Why such destruction? Their sin was so immense that if spared they would lead Israel into the same wicked practices and then the Promised Land would even "vomit you out" (Leviticus 18:28). This is exactly what happened. http://www.xenos.org/classes/papers/aneidola.htm
We are told in the book of 2nd Chronicles 34:3 that as a 16 year old Josiah began to seek the Lord, perhaps because of the influence of his mom Jedidah, a name that means beloved, or perhaps because the Holy Spirit stirred his heart. At 21 he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, destroy idols, Asherah poles and altars to Baal all around the area but had not done a thing about the Temple of the Lord. It lay in disrepair.
In the 18th year of his reign, 75 years since God's Word was held in prominence by his great grandfather King Hezekiah, King Josiah sent his secretary and others to oversee repairs to the temple of the Lord. While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given to Moses.
- Imagine a nation led by wickedness for 57 years now under a righteous king for 18 years when finally the law of the Lord is discovered. 75 years without the Law of the Lord or the written Word of God! It is now 2006 what if we had been that nation? What if since 1931 all Bibles had been banned, burned, turned into toilet paper as happened in Albania, or discarded? What if some leader had actually managed to destroy all copies - from households, churches, publishing houses, etc? What if since that date our leaders had led us in the worship of false gods --- gods of wealth, immorality, and indulgence? Where would we be then?
Unfortunately we don't have to work very hard to imagine the state we would be in. Although we have much freedom of worship, of press and of speech in this nation, still, we see our nation bowed before false gods. The gods of Baal and Asherah may seem like distant names to us, but they are worshiped in America in how sexual promiscuity and perversity plagues our nation as well.
The nation that is here judged by God was also worshiping Molech sacrificing their children to him as we do through the abortion industry. Like our nation, they were captivated by wealth and disbelieved God would ever judge them. They were more than willing to worship the Living God alongside of all these other perversities. These were the people whom Isaiah had previously described as honoring God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). Through Isaiah, God described these people as "loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!" Isaiah continued in 1:4: "They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him."
It is a frightful thing for me to read of these people living generation after generation with perversity being promoted alongside of the worship of the living God in their temple and it being accepted. Frightful for I wonder: What have I been conditioned to accept by my culture which is an affront to the living God?
This is why we desperately need to turn to the Word of God and listen to God as He speaks. This is why we must thus be shaped by the Word, as God's Holy Spirit convicts, corrects, and instructs us through our reading and study. Here is the call for us to be a people who are transformed by the renewing of our minds, who are not conformed to this world but thus transformed. For as the Apostle Paul states in Romans chapter 12 if we are not being transformed by the renewing of our minds we will be subtly conformed to the likeness of this world.
- The people of Josiah's day were a people who had been conformed to the cultures around them. No longer were they the people God called them to be, a people set apart, Holy unto the Lord.
In contrast to them, when the king's secretary comes to tell him of the discovery of this Book and reads it before the King, the king immediately tears his robes, a recognition of sin and guilt and then of repentance, and sends his secretary and others to "Go inquire of the Lord for me." The king recognizes the greatness of his own sin along with the sins of his forefathers and the sins of the nation. He knows God's righteous anger and wants to know if imminent judgment can be avoided.
As we spoke about last week, the King could pray "we have sinned" lumping himself in with the nation as he repented before the Lord.
- This is what the Lord wants, that we too would demonstrate responsive hearts as the Holy Spirit uses the living Word to impact our lives. As God said through the prophetess: "because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken… and because you tore your robes and wept in My presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD" (22:19).
What an affirmation to this king who bowed in repentance at hearing for the first time in his life the Law of the Lord.
What a contrast between him and the people. They go along with the celebration of the Passover, but as soon as Josiah dies, they return to their evil. They hear all the law read to them as well, as King Josiah reads it to them, but they do not weep, they do not tear their robes, they do not humble themselves. They are not responsive to God's Word. Instead, they reject the Word of the Lord, as King Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, will later do with the scroll of the prophet Jeremiah. As it is read to him he will cut it off a piece at a time and throw it into the fire before him (Jeremiah 36:22-27).
The people rejected the Word of the Lord as did a woman I sat next to on a plane when flying home from Phoenix where I had gone to attend a meeting. She was into goddess worship and was thrilled with what I had discovered in Jesus as she said with the "truth I had found" but saw no need to repent of her ways. She saw no conflict between her own new age worship, her husband's Judaism and Christianity.
Friends, be shaped by God's Word. Let God the Holy Spirit work in your hearts as you read and listen to direct your attitudes, your actions, your choices, and renew your minds.
Respond like King Josiah when I am speaking and something causes you to be convicted within, don't push it aside. I remember when a man in the congregation told me: "sometimes when I am listening to your messages a thought hits me: 'wow, that is accurate of my life, I ought to turn from that,' but then I push the thought aside, 'that is just Brian.'"
Don't do that, I told him! Not because I say so, but because that thought is the Holy Spirit of God prompting you toward growth! Instead, be shaped by God's Word. Take your attitudes, beliefs, lifestyle choices back to the Word and ask God to reveal the Truth to you. Go with humility for God to speak.
Come to your Bible reading and study time anticipating God to speak into your life..
As you read, you can always look for something within the passage about which to thank God and give thanks.
Then, as you read you can keep questions like these before you:
- Is there an example that I should follow?
- Is there a sin that I need to confess and repent from?
- Is there a command that I should obey?
- Is there an attitude that I should change?
- Is there a promise that I can claim?
- Is there an error that I should avoid?
- Is there a prayer that I should pray?
The key words in that series of questions form the word "escape" -- which is a reminder that our only escape from conformity to this world is to have our minds renewed by God's Word. So our "pray escape pray" as you open God's Word. Give thanks, apply the questions and then pray again, let God's Spirit shape you, like clay on a potter's wheel.
So a Frenchman was shaped by God from his own atheism into vital Christian faith which took him from France to America to become a greatly loved professor at Princeton Seminary in the previous century.
His name was Emile Cailliet. "When he married his young Scottish Presbyterian girl they had agreed they would not have a Bible in their home. When their first child was born, all of the spiritual aspirations in Cailliet's wife came to her afresh. She began to think of what she wanted for her child. One day as she was pushing the baby in a [stroller], she passed a little …church and noticed that the door was open. She went in and found a venerable-looking gentleman who was the pastor. She said, "Do you have a Bible in French?" He smiled and gave her a copy. With some feeling of guilt, she put it in the baby clothes and smuggled it back into their home.
Without the encouragement and inspiration that Scripture gives to a believer, Cailliet had to seek a substitute. So he went through the literature of the ages and copied out any inspirational passage that he could find. These he put into a notebook for his own solace and encouragement, thinking that when his spirits were low he could turn to that book for strength. The day he finished his notebook, he sat down under a tree to enjoy his work. To his deep disappointment, he found that it did not really speak to him; this creation of his own carried no strength of persuasion. Dejected, he returned home and put his book on the shelf. At that moment, his wife walked in with the Bible.
Apologetically, she tried to explain why she had gotten it, but Cailliet grabbed the book from her hands, rushed to his study, and began reading. He had never seen a Bible. He opened it by chance at the Beatitudes [Matthew 5] and began to read.
The result was shock and surprise. His comment was: 'It found me out. It discovered me to myself.' It was as if the One who wrote the book knew all about him. The result was a transformation of life…" (Dennis Kinlaw, Preaching in the Spirit, Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury Press, c.'85, p. ;13-14).
His life was transformed, shaped by God's Word, as the Spirit of God granted him an escape from his atheism into faith. Likewise we can come to the Word both at worship on Sundays and in our times of personal reading and small group Bible Study with responsive hearts ready for God to meet and shape us by His Word - ready to see where our minds need transformation - open to repentance and renewal. If we became a nation of people shaped by God's Word through the Holy Spirit, what then might happen over the next 75 years…?