Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Josiah and the United States

Perhaps it is a “stretch” to compare Judah and its ruler King Josiah to the United States and President Reagan, but, I must confess, that is one of the first thoughts to cross my mind when I was reviewing the life of this great king. The story of Josiah may be found in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and, a few years later, threatened Judah. At that time, Hezekiah reigned as king. The Scripture notes “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3). Sennacherib led the Assyrians towards Judah and was threatening to take Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed and requested the prophet Isaiah’s counsel on the matter. Isaiah responded that Sennacherib would not take the city. Sure enough, that night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians and Sennarcherib plus his army returned to Nineveh.

Hezekiah, a devoted follower of the Lord, though, was followed by his son Manasseh, one of the most evil kings in the history of Judah. He ruled for fifty-five years and idolatry was very much the story of the nation. Manasseh’s son, Amon, took over the throne after his father’s death and the Scripture says “he abandoned the Lord, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:22). His servants assassinated him and his son, Josiah, was appointed king at the age of 8.

Josiah began to seek the Lord at an early age (2 Chronicles 34:3) and, in the 18th year of his reign, the Book of the Law was discovered in the Temple. Immediately, Josiah instituted reforms in the land of Judah. 2 Chronicles 34 paints the picture:

Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34:29-33)

Josiah would be killed in battle just 13 years later. Judah immediately fell back into sin and, twenty-two years after Josiah’s death, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took Judah as its prisoner.

Obviously, the revival under King Josiah was an outward revival. Did the King truly trust the Lord and follow Him? Yes, the Scripture indicates Josiah was sincere in his commitment to God. But the people were not as sincere and their return to sin following Josiah’s death clearly reveals the terrible truth: Josiah’s revival was an outward revival to them. Nothing changed in their heart.

Look at the text I just quoted. Note these two phrases: “Then he (Josiah) MADE all who were present … stand to it.” “All HIS days THEY did not turn…”. Judah experienced a national revival under King Josiah but, regrettably, they did not experience a true spiritual revival in their hearts. They remained far from God.

Every time I read this story, my mind quickly recalls the events of the 1980s. The United States had suffered greatly during the prior decade. We experienced the sin of Watergate and the resignation of a Vice President and a President. The war in Vietnam finally ended but not without significant human losses and civil unrest in the states. We elected a Washington outsider as President and soon discovered that was a mistake. Hostages were taken overseas and gasoline prices went up. And to epitomize the spiritual depravity of our nation at the time, the Supreme Court called the act of abortion constitutional. The United States gave its blessing to the killing of its own unborn. We needed a revival.

Then President Ronald Reagan appeared. Quickly, the outlook of Americans changed. Americans were proud again to be Americans. The Soviet nation clearly was on the downward path. The economy drastically improved for most citizens. There seemed to be a religious revival in our country during the 80s.

Our scenario sounds much like Judah. Reeling after Manasseh and Amon, the nation needed a Josiah and there he was. Reeling after the miseries of the 1970s, the nation needed a Reagan and there he was.

Unfortunately, the scenario after Reagan is much like the situation in Judah after Josiah. The revival under Josiah quickly waned because it had no spiritual roots. The revival in our country has waned as well because it had no spiritual roots. The evidence of this truth is the outward boasting of sinful acts you see in our country today: abortion, sodomy, “gay” marriage, boasting terrorists, business theft and so on.

We need a revival in our nation. We need a revival which will shatter the bondage of sin we see on all fronts. But such a revival must be a spiritual revival sent by our Lord and not simply a “national revival” from a politician or a political party. We need God to move in the hearts of His people bringing repentance and a renewal of their lives to His service. We need God, through His Spirit, to regenerate the hearts of many Americans who are without Christ resulting in their conversion to the Lord and their justification before God. Only when God brings about a true spiritual revival in America will we see an America which, once again, shines among the nations of the world.

Let us pray for our nation and for God to bring great, spiritual revival to the hearts of all Americans.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

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