|Pastor Jason Duran|
THIS IS A SPICED UP VERSION OF MY SERMON ON 031712 AS I REMEMBER DELIVERING IT.
I'VE ENTITLED IT "SPEAK INTO MY LIFE" OR "JOSIAH HEARS A HOO".
Sometimes the Word of God comes to us from the most unlikely places. I'm reminded of Abraham when God rebuked him and said "... all that Sarah has said to thee, harken unto her voice", basically, "you should have listened to your wife". Then there's Baalam when his donkey began to give him direction for his life. I'm not sure if I would have bought that either, but then again, I've never been a false prophet in the paid service of a Moabite king.
2 Chronicles 35:(20) After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. (21) But he sent messengers to him, saying, "What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you." (22) Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo. (23) And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am severely wounded." (24) His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. (25) Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments.
JOSIAH THE REFORMER
In 2 Chronicles 33 we get some background on king Josiah. Josiah began to rule in Judah under less-than-optimal conditions. His Grandfather Manasseh was a mostly bad King who was an idolater and lead Judah into sin. He repented eventually and tried his hardest to implement changes that favored the worship of the God of His anscestor David. By this time it may have been too late. His sone and successor Amon took over and immediately undid all the Godly progress that his father put into motion. Amon's rule was so wicked that his servants conspired against him and he was assasinated in his own house. After this, the only suitable heir was his 8-year-old son Josiah. At age 16 he starts basically from scratch in purging the idolatry from Judah. His extreme dealings with the nation’s idols are inspiring and can be read in the chapters preceeding our text. It's another sermon on it's own, but we'll review part of it because it's relevant to today's message.
Josiah starts off in the tradition of his righteous predecessors and obliterates the idolatry of the land.
2Ch 34:4 They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.
After tearing down the false gods, it's time to uplift the true God! Josiah starts to repair the temple which is broken down and in damaged. He puts money into it's repair. And in this process they make a powerful discovery. 2Ch 34:14 Now when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given by Moses. Hilkiah tells his priestly buddies about the discoveries and passes the book of The Law around to all of them like it’s the latest novel. 2Ch 34:18-19 Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. (19) Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes.
For the first time in his life his is exposed to the sobering, humbling effect of the Word of God. This throws off his groove. He is literally convicted on behalf of himself, his family and the entire nation. This revelation changes everything. Up to this point he's just posturing (tearing down altars and fixing up the temple). Lots of kings had done that and I believe it was almost like a tradition or a political move at this point in history. But God's word will bring a different degree of conviction in his heart.
He sends Shaphan and Hilkiah to Inquire of the Lord ... for what?... for futher revelation and further direction for the kingdom. Then God speaks into his life again, this time through another unexpected source, a female prophetess by the name of Huldah. She proclaims the eventual destruction of Judah but also states ...
2Ch 34: (27) because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you," says the LORD.
(28) "Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants." ' " So they brought back word to the king.
The Bible goes on in the begining of Chapter 35 to list the ordinances that Josiah reestablished including the Passover and innumerable sin and peace offerings. Josiah even put the Ark of the Covenant back where it belonged. What a revival! There was worship, giving, prayer, preaching, repentence, prophecy, clothes tearing ... they were having an awesome time.
I mention all that to bring us here. Our text shows another side of our hero, Josiah, a side of him that ends in tragedy. He makes up his mind to get in the way of a Pharaoh on the war path
Text - (23) And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am severely wounded."
(24) His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
Josiah is fatally impaled by arrows in this failed gambit and is rushed back to Jerusalem in another chariot. In my home town this would be know as "homie ambulance", but that's a different sermon too. This would be like watching your favorite sports hero make it to the championship game just to have him die in a car accident on game day. Imagine having a life-saving surgery and then while driving home you are struck in the neck by a stray bullet that was fired from a gun battle in a bank robbery two blocks away. Today's internet culture may describe this as Josiah's "epic fail". The video would have ended up on YouTube.
The death of this young man sent the whole country into mourning. Verse 25 of our text says this ... (25) Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments. Many commentators believe that parts of the book of Jeremiah (eg. Jer 22:10 Weep not for the dead, nor bemoan him; Weep bitterly for him who goes away, For he shall return no more, Nor see his native country.) are written in direct reference to this tragic event. Not everyone agrees, but many feel that the entire book of Lamentations was in response to this. Some feel these reference Zedekiah, the last king before the Babylonian captivity, but nevertheless, according to our text there was a whole custom invented to remember the sorrow. Paul McCartney may have written a song for him "The Ballad of Josiah". There may have been a billboard campaign across the country for "Remember Josiah Day". In the U.S. it would be one of the days we fly the flag at half mast like on September 11th every year.
HEARING FROM GOD
Now lets get to what the sermon is really all about... OUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE AS CHRISTIANS HINGES ON OUR WILLINGNESS TO HEAR FROM GOD. God's word is a good thing. Josiah's downfall was because he did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God (text v.22). The pharaoh's declaration and the Holy Spirit's declaration was that these words were from the mouth of God.
First of all, when it comes to God's word, we are lucky that we have it at all. Consider the early days of Samuel. 1Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. The priesthood was supposed to be the communications center for the people to hear from God. But because of sin and greed, the priesthood is disconnected from it's purpose. This Scripture in Samuel speaks of two things...
The word of the LORD - This can be seen as God's basic, yet eternal truths are not represented or being preached. The bread and butter of the Gospel, His created purpose, our fall into sin, His redemptive covenants ... all these are contained in the Word of The Lord. The scrolls were there, but it wasn't being taught or lived out.
Revelation - Revelation is more specific to the individual. You know God exists and you believe in Him, but beyond that we need to get a revelation from the word of God for what we're going through in 2012. Josiah had both of these at his finger tips. He knew the truths that changed his life from the Law and he also had the prophecy from Huldah the prophetess which was more specific to his life. You'd think that with both of these working for you, you'd never go wrong. The issue is that the Word of God needs to be obeyed after it is heard.
In Josiah's day, the country is riddled with idolatry. Idolatry is more than demons and pagan rituals. I provides a distracting voice. It gives you and I an alternative to obeying God. In this sense, idolatry is a problem for us today. Hollywood and movie makers across the world have set up other gods for us to worry about. We are quicker to model our lives after talkshow hosts and advice gurus rather than the godly men that preach to us. We easily embrace "practical" solutions to life's difficulties rather than be challenged to live by faith. I heard a radio talk program where people call up and ask the host for relationship advice. The host is a psychiatrist and a woman called up asking for help and insight into fixing her marriage. The woman told the host that she was a Christian and the host, also a woman, asked her why she hadn't talked to her minister about it and she said "...I thought you Christians had Jesus or something." Taking secular advice for spiritual issues is something we do easily because it doesn't requre faith and usually just offers us an excuse for our sin.
The word of God is different. Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. There's more depth of interaction with the Word of God. It's not just a guide for behavior. It judges motivations. It intrudes on our lives below the surface. This verse in Hebrews says it gets down to the joints and marrow ... that's very personal. So is the idea of soul and spirit, two things we all possess that are extremely individual and unique.
It's great that you are involved in church, but God wants to scrutinize your motivations. The behavior is coincidental, the heart and it's motivations are the real battleground. Josiah was already doing good (his reforms, his idol-crushing, etc.) but something about the reading of the Book of the Law caused him to feel a more personal conviction. After all, he didn't hear the words and then punch the guy next to him. Real Gospel preaching is not what the religous are looking for, they just want hoops to jump through so God will have to let them into Heaven. Don't look for the hoops, let God speak into your life.
THE FATAL MISTAKE
This event strikes me as out of character for Josiah since his initial strength is that he desires to hear from God and goes out of his way to obey His Word. He readily inbibed the words of the Book of the Law, He sent Hilkiah to inquire from God further and even accepted God's word it from the the mouth of a female prophetess (newsflash: Men don't like input from women all the time). But instead of facilitating the plan of God, he ends up hindering it.
Our text says this: (20) After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. There's alot here if you care to dig into this historic battle. Try to picture the armies of Pharaoh marching North from Egypt around the Eastern side of Judah up towards the area of Iraq and Iran. Carchemish was located on the Eastern bordrer of the Euphrates river and in order to fight here, Necho would have to cross the Euphrates first. I believe Necho was making good time until Josiah's armies get in his way. This hindered the war effort for the Assyrian and Egyptian armies.
According to our text, he was in a hurry and so was God (Verse (21) … for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you."). If he can get to the battle field first and fortify his position, he stands a chance. The Assyrian army is counting on him. they are going to fight against Babylon, the entity that eventually defeats and caries off the Judathites into captivity. One Bible encyclopedia called this battle the "battle that decided the fate of western Asia". The author of Hard Sayings of the Bible writes these words: … not more than three years after his death, in 606 b.c., the Babylonians, whom Josiah seemed to favor, took the first Hebrew captives, including the prophet Daniel and his three friends. In 597 b.c. Ezekiel was taken into exile. Finally the city fell and was burned down, temple included, in 586. As far as we know, God was trying to prevent or stall the upcoming captivity.
DIDN'T YOU GET MY MESSAGE?
What really makes this a tragedy is that it was totally preventable.
(21) But he sent messengers to him, saying, "What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you."
Let's consider some reasons we disregard warnings from God.
1. THE MESSENGER
AThe most obvious reason is that the source of the message was a Pharaoh, an Egyptian king who is at best just a secular vessel that God is using. God has at time sused Pagan Kings to enact his will and secular governments to bolster and protect his people. Darius was one of these, so was Pilate, so was Augustine, even Nebuchadnezzer himself. Is it too far of a stretch to think that God's people need outside help to stay in the will of God. Often we hav an antagonistic view of the local police, or our government, or local beaurocracies. I've heard Christians get a speeding ticket or some other citation and then blame the devil.
Sometimes we'll need to take criticism from a supervisor at work or our boss. We might not like what we hear but it may be from God. Obviously there's a balance to this but there's going to require an abnormal degree of humility from us to hear from God. At the time I responded to the call to preach and pioneer a church in Pomona, California, I had a boss named Jim. I was only in a middle management position but I know that me stepping down and eventually transfering to another city would hurt him and what he was trying to do. I made up my mind to try and balance this job and my new endeavor but it was draining me. At one point I was questioning if leaving this job for another was the will of God, or maybe I wasn’t called to preach after all. But one day he spoke into my life. In his own cussing ogre kind of way and told me "Don't sweat it, man, you were born for preachin’!" There went that excuse! That little conversation thrust me into the will of God for keeps and those words today have powerful impact in my life… and Jim was NOT a Christian. I drove out of that parking lot in May of 2005 and my secular career has never recovered but my spiritual vocation has never been in better shape.
Consider Romans 13: (1) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. (4) For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
I guarantee you that the same reason you hate those verses is probably the same reason that Josiah brushed off God’s warning. I believe that when Authorities stop judging evil and rewarding righteousness, they lose their heavenly mandate. When they persecute God's people and try to wipe His testimony out of history, God's not going to use them to speak to you anyway.
For a minute, consider Eli again, the mentor of Samuel, when he says in 1Sa 3:17-18, "What is the word that the LORD spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you." (18) Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him." Despite all of his faults, Eli is able to accept a scathing rebuke and a condemning prophecy from a preteen Samuel
2. THE DISOBEDIENT WILL
(22) Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo.
This is kind of wierd. He disguises himself. But who is he trying to fool? Is God going to look at him and say, "Well, I don't recognize that guy, who's that?" I don’t think it’s really relevant exactly why, what is important is to what lengths he’ll go to do what he wants to do. We are really are just a strong, disobedient will wrapped up on human flesh. I’ve learned one thing from my 7 years in the ministry: people will do what they want to do no matter if it’s God standing in their way or not. If God had sent a message stating “Don’t go into battle because your head will explode”, he still probably would have gone … because he really wanted to fight.
Disguising one’s self in battle was the tactic of that moral pillar King Ahab of Israel. He really wanted to go into battle so he surrounded himself with a bunch of yes-men, advisors and prophets that would just go along with his will. His friend and godly ally King Jehoshaphat suggested that they should first find out what God thought about going into battle. In 1Kings 22:8, So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say such things!" So God could speak to them through Micaiah, but Ahab doesn’t want to hear it and he calls God’s word evil. When Michaiah finally does speak to Ahab, he tells him that his army will be a scattered pile of dead bodies after this battle. He disregards that and goes anyway.
Is this a great picture of people in the church that pick what they want to obey and despite what their Pastor preaches, or the warnings from their brethren, they still jump headlong into doomed situations. God told both Ahab and Josiah that it would be bad for their health, both put on disguises and went anyways, both ended up hemorrhaging to death in a chariot.
3. THE LAST DAYS FLOW
Beneath the surface of the ocean there are powerful currents that flow and effect what is happening on the surface. The surfer is trying to ride waves into the shore, but the flow of the undertow is trying to drag him out to sea. I think one more thing we should also consider is that shunning God’s word and just doing what you want is just part of the overall direction in which humanity is flowing in these last days. Consider with me that Josiah is a “last days” king. History is coming to a conclusion for Judah, in a few years they will be carried off in slavery and exile. You and I are “last days” believers. I believe that History is drawing towards a conclusion as the world-wide hive mind is shutting out God’s voice.
Remember the words of Paul: 1Ti 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
In the latter times people will flock to doctrines and teachings that spiritualize their sin, and downplay the truth that God’s Word preaches. Paul also wrote this: 2Ti 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; (4) and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
I believe today we live in this time where people will flock to leaders that tell them what they want to hear and numb their consciences as they float away into sin.
As the world flows away from obeying God, there will be people in the church that just jump feet first into that current. But you and I need to make a stand. We must reevaluate and judge our desires, separate our emotions from our will, seek that objective truth from God’s word, seek God’s revelation for our lives. Consider yourself warned.
IF YOU GO, WE ALL GO
Finally, don’t fool yourself by thinking you have a call of God on your life so nothing tragic would ever happen to you. We’ve seen the best fall in this scripture, so we need to learn from that fall and not reenact it.
If you consider God’s promise to Josiah, (2Ch 34: (28) "Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.") it’s logical to conclude that the longer he lives, the longer everyone else has too. God would have stayed true to his word and stayed off the inevitable until Josiah died naturally 40 or 50 years later or, I guess, technically until he went blind.
Who knows what your obedience is holding back? Who can tell if you are a firewall for destruction in your home, your job, your church, your school, your ministry etc.? Other people’s lives are always attached to our decisions. Sin and disobedience are never committed in a vacuum. Their effects ripple outward and affect everyone else around you. So to conclude in modern lingo … Don’t Be That Guy! If you fail, we all end up on YouTube.