This morning I’d like to begin with a short quiz. There ae really no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions. This is more of a self-evaluation tool, so I’m not going to ask for a show of hands or make you turn in an answer sheet, but for your own good, it is important that you answer honestly. For each of these statements, just mentally note whether the statement is true or not true in your life:
1. My first reaction to a setback is to blame someone else for what happened.
2. I feel like no matter what I do, things really aren’t going to change for me.
3. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about past failures and mistakes.
4. I’m always so busy with work and the things I need to do to survive that I just don’t have the time to do the things that I’d really like to do.
5. I often find myself beginning my thoughts with phrases like “I can’t…”, “I’m no good at…”, or “I’ve never been able to...”
6. When friends offer advice, I usually answer, “Yes, but…” since they can’t possibly know how difficult my situation really is.
7. Conversations with friends are often about how hard my life is.
8. I never get what I deserve.
9. Other people are a whole lot luckier than I am.
If you answered false to every one of those statements, congratulations! That means that you rarely, if ever, get caught up playing the victim. And for you, perhaps at least parts of this message won’t be as relevant as they are for the rest of us. If one or two of these statements are true for you, you’re probably pretty normal. There are times in your life when you feel like a victim, but that’s not the norm. However, if you answered more than half of these questions true, then the reality is that you are probably living a life of victimhood.
But regardless of how you answered, the good news for all of us this morning is that we don’t have to be mastered by our circumstances. Regardless of our upbringing or the conditions in which we live, Jesus makes it possible for us to live as victors rather than victims.
With the exception of King David, every single king that we’ve studied during this section of our journey through the Old Testament was generally evil. Solomon didn’t start out that way, but certainly by the end of his reign, he had rebelled against God and was far from Him. And Saul, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, and Ahaz were certainly ungodly kings for most or all of their reigns. So I’m really excited that this morning, instead of learning what not to do from evil kings, like we’ve done in past weeks, we’re going to learn what we should do from a godly king – King Josiah.
Last week we left off with the reign of King Ahaz in Judah. Shortly after his reign Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and the people of that kingdom were led into captivity in the surrounding nations and they never returned as a people to their land. At that time, Assyria also made deep advances into Judah, the southern kingdom, just as Isaiah had prophesied to King Ahaz. But they were unable to conquer Judah then.
After Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became king and he was generally a good king who followed in the ways of his forefather David. But after his death, probably the most wicked of all the kings of Judah came to power – Manasseh. Manasseh rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed, He set up idols in the temple. He shed so much innocent blood that it was said that he filled Jerusalem with blood from one end to the other (2 Kings 21:16). He even burned his sons as an offering. He led the people of Judah to do more evil than even the pagan nations around them.
When Manasseh died at the end of his 55 year reign his son Amon became king at the age of 22. He followed in the footsteps of his father, refusing to walk in the way of the Lord. After two years on the throne, his own servants conspired against the king and killed him.
As we demonstrated earlier with the quiz I started with, In today’s world, there is a general belief that we are all products of the culture in which we are raised. So if someone grows up in an abusive home, we expect that person will become abusive. If someone grows up in the home of an alcoholic, we expect that person is going to have substance abuse issues. If someone grows up in a culture of violence, then the assumption is that he or she will grow up to be a violent person, too.
But Manasseh’s son, Josiah, is proof that we can be victors rather than victims, regardless of our upbringing and our circumstances. He is only 8 years old when Amon is assassinated and he may very well have observed the murder of his own father. And for his entire life he had grown up in a culture that was a lot like ours. Because of the evil leadership of his own father and grandfather, the entire nation was a troubled land full of chaos and bloodshed. The people were far from God and openly rebelled against Him by worshiping all kinds of other gods and by defiling the temple.
So if there was ever anyone who should have been trapped by his circumstances, it was Josiah. At only eight years old, he is thrust into the position of king over the entire nation of Judah. That’s just mind boggling, isn’t it? How many eight year olds do we have here this morning? Can you imagine being the President of the United States right now? That’s essentially the position that Josiah was thrown into.
But at only eight years old, he almost immediately demonstrates the truth that we are going to focus on this morning…
I avoid being mastered by my circumstances
by entrusting my circumstances to the Master
Let’s look at his story in 2 Kings, beginning in chapter 22:
[Read 2 Kings 22:1-2]
One of the challenges we face in looking at the account of Josiah this morning is that while we can see the results of his life, we really don’t get much insight in the text into how he developed into such a godly person at such a young age. All we really know for sure is that it wasn’t his father or grandfather who left a godly legacy for him to follow.
My initial reaction was that maybe his mother was that godly influence since she is named here. But if you go back through the books of 1 and 2 Kings, you’ll find that, with the exception of Ahaz and Jehoram, the mother of every single king of Judah, whether good or evil, is mentioned in the account of those kings. So while it is possible that his mother was a positive influence, the fact is that while we know someone must have had a godly influence on Josiah’s life, we really don’t know who that person or those people were. What we can see in the text is the godly character that Josiah displays. So we’re going to have to focus on that and see what applications we can develop for our own lives.
As the account of Josiah begins, we see immediately that Josiah’s 31-year reign is characterized by doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
As I mentioned before, the accounts in 1 and 2 Kings are not always arranged chronologically. So in order to put together a more complete picture of the events in Josiah’s reign, we need incorporate the account in 2 Chronicles 34-35. When we combine both accounts, we can put together this timeline:
• Josiah begins to reign when he is 8 years old.
The next events in his reign are recorded in 2 Chronicles 34:
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images.
(2 Chronicles 34:3 ESV)
• In the eighth year of his reign, when he is 16 years old, Josiah begins to seek the Lord. We’re going to talk more about what that involved a bit later.
• In the twelfth year of his reign, when he is 20 years old, Josiah begins to purge the high places, the Asherim and many of the idols.
Now we can go back to 2 Kings and continue reading through the end of the chapter:
[Read 2 Kings 22:3-20]
These events occur in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign, when he is 26 years old.
Josiah has continued to restore the worship of God and now he is in the process of repairing the damage done to the temple by his father and grandfather. He takes up a collection from which the workers are paid.
While the work is going on the Book of the Law is found in the temple. The fact that the Scriptures had been lost in the temple gives us pretty good picture of the degree to which God’s word had been neglected in Judah.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God had given several commands concerning the Book of the Law:
• The Book of the Law was to be placed next to the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 31:26) and that same practice would have carried over to the temple.
• Each king was supposed to have a copy of the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) which he was to keep with him and read each day.
• The Book of the Law was to be read publicly every seven years during the Feast of Booths when the people assembled in Jerusalem. (Deuteronomy 31:9-13)
But obviously, none of those commands had been followed for hundreds of years.
When Shaphan the secretary read the Book of the Law to Josiah, his immediate reaction was to tear his clothes. In that culture, his action represented a combination of terror, grief and repentance. Then he immediately sent a delegation to inquire of the Lord about what he should do. But even before he got that answer, Josiah clearly understood that the wrath of God had been kindled against his people because of their long period of disobedience.
Normally Hilkah and the others probably would have gone to the prophet Jeremiah, but apparently at that time he was visiting Jewish exiles in Assyria. So they go instead to a prophetess named Huldah. We really don’t know a lot about her, since this is the only time she is mentioned in the Bible. Jewish tradition holds that she was a relative of the prophet Jeremiah and that she had a school for women in Jerusalem where she taught the word of God as it pertained to Jewish women, mothers and daughters.
Perhaps the king’s messengers went to Huldah hoping that a woman might give them a more compassionate response than the harsh prophecy that they were expecting. And there certainly is some grace in the message that she sends back to Josiah, but only a little. God is going to bring disaster on Judah because of their disobedience. But, because of Josiah’s humble heart, He is going to postpone that judgment until after Josiah dies so that he would not have to witness it.
We don’t have time this morning to read chapter 23, so I’m just going to give you the Reader’s Digest version. But I do encourage you to read it yourself this week.
Josiah gathers all the people together and reads the entire Book of the Law. He makes a personal covenant with God to walk after God, and keep His commandments with all his heart and soul. And the people join in that covenant. Unfortunately, like we’ve seen consistently in the Old Testament, that commitment would prove to be very short-lived.
Josiah then continued the process of cleaning out the temple that he had already begun, but this time with even more fervor. He broke down the altars to the pagan gods that his father and grandfather had set up. He even ventured into the southern part of what was once the northern kingdom of Israel and tore down the high place at Bethel that had been established by King Jeroboam hundreds of years earlier. He put away those who were involved in the occult. And then, finally, he restored the Passover, which had not been observed since the days of the judges.
So in spite of everything that Josiah had going against him, he was not mastered by his circumstances because he entrusted those circumstances to the Master. And as a result, Josiah became a victor rather than a victim.
So what can we learn from Josiah’s example that will help us to follow in his footsteps? We find the answer to that question right at the beginning of the account we read this morning. Let’s go back and look at verse 2 again:
And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
(2 Kings 22:2 ESV)
As I said earlier, we really don’t know a lot about the process by which Josiah developed these traits, so we’ll focus on the traits themselves and see if we can’t use what we know from the Bible as a whole to think about how we can develop these three traits in our lives.
THREE TRAITS OF A VICTOR
1. A submissive spirit (…he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…)
Very early on, Josiah decided that he would be obedient to God rather than follow his own desires. It is certainly amazing that Josiah developed that kind of heart, given his upbringing. Somewhere along the way, God graciously took hold of his heart and softened it and made it tender toward God and His purposes, plans and ways. And over time, Josiah took steps to nurture that submissive heart.
Earlier we read in 2 Chronicles 34 that when he was 16, Josiah began to seek the God of his father David? The word translated “seek” there is a word that describes continued, deliberate searching. In the Hebrew mindset, seeking God meant more than merely a search for knowledge. It required a sincere inward devotion that was evidenced by one’s outward behaviors. It meant having a heart that was committed to be obedient to God even before knowing what God was going to say.
Think about how hard that must have been for Josiah to develop that kind of submissive heart at the age of 16. He did that without the aid of a church, or a youth group, or Christian music, or the internet. In fact, he didn’t even have a Bible. Today we have all those things and so much more available to us and yet how many times do we fail to take advantage of those opportunities to seek God like Josiah did and to develop a heart that is submissive to God?
So the first question all of us need to answer this morning is this: Do I have a submissive heart that is committed to being obedient to God even before I know what He is going to ask me to do?
Once I have that heart issue settled, then I’m ready to move on to the second trait that Josiah had developed:
2. Some holy habits (…and walked in the way of David his father…)
The phrase “walked in the way” is talking about a lifestyle. Josiah didn’t just worship God when he went to worship on the weekend and then live the way he wanted the rest of the week. Although we aren’t given a lot of detail here, there is good evidence that Josiah wove specific habits into the rhythms of his life that allowed him to continually stay tuned into God’s heart and to live in a way that was pleasing to God.
If we’re going to live in a way that we aren’t mastered by our circumstances, it is important for us to develop some holy habits that we engage in on a consistent basis, too. And the good news is that most of you could probably give a list of those habits. In fact, let’s go ahead and list some of those habits. [let people answer]
• Bible reading
• Bible Study (both personal and in community)
• Corporate worship
While we know what habits we need to develop, that doesn’t mean that it is easy put them into practice, though. Many of you have probably heard the oft quoted statistic that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Unfortunately, a more recent scientific study proves that is not the case – it really takes more like 66 days for the average person to develop a new habit. But before you let that discourage you, the same study also found that messing up every now and then during the process has no measurable impact on the ability to develop a new habit. So if you miss a day here or there, there is no need to fret.
I don’t know about you, but I often need some help in being consistent with these habits.
• I must block out time in my schedule each day to read the Bible and spend time praying.
• In the past, I’ve been really bad at praying consistently, so I downloaded an app for my phone that has helped me to pray more consistently for all of you, for our church, for unbelievers, and for other prayer requests.
• For ministry opportunities here at TFC that I know will help me grow in my relationship with God, I make sure that I get them on my calendar as far ahead as possible.
For instance, I know that I’ve been learning some really practical Biblical principles about how to become a more godly man, husband and father at our monthly Men’s Breakfasts. Normally Saturdays are my day off, but I’ve determined that ministry is worth the investment of a couple hours of my time each month to help me grow in those areas. So I have those breakfasts scheduled on my calendar for at least a year out. And because it’s on my calendar, when some conflicting event or activity comes up, I look at my calendar and then I am forced to make a conscious decision about which is more of a priority. And occasionally, that will be something other than the men’s breakfast, but not very often.
You might find that some of those things work for you, or you may find that a completely different approach is better. The key is to find what works for you and make sure that you begin to develop some lifelong holy habits that will help you stay close to God regardless of outside influences and circumstances.
3. A purposeful path (...and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left)
Yesterday in our study during the men’s breakfast, Patrick Morley talked about the difference between goals and purposes. Let me read what he wrote in his book, The Man in the Mirror, about those two ideas:
Purposes, on the other hand, answer life’s larger questions – not “What do I do today?” but “Why do I exist?” and “What are my functions in life?” They reflect our examination of life’s larger meaning. Our purpose is what God wants us to do long-term. Once we know this purpose, we can set goals to advance us toward the answers we give to these questions. Purposes are threads of continuity that we weave into the long-term view of our lives. Goals come and go, but purposes survive because they are long-term; they pertain to the why we exist part of our lives.
I think that even though Patrick Morley’s book was not yet written, Josiah really understood that idea. He understood that his purpose in life was to undo the damage that had been done by his father and grandfather and lead the people to worship and obey God once again. And for the 31 years he reigned as king of Judah, that was his guiding purpose in life. And because he understood that was God’s purpose for his life, he had this single-minded devotion to fulfill that purpose. And so, even though his upbringing and the culture constantly threatened to distract him from his God-given purpose, he was not easily sidetracked from the path God had put him on.
I have observed that there are two things that tend to “turn us aside to the right or to the left”:
• Some of us just don’t understand God’s purpose for our lives. And that’s a shame because I think Jesus made at least one of those purposes crystal clear when He said this:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
• The other reason we get so easily distracted is because even if we know that purpose, we’re not “all in”, we’re not totally sold out to that God-given purpose.
I’m not sure who first came up with this saying, but I heard it from Pastor Rick Warren:
Circumstances are like a mattress: Get on top, and you rest easy. Get underneath, and you suffocate.
I don’t know of anyone who would intentionally sleep under their mattress. And yet my guess is that there are some of you here today that are suffocating under the circumstances of your life and living as a victim rather than a victor. Instead of entrusting your circumstances to the Master you’re being mastered by your circumstances.
But you don’t need to live that way. if Josiah could rise above his circumstances, which I’m pretty sure are a whole lot worse than yours, and live for God the way he did, then so can you. And the reason that you can do that is not because you have the power to do that, but rather because we serve an all-powerful God who loves you and has already provided everything you need to rise above your circumstances and live as a victor. He’s just waiting for you to seek Him out.
[Show Discipleship Path]
The good news this morning is that you don’t have to try and develop some of these principles we talked about this morning on your own. We are here as a church to help you do things like develop a purposeful path and some holy habits. But we can’t help you if we don’t know what kind of help you need.
Our Discipleship Path has been developed to assist you in evaluating your walk with Jesus and determining your “next step” in that journey. If you’ll take your bulletin and turn it to the back, you’ll notice that we’ve identified some specific steps that you might want to consider this morning. Most of what we talked about this morning probably best fits in the Grow step. And we would love to do whatever we can to help you implement the three steps we talked about this morning.
But it might very well be that God is leading you to take one of the other steps, perhaps making a commitment to a relationship with Jesus or to baptism or church membership. Or it may be that God is calling you to serve somewhere in our body. And if you are a Christian, then there is no doubt whatsoever that you’ve been called to share your faith in Jesus with others and invite them to come and see Jesus.
If God is leading you to make a decision in any of those areas today, will you let us know so that we can come alongside you and help you? I’ll be standing at the back along with some of our Elders during the final song and we’d love to talk with you or even just pray with you about your decision or about any other concerns or needs that you have. Or if that seems a little too intimidating, you can contact any of us using the contact information there on the bulletin.
Discussion questions for the Bible roundtable:
1. Why do you think “victimhood” is so prevalent in our culture? What are some practical ways to evaluate our own lives to make sure we don’t fall into that trap?
2. The Hebrew word translated “seek” in 2 Chronicles 34:3 can also mean “to inquire”, “to investigate”, or “to search”. How do those meanings help us further understand the idea of “seeking God”?
3. What are some of the ways that the people of Judah had neglected the “Book of the Law”? What can we learn from them to make sure we don’t do the same thing?
4. Share some of the things that you’ve done in your life to develop some “holy habits” that might help someone else.
5. In your own words, describe the difference between “purposes” and “goals”. What place do each of those have in the life of a disciple of Jesus?