These remarkable words are found in 2 Chron. 35. 20. They follow the record of the very exemplary life and activities of Josiah. At the early age of 8 years he ascended the throne, and when but 16 he set his heart to seek the Lord, and at the age of 20 he took measures to purge the kingdom. When only 26 lie set himself to put matters right in relation to the house of God and to re-instate the passover. But after all this he failed and died at the early age of 39!
What happened ? It was simple: he interfered in matters with which he should have had nothing whatever to do. The king of Egypt went to war with the king of Assyria, but Josiah went out against him. He should have known better than to have meddled with this affair. He should not have touched a matter that did not concern him. He ought to have remembered the proverb: “ He that passeth by and vexeth himself with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears “ (Prov. 26. 17).He stands the risk of being bitten himself.
Why Josiah did this is not stated, nor is it easy to say ; we are not. told. Certainly he acted without consulting the Lord as to whether he should participate in this con-flict. It is always dangerous to embark on a course without first having made it a matter of prayer. Josiah had no word from the Lord, and in the absence of any guidance from Scripture we do well to hold our hand. Possibly Josiah was wise in his own conceits and thought himself quite able to deal with the Assyrian. But human calcula-tions are very deceptive. Or it may have been that he did not fully trust the word of Huldah the prophetess as to his not seeing the judgment which God would visit upon his people.Unbelief always imperils one’s safety.
Whatever the spring was in Josiah’s case, we should learn the lesson not to be ‘ busybodies in other men’s affairs’ (1 Pet. 4. 15) but to ‘ study to be quiet and to do our own business ‘ (1 Thess. 4. 11). It is altogether unsuitable for those who arc “ strangers and pilgrims “ to meddle with those who have their portion in this life. This is the force of the particular word which Peter uses. It implies different nationalities and consequently different interests. We belong to another country : we are going through the enemy’s land : the enterprises of the enemy are not things in which we should interfere. Josiah should not have become a partisan in a conflict which only involved other nations. How dare he, seeing that he served the only true God but they worshipped idols !
It was bound to bring him into difficulties, as it did. It necessitated his disguising himself. He sought to appear to be what he actually was not. This is hypocrisy. The meaning of the word ‘ hypocrite ‘ is a play-actor, one who impersonates another with the view of creating a false impression. The Lord Jesus Himself and His apostles have much to say about such behaviour. It would well repay us to look up all the relevant passages of Scripture and to test ourselves by them. It is unhealthy to use the Scriptures in order to test others unless we have first measured ourselves by them.
We may be sure that hypocrisy will ultimately most certainly be discovered. Sooner or later we shall be found out, as was Josiah. The ‘ arrow ‘ of conviction will reach us and we shall stand self-condemned in the eyes of others. How humbling it must have been for King Josiah to have to ask his servants to take him away ! He had been found out, his disguise had been discovered, and he was of no further use for God or man. It was no chance shot: it was intentional, for the arrow was aimed at him. Note the words of 2 Kings 23. 29 :" when he had seen him.”
Paul’s ambition was that he might ‘ finish his course ‘ (Acts 20. 24). The point of his remark is not so much the manner in which he ended his life, but the desire that he might run all the caurse allotted to him by the Lord. He neither wished to fall out by the way, nor to be set aside by the Lord. He wanted to keep right on to the end of the road. But it cannot be said that Josiah reached his proper end. By his own foolish act he brought an untimely end to his life, and in so doing hastened the judgment upon his people. He was cut off in the midst of his days when only 39 years of age.He ought to have gone to his grave in peace. Huldah said this was God’s merciful intention for him. He alone was to blame that he fell in battle.
Recklessness on the part of God’s people will not only adversely affect them, it will affect others also. None lives to himself. Josiah’s end hastened Judah’s calamities. So long as he lived, all the evil that God intended in His inflexible government to bring upon Judah and its inhabi-tants could not come. Their onset was held back by Josiah’s life. Why, then, risk it ? Why, then, throw it away ?
No wonder there was great lamentation made by Jeremiah and others. A great man had fallen. His end could not be described as a finish : it was a fall: it was a dreadful example and a solemn warning.
“After all this “ the sad episode which we have just reviewed happened.
After what ? Josiah’s earlier days had been marked by most laudable things :
(a)lie- had a true object – “ he began to seek after the God of David his father,” Israel’s first divinely-chosen king. He would brook no rival: idolatry and all its appurtenances must be ‘ purged ‘ out of the land, ‘ broken down,’ ‘ cut down,’ ‘ broken in pieces,’ ‘ burnt,’ ‘ beaten into powder.’ How thorough he was in his zeal for the only true God. But after all this, the calamitous end came.
(b)He had been zealous to have the right centre. He devoted his attention to the house of the Lord. This, for us today, is “ the house of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” It is the local assembly. He ‘ purged’ it (see 1 Cor. 5. 6, 13). He ‘repaired’ it (see 1 Cor. 1. 10; 2 Cor. 13. 9, 11). Its money, overseers, doors, burdens, and personnel all had his attention. He could not have been more diligent. For such a young man, at the early age of 26, to have displayed such energy and zeal is most creditable. Hut after all this the Spirit of God has to record his sad end.
(c) He discovered the only safeguide. The law of the Lord, the writings of Moses, the Pentateuch was re-discovered. He “ gave attention to reading “ it. He knew the blessedness that comes from so doing (Rev. 1.3).He found it to be a lamp in a squalid place, and it was most useful in helping him to lind his way (2 Pet. 1. 19). The result of reading it was repentance (2 Chron. 34. 19) : prayer (v. 21) ; and obedience (v. 29 ff.). See how thorough he was in all this. The word ‘ all’ occurs no less than eleven times in no more than live verses. Yet after all this he blotted his book.
(d) He made afresh start: he re-instated the passover. In type he came back to the Cross. That is the commence-ment of all spiritual history and all spiritual revival. He put the ark in its proper place. If Christ is not given His due, no wonder all else is out of order. He insisted on a right condition : “ prepare yourslevcs.” But he also insisted on a right position : “ stand in the holy place.” These are two things joined together by God and should never be put asunder. Though they must be held in their true order : condition is more essential than position.
Yet it is not God’s mind that the one should exist without the other. He wants us to be what we should : and to be where we should. It was an excellent revival. Better indeed than that under Hezekiah. Then, it only went back as far as the days of Solomon (2 Chron. 30. 26). Here, it goes further back still to the days of Samuel (35. 18). Like the Reformation of later times, however, it did not go back far enough. They should have gone back to the first Passover and have acted in accordance with that. Nor is it enough for us to inquire what our immediate predecessors did. We must go back to the inspired record of the Acts. No wonder God had to tell Sardis that He had not found their “ works perfect" before Him. But it is easy to find fault with Josiah. Let us do him justice. It was an excellent achievement for a young man of only 26 years.Yet, after all this !
Young men beware. The Lord may have blessed you hitherto, and have found you usable. But we all need to pray constantly “ Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.” So many Bible characters started well and finished badly. Think of Asa : Solomon : Saul: David : and so on. All in their later days, were taken off their guard, fell to the enemy, and spoiled (heir record. After all the good that was recorded of them, there came a blot.After all this ….
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