Recently I participated in the dedication of a Bible translation into a language that had never had it before. The highlight for me was the tears in the eyes of members of that community who shared what it meant to them!
Those of us who have grown up with Bibles of all versions, sizes, shapes, colors, and editions too often fail to recognize this treasure right in our hands. My recent reading in the Old Testament highlighted wildly varying responses to the arrival of God’s word:
King Josiah – When the scroll of God’s word was found in the Temple that had been neglected for decades, and he tore his robe, horrified that he and his people had not been obeying it. What followed was major repentance, revival, and joyful celebration.
…18 years pass, and Jeremiah is receiving God’s words of warning to a nation about to be destroyed because of their stubborn rebellion against Him.
Officials of King Jehoiakim –When God’s words are read to them, they looked at one another in fear and told Jeremiah to hide.
King Jehoiakim, who was notably the son of Josiah—When God’s words are read to him, he cuts up the scoll and burns it, then tries to have Jeremiah arrested.
When we hear God’s word, what is our response? Do we humbly accept and obey it, or do we disdain or even try to suppress it?
When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
They are my joy and my heart’s delight… (Jeremiah 15:16)
Keeping the commandments keeps a person safe,
but scorning the way of the LORD brings death. (Proverbs 19:16)
What happens in me when things go well? When a crisis comes? When I’m on my own? What do my responses say about my true character?
The “report cards” of the kings of Israel and Judah are very revealing. Here are some of the more dramatic ones.
When things went well…
…Solomon turned to worship his many wives’ foreign gods. (1 Kings 11)
…Amaziah, after trusting God for an amazing victory over an enemy, brought back that enemy’s worthless gods, adopted them as his own and worshipped them. (2 Chronicles 25:5-16)
…Josiah enjoyed a peaceful reign, radically committed to the Lord all the days of his life. Ahhh! (2 Kings 22:1-23:25)
When a crisis came…
…Asa, previously a very godly king, appealed to powerful neighbors instead of God, and then became a tyrant to his own people. When God punished him with illness, he turned to doctors instead of back to the Lord and died a painful death. (2 Chronicles 16)
…Jehoshaphat went straight to God for help. God took over from there and turned the enemies on one another. All Jehoshaphat’s people had to go was march into battle with songs instead of swords, then haul away the plunder. (2 Chronicles 20) Hezekiah’s story is very similar. (2 Kings 19:1, 14-36)
When a godly mentor was taken away…
–Joash enthusiastically served God as long as the priest (his guardian and mentor) was around. BUT when that man died, Joash turned right around and abandoned God, turning that same enthusiasm to the worship of heathen gods. (2 Chronicles 24) How could he?!?
–Uzziah “followed God during the lifetime of Zechariah, who taught him how to honor God….BUT once he became powerful, his pride destroyed him. He disobeyed the LORD his God.” (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16 NET)
What about me? What is my true character that will show through when my circumstances change—or if they don’t? Who am I, really?
I remember from childhood the stories of two boy kings of Judah with similar names—Joash and Josiah. They were seven and eight years old, respectively, when they were crowned. Both served God in their early years and both commissioned renovations of the Temple. But there the similarity ends.
When Joash’s godly mentors were off the scene, he and his officials made a deliberate decision to turn away from God and worship idols instead! And when God sent Joash’s own cousin Zechariah to reprimand him, he had him killed right in the Temple courtyard. What went wrong?
Josiah, almost 200 years later, was the son of a very wicked king, but Josiah “began to seek the God of his ancestor David” and served Him with all his heart throughout his life. What went right?
As a mother of three, I thank God that each of my sons has made the decision to follow the Lord with all his heart. And as the grandmother of ten (and still counting!), I pray that each of them will choose to do the same. Oh, Lord, turn our hearts to You and keep us faithful!