Search This Blog

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Puzzling Perspectives

I write three blogs, do a lot of teaching, disciple several other men, and answer a lot of questions for people who have questions about God and His ways. Some might think that I have it all together when it comes to God. In fact, I've been accused as such (in less than loving ways). The truth is that I don't. I understand much - but not all.

There are still things of God which I don't understand. There are still things in Scripture that make me stand back and scratch my head. Some of the stories in the Bible really baffle me. And every once in a while, I run across something in God's Word that frankly sounds like fingernails on a chalk board or something. I'll just wrestle with it and usually ask something like, "Why would God do this?"

The story of Josiah is one of those stories. His story is told in 2 Kings (in the Old Testament). Israel had had a string of terrible kings over the years. The Bible talks about each one of them in detail, and usually says that they "did evil in the eyes of the Lord." In other words, they were terrible kings and failed to meet God's standards for leadership. But not Josiah.

Josiah's story opens when he was crowned king at eight (8) years old. He went on to reign for 31 years. And 2 Kings 22:2 says that King Josiah "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord ... not turning aside to the right or left." It's probably fair to conclude that this means he stayed focused on what mattered and didn't ever get distracted from his mission ... to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

The fact of the matter is that Josiah's story reveals that he was a fanatic about doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord. What God said mattered very much to Josiah. What God wanted was of paramount importance to him too. When Josiah took over as king, he inherited an evil kingdom that had been ruled by a bunch of boobs for generations. It troubled him greatly when he realized how bad it was (i.e., how far from God it was).

The people were involved in idol worship, human sacrifice, and all kinds of things wrong. Josiah took the matter seriously and proved himself to be a ruthless reformer. He crusaded for what was good and right. He was relentless in destroying evil. He burned evil things and ground them into powder to make sure they were destroyed. He even had the priests in the false religions executed. Josiah called the people to repentance. He lead them in reestablishing worship of the one true God. And he rooted out evil in his kingdom at every chance.

The fact that Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord might lead one to conclude that God was satisfied. But one of Josiah's motives (from my point of view ) must have been established right after he first became aware of how far from God his kingdom really was. He consulted a prophetess, Huldah. She told him that God was going to destroy the kingdom and its people. She said God's anger was blazing and would not be quenched. She also told him that God acknowledged Josiah's heart of repentance --- and so would not bring about this judgment on the kingdom during Josiah's lifetime. He essentially said Josiah would reign peacefully.

Now you see, I would think that one of Josiah's motives would have had to have been to change God's mind. I imagine that Josiah, throughout his 31 years of crusading and reforming, must have thought at times that he might be appeasing God's anger. Maybe He thought God would be impressed by his consistency and would relent. Why do I think that? Because it would be my motive. It would be how I would have thought if I had been in Josiah's shoes. I would have wanted God to change His mind. And I'd be out to prove to God that my goodness could erase the badness of all the kings before me.

And in fact, Josiah did reign peacefully. The kingdom suffered no particular judgment from God. So for years, Josiah went on calling people to repentance, rooting out evil, and reestablishing the priority of true worship. He was whipping this kingdom and its people into shape, spiritually speaking. But then, God had the last word ... which in fact Huldah had predicted. Whatever Josiah might have thought during his 31 years of reign became irrelevant at the end of his reign.

2 Kings 23:26-29 brings a tragic end to Josiah's noble and righteous reign as king. After nearly two chapters of Josiah's efforts to please God, 2 Kings 23:26 opens with this, "Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn from ... his fierce anger ..." And it goes on to tell us that this wonderful king Josiah was murdered by enemies. Thereafter, the kingdom started to fall as God unleashed His wrath on it. In fact, the kingdom that Josiah spent his life cleaning up was totally destroyed and the survivors carted off in exile as slaves. There was nothing left of it.

I have to confess, stories like this make me want to say, "Really? Really, God? Did you really have to respond like this - to Josiah's 31 years of trying to right the wrongs of all the previous evil kings? So doing right on Josiah's part was all in vain then, Lord? It was all for nothing? Is that right?"

It's been said that we humans can never fully appreciate the ways of the Lord. It's when I encounter stories like this in the Bible that help me understand how true that is. You see, most of us humans would have given Josiah credit for his efforts to right the wrongs of all the previous kings he'd succeeded. I think humans tend to live in the moment much more than God does.

Or rather we give much more weight to what's in the moment than to what's been true all along. God doesn't do that. The people of Josiah's reign were an evil people. They didn't really repent and turn to the Lord. Josiah did. He tried to lead them there too. But they didn't go. They only did things because Josiah said to. It wasn't that they revered God any more. In fact, that they let Josiah destroy their false gods and shrines, etc. proves that they didn't revere the other gods much either. So maybe God's anger blazing against them was right.

I confess that my humanness sometimes gets in the way of my understanding of God. That human filter of fairness often shows up when I am looking at truth in the world. I know fairness isn't exactly Biblical. Rather justice is. Still, we want the dream to be true. We want the valiant efforts to succeed. We especially want the righteousness of one (or a few) to count for many (or all). But it never does. And I suppose we will never stop being dismayed at that truth in life. It just never does.

God is good. Of that I'm convinced. God is just. Of that I'm sure. God is faithful and loving. In that I'm secure. And God is forgiving. Of that I'm so grateful. But I have to tell you, God often doesn't make sense to me. Of that, I'm often perplexed.

No matter how strong my relationship with God gets, I still am sometimes confronted at the crossroads of His godliness and my human-ness - where things don't seem to compute or make sense. It is at these times that I must turn myself to Him and just be grateful that He is God.

No comments:

Post a Comment