Tag Archives: Josiah

Who Will Sing for Me?

All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments.
2 Chronicles 35:24-25 (NRSVCE)

We don’t talk much about lament anymore which is a reality that I, well, lament. Lament is a great word that can either be used as a noun or a verb. When used in its verb form, it means to grieve and feel sorrow or loss. When used in its noun form, it points to a particular expression of grief. In history a lament was typically a song or a poetic lyric used during periods of grief. It’s the ancient ancestor of the blues.

In today’s chapter, the Chronicler adds a curious detail to the death of Josiah that he has used with no other King in all the biographical accounts he’s provided in the previous 34 chapters. He explains that the prophet Jeremiah (an all-star prophet) had uttered a lament for Josiah and that the choirs of Judah had sung laments for Josiah even to the Chronicler’s day. Generations later, they felt Josiah’s loss and continued to sing the blues.

This morning in the quiet the Chroniclers detail brought to mind an old-timey bluegrass ballad called Who Will Sing for Me? It’s got me thinking and meditating on the idea that how we live our daily lives in the present will affect how others will feel our loss when this earthly journey is over. How interesting that Josiah was lamented, but the Chronicler didn’t say that of Asa, or Manasseh, or Hezekiah. Josiah was lamented for generations.

As I begin this week I’m enter into the task list asking myself how I’m living this journey and what kind of difference I’m making. It has me mulling over a simple question in the back of my head: Who Will Sing for Me?

Lester? Earl? Take it away…

Have a great week, my friend. Live well.

 

The Book, and the Journey

While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses.
2 Chronicles 34:14 (NRSVCE)

I was just 14 years old when I decided to become a follower of Jesus. The first thing I did after making that decision was to begin reading the Living Bible that I’d received for my confirmation a few years before with it’s puke green, imitation leather cover. I’d learned about the Bible all my life. I’d read verses from it, but I’d never really read it. Somehow I knew as I launched out on my faith journey that I had to read the Book for real.

A short time later I had an after school job and my boss asked if I’d like to do a Bible study together. I jumped at the chance. Every Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. we met together in his office. One of the first things he had me do was memorize Joshua 1:8:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (FYI, I typed this from memory. It’s still in there!)

That first memorized verse set the course for me spiritually. I have been journeying through God’s Message ever since. The Book is the source material of faith. I have read it through in a year. I’ve read it in different translations and paraphrases. I have studied it academically. I have studied it alone and in groups. I have memorized parts of it. I keep plumbing the depths, discovering new layers, and finding new meaning as I make my way through it again and again from altogether different waypoints in my own Life journey. (And, I continue to read it with those few brave souls who follow along here a chapter a day!)

In today’s chapter we are nearing the end of the Chronicler’s historical summary of the Kings of Judah. Mannaseh had reigned for fifty-five years and the nation had fallen back into its idolatrous ways. Now young Josiah becomes King and leads the people in a revival back to the God of their ancestors. First, he gets rid of all the idols in the land, then he begins a restoration campaign of the Temple of Solomon. This was not a quick process. The restoration of the Temple began 18 years into Josiah’s reign. During the restoration they discovered the Book of the Law (what we would know today as Genesis through Deuteronomy). In other words, the source material of the Hebrew faith had been lost and forgotten for years. They didn’t even know where it was, let alone did they remember what was in it!

How long had they been stumbling along without the source material of their faith? What were they relying on to inform them, encourage them, and instruct them? Oral tradition? The memory of old priests? How did they know they were living in accordance with God’s Law if they didn’t even have a copy of the Law to reference? The discovery of the Book of the Law was huge, as we’ll find out in the final few chapters of Chronicles.

This morning I’m thinking about my never-ending journey through the Book and the Great Story. How different my journey would be without this Source of wisdom, history, instruction, inspiration, encouragement, admonishment, and insight. I’m so thankful I took Joshua 1:8 to heart. I’m so grateful that I’ve not had to fly blind in my faith journey, that I’ve had the Book as my Source material.

Thanks for reading along with me.

Personal Faith & Systemic Conscription

The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
2 Kings 23:3 (NIV)

I was a young man when I made a decision that I would be a follower of Jesus. I was a normal teenager who did the normal things that teenagers do when testing the boundaries of parents and other systems of authority. Looking back at that boy from 40 years down life’s road, he seems rather innocent and naive. But I still remember that with my decision to follow Jesus came a responsibility to make some changes.

In today’s chapter we read the story of King Josiah’s great reform of Judah. After the scroll with the law of Moses is discovered during renovations to Solomon’s Temple, Josiah calls for a national gathering. The Law of Moses (e.g. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) is read to all the people. Josiah makes a decision and a commitment to follow God and keep the Law. He makes an ancient form of binding contract, called a covenant, to do so. The people follow suit.

The rest of today’s chapter is a blow-by-blow description of Josiah wiping out all of the competing local and regional deities. Reading the chapter we begin to understand how prevalent the worship of these gods had become. There were male prostitutes (which were quite common in idol worship in ancient times) who were operating out of Solomon’s Temple. There was child sacrifice to Molech and the worship of the golden calves that Jeroboam had set up when he led the northern tribes to secession hundreds of years earlier. Josiah purged the land of all of it, and pledged that the nation would follow the God of Moses alone.

As I read the chapter over my first cup of java this morning, there were two prevailing thoughts that struck me.

First, we read that Josiah called the nation together, made a covenant to follow God, and the people followed suit. Did they choose to follow Josiah’s lead of their own free will? Did the people even have a choice? A study of history would lead me to conclude that they did not. It was quite common for ancient nations and empires to follow whatever religion the king chose. That’s why Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 A.D. When Caesar Constantine became a Christian, then all the people of the Empire became Christians as well. I would argue that the results were not good.

I find this an important point. At the end of today’s chapter we read that Josiah’s son led the people right back to the worship of the local and regional gods. In our journey through 2 Kings we’ve read what seems to be a  game of religious ping-pong. One king follows the God of Moses and the people follow. The next king follows Baal and the people follow. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

National religion and forced adherence to faith is not really faith at all. It’s conscription. When I chose to become a follower of Jesus it was my choice and my decision. To this day I find that human systems (i.e. families, denominations, communities) use subtle forms of conscription and social pressure to ensure that the members of the system (i.e. children, grandchildren, neighbors, community members) adhere to the system’s sanctioned form of religion. That’s when personal faith is diluted down to blind religion. Jesus spent his entire earthly ministry fighting against that dilution. Blind religion nailed Him to the cross.

The second point that struck me this morning was Josiah’s reform. When I became a follower of Jesus there were some things that I was doing in my life that needed to change, as silly and innocent as some of them seem in retrospect. There were some unhealthy teenaged behaviors that needed to cease, and some healthy mature habits that needed to be developed. When faith is personal, it transforms the person.

This morning I’m thinking about my own children, and my grandson whom I can’t wait to meet in a few months. I don’t want my legacy to be religion instilled by force, conscription and systemic pressure. I want our daughters and our grandchildren to follow Jesus because it’s their own decision, their own choice, their own personal faith. The best thing that I can do to ensure that is not to instill rules, regulations, and mandatory religious observance. The best thing I can do is to model exactly what Jesus did and calls me to follow: love.

My Eternal Mystery, My Forever Friend

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.
2 Kings 22:8 (NIV)

Occasionally I have had people ask me how my “chapter-a-day” journey began. It goes much further back than blogging. The roots of it go all the way back to early 1980s. I was in high school and had only recently struck out on my path following Jesus. I had an after school job, and my boss was also a follower. He invited me to join him in studying God’s Message together, and the first thing he asked of me was to memorize Joshua 1:8:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

I did memorize the verse,  and I took it to heart. As I meditated on the verse during the memorization process, I came to mull over the word “meditate.” It struck me in those early stages of my journey that God’s Message was to be more than something I give a nod to on Sunday morning when the pastor refers to it. It was supposed to be more than a routine duty that I check off my daily task list of religious self-righteousness. God’s Message was the guide. It was the constant companion and the mystery to be endlessly understood. It was something to ingest and digest on a continual basis. It was something to dive into, excavate, mull over, and apply to my every day circumstances. Success in the spiritual journey came through the conduit of meditating on the Message.

Thus, what became this chapter-a-day blog began in a young man wearing Forenza parachute pants and sporting a righteous mullet. I’ll let that imagery sink in while I transition back to today. 🙂

The setting of this morning’s chapter is Solomon’s Temple. It is the Temple of the Lord built to the exact specifications prescribed in God’s Message through Moses and by plans developed by David. It was built to be the worship center of YHWH whose first command was “don’t have any other gods before me.”

But, over time the temple had become a multi-cultural interfaith religious center filled with the worship of all sorts of local dieties, some of whom practiced all sorts of nasty things we can scarcely imagine today. The scroll of God’s Message had been so long forgotten that the High Priest didn’t even know where it was nor remember what it said. When the scroll is discovered during some Temple renovations, it is a major find. When King Josiah tells the priest to “Inquire of the Lord for me concerning this book,” the priest has to scour the city to find a lone prophetess named Hulda who was “keeper of the wardrobe.” [Note: I’ve learned in theatre to always trust the costumers. They make a lifetime of keeping track of things long forgotten by others!]

The Message had been packed away, put aside, and forgotten. The words that were to be the guide for the journey weren’t even known and barely remembered. Without the guidebook, the people naturally wandered until they found themselves spiritually lost.

This morning I’m reminded of the simple principle that came out of meditating on a verse that I was asked to memorize as a kid:

If I’m going to be successful in this journey of following after God then I have to do my best to do what God’s Message says. If I’m going to do what God’s Message says then I have to constantly discover what that is and what it means. The Message has to become my source material, my constant companion, my eternal mystery, my forever friend.

Don’t Worry, It’s on the List

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 56

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Lists. My life is full of lists. Wendy is the Queen of the Lists. Her royal highness manages the Vander Well realm via a series of lists. There is the white board calendar list which used to list our daughters schedules, but now lists our evening meals for the week. There is the kitchen grocery list that is updated any time you use the last of something in the kitchen. There is the Playhouse list of what needs to go to the lake. The other day I was asked to print the rehearsal list for the theatre. I have a work list, a honey-do list, and a list of people to call. I have a list of chapters we’ve covered on this chapter-a-day journey. There’s a list of DVDs we own, a “must see” movie list, and a list of movies in our queue. My computer holds mailing lists, show lists, and cast lists.

This post is beginning to feel like Dr. Seuss.

Big list. Little list. List, list, list.
How many lists must I insist
on managing all that life persists
to throw my way as I exist?

In the days when David wrote the lyric of today’s psalm, kings and rulers in authority were known to be keepers of lists and records. Because the written word was rare and reserved almost exclusively for rulers, it was a big deal for Kings to have anything that was written down read to them. Sometimes, if the king had a bout of insomnia for example, he would ask his servants to read from the records, chronicles and lists. In doing so, he would sometimes run across an item on the list on which he would act. There are at least two very clear references of God using circumstances like this to fulfill His purposes in the old stories:

In the story of Esther: “That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.” (the chapter-a-day entries for this chapter from 2009 and from 2012)

In the story of Josiah: “Then Shaphan the secretary informed [King Josiah], ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.” (the chapter-a-day entry for this chapter)

When David’s lyrics refer to his tears being stored up and his troubles recorded, the image he is creating is that of his lament being written on God’s royal record. It is chronicled and will not be forgotten by God who sits on the throne. God sees. God knows. It will not be forgotten. It’s written on the list.

We all go through periods of life when we feel alone. Our troubles seem so huge. Our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back. We wonder if God is listening. We question whether God even cares.

Today, I’m reminded that God says the number of my days is already accounted for in His records. My name is recorded in His book. Even the decreasing number of hairs on my head is on a list somewhere in heaven’s royal archive. Certainly, I am not abandoned despite the intensity of my feelings to the contrary. My troubles are not forgotten. My cares are known.

 

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 35

But Josiah was spoiling for a fight and wouldn’t listen to a thing Neco said…. 2 Chronicles 35:22 (MSG)

Just the other night, Wendy and I were talking about times in life when we dive headlong into foolish decisions. We can both look back on life’s journey and point to decisions, relationships, and actions that now make us scratch our heads and shake our heads with incredulity. In retrospect, it’s almost inconceivable how we strike out on our own with blinders on. No one can convince us we’re making a mistake. Our ears are deaf to wisdom.

I’d like to think that time and hard lessons have taught me to recognize when those I trust are providing me fair warning. I hope that I am more willing to realize when my appetites have me driving 90 m.p.h. down a dead end street.

In Josiah’s case, it cost him his life.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and marlon bunday

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 34

When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. 2 Chronicles 34:19 (MSG)

My daughter, Madison, called me the other week. She’d been asked by a friend to discuss what she believed about death. She certainly had some strong convictions about what happens when you die, but when she went to God’s Message to support her presuppositions, she was both surprised and challenged. She had difficulty backing up some of the notions she held with scriptural evidence.

There is no substitute for reading God’s Message yourself. It’s one of the reasons my friend Kevin and I started this chapter-a-day journey several years ago. It’s one thing to hear others talk about what the Bible says, but it’s another thing to step in and personally read it, study it, and meditate on it.

I suggested some passages of God’s Message for Madison to read. As we talked, she was prompted to do some further study on a couple of key concepts about death. As a father, I was quietly delighted to listen to her and observe the process. She’s stepping out, digging in, and through it God is refining her faith.

People have told me that they read and appreciate what I write about each chapter, and I’m humbled to know that others value my thoughts. For the record, however, my thoughts are not what the chapter-a-day journey is about. Chapter-a-day is about reading God’s Message yourself, letting God speak to you through His Word, and personally responding to it. Just like Josiah in today’s chapter, it’s our own personal interaction with God’s Message that makes a real difference. 

Each chapter-a-day post contains a link to the entire chapter. I encourage you to start clicking on it, reading the chapter yourself, and sharing what spoke to you, encouraged you, challenged you, or what it made you think about. Share it with a friend. Share it in a comment to each day’s post. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jliba