Convicted To Change
Now when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.
2 Kings 22:11
In the generations after David and Solomon, God’s people were in trouble. Some of their kings had followed God, but many had turned away from Him. They had formed alliances with unbelieving countries to save their necks, but God had allowed half the kingdom, Israel, to be overrun by the Assyrians. Noe, a boy named Josiah became king of the other half, Judah (2 Kings 22:1-20).
Years of spiritual neglect had eroded the people’s faith in God, and they had even lost the scroll of Scriptures. One day, though, the high priest found the scroll. An attendant took it to Josiah and read it to him.
We can imagine the scene. The king sat on his throne listening to the words of God, which he had never heard before. The power and clarity of God’s laws and promises instantly gripped his heart. He realized that all the problems they were experiencing occurred because their forefathers had not obeyed the words of the scroll. His sorrow was so strong that he tore his clothes in anguish.
Josiah wasn’t just sorry, though. He took action. He renewed the covenant the people made years ago with God and he “cleaned house.” He pulled down the altars to other gods the evil kings had erected; he kicked out false teachers, mediums, and spiritists; and he commanded that every idol in the land thrown away.
When God convicts us of disobedience and selfishness, we need to follow Josiah’s example. We need to let the Spirit touch us at the deepest level so the we feel,genuine remorse, and then we need to take bold action to right wrongs and walk with God in truth and integrity.
Greatness is a spiritual condition.
How appropriate are these words today as we consider all the problems we are experiencing in the world, in our nation, in the church, and in the home. Little by little, over the years we, like the people of God in the Old Testament have exchanged the principles of God and His precepts for those of our own thinking or those that have been generated by the world. We exchanged the absolutes of the instructions of God’s Word for the philosophy that if it feels good or if it’s motivated by love, follow your heart and not your head and all the other nonsense that assumes humans are capable of living their lives without any help from God.
What happens to the person or the people who forget the ways of God and go their own way? The classic case is the world in the days of Noah.
The Lord saw that the wickedness (depravity) of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination or intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved—spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. God looked on the earth and saw how debased and degenerate it was, for all humanity had corrupted their way on the earth and lost their true direction.
When we read the story of Josiah we find that only repentance- the changing of our heart and ways- can address our problems at their root. We may make resolutions or attempt to resolve conflict and differences through conversation or pass legislature or try to work through some agency or program but until our hearts are transformed we will continue to repeat the sins of the past. While we may be able to affect change on the surface, underneath is the same old ways and thoughts.
At the end of World War 1 the League of Nations was formed with the plan to reconcile nations so that there would never be another world war. Somewhere around 1933 Germany chose to break away and by 1939 the world was engaged in another world war. After World War II the United Nations was formed with much the same purpose- resolving peacefully conflicts among nations but almost before it got started, the Cold War began and although it still exists and to some degree has mitigated war, we know that it has had limited success.
As a nation, we have tried to bring harmony among the various population groups, whether political or racial or other identities. Countless hours have been spent in this endeavor and yet we continue to find division, strife and hatred acting out almost daily.
Countless church meetings have been held to resolve congregational strife and yet conflict and division still find their place among the people of God.
Thousands of families and couples have met with counselors trying to resolve issues and yet the numbers of divided families appears to be on the increase rather than the decrease.
All of these efforts are admirable and certainly we ought to use any means to bring us together in harmony. But we need something more, something beyond human capacity. We need the intervention of God. What Josiah and the Jews found was when they read and applied the words and teachings of God, change began to take place. When they turned away from the gods and ideals of the world and let their hearts become transformed by God, they found the solution to their problems.
This is still true today. If we will allow God to direct our ways, if we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. If we will truly admit and be willing to repent-change- then we also can experience restoration and healing in all our relationships, personal, family, church, nation or world. And until we do, we will find ourselves going in circles and cycles that end in division and destruction.
Want to see things change? Repent of your ways, submit yourself to God and James tells us that the devil will flee.
Dr. John Thompson