The Bible teaches that the Lord God Almighty desires to have personal relationships with each and everyone one of His children. According to Jesus’ prayer in John Chapter 17, the Lord desires to be one with His people through the conduit of faith in Jesus. This sort of intimacy is pictured in the Bible through marriage relationships. As a husband and wife are “one” in the eyes of the Lord, the Lord desires to be “one” with His people in a similar manner. However, this does not mean that a person has the liberty to manufacture the terms of their “personal relationship” with the Lord. Just because the Lord desires to connect with His people as individuals doesn’t give His people the liberty to make up the manner in which that connection is made. We as people do not have the liberty to dictate the terms of our relationship with God. We do not have the liberty to seek God in our own way. We do not have the liberty to praise God in our own way. We do not have the liberty to worship God our own way. In fact, the Bible goes so far to teach that we can’t even thank the Lord our own way!
Every one of God’s people is expected to understand who He is and His nature. He is holy, righteous, just, and supremely glorious. God often refers to Himself as “the Great and Terrible God,” which speaks to the quality of glory that comes from God sufficient to terrify all those who behold it. Since God is so supremely majestic, people must approach Him and connect with Him in a certain manner. We are not majestic, glorious, or holy, so we are not qualified to understand how God should be dealt with. If not for God’s own explanation of these things in the Bible, we would not know God or how to connect with Him. Therefore, God’s people are expected to trust in the provision of His instruction concerning our “relationship” with the Lord as He directed in the Bible. There, God explained how to approach Him – in humility and faith in the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ. God explained how to speak to Him, how to seek Him, how to praise Him, and how to worship Him in the scriptures. If God’s people do not rely on His Word to nurture a “personal relationship,” how then can a person please the Lord?
This was a concept that King Josiah clearly understood. The testimony of King Josiah explains that he had a great fear of God and sought the Lord’s mercy in ways like no other king had in all of Israel’s history. At a young age, Josiah sought to utterly destroy the idols and false gods in the land of his people so that God could be the exclusive object of worship according to God’s commands. While cleaning out and renovating the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found a copy of the Law of Moses. The Law had been neglected and discarded to such a degree that it was lost for quite some time. The kings and priests of Judah had spent many years pursuing the desires of their own hearts, worshiping their own gods that were symbolic of their individual aspirations and selfish ambitions. The Law was lost because the people didn’t care about it.
However, when Hilkiah found it and presented it to Josiah, the king’s passion for the Lord intensified. He sought the Lord more zealously and diligently, fearing the consequences of curses documented in the Book. He knew that the people of Judah were guilty of many offenses and deserving of great punishment according to the warnings of God in His Word. Josiah even sent for a prophetess to confirm the fear he had in his heart. God spoke through the prophetess to state that He would indeed bring great calamity to the people on account of their prolonged wickedness. Yet, because Josiah was faithful and feared the Lord, God agreed to spare Josiah, his household, and his generation. Josiah was incredibly grateful and continued to intensify his desire for the Lord.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 35:1-6 explains that Josiah wanted to express his thanks to the Lord by celebrating the Passover festival. The scriptures state that the Passover had not been celebrated in some time. The last scriptural reference of the Passover being celebrated in Judah was through the reign of King Hezekiah some decades before. Recall that at the time of Hezekiah, Judah was in such spiritual disarray that the people had to celebrate the Passover a month late in order to ensure that the instructions of the Word were followed perfectly. They had a lot of ground to make up. When Josiah became king, he was able to lead the people to celebrate the Passover on time because his reforms began well before the discovery of the Book of the Law. Here, it is important to notice that Josiah sought the Lord through His Word. The Law was called “the Book of the Covenant,” referring to the fact that it was the book that contained the documentation of God’s promises and covenants to Israel. The Law was the revelation of God’s’ righteousness. Josiah sought to know the Lord through the testimony of His promises and the revelation of His righteousness. Josiah relied on God’s explanation of Himself instead of making things up about God in his own mind. Therefore, when Josiah learned about who the Lord was, he saw the commands for Passover to be an opportunity to express his gratitude and the gratitude of the people for the mercy they had received from the Lord to escape judgment that was deserved.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 35:1-6 explains that Josiah set the priests in their positions and duties as the Word commanded. Josiah called the Levites who were teaching Israel about the holiness of the Lord and set them in their positions for their duties as the Word commanded. Josiah commanded and encouraged the priests and Levites according to the Word by telling them to prepare themselves for their work according to the statutes and standards that were declared in the Word. Josiah told the priests and Levites to prepare themselves in the same manner of instruction that was provided by King David and King Solomon. The priests and the Levites were to stand in the holy place according to the commands that were written in the Law. The duties of the people were assigned according to the instructions of scripture. The people prepared to offer sacrifices and lead the people in worship according to the standards that were previously declared.
Notice that, while the Passover was new to the people at this time, they did not take it upon themselves to make up their own worship system. Josiah did not appoint random people to perform arbitrary tasks. Josiah did not appoint people based on personal preferences or professional qualifications. Josiah did everything “by the Book,” referring to the Book of the Covenant, the Law of God, the revelation of God’s righteousness. Josiah did not rely on his own wisdom to worship God. Josiah did not create a committee to meet about creative ways to glorify the Lord. Josiah looked to that which God had already declared, trusted God’s Word to be sufficient and right, and did exactly as the Word commanded without any deviation. The people worshiped God rightly because they obeyed the Law. The people thanked God appropriately because they obeyed the Law. The Bible says that the Passover celebration that year was so great that there had never been a celebration of that magnitude since the time of the judges when Israel first entered into the Promised Land! With such a compliment from the Lord, the Bible makes it very clear that the Lord is pleased with this manner of worship and this manner alone. God was pleased with the people because they forsook idols, denied their flesh, and relied solely on the Word to pursue God in worship according to the commands He gave for worship. The people did right because the people trusted in God’s superior righteousness and obeyed it.
The Bible teaches that one’s identity as a child of God will produce fruit and evidence. Though none are righteous and all are worthy of condemnation in hell, God provided a way of escape from His wrath according to His mercy and grace. God took the form of flesh in order that He could endure the punishment that all people deserve and pay for the debt of sin so that it would not be accredited to the spiritual accounts of offenders. The only way to take advantage of this favor is through faith. Since none are righteous, God didn’t expect His people to perform the impossible. Knowing that everything reproduces of its own kind, God does not expect His people to perform their way into His approval. That’s impossible. Instead, God simply demands that His people trust in the testimony of His grace and provision for salvation from judgment, which comes exclusively by the testimony of Jesus Christ, without the aid of a single person. The Bible also teaches that those who are beneficiaries of God’s salvation are changed. The revelation of God’s righteousness through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is sufficient to separate His people from the bondage of sin and the influence of the flesh, and conform His people into His image through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to convict believers concerning the righteousness of God through Jesus and change the corrupted mind to desire the eternal things of God rather than the selfish ambitions of the flesh that lead to condemnation. This causes not only a change in thinking, but also a change in habits, desires, and encourages an attitude of gratitude that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
If not for the constant reminders and convictions of the Holy Spirit concerning the revelation of God’s righteousness, God’s people would not thank God, acknowledge God, or honor God. Since it is the work of Jesus that allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers, and then the Holy Spirit’s influence to change the heart, then the effects of salvation are just as much the work and purpose of God as the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. God doesn’t waste moves or efforts, which shows that this change in attitude and conduct is purposeful. The appreciation through humility that God’s people show in response to His mercy is just as important to God as the work He does to offer salvation to begin with. This truth is made evident in the testimony of King Josiah and the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 34:29-33. Here, the Bible explains how the people responded to the declaration of God’s mercy and judgment against the people of Judah.
Recall that when Josiah commissioned the priests and Levites to restore the temple, they found the Book of the Law that God had given to Moses. Upon realizing what it was and reading its contents, they were terrified of God’s righteousness, recognizing that they were guilty of great and frequent offenses towards God, deserving of destructive curses as God’s judgment. Josiah quickly sent a group to seek the Lord through a local prophetess, who then explained that God would show judgment and mercy. God promised to bring calamity into Judah on account of their abominations and idolatry. They would suffer the same curses that the Law declared for the offenses they committed against the Law of God’s righteousness. However, God also explained that He would show mercy to Josiah, his household and the people of Judah at that time. Since Josiah humbled himself when God’s righteousness was revealed, and led others to do the same, God showed compassion to them and offered forgiveness. The fear of the Lord’s holy power and authority to judge unrighteousness caused the people to repent as a nation and seek the Lord with all their heart. This is what God wanted to begin with. Therefore, He was willing to spare that generation.
It was the mercy of God that caused the people to change. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 34:29-33 explains that after sharing the prophecy of the prophetess, the people continued to seek the Lord. They continued to read the Law of God publicly. In fact, the scriptures repeatedly refer to the Law of Moses as “the Book of the Covenant.” While some despise the Law and its rules, commands, ordinances, and statutes, the scriptures actually explain that the Law is the book of God’s promises. It is not just a promise of blessings and curses concerning commands. The Law is also the means by which God taught about the promise of the coming Savior, the Messiah Jesus Christ. The commands, ordinances, and statutes were intended to be teaching tools concerning the revelation of His righteousness in the flesh to save His people from the bondage of sin, death, and hell. The people saw the Law as good, and not a burden. They cherished the revelation of God’s righteousness, and though they were afraid, they recognized the privilege they had to receive God’s revelation and know Him. The people valued the commands of God, considering them to be supremely good by faith.
The mercy of God caused the people to seek the Lord more diligently. People often think that it is our pursuit of the Lord that causes us to receive God’s mercy. This is not true. The scriptures proclaim that none are righteous and that none seek after God. His extension of mercy is on behalf of His own desire. He gives mercy to whoever He wants to give mercy to, but the testimony of Josiah and Judah shows that there is a profound effect on the lives of those who really receive the mercy of the Lord with understanding. The people sought the Lord more diligently, not to receive God’s favor, but in recognition that they had already received God’s favor. Their diligence to seek the Lord was a response of gratitude. The people knew that they deserved severe punishment, and that such punishment would eventually come to the people of Israel. Still, God was willing to spare them. The people craved the Lord and cherished Him because He let them live. They recognized His goodness to provide undeserved favor and life.
The scriptures explain that Josiah led the people to seek the Lord by continuing to read through the Word of God. It is not uncommon to see people neglect the Word of God after God bails them out of a difficult situation. Many times, people feel that after the Lord delivers them from trials, that they can manage the rest of the way, and go about their own business. This attitude does not reflect the heart of one that receives the mercy of God with understanding. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 34:29-33 explains that the people read and heard the Word of God more after receiving God’s mercy. They saw their possession of the Law as a privilege and wanted to indulge in that privilege. The scriptures also state that Josiah led the people to renew their connection to God by affirming a covenant with God according to the covenant God first made with the people. In other words, as they read the commands of God and the promises of blessings and curses, the people agreed to live their lives by those standards. The people were resolute and determined to live God’s ways instead of their own, and relished the opportunity to do so seeing the favor that God had already extended to them.
Josiah not only removed all of the abominations from the presence of the people by destroying them, but also followed the Lord by keeping the Word of God in his heart, endeavoring to do what God said. He was not perfect by any means, but sought the perfection of God according to His Word. The people, recognizing their guilt before God and valuing the mercy of God more than anything else in life, were quick and zealous to follow Josiah’s lead. The people of Judah and in the regions of Benjamin stood before the temple of the Lord with anticipation, humility, and gratitude while Josiah and the priests simply read the Word of God according to the Law. Today, the Bible says that people will crave to hear words that tickle their own egos, and will raise up teachers to satisfy the itch to feel good about themselves. As a result, the revelation of God’s righteousness, especially though the Law is often neglected. The Bible itself teaches that those who have truly received the mercy of God and been delivered from His coming judgment don’t respond to His Word and righteousness this way. The Bible teaches that those who have truly received the mercy, grace, and salvation of God are compelled to serve Him and seek Him in humility and gratitude, recognizing the extent of goodness God shows despite who we are. The change that God’s salvation cause is made manifest through the hunger and thirst that God’s people begin to have for His righteousness according to the Word.
The scriptures teach that the righteousness of God has been revealed to all people. This means that when God judges people in the end, His judgment will be fair. No one will have an excuse when facing God in judgment. The Bible teaches that there are specific ways that God expects His people to respond to the revelation of His righteousness. When people receive the revelation of God, the Bible explains that the appropriate response is to confess one’s inadequacy and inability to match the supremacy of God’s righteousness, seek forgiveness concerning offenses committed towards God’s righteousness, and humbly pursue His provision of grace through faith. According to the Bible, any other response to the revelation of God’s righteousness will result in destruction come judgment time. This not just a New Testament principle. This is the way things have been forever.
An example of this truth can be found in the testimony of King Josiah. In 2 Chronicles 34:14-28 the Bible testifies that the people of Judah discovered something amazing in the midst of their cleansing and restoration of the temple. When Josiah hired the priests and Levites to oversee the reconstruction of the temple, the people found the book of the Law of Moses. When the people found it, they did not know what to do with it at first, and didn’t even fully understand what it was that they had found. Though it was a priest and a scribe that found the book, they didn’t understand the magnitude of what they had found. This is how far away from the Lord the people were at this point in Israel’s history. The priest Hilkiah and the scribe Shaphan agreed that the book needed to be taken to Josiah. When Shaphan took the book to him, he began to read the words of the book to the king at which point Josiah responded in dramatic fear. The Bible explains that upon hearing the Word of God read from the testimony of the Law, Josiah tore his clothes and quickly commanded Shaphan to take a group of men to seek the lord on his behalf through a local prophetess. Josiah was greatly concerned about the things that he heard in the Law, recognizing the righteousness of God, the sin of Israel, and greatly fearing the consequences that were disclosed in God’s Word.
Josiah sent his men quickly because he knew that the wrath of God was upon them. He and the men agreed that Judah was guilty of neglecting the Word of God, the righteousness of God, and the promises of God. They all admitted that they and their fathers had not kept the work of the Lord and were guilty of many offenses towards God. They sought to prophetess so as to gain insight into how the Lord might respond to their transgressions. Josiah and his men sought to plead for God’s mercy, but they felt it was too late. These men were genuinely terrified for their lives. They moved with quickness as if they were expecting the wrath of the Lord to come upon them at any moment. They did what they could, though they were ignorant as to how to seek the Lord, in order to appease the Lord in humility. The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Josiah’s response showed that he was on his way to gaining great wisdom and knowledge form the Lord on account of the intense fear that he had of the Lord after hearing the declaration of God’s righteousness through the reading of the Law.
When Josiah’s men reached the prophetess, they received good news and bad news. They received the bad news first. The Lord spoke through the prophetess to explain that Israel was guilty of sin as Josiah feared and His anger would be poured out upon them. God swore to bring calamity onto the people of Judah on account of the idolatry and pagan worship that His people had indulged in. God did not make up any new judgments. God was clear to state that He would bring upon the people, the specific judgments and curses that were already written in the Law – the very things that frightened Josiah when the Law was read to him. This shows that the people had been adequately warned. God told the people that if they neglected Him, His righteousness, and His promises, that He would respond certain ways. God even sent prophets previously to warn the people of Judah. In fact, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had already been deported from their homes by the Assyrians for committing the exact same transgressions. The people of Judah were without excuse, which is exactly why Josiah was so terrified. He knew God was right to bring curses upon the people because the people knew what was right according to God’s standards, and made conscious choices to ignore the Lord, His commands, and live by their own standards.
The scriptures state that the prophetess also had good news specifically for Josiah. The Lord swore that He would preserve Josiah and his household from the calamity and curses that He would levy against the people of Judah. God explained that since Josiah’s heart was “tender” before the Lord, He would receive mercy instead of wrath. This means that Josiah’s heart was soft toward repentance. When Josiah recognized that he was committing sins and offenses against God, he sought the Lord for forgiveness in humility. Josiah didn’t seek to live according to his own standards based on his personal selfish ambitions. Josiah sought to surrender his personal aspirations over to the Lord in order to live by His holy standards. Thus, Josiah spent many years purging sin from the people of Judah and Israel and invested his time and national resources to restore the people back to God unto worship. God recognized that when Josiah heard the Word, he humbled himself and wept on behalf of the people. Josiah didn’t try to justify their mistakes and wickedness. Josiah confessed the sins of the people, admitted guilt, acknowledged that they deserved judgment, but sought the Lord for mercy. This pleased God.
This is all the Lord asks for. The Bible explain that God promised to gather Josiah to his fathers in peace. This means that he would die a peaceful death and dwell in the peace of King David and other kings of faith. God promised that Josiah would not have to witness the destruction of His coming judgment. God’s mercy was so great that He swore to completely remove Josiah from experiencing any of the calamity that was sure to come upon the people. The testimony of scripture reveals that God indeed sent curses and calamity. The Babylonians went into Judah over the course of many years and slaughtered, plundered, and deported most of the children of Israel from the region of Judah. Josiah didn’t have to experience any of it. Hence, the Bible shows an incredibly important principle. God is supremely righteous as declared by His Word. Since all have received the revelation of God’s righteousness, He expects a response like that of Josiah’s response. God expects His people to confess our shortcomings and offenses. God expects His people to admit guilt and desire God’s mercy. Those who are indifferent to God’s judgment will experience the full brunt of it. Those who try to justify their unrighteous living will experience the full wrath of God. However, those who humble themselves and repent by faith will receive God’s mercy and escape the judgment that we all deserve. The testimony of Josiah is proof.
The scriptures show that, while God provided many statutes, ordinances, commands, and traditions for His people to keep in order to learn of Him through obedience to His Word, the people were equally as important as the commands. The scriptures teach that God implemented the Jewish feast days into the calendar of His people in order to teach His people certain Messianic principles. Yet, the conduct and attitudes of the priests and Levites were what made the feast days functional as learning tools. God implemented certain sacrifices for the people in order that they could have peace with God through obedience to those ordinances. Yet it was the conduct and attitudes of the priests and Levites that were critical to ensure the sacrifices and offerings were given to the Lord correctly. The commands were good, but the people who fulfilled them were equally as important to the lessons that were supposed to be learned through the traditions. This shows that God’s people are just as important to the teaching and learning of God’s revelation as the Word of God itself. The Apostle Paul even brought up the point that, if not for the enabling of God’s people to teach, how would God’s people learn? Therefore, it is important for God’s people to equip God’s people to do the things that God has commanded. If the obedience of God’s Word is pursued at the expense of those God called to fulfill it, then God’s will is not being done.
This principle is illustrated through the testimony of King Josiah. In 2 Chronicles 34:8-13 the Bible explains that King Josiah made great efforts to lead the people of Judah, and even people living in the northern kingdom of Israel, into great spiritual restoration. He began his efforts at the young age of sixteen. Eight years into his kingship, Josiah recognized the need to repent and reform. He began his work of spiritual restoration by destroying all of the false gods, idols, altars, high places, and pillars that had been erected as an offense to God. Josiah didn’t just purge the region of Judah, but went all through Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and as far north as the region of Naphtali. Josiah spent approximately ten years destroying the things among the children of Israel that were an offense to God, encouraging the people to repent and follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Him alone. The Bible teaches that Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord and the people followed him in this manner for the most part.
After ten years of destroying pagan images, Josiah took up the next phase of his work. The scriptures explain that in the eighteenth year of his rule, Josiah began to make efforts to repair and rebuild the temple itself. The order of events here is important to notice. Notice that Josiah didn’t begin repairs while purging idols. Josiah didn’t try to cover over corruption with modifications. Josiah made sure that the offenses to God were removed, not repurposed or redecorated. Josiah didn’t want to remodel, he wanted to restore to original condition. Therefore, Josiah knew that he had to get the corrupted things out before he could restore the original integrity of the temple in order to ensure that its original purpose was fulfilled. Once the temple was cleansed of idols and pagan images, Josiah made efforts to rebuild the areas of the temple that had been damaged or corrupted in any way.
In order to restore the temple to its original purpose, Josiah employed the original people to do the work. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 34:8-13 explains that Josiah took the money from the temple treasury and used those funds to pay the appropriate people to do the appropriate work according to God’s original commands. Josiah also employed the priests and Levites to oversee the work that they could not do themselves. When certain works called for a skillset foreign to a priest or Levite, Josiah paid the professional craftsmen, but also ensured that the Levites were paid overseers to make sure that the work was done according to God’s holy standards. Who better to know those standards than those men ordained of God to teach the people of those standards? Here, the Bible shows that Josiah was not willing to cut corners concerning the things of God, and expressed his desire to do things right in the ways that he spent money. He employed the right people according to God’s commands to do the works that God ordained them to do according to His Word.
Issues of money and the Bible have been controversial for quite some time; mainly because of the miserable misuse of ministry resources by corrupted men throughout history. The evil hearts of men have tainted the minds and opinions of many people because of the gross misuse of finances for personal gain. It is the good testimony of Josiah that shows how the money of ministry should actually be used. Josiah expressed his desire to exalt the name of the Lord by ensuring God’s servants were employed to the jobs God appointed them to. Josiah didn’t make up his own decisions on how to leverage the funding. Josiah didn’t hire his own people. Josiah knew that if the people of Israel were going to follow God’s commands, they needed the right leadership; and Josiah trusted that God’s appointment of the priests and Levites according to the Law was the right and good.
Josiah used the money of the temple to build up the temple according to its original specifications. He didn’t seek to innovate or improve. Josiah felt the original design and purpose according to the Word was well and good already. To do this work, Josiah engaged the people of God. He didn’t call upon the most reputable construction crew. He didn’t employ the cheapest work. In fact, one could make the argument that Josiah overpaid for the work done as he paid both craftsmen and Levites to oversee the work. The Bible explains that some of the singers, scribes, officers, and gatekeepers were employed to ensure the craftsmen did their jobs according to the righteousness of God’s commands. The parallel account of 2 Kings 22:3-7 explains that Josiah exercised good wisdom since the people were responsible to do their jobs and worked faithfully. They didn’t waste time, money, or resources. Since Josiah trusted the Lord and His provision of spiritual leadership, God put it in the hearts of the priests and Levites to lead well unto success. The Levites led with the fear of God, which trickled into the craftsmen so that in the end, it was a job well done!
This testimony shows that, while it was good to restore the temple, it was perhaps equally as important to employ the right people to make sure the work was done right. Josiah relied upon the Word of God to employ the people of God fairly. God honored Josiah’s faith so that He put it in the hearts of the workers to work faithfully and diligently. In the end, the work was done well and it pleased God to bring the people bonus benefits in the midst of their work! To have the temple restored would have been one thing. To exercise God’s provision of people to do the work ensured not only that the work got done, but that God was pleased with the completion of the work since the employment of God’s people reflected Josiah’s faith in God’s righteousness.
The Christian attitude towards sin should be the same as God’s own attitude towards sin. Since faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah results in the indwelling of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit should influence a change in our thinking so that we despise sin in the manner that God does. After all, it is God’s own Spirit that is conforming us into His image. We should find pleasure in the things that God finds pleasure in, loathe the things that God loathes. According to the Bible, God hates sin! In Proverbs 6:16-19 the scriptures describe seven particular characteristics of sin. The Bible candidly and plainly says that “the Lord hates” those sinful attributes. The scriptures teach that God is light and in Him, there is NO darkness of any kind. In fact, the scriptures teach that Jesus took the form of flesh, not just to die for the sins of the world, but to destroy the work of the devil through His death (1 John 3:8). This means that God hates sin and darkness so much that He took the form of flesh in order to subject Himself to shame, torture, and death to destroy it. While this seems like a dramatic and excessively morbid illustration, the truth of Jesus’ death shows the extent of disgust God has against sin.
The scriptures teach that God’s people are to be equally disgusted towards sin, the flesh, the world, and darkness of any kind. In Proverbs 8:13 the Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is to “hate evil.” The Book of Proverbs also teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, to know the wisdom and knowledge of God, we must hate evil like God does. In Psalm 97:10 the Bible says, “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” God has delivered His people from the hand of the wicked, not to practice wickedness of a different kind, but to be separated unto His holiness. In Ephesians Chapter 5 the Apostle Paul commanded the church (Jewish and Gentile believers alike) to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. He wrote that it is shameful to the believer of Jesus Christ to even speak of the things done in dark and secret places. While the Bible also teaches that believers will continue to make mistakes and walk in the flesh (no matter how much we may not want to), the Christian attitude towards sin and our fleshly desires to continue in sin, should match that of God’s attitude. Sin must go, no matter the difficulty required to rid of it!
While this might seem extreme, the Bible commends those who took extreme measures to eliminate and purge sin from their individual lives and from the congregation of the children of Israel. One such person was King Josiah. The testimony of Josiah is documented in 2 Chronicles 34:1-7, and explains the drastic measures that Josiah took to get the children of Israel back on track with the Lord. Recall that after Hezekiah’s reforms, his son Manasseh ruled for fifty -five years and for the bulk of those years, he committed many abominations against God. He brought back the idols and false gods that Hezekiah committed his life to destroying. Manasseh slaughtered priests and prophets that opposed him, including the prophet Isaiah. Manasseh led the people of Judah to perform terrible acts in the sight of the Lord, in the temple, and even had the people sacrificing their children. Thankfully, the Lord manipulated the circumstances of Manasseh to lead him to repentance. Manasseh eventually was humbled and spent the end of his life trying to undo the damage that he had done in Judah. He commanded the people of Judah to tear down the idols that he helped them build up and tried to restore the temple and the people to worship God alone. It was a noble effort, but it was too little, too late. When Manasseh died, his son Amon became king, and while he only ruled for two years, Amon made great efforts to lead Judah back into darkness, influencing idolatrous and pagan practices yet again.
Amon was killed after two years of leading Judah. His son Josiah became king in his place at the age of eight years old. The Bible is clear to show that God took hold of this young man’s life at an early age to preserve the spiritual integrity of His people in Judah. Though Josiah was only a young boy, the Lord used him as an instrument of judgment against sin in Judah. The Bible states that Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He walked according to the exemplary faith of King David. He did not turn to the right hand or to the left to see what other people were doing, but looked straight to the Lord to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. In the eighth year of his reign, at the age of sixteen, Josiah began to seek the Lord according to the Word and within four years of that (at age twenty) he began to exercise his authority as king to purge evil from the midst of God’s people. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 34:1-7 uses very strong language to describe the temperament of Josiah as he sought to spiritually cleanse the people and the land.
The Bible states that Josiah “purged” Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, wooden, carved, and molded images. The word “purged” refers to the same kind of ritual cleansing that the priests had to complete when cleansing themselves of contact with a dead body, the cleansing of a woman for her monthly impurity (menstrual cycle), or for the cleansing that needed to be completed for a priest to conduct his service to the Lord. This means that Josiah’s actions against idolatry in Judah and Jerusalem was purposeful, thorough, and spiritually motivated. The Bible states that Josiah led the people to “break down” the altars dedicated to false gods. The scriptures explain that Josiah led the people to shatter the idols into pieces and “make dust of them.” He scattered the ashes of the idols on the graves of those who sacrificed to them, meaning that the people who refused to repent were killed. Josiah even went so far as to kill the priests of the false gods and idols and then burn their bones on their own idolatrous altars before destroying the altars. Josiah did all that could be done to ensure that there were no traces of idolatry and paganism in Judah in any way!
Josiah didn’t limit his work to Judah. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 34:1-7 explains that he even went up into the regions of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and even as far north as Naphtali to cut down altars with axes. By the time that Josiah was king in Judah, many of the Israelites in the northern kingdom had been deported by the Assyrians. Most of the northern kingdom of Israel had been under Assyrian rule from the time of 722 BC. Josiah didn’t care. He marched right into the land of his people that was being governed by a pagan foreign nation and smashed idols with an ax, beat carved images into powder, and cut down all the altars that he could. He did so without fear. He did so without apology. Josiah’s young age was not a factor, especially as a deterrent. Josiah sought the Lord, feared the Lord, and lived according to the standards of the Lord. Since God hated sin, Josiah hated sin. This doesn’t mean that Josiah didn’t sin, but that he was offended with sin like God was offended with sin. He did all that he could to remove the offense and the temptation to continue offending God. Josiah didn’t want to live anything resembling darkness in the presence of his people because he understood God’s attitude towards those things, and understood how easy it was to fall back into darkness even with the slightest of provocation or inspiration.
The Bible commends Josiah for his actions of reform. His actions were likely offensive to many people and seem to be excessive in some aspects. Nevertheless, this is the attitude and conduct that pleases God because it resembles His own attitude and conduct towards sin. While the Holy Spirit convicts us about sin, our response to that conviction should be to purge and remove and obliterate that which has the slightest chance of tempting, inspiring, or provoking us to sin and offend God. While a true Christian likely doesn’t desire to offend God, the Bible shows that God is pleased with those who take drastic and resolute actions against that which offends God or has the potential to. God is so offended with sin that He took the form of flesh in order to allow His flesh to be destroy as the means by which He would destroy sin. God submitted to the infliction of shame and pain upon Himself in order to deal with the sins of others. How much more should we as His children be willing to deal with the difficulties of “purging” sin from our lives like Josiah seeing what God has already done for us? Why should we be content continuing to offend God knowing how much He did to offer forgiveness and peace to us? Our attitudes towards sin won’t guarantee that we will be able to keep from sin. In fact, the Bible tells us that we will continue to fail God until death. Nevertheless, our attitude towards sin will not only show our gratitude for Jesus’ death and the purpose of it, but also reflect the character of Jesus as a testimony of His righteousness through the faith we have in His holiness. Josiah had it right!
When the Lord God delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and separated them unto Himself, He gave them commandments intended to do two primary things. First, God wanted to reveal His righteousness to the people through the commands of the Law so that the people would be blessed in the revelation of His goodness through His righteousness. Secondly, God wanted to separate His people from other people groups in order that His revelation would not be perverted and corrupted by outside influences that have a strong tendency to distract and confuse the things of God. It was for this reason that God commanded the children of Israel to diligently focus on the Word in all facets of life. God understood the human tendency to wander and rebel against Him. God understood the weakness of the flesh and the depravity of the soul. Hence, God’s commands to be immersed in the Word all day long was a good prescription to deal with the issues of the human soul that struggle to receive, digest, and accept God’s righteousness.
God’s people were commanded to love the Lord God with everything we have, which would not just refer to our bodies, mind, and soul, but also our time since time is the tool we use to express our minds with our bodies according to the cravings of our soul. God told the children of Israel to diligently seek the Lord at home so as to be able to teach younger generations about God and His righteousness. Parents were not called to send their children off to other people to train up their kids in the ways of the Lord. God commanded the parents to do the work of learning in order to engage their children in the home to talk to them about the Lord and teach them His ways. Parents were commanded by God to walk according to the Lord so as to lead by example, not just words of instruction. God said that His people were supposed to talk about the Lord day and night with those around them, whether in the house or out of the house; whether in the morning or the evening. God was supposed to be the center of attention and focus. He was to be in the front of the people’s minds, and the motivation for the works that they did. God’s people were to write the righteous commands and promises of God on the walls of their homes so as to be engulfed in His Word, making it painfully clear what His people stood for and lived for.
When this doesn’t happen, the depraved human soul will do according to what is natural instead of what is Godly. Since the natural human heart is depraved, those who don’t follow the commands of God as written in Deuteronomy Chapter 6 will find increasingly difficult issues of sin festering in the home. When the Lord is not exalted in the manner that scripture prescribes, the natural depravity of the corrupted human heart will become more and more manifest. History shows that it is not enough to simply mention God from time to time in the home and expect the peace of God to dominate the household. It is not enough to send children to outside influences and forfeit one’s personal responsibility to do what God says to learn, teach, and lead their own children. When God’s people try to find new ways to produces Godly results, the results will inevitably end up being ungodly and troublesome. The testimony of Manasseh and his son Amon prove this as true.
In 2 Chronicles 33:21-25 the Bible documents the reign of King Amon. Amon was the son of Manasseh and took over the kingship of Judah when he was twenty-two years old. He ruled for only two years before his own servants conspired against him and killed him in his own home. The scriptures teach that Amon’s rule was a miserable and ineffective season in Judah, which is a shame based on the reforms that Manasseh instituted at the tail end of his reign when he repented and converted to follow the Lord. The scriptures explain that Amon did not live according to the repentant version of his father. Instead, Amon lived in the manner of the wicked version of his father. Amon did evil in the sight of the Lord. Instead of following the repentance of his father, he brought back the idols and altars that his had had destroyed not long before. Amon sacrificed to carved images. In fact, the Bible explains that Amon sacrificed to the very same carved images that his father had sacrificed to before his conversion. Scripture explains that the circumstances and evil practices of Amon grew worse and worse; and since his rule was only for two years, the Bible shows that this evil grew at an accelerated pace. While Manasseh eventually was humbled, confessed his sin, repented, and followed the Lord, Amon did no such thing. Amon continued in his evil, growing progressively worse as his days went on, until the day he was shamefully murdered in his own home by his own servants.
Here, it is important to notice the details of the testimony of scripture. It was not just that Amon became an idolater, but notice that he sacrificed to the very same carved images that his father had. While Manasseh repented later in his years and became a new man, Amon didn’t learn that lesson. Amon had already been taught how to live as an idolater. When given the option, Amon sided with the natural human tendency. Rather than doing what was right and good in the eyes of God, Amon did what seemed right in his own mind and followed in the ways of traditions as he learned them at home. The extent of darkness in the human soul is such that requires constant spiritual cleansing, which is why God was so emphatic about the amount of time and energy that was required in the home to make Him the chief focus. As soon as the heart gets a break from God, it will relentlessly pursue ways to gratify the flesh that are contrary to God. Since Amon spent the bulk of his life watching his father do things in an ungodly manner, it seemed better in his own mind to do that which was more familiar – worship idols instead of God.
The Bible does not comment on Amon’s attitude towards his father’s repentance and conversion. It may have been that Amon truly desired to follow in the manner of his father’s walk of faith. Still, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The extent of human depravity is such that, no matter how much we might desire to do well, the flesh will proactively and passionately oppose Godly desires, causing us to error. Even the Apostle Paul, filled with the Spirit of God wrote: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Paul wanted to do what God said was right, but found that his flesh was such an aggressive and powerful influence, that he couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried and how badly he wanted to please God. This is the fate of the flesh in this life. So, when leadership in the home does not follow God’s commands to minimize opportunities that stimulate the flesh by focusing elsewhere besides God, the flesh will be even more difficult to deal with. The Bible teaches that God’s people can’t even be righteous when there is a sole focus on Him. How much more evil will come to those who are indifferent to the Lord and His commands? The testimony of Amon shows that, when God’s people are indifferent to God and neglect His commands in order to gratify desires of the flesh in the home, the next generation will more than likely side with that manner of tradition, even if the Lord is presented as another option. The manner of seriousness and diligence to cultivate and encourage faith in younger generations is clearly prescribed in scripture. The testimony of Amon shows what is likely to happen when that prescription is not followed with diligence. Manasseh turned his life around to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness in the end, but a long tradition of fleshly living had done its damage. Praise be to God who is able to transform the heart in spite of the flawed leadership of His people for those whom He wills to be His.
The Bible teaches that God is patient with His people. The original King James Version of the Bible uses the phrase “longsuffering” to describe God’s patience. God suffers long while dealing with His people. God sees the hearts of His people yearning for that which is wicked and corrupt, and it grieves Him. God sees the attitudes of His people that despise the eternal and spiritual nature of His work, and it grieves Him. God sees the evil conduct of His people that reflects the affections of the flesh and indifference of the Lord, and it grieves Him. The Lord suffers while He watches His people reject His goodness, righteousness and holiness in exchange for evil corruption. God suffers while He watches His people live selfishly, taking advantage of one another in order to receive personal gain. God suffers while He watches His people deal with the consequences of sin. God suffers while He watches His people provoke Him to anger, taking matters into their own hands through pride and self-righteousness and human wisdom rather than seeking Him. Yet, the Lord is slow to respond to His sorrow and grief. God does not immediately respond to grief with anger. God does not immediately judge His people at the first sign of unbelief, rebellion, and self-righteousness. Instead, God responds according to His merciful nature, affording His failing people time to consider the Lord’s longsuffering, mercy, and by extension, His offer of forgiveness.
If not for the longsuffering mercy of God, all people would be dead and condemned to hell. The scriptures teach that none are righteous and all fall short of the glory of God. This means that all are deserving of God’s judgment. Yet many people live full lives as an offense to God, and He permits it, dealing with the excruciating difficulties that flawed people cause in this life. Thankfully, the Bible documents the testimonies of men like King Manasseh, which shows that God is longsuffering so that some people can recognize their sin later in life, confess their faults, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, repent, and be changed by His mercy. The testimony of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 shows that God had to suffer a great deal of time through the life and reign of Manasseh. Though Hezekiah was one of Judah’s greatest kings, his son Manasseh did not follow the same path. The Bible states that Manasseh became king at the age of twelve after the death of his father, and ruled for fifty-five years – the longest rule of any king in Judah’s history. The bulk of Manasseh’s rule was wicked in extreme measures. The scriptures explain that Manasseh did evil in the sight of the Lord, committed many abominations in the temple, and also corrupted the people in Judah, who were repentant and humble to God not long before, to fall back into idolatry.
The parallel account of King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21:1-18 provides some of the details concerning Manasseh’s sin. Both 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings testify that Manasseh became obsessed with occultism. He began to grow interested in the history of King Ahab and took interest in the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, got into mysticism and soothsaying, and began to impress his interests upon the people of Judah. The Bible states that Manasseh soon erected altars, statues, idols, and high places in Judah again. Though Hezekiah worked the bulk of his life trying to separate Judah from these things, these evils were back in the land less than one generation later. This testimony goes to show that it is not the parent that saves a child. A parent can lead by example to the best of their ability, but faith and matters of salvation are issues that each individual must receive on their own. Though Hezekiah was a righteous reformer as an instrument of God’s own righteousness, his son was the polar opposite.
Does this mean that Hezekiah’s parenting was done in vain? Certainly not! Consider this: When the Lord God called the prophet Ezekiel to speak to the people of Judah during the Babylonian captivity, God called him as a “watchman.” The watchman is not obligate to fight on behalf of the people and is not responsible to save the lives of the people. His job is merely to warn the people of a coming attack. The job of the watchman is to be vigilant in his duty to look out for the enemy and notify the people the appropriate way at the appropriate time in order that the people can respond according to their receipt of the message. Ezekiel was not responsible for the responses of the people he spoke to. He was simply obligated to the Lord to listen to the Word, receive it, and communicate it regardless of the response of the people. God was clear to state that the response of the people was His own responsibility, not Ezekiel’s. The same could be said of Hezekiah and any parent. The duty of the parent is not to save the child. Only Jesus can save. Instead, the duty of the parent is to act as the watchman – receiving the Word of God by example and communicating it, trusting the Lord to deal with the responses of others according to His righteousness.
Manasseh was nothing like his father. His obsession with darkness caused him to do some of the most terrible things the region of Judah had ever seen. The Bible is clear to state that Manasseh adopted the pagan practices of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Ammonites, Edomites, and Moabites. Manasseh entrenched his mind in the ways of other people groups and brought all of their evil into his kingdom. The people didn’t take long to follow and weren’t restrained in the extent of their following. It was not just that Manasseh prayed to false gods and burned incense to idols, but also that he built up idols and statues in the temple of the Lord and committed sacrifices in His presence there. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 recounts the words that God gave to David and Solomon when the temple was built to show how great of an offense that Manasseh was. God said that the dwelling of His presence in the temple was a privilege. The people were expected to respond to this privilege by following the holy and righteous commands of God as a display of respect, honor, and fear of God’s holiness. God had told David and Solomon that Judah was His special people, His choice selection for where He wanted His presence to dwell. Rather than cherish the presence of God, Manasseh did all that he could to defile it, and the people of God who were created to worship Him.
Manasseh not only corrupted the people of Judah back into idolatry, but also hurt the people of Judah by leading them in child sacrifice. The Bible states that Manasseh sacrificed his own children by “making them pass through the fire.” Many others in Judah followed his example. Additionally, the testimony of 2 Kings states that when God sent prophets to rebuke and warn Manasseh, he did not receive their words. Instead, Manasseh went on a killing spree in the manner of Jezebel. Manasseh killed the men that opposed him, especially the prophets. Rabbinical tradition states that one of such prophets that was slaughtered under the evil rule of Manasseh was Isaiah the prophet. Though Isaiah was a great friend of Hezekiah, Manasseh had him sawn in two. The Bible teaches that Manasseh was responsible for the bloodshed of many innocent lives. These issues didn’t happen over the time span of a day. These things took time. Judah’s rebellion lasted for years. God exercised longsuffering towards the evil of Manasseh while many people died. While some would criticize God’s delayed response, His response proves to be perfect because of the results that His response produced.
The scriptures explain that God did not simply ignore Manasseh’s evil. When the prophet Jeremiah began to prophesy, the Lord explained that the Babylonian invasion and captivity would be the direct result of Manasseh’s wicked leadership and the people’s zealous following of his example. Babylon would plunder Judah because of the pride of Hezekiah. Babylon would utterly destroy Judah because of the evil and innocent bloodshed of Manasseh. This doesn’t mean that Manasseh didn’t pay for his sin though. Rather, the testimony of 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 explains that God used the Assyrians to invade Judah and take Manasseh captive. Archeological finds confirm that the king of Assyria took many kings of the region captive at that time, even depicting the king of Ethiopia as having a hood in his lip with a rope attached to it in the hand of the Assyrian king. The Bible testifies that Manasseh was kept in the prison stocks during the time of these Assyrian conquests. Historians generally agree that Manasseh suffered as the prisoner of the Assyrian king for about a year before he was let go.
Upon being released, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 explains that Manasseh came out of bondage as a changed man! The scriptures state that his afflictions caused him to implore the Lord for forgiveness. Manasseh humbled himself before the Lord and sought the Lord of his father rather than the idols he previously obsessed over. Manasseh prayed to God seeking His mercy. Manasseh returned to Judah only to destroy the work of his own hands. He led the people of Judah to destroy the idols that were built in the Lord’s temple. He took down the altars that he built up throughout Judah. While he did not take down the high places in Judah, the people used those high places to worship God – not a worship practice permitted by the Law, but a sign that some of the people were willing to follow Manasseh in repentance.
The Bible explains that the Lord received Manasseh’s supplications and restored Judah to a certain degree. Before he died, Manasseh was able to build up walls around Judah and restore the temple to the condition that it was in when his father restored it. He repaired the altar of the Lord and commanded Judah to worship the true God of Israel, and Him alone. Many people obeyed the command of the changed Manasseh. He eventually died and was buried in the traditional manner of the kings. Judah was eventually judged according to God’s promise. Babylon eventually marched into Judah to slaughter and plunder those who would not repent. The evil of Manasseh had taken effect so that many in Judah had grown cold to the Lord. The longsuffering of God was good to allow Manasseh’s repentance, but many people in Judah continued to deny the Lord unto His judgment. Nevertheless, God’s willingness to suffer long through Manasseh’s evil enabled Manasseh to escape the condemnation of hell. It is true that Manasseh ruined many innocent lives and led people into terrible darkness, but God’s mercy was sufficient to save a man who was lost. The victims of Manasseh’s evil didn’t all suffer as it may seem. For example, while Isaiah the prophet was sawn in two, the evil of Manasseh was used to usher the faithful prophet into the hands of the Lord. When Isaiah is raised up in glory, his body will be whole; and because God is merciful and willing to forgive, slow to anger and wrath, Manasseh will also be raised up with Isaiah, both as worshipers of the One True Living God who proves how mighty and committed He is to save souls from hell!
The Bible teaches that God is not a respecter of persons. This means that God does not play favorites. Just because someone is used by God favorably in one way doesn’t mean that such a person gets a license to disobey or rebel against God in other ways. God is merciful and gracious, but when He judges, He is fair. According to the psalms, God does not punish His people to the full extent that is deserved, but He is sure to discipline His people for transgressions and that discipline can be extremely difficult. Thus, the people of God should not look at the ways they were used as instruments of righteousness in the past in order to justify present offenses against God. Just because someone was used one way in the hand of God before, doesn’t mean that such a person can parade around in life as if they are exempt from God’s discipline. God’s favor from the past is not an indication that God will abstain from judgment in the future.
This truth is clearly illustrated in the life of King Hezekiah. In 2 Chronicles 32:23-33 the Bible documents the events that took place after the Lord provided a tremendous miraculous victory for the people of Judah against the Assyrians. The Bible explains that after the Lord slaughtered the Assyrians on behalf of the people of Judah, the neighboring nations around Hezekiah sent gifts and tribute to Hezekiah for their victory. The Lord greatly increased Hezekiah and his kingdom continued to flourish. However, the scriptures state that Hezekiah’s heart grew prideful on account of the increase God provided. Recall that God had used Hezekiah to produce one of the most powerful movements of spiritual restoration in Israel’s history. The people were restored to temple worship and gave bountifully to the priests and the Levites to ensure that the proper worship of God continued. God used Hezekiah to institute this national repentance. Then, the Lord used the faith of Hezekiah as the means to provide a major victory against the Assyrians when He sent the Angel of the Lord (an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Himself) to slaughter the arrogant and blasphemous Assyrian army. Hezekiah had all the reason in the world to feel confident as the Lord’s instrument of righteousness.
Additionally, the Lord was merciful to Hezekiah to save him from death and extend his life for fifteen years. The scriptures explain that after Hezekiah enjoyed his victory over the Assyrians that he contracted a boil that ultimately became infected. The Lord called the prophet Isaiah to inform Hezekiah that he would not survive the infection. Isaiah told Hezekiah to get his household in order because he would not live long. Hezekiah then became bitter in his heart and sought the Lord with tears. He immediately prayed in the corner of his room asking the Lord for mercy so that he might live. The testimony of Isaiah states that the Lord responded to his prayer before Isaiah could even leave the house. God had mercy on Hezekiah and swore to extend his life for fifteen years. Isaiah took the sap from a fig tree to treat the wound of Hezekiah and he later fully recovered from the infection and escaped death. The Lord even provided a miracle to confirm his promise regarding the extension of life. Hezekiah asked Isaiah for a sign of God’s promise at which point God made the shadow of their sundial go backwards as the day continued in order to show God’s control over creation as well as over life to extend it. Hezekiah was fully healed and fully restored by the mercy and grace of God.
However, Hezekiah allowed his confidence in the Lord to turn into pride. The Bible explains that his heart became lifted up and the increase of his kingdom caused him to think more highly of himself than he ought to have, especially after the Lord saved him from his infection. The scriptures explain that Hezekiah began to parade the Lord’s increase around as if it were a sign of his supreme holiness and righteousness. Here, the scriptures reveal a flaw in Hezekiah’s thinking. The Bible teaches that none are righteous. The Bible teaches that all fall short of the glory of God. In Genesis Chapter 15, God saw the faith of Abraham and “accounted” it to him as righteousness. This means that righteousness doesn’t really exist in the human soul. God sees faith in His people and considers that faith to be equal to righteousness in His eyes even though faith and righteousness are not equal. Hence, though someone may believe in God and His promises with Biblical faith, that person is not made righteous in faith, only declared righteous by the authority of God on account of His mercy and grace. Hezekiah might have been used as an instrument of righteousness in his past, but was never made righteous. Therefore, his opinion of himself was incorrect to think that his increase was a sign of his approval from God on behalf of his righteousness. As a tool in the hands of God Hezekiah did well. Still, apart from the hand of the Lord, Hezekiah was still a depraved sinner.
The scriptures document Hezekiah’s folly not only in 2 Chronicles 32:23-33, but also in 2 Kings 20:1-20 and also in Isaiah 38:1-8. The scriptures show that Hezekiah flaunted the increase the Lord provided to the Babylonians. After Hezekiah recovered from his sickness, the Babylonian kings sent Hezekiah a congratulatory gift to wish him well. Hezekiah then took the opportunity to invite the Babylonian authorities to Judah. The Bible explains that Hezekiah gave the Babylonians a tour of everything, including the sacred things of the Lord, in Judah. Isaiah the prophet, having seen the visiting Babylonians, inquired to Hezekiah, asking what the Babylonians were doing there. Hezekiah plainly explained that he was showing the Babylonians around and held back nothing. He showed them his home as well as the temple complex and the Lord’s treasury in the temple complex. In other words, Hezekiah was showing off the increase the Lord had provided. He considered himself to be better than others and paraded himself and the resources of Judah to the Babylonians, exposing the sacred and holy things of the Lord to foreigners, which was not permitted.
The Bible explains that God was not pleased with this. God sent Isaiah the prophet back to Hezekiah to inform him of coming judgment. God swore that he would punish the arrogance of Hezekiah. Isaiah stated that God would humble the throne of Judah by sending the Babylonians back to Judah at a later date to pillage and plunder the riches of Judah. If Hezekiah was going to boast of his riches to pagans at the expense of God’s glory, God was going to humble Judah by using pagans to strip them of their riches that they once boasted in. The scriptures explain that Hezekiah was distraught, but thankful that he would not have to endure the full brunt of God’s judgment since the judgment would come to a later generation. Hezekiah agreed with God’s judgment seeing his flaws in attitude and went away repentant and humbled. The history of Judah shows that God was faithful to fulfill His judgment using Babylon as His instrument of discipline. This shows that, while God was gracious and merciful to Hezekiah at one point in his life, God was not unwilling to discipline Hezekiah’s rebellious heart when his heart was an offense to God. The Lord was righteous in all that He did, leveraging the wickedness of future kings as the catalyst to initiate the judgment that He previously promised Hezekiah. The riches that Hezekiah once boasted in were taken and destroyed. Obviously, God was not impressed with Hezekiah and his merits. The people of Judah never enjoyed such a great extent of prosperity again. When Hezekiah died, he was buried in the traditional manner of the kings of Judah and his son Manasseh took his place, at which point, the folly of Hezekiah’s pride made itself manifest in ways that would be devastating to the people of Judah. The Bible proves that no one is exempt from the consequences of sin and offenses against God, no matter how God might have used them before. When we think we are better than others because of the ways God uses us for His purposes, He will perform the necessary work to humble us and remind us of who we are without Him.
The Bible teaches, and human history confirms, that the Lord is faithful to take care of His people. The Bible shows that God will fight for His people in order to deliver them from oppression and danger of various kinds. The Lord will provide protection. The Lord will provide strength. The Lord will provide endurance. The Lord will provide encouragement. This is who He is! However, it is important to consider why God does these things. Does God provide this favor because His people are deserving? Does God provide this favor because His people are faithful? Does God provide this favor because His people are ambitious? The scriptures explain that the Lord will take care of His people on account of His own namesake. He does not provide favor because His people are deserving. God is simply gracious. God does not provide favor because His people are faithful. In fact, the scriptures teach that God’s people are faithless, but He remains faithful to His own Word and His own promises to uphold the integrity of His own name in spite of us. God will take care of His people, not because of our ambition or zealous desires, but because He is merciful. The Bible teaches that God’s people are pitiful and weak. He provides strength in a time of need in order to exalt His name through the miraculous nature of victory the weak are able to share while God manifests His power to humiliate the proud.
These truths are made evident through the testimony of Judah during the days of King Hezekiah. The Bible is helpful to document the work of God to deliver His people in order to comfort the hearts of His people. Seeing the testimony of Israel and their rebellion, disobedience, and self-righteousness, shows that they were not deserving of any of the favor that God provided. Yet God provided favor because of the promises He made over the course of their history. Though the unbelief of Israel and pride of their enemies sought to foil the plans and promises of God, the Lord manifested His merciful and gracious and righteous nature through power in order to show that He is the name above all names! In 2 Chronicles 32:1-22 the Bible explains that the people of Assyria were threatening the safety and security of the people of Judah. God had used the Assyrians as instruments of His judgment against the wicked idolatry of the people in the northern kingdom of Israel. Seeking to ride the momentum of their victories, the king of Assyria sought to continue his plundering south through Judah. He encamped against Judah’s fortified cities and sought to strangle them of food, water, and other resources. The plan of the Assyrians was to apply pressure to the people of Judah to weaken them before their attack, and then run through Judah to plunder them as they had many other people groups previously. The scriptures state that this took place soon after the “deeds of faithfulness” in Judah after their spiritual restoration and celebration of the feast days. This just goes to show that when God’s people pursue to do right according to His Word and are able to experience spiritual victory and joy, the enemy will inevitably seek to steal that joy, strangle God’s people, and quickly discourage the work of hope that God’s Word provides.
The manner in which the Assyrians went about their attack was reflective of an intense degree of pride that was communicated through blasphemy. The parallel accounts found in 2 Kings Chapters 18-19 and Isaiah Chapters 36-37 all agree in the details of Assyria’s pride. As they laid siege against Judah’s fortified cities, Hezekiah responded quickly to reinforce his people. He protected the resources of the cities while successfully cutting off Assyrian access to some of their supplies. He built up walls and towers and additionally equipped the soldiers with shields and swords. Hezekiah assigned new military captains to further organize the people and sent out proclamations of encouragement to the people of Judah. The Bible documents Hezekiah’s encouragement: “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him: for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”
The encouragement of Hezekiah reveals a few important things about his understanding of the Lord’s identity and faithfulness. First, it is important to recognize that, no matter the size or extent of the threat, God’s people are ALWAYS the majority so long as they are abiding in the Lord. The Lord God of Israel is El Shaddai – the Lord God Almighty! He alone is strong. The perceived power and strength of others comes by the provision of the Lord God who is also Creator of all things. He breathes life into people. He empowers all ability. He stimulates the mind to do that which is according to His will. No one is able to overcome God. Thus, no matter the number of people formed against God; no matter the circumstances that threaten God’s people; the Lord will do the work that needs to be done, regardless of the quality of miracles that needs to take place, in order to fulfill His promises concerning His people. God promised that Israel would have a king in Judah and that He would bless those who obey His righteous commands by faith. Hezekiah led the people of Judah in repentance to seek and honor God in pure worship, and exercised the authority of the kingship in Judah in the manner comparable to the Messiah to do so. God would honor His promise to bless those endeavors regardless of the threats. There was no need to fear the threats on account of the understanding of God’s promises and His personal integrity to do what He says.
The Assyrians however were not in agreement with Hezekiah’s efforts to encourage the people. The Bible states that the Assyrians sent out their own decrees to the people of Judah. Hezekiah sent three men to communicate with the Assyrian authorities and the Assyrians took advantage of that time to boast of their perceived greatness and blaspheme the name of the Lord. They wrote letters and shouted slanders against the people of Judah and the Lord God. The Assyrians boasted about their past victories against other people groups, reminding the people of Judah about the ways they slaughtered others with ease. The Assyrians specifically spoke against the Judean faith in the Lord. The Assyrians mentioned that when they destroyed all of the other people groups, their gods were unsuccessful to protect them. The Assyrians were correct in saying that they destroyed not only other people groups, but the gods of those peoples. The Assyrians were able to prove the weakness of all of the pagan gods of other nations and figured that the God of Israel was just as weak. The Assyrians even pointed to the spiritual reformation of Hezekiah to further prove their case. If Hezekiah led the people to destroy the altars and images of false gods in Judah, thereby lessening the presence of deities in Judah to just One, the Lord God Almighty, how would one God be able to stand against the Assyrians if so many had already fallen? This was the logic the Assyrians used to discourage the people of Judah.
The messengers of Hezekiah were indeed discouraged, not because of fear, but on account of the blasphemous words that were being spoken of against God. They were offended by the words of the Assyrians. When Hezekiah was informed about the boasting of Assyria, he too was discouraged by the blasphemy. He took the letter of the Assyrians to Isaiah the prophet, at which point both Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed diligently to the Lord to avenge His own namesake. Hezekiah and Isaiah didn’t want to be victorious for the sake of their own safety, though that was a consideration. The primary desire of Hezekiah and Isaiah was for the Lord’s name to be exalted against the pride of the Assyrians. The people of Judah were offended at the mocking of the Lord. Hezekiah and Isaiah did not want the name of the Lord to be mocked and sought the Lord for justice according to the integrity of His holy name. It was true that the Assyrians were able to destroy the works of men’s hands by destroying idols. It was not true that the God of Israel is like the works of men’s hands. The Lord is God and there is no other. Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed passionately for the Lord to prove Himself against the Assyrians so that the whole world would know El Shaddai!
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 32:1-22, as well as the parallel accounts in 2 Kings and the Book of Isaiah, all agree that the Lord sent “the Angel of the Lord” in response to the prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah. The Old Testament describes “the Angel of the Lord” as pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ. Thus, God revealed His almighty nature and superior righteousness through the manifestation of the Son of God. The Bible states that “the Angel of the Lord” passed through the camps of the Assyrians at night and slaughtered one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers in one night all by Himself! The people of Judah didn’t have to lift a single hand, let alone a sword. The commanders of Judah didn’t have to come up with any special plans or strategies. Hezekiah and Isaiah didn’t have to perform any special rituals. It is true that God heard the cries of His people, but the Bible is clear that He took the form of “the Angel of the Lord” to uphold the integrity of His own name by exacting judgment Himself. He didn’t need help. He didn’t need permission. He didn’t need an introduction. Jesus simply showed up to judge according to the will of the Father in order to prove to the world that He alone is powerful and holy.
The point was proven! The scriptures testify that the king of Assyria was terrified by the God he was originally so confident he could destroy. He packed up the remaining Assyrians that were with him and fled back to Assyria. Upon his return, he was murdered in his own home by his own brothers. It was fitting that a man who boasted he could destroy the Lord God Almighty and His people was unable to protect himself in his own home against his own family. The manner of death for the king of Assyria was prophesied by the Lord showing that the manner of his death was on account of the hand of God Himself. Hezekiah, Isaiah, and the people of Judah were able to enjoy a victory, but it was not on account of their strength, faith, or even their prayer. God did what God did because that is who God is, and was going to protect the integrity of His name and His promises against those who blaspheme. God will not be mocked, and He will do what needs to be done in order to prove who He is. The prayer of Hezekiah and Isaiah simply shows that they agreed with God, who He is, and the manner of His work. Their prayer shows that they desired God’s will to be done for His glory, not their own. Thus, the victories of God’s people are good, but only because the God who fights for His own name is good. Praise be to God that we get to share in His goodness and the manner in which He expresses it!
The Bible repeatedly shows that those who “prosper” in life and are genuinely satisfied with their life’s work are those who seek to exalt the name of the Lord according to His righteousness as declared in the Word. Those who consider their service unto the Lord to be success are those who the Bible describes as successful. Those who seek to increase the name of the Lord and exalt His glory are those who the Bible describes as prosperous. At the same time, the Bible shows that these men and women did not come up with their own ideas in how to exalt God’s name. The prosperous and successful people of the Bible were those who looked to the Word of God and His commands with faith so as to fulfill the things that God commanded. They did not come up with creative ways to give God glory. They examined God’s own declarations of how His glory would be made manifest and stuck to His prescription. The faithful people of God did not seek to increase their own personal enterprises, families, and households as a means to exalt the Lord. Instead, the people of the Bible that are described as prosperous and successful were those who gave of their personal time, energy, and resources unto the Lord’s purposes as described in His Word.
This principle is illustrated in the testimony of King Hezekiah. In 2 Chronicles 31:11-21 the Bible describes the work that Hezekiah did to set the priests and Levites in their duties concerning the temple and spiritual leadership of the people. After the people of Judah and Israel celebrated the extended feast days, Hezekiah made efforts to ensure that the priests and Levites were able to continue in their duties, not just for special feast days, but on a daily basis. It was a priority for King Hezekiah to ensure that the spiritual leaders of God’s people were constantly laboring in the service of the Lord so as to keep the people spiritually connected to God rather than idols. Hezekiah understood the importance of the Levites and the priests. Hezekiah understood the need and value of the daily sacrifices and offerings that the priests and Levites were supposed to administrate. Hezekiah understood the need and value of ensuring the priests and Levites were available and accessible to the people in their times of need to fulfill commands, statutes, and ordinances of the Law. Hezekiah knew that if Judah did not have the priests and Levites doing the things that God commanded in the Law, the people of Judah would be lost and separated from God again. Hezekiah trusted in the sufficiency of the Law to ensure the peace and progress of the people.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 31:11-21 explains that Hezekiah first made use of the space in the temple to properly store and order the abundance of tithes, offerings, and dedicated things that the people had given over the course of the feast day celebration. Since the people were spiritually fired up, they joyfully gave of their personal possessions in order to equip the priests and Levites in their work. The people believed in the need and value of the priests and Levites too. Hezekiah, seeking to be a good steward of that which the Lord entrusted to the people for spiritual purposes, made it a point to properly store and organize the things given unto the Lord. The items were not simply thrown into a place without care or concern. The items were not immediately distributed to the priests and Levites without consideration. Hezekiah and the spiritual leaders in Judah didn’t seek to increase their personal households being overcome with excitement because of the increase. Instead, Hezekiah considered the Lord. Hezekiah understood that the gifts that were given were for the Lord’s purposes and so he was careful to properly order that which was to be used for His purposes. While the priests and Levites would ultimately be the ones to handle and receive the tithes, offerings, and holy things, Hezekiah recognized the need to properly account for that which was given to ensure proper and fair distribution, ensuring everything got used in a way that was obedient and considerate of God and His holy purposes.
Next, Hezekiah appointed men to manage the intake and distribution of the tithes, offerings, and holy things. Hezekiah appointed managers and teams that could receive the offerings of the people, properly store them in the storage rooms in the temple, and then work together to properly distribute the resources to their proper place in their proper quantity at the proper time. The details of scripture explain that Hezekiah selected men, not based on his personal preference, but according to the Lord’s commands as given in the Law. Hezekiah didn’t create new processes to deal with God’s resources. Hezekiah looked to the Law of God and simply made efforts to fulfill that which was previously declared in the best way that he could. Men were appointed to their work from families that had experience in these types of things based on the appointments that King David had previously made according to God’s revelation. Each of the priests and Levites were appointed to the work that their ancestors were previously appointed to so as to restore that which God already declared as good.
Since the tithes and offerings and holy things were dedicated to take care of the basic needs of the priests, Levites, and their families, it was important to properly account for that which was received in order to ensure fair distribution. Hezekiah’s priority here was to make sure that the basic needs of the priests and the Levites were met so that each man could focus on his duty without the stress or burden of finances to meet the needs of the family. The priests and Levites were supposed to be totally separated from civilian living in order to be fully committed to the work of the Lord according to His Word. Hezekiah made sure that the distribution of resources enabled the priests and Levites to do their jobs with focus and joy by ensuring that they weren’t in a position of need concerning the management of their households. The priests and Levites wouldn’t need to take on part-time jobs elsewhere to feed their wives and kids. Hezekiah assigned men to account for the priests, Levites, and their families, and then ensure that the portions that were distributed were fair and appropriate to meet each family’s need. Hezekiah ensured this was done for the priests and the Levites that worked in the temple as well as those who worked in the cities of refuge and common lands throughout Judah.
The scriptures summarize the testimony of 2 Chronicles 31:11-21 by explaining that Hezekiah began to restore the service of the house of God through the reinstitution of the Law, and finished that work through the establishment of the spiritual leadership in Judah. The Bible is clear to show that Hezekiah did all of these things “with all his heart.” Hezekiah was sincere in his concern for the spiritual condition of the people in Judah. He emphasized the focus on the Law of God with resolve and determination in faith. He established the spiritual leaders in Judah with hope. Hezekiah delighted in the Lord and trusted in the sufficiency of His Word, hoping that their obedience to the simple commands, statutes, and ordinances of God’s Law would take care of the other problems that existed among his people. The works of Hezekiah show that he greatly feared God and did not want to offend Him. He considered the spiritual restoration in Judah to be the work of God. He considered the increase in tithes, offerings, and holy things to be the provision of God. He considered the resources, land, and people to be the possession of God. Thus, Hezekiah made decisions and acted in such a manner that reflected this way of thinking. This is why the Bible says that Hezekiah prospered. Hezekiah did all that he could to leverage his time, energy, and resources for the Lord and His purposes, valuing the spiritual/eternal facet of life above all things for the glory of the Lord. This is prosperity in the eyes of the Lord of glory.