2 Kings 23:1-20 – Lord, Make Us Uncomfortable In Our Christianity!

Posted: October 8, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 23:1-20

Josiah’s Religious Reforms

When you watch television here lately, you see how much the world has changed just from a decade ago much less 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. As a person who was born at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation and the beginning of Generation X, I can remember when there were only the “over the air” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC and then as an early teenager the addition of FOX network. In those days, televisions were not flat panel, they were pieces of furniture that were often the centerpiece to a den, living room or great room. There were no remotes to TVs in those days other than being a human one when your dad would tell you to get up and change the channel for him. In those days, television stations signed off sometime between midnight and 1am typically. It was not until I was in college that the explosion of 24 hour television and the plethora of cable television networks began. Sure, there are aspects of this increased access to entertainment that I love such as the invention of multiple sports only networks where every college football game at the Division 1 level is televised somewhere on the dial.

However, here in the last decade and even the last five years, the level of things that are allowed for broadcast is so “anything goes” that gives me pause. Certainly, before meeting Christ as my Savior, I lived life on the edge of morality so it’s not like I am a prude or anything. But the things that are broadcast on television these days would make even pre-salvation me blush in embarrassment. There is an advertisement for a show on MTV that runs on other networks that shock me called “Ex on The Beach” that celebrate just plain out, full-on hedonism. It is celebrated. Whose having sex with who and parties where anything goes is the norm in that show. Girls making out with girls and guys screwing around the girls they are supposed to be with. It’s just a celebration of what I imagine the worst parts of what Corinth might have looked like in the days where Paul established the first church there with all its pagan shrine prostitutes and so on. Then there are commercials for products that have nothing to do with medications for those living “alternative lifestyles” such as just normal every day products that seem to celebrate those alternative lifestyles. This, I guess, is done so as to garner support for their business through these subtle affirmations. Although alternative lifestyle participants comprise less than 5% of the total population of our country, watching television today might convince that half or more of our country is living alternative lifestyles.

Christians find these things distasteful and wrong, but we seem powerless to change anything. Is it that we are powerless or we are just not yet willing to get in the fight? Are we not willing to get in the fight as long as we live comfortably? Are we just keeping quiet as long as it does not affect our nice manicured lawns, our two story modern homes, our three cars, our vacations at the beach? Are we disgusted by it in words only as long as we can comfortably live our lives, pay our bills, go on vacation twice a year, have weekend getaways, retire in gated communities? Are we Christians and espouse Christian values as long as it does not make us stand out for ridicule or persecution of any kind? We bemoan the state of our country in 2019 but are we really willing to do anything about it?

That was the same question that James asked Christians in his New Testament letter to the church in Jerusalem. Are you willing to actually get out there and help people and put your faith in Christ into action to change the world in which you live? That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read this passage about Josiah. What a guy he was? When he discovered what was written in God’s Word, he did something about the difference between the Judah he lived in vs. the Judah that God had called them to be. He changed his world because he was brave enough to put his faith into action. With this idea of putting our faith into action, let’s read this passage, 2 Kings 23:1-20, now:

Chapter 23

1 Then the king summoned all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord’s Temple. 3 The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

4 Then the king instructed Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the Temple gatekeepers to remove from the Lord’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests, who had been appointed by the previous kings of Judah, for they had offered sacrifices at the pagan shrines throughout Judah and even in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They had also offered sacrifices to Baal, and to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and to all the powers of the heavens. 6 The king removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it. Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust and threw the dust over the graves of the people. 7 He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the Lord, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole.

8 Josiah brought to Jerusalem all the priests who were living in other towns of Judah. He also defiled the pagan shrines, where they had offered sacrifices—all the way from Geba to Beersheba. He destroyed the shrines at the entrance to the gate of Joshua, the governor of Jerusalem. This gate was located to the left of the city gate as one enters the city. 9 The priests who had served at the pagan shrines were not allowed to serve at[a] the Lord’s altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat unleavened bread with the other priests.

10 Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire[b] as an offering to Molech. 11 He removed from the entrance of the Lord’s Temple the horse statues that the former kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were near the quarters of Nathan-melech the eunuch, an officer of the court.[c] The king also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.

12 Josiah tore down the altars that the kings of Judah had built on the palace roof above the upper room of Ahaz. The king destroyed the altars that Manasseh had built in the two courtyards of the Lord’s Temple. He smashed them to bits[d] and scattered the pieces in the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the pagan shrines east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Corruption, where King Solomon of Israel had built shrines for Ashtoreth, the detestable goddess of the Sidonians; and for Chemosh, the detestable god of the Moabites; and for Molech,[e] the vile god of the Ammonites. 14 He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. Then he desecrated these places by scattering human bones over them.

15 The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust, and he burned the Asherah pole. 16 Then Josiah turned around and noticed several tombs in the side of the hill. He ordered that the bones be brought out, and he burned them on the altar at Bethel to desecrate it. (This happened just as the Lord had promised through the man of God when Jeroboam stood beside the altar at the festival.)

Then Josiah turned and looked up at the tomb of the man of God[f] who had predicted these things. 17 “What is that monument over there?” Josiah asked.

And the people of the town told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted the very things that you have just done to the altar at Bethel!”

18 Josiah replied, “Leave it alone. Don’t disturb his bones.” So they did not burn his bones or those of the old prophet from Samaria.

19 Then Josiah demolished all the buildings at the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria, just as he had done at Bethel. They had been built by the various kings of Israel and had made the Lord[g] very angry. 20 He executed the priests of the pagan shrines on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them. Finally, he returned to Jerusalem.

Here in this passage, we see that when Josiah realized the terrible state of Judah’s religious life, he something about it. It is not enough to say we believe what is right. We must respond with action doing what faith requires. This what James was emphasizing when he wrote, “Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:20). In context of this passage, it means that we must do more than stand by and say “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” and withdraw into our cocoon of like-minded Christians. We must be willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to change the world in which we live. We must be willing to suffer ridicule and persecution beyond our safe world of Christian friends.

In this passage, we are challenged to be proactive, to be change agents in the world in which we live. We often complain about the fact that we live in a world that is far from the Bible, but that is the end of it for most of us. We want the world to have more Christ-like values but as long as it doesn’t encroach on our cozy lifestyle. In order to change our culture and turn it back toward Christ, we are the ones that are going to have to signal change. We are the ones that need to run for public office. We are the ones that need to stand up for our right to pursue God in the public square. We are the ones that have to influence others toward Christ. It is not going to magically happen. We have to be radical in sharing the gospel and the full truth of it with the world around us. If you and I are quiet and seat in our recliners and do not interact with the unchurched outside our homes and churches, we are going to continue to get what we get. There is that old saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” We cannot continue to hibernate ourselves in our own little Christian circles and complain about the nature of the world in which we now live and expect different results in the world in which we live. We must be out in the world. We must decide that our Christianity is worth the extra effort. We can no longer sit in comfort Christianity and expect the world to change. We must be the change agents.

Oh Father in heaven, help us to awaken from our Christian slumber. Help us to awaken from our comfortable Christianity and truly be the hands and feet on Christ. Help us to be uncomfortable in our Christianity. Help us to be willing to be uncomfortable and stretch ourselves beyond what we think we can do for you Lord. Help us then to rely on you to give us the strength to change our world just as Josiah did his.

Amen and Amen.

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