..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Avoiding Fatal Mistakes: Wisdom from the Death of King Josiah

The Second Book of Chronicles (Chapter 35:22-27)
records the tragic story of the apparently
premature and unnecessary death of King Josiah.

Pharoah Necho was king of Egypt (circa 610 B.C.)
He needed to come up through the land Israel
on his way to Carchemish to help support the
Assyrians against the attacks of Babylon.
(Carchemish was an Egyptian stronghold near
the Euphrates River.) The Assyrian
king was caught in Haran, to the east of
Carchemish, and needed military aid.

It is understandable that King Josiah was
not thrilled that such a formidable force
was marching through his back yard. Josiah
sent ambassadors to ask Pharaoh Necho
his intentions. Necho told Josiah that
it had nothing to do with him, basically
"Butt out or die." Necho said that God
told him to get to Carchemish faster than
quick and Necho will basically kill anything
and anyone that gets in his way.

It is interesting to note that the
writer of Second Chronicles does not say
that "some Egyptian god", told Necho to do
this. It just says "God." (Hebrew: Elohim). He
says God commanded him to
hurry and don't meddle with "God" by
getting in the way. Interesting, no?

Josiah is a good king. He tore down
idols in Israel. He stood for God.
But here he makes a fatal mistake for
himself and for his nation. This
passage says that he decided to disguise
himself and fight against Egypt despite
what Pharoah said. After all, why believe
a pagan king? After all, wouldn't it be
logical to assume that it was the devil
lying to you?

But Josiah just assumed and did not
ask the Lord, even though Josiah
knew to ask the Lord and had
previously sought the Lord's
guidance (cp. 2 Chron. 34:19-28).
Perhaps Josiah was impatient and
wanted to fight. Perhaps he
thought he was going to be taken
advantage of. Perhaps he acted
to protect his country for it
was likely that even if the Enemy
did not currently have him in
his crosshairs, then it would
eventually be his turn.

Some of these reasons seem more
righteous than others. The problem
is, Josiah acted on his own
wisdom, and did not inquire of
the Lord. He did not hear God warning
him or was it that he did not
care to listen?

The Chronicler said he "did not
hearken to the words of Necho,
(vs. 22).
Did he understand it to
be God speaking to him? If so, then
he completely disobeyed. I
suspect that it was that
he just did not discern that it
was God speaking to him. The
problem was, he still did not seek
the Lord for direction and confirmation.
Most likely it was merely a mistake,
but a mistake that he would be
held culpable for, even unto death.

It is an interesting opposite
to note that when David faced a
worse situation with the
Amalekites (I Samuel 30), even
in his great and overwhelming grief,
he sought the Lord.

The Amalekites overtook Ziklag
were David lived and took
everyone's family, including David's
wives, captive and burned the place to
the ground. David's men were so
upset that they wanted to stone
David. David, however, "encouraged and
strengthened himself in the Lord
His God" (vs. 6). He then inquired
of the Lord for guidance. God
gave him victory!

Josiah, conversely, plunges
needlessly to his own premature
death because he chose his own
way. His undiscerned action had
tragic repercussions. Not only
did he lose his own life, but
insured that God's judgment would
fall on Judah. The subsequent
kings of Judah did not follow
the Lord and God was forced
to bring judgment. God, perhaps, was
holding back the judgment because
Josiah was a good king. But now
he was a good king operating in
his own strength.

It is ironic that Josiah's
opposition to the Egyptians,
who were going to aid the
Assyrians against Babylon,
probably kept Necho from reaching
his intended goal in time to be
able to defeat the Babylonians.
Babylon won out, and the kingdom
of Judah fell into the Babylonian
Captivity predicted by the prophets
Isaiah and Jeremiah.

It is also ironic that in
the previous chapter of
Second Chronicles (34), Josiah
is given a prophesy that said
because Josiah sought the
Lord and rid Judah of
idolatry that he would
"go to his grave in
peace and would not
see the evil the Lord would
bring on the inhabitants
of Judah" (2 Chron 34:28).

There is a lot to ponder here.
What part of prophecy is forged
in the immutable will and sovreignty
of God, and what part can be affected,
even altered, or made null, by my
sadly mistaken actions?

If you look at it one way,
Josiah did not go to his
grave in peace: he died
fighting a battle that
was not his to fight. But if
you look at in a larger sense
it could fairly be said
he died with personal peace,
with the heritage of being
a godly king, perhaps largely
unaware of his final costly
error, and he did not live to
see Judah fall into the
Babylonian Exile.

We all make errors, even
godly people. God will not
disown the godly legacy
of a man or woman just
because he or she makes
a mistake, even a mortally
fatal one. The only truly
fatal mistake would
be to turn from God and to
worship idols. Josiah
did not do that. Even so, this
story is bittersweet.

We must learn to seek the Lord
in ALL things, EVERY time,
without fail. Jesus said, "I only
do the things that I see My Father
doing" (John 5:19, 20). We cannot
spray spiritual buckshot into
every situation we see, even if
we mean well, or many will be injured
by "friendly fire." We have to make
sure not only that we are fighting on
the right side of the war, but on the
right front!

We dare not pull the trigger
until God says to or an arrow of
the enemy may come back and mortally
wound us. There are a lot of things I
can fight for, but are they the things
that God wants me to fight for?

Just because I sought God
yesterday, does not mean that
I will know His will for me
today. Yesterday He may have
said, "Go." Today, He might
say, "Stay." I will not know
unless I stay in vital union
with Him and ask Him continually.

Josiah was a good man, a godly king,
who lost his life for nothing:
he did not have to die at Megiddo.
There is so much in this passage
to examine. He did not have to die,
and yet, he could have been taken
captive and not killed. Then he would
have seen the painful sight of
his nation going into captivity.
Despite his mistake, God still
fulfilled the prophecy to him
that he would not see his beloved
country fall into the hands of the Enemy.

Was it then God's will that
Josiah be killed? No, I don't
think that for one minute.
Josiah failed to discern
God's voice and fell as a
casualty. Would you or I
discern God speaking through
the voice of our enemy?
Would we make the same mistake?
Now there is another whole
can of worms!

We have to be so careful,
so prayerful, so pure of heart
that we hear the voice of God from
whatever corner He speaks
and through whatever servant
He chooses to use.

Can our adversaries be the mouthpiece
of God to us? Can God use even our rivals
to warn us to get out of the way?
Apparently so. Do we need to refine our
discernment so we get the message straight
and not believe the lies of Satan mixed in
with the truth?

Better to hear the Word of the Lord
from the mouth of a friend or one
of the Lord's prophet's! The question
is, "Where were the Lord's prophets
when Josiah was pondering all this
in his heart? Were they speaking
the truth and Josiah was just not
listening? Were they telling Josiah that
Necho was a false prophet and
could not be believed or affirming
that God was speaking through him?"
Or where they not even asked?

This passage ends with Jeremiah
lamenting, crying because judgment
was now certain; crying because
the good king was dead; and
crying, perhaps, over the needless
loss of a good man. The Lament
he wrote in Lamentations 4:20
says that the "good king was
taken in their snares." You
hear his pain loud and clear.

The prophetess Huldah, who, from the Lord,
commended Josiah, failed to see the
totality of this unhappy event coming
(cp. 2 Chron. 34:22-28).
We see in part and prophecy in part
(I Cor. 13:9). She gave her piece
but apparently there were
more pieces to the puzzle.

There always are, aren't there?--
including that difficult piece
called "the free will of man!"

We need God utterly, completely,
each moment, every minute, now
and forever. He will lead us home
even if we make a huge mistake. Let
us help each other to avoid as
many mistakes as possible!

I encourage you to seek the Lord.
Don't lose your life, your
ministry, your hope, your peace,
your walk with the Lord, for nothing.
Avoid a fatal mistake: seek the Lord,
and having sought Him, obey what He
says. It always leads to life even
if it is through a path of death!

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