Description / Transcription
Our Father in heaven, we come in the name of Jesus, asking, pleading, begging, that You would speak. There is no famine more severe than the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. Make our heads firm and our hearts soft, O Lord, and gives us ears to hear and speak. In Christ we pray. Amen.
You may be seated.
Here’s the question I want you to have in your head this morning: How can I pray for Christ Covenant? Maybe you’re visiting and you can use this to pray for your own church, or we certainly would use your prayers here. How can I pray for Christ Covenant?
Prayer is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, hasn’t tried praying, or is in heaven. We’d like to think that prayer is very simple, very easy, right? Just talk to your heavenly Father, and we ought to be spiritual enough that we just sit down and do it. But it’s difficult, and it makes sense when you think about it. What area of sanctification is easy? So prayer is not going to be easy. It’s often frustrating work. We often feel like failures. There are so many times in my own life where I think “O Lord, I wish I were further along in this school of prayer.”
I like this line that I read from David Hanson’s book “Long Wandering Prayer.” He says this: “How can something I’m so bad at be God’s will for my life?” Do you resonate with that?
One of the reasons we have a hard time praying is because we have a hard time thinking. We have an increasingly difficult time thinking the more we are prone to think in only five-second increments, immediately response. We become so attuned and so accustomed to having new stimuli in front of us immediately. Don’t you find this? You, you’re on your phone, you’re trying to pull something up. You’re in a spot, you’re in a building that doesn’t have Wi-Fi? How do these people live? Or your traveling somewhere and your, your data is slow, and you think “ain’t nobody got time for this.” This is taking seconds, three or four seconds, for this to beam up to satellites and come back down to this box that I’m holding in my hand that has the world’s information right here. This is too long! That’s how we think and that’s how we’re training ourselves not to think.
Prayer is hard because thinking is hard. And to pray requires some focus. I, I think of my prayer times in two different categories. You might find this helpful. I have the daily times where I’m trying to work through a list, I’m trying to be disciplined, I have just moments, I just have a number of minutes, whatever in my schedule, for the day comes upon me, and then there are those times long wandering prayer. You need both in your life. You need that daily discipline of prayer; if you don’t have it in your life right now, don’t walk out of the sermon and think I’m gonna pray an hour every day, because you know what? You won’t. Think to yourself how could I pray for five minutes every day this week, that would be better, and then maybe from five to ten to fifteen to thirty or more.
You need those long wandering prayer. I will do that when I had a prayer day a few weeks ago before I came back, and I love to take a prayer day, and I usually just walk and be outside. And the thing about walking and praying is it’s harder to fall asleep, so that’s why I do that. It just lets your mind wander. You need that sort of prayer, but you need the daily focus prayer, and that requires thought and that requires planning and that requires some idea of what in the world you want to accomplish in prayer. Yes, you’re talking to God, but do you have a sense of what, what is the, the heavenly reality you are trying to pull down in prayer, as Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” What does that look like, when heaven breaks in on earth? You’re trying to pray in that kingdom to come.
Too often we pray without really knowing what we want the result to be like. Lord, be with them, whatever that is. Give ’em a back rub, or do something. What, what does the kingdom coming look like?
And what I want to do this morning is to help us pray by painting a picture of what that might look like for our church. What it might look like for God to bless our church in ordinary, remarkable ways, and I use those two words intentionally. Ordinary and remarkable. Because if everyone in this church, as a member of this church, as a part of the family of God, were doing the ordinary things a Christian is supposed to be doing, it would be a remarkable church. And it already is in so many ways, don’t get me wrong, but you see the point? To be an ordinary, faithful Christian is a remarkable thing in today’s world.
So we’re going to talk about prayer and what it would like for God to bless the church and bring that kingdom to come, so you can think of this as partly a sermon on prayer, it’s partly a sermon on ordinary faithfulness, and it’s partly a sermon on reformation and revival, because that’s what we see in these final chapters, at least during the reign of King Josiah.
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Chronicles, chapter 34. We have three chapters, so we’re just going to jump around and read different sections of these three chapters. Now the nation of Judah is not the same exactly as the church, but there’s a parallel. It’s God’s people, and so we’re going to look at what God did in the midst of Judah during Josiah’s day in particular. We’ll look at some of the after-Josiah, but in particular this reformation/revival that took place during Josiah’s day, and by so doing we’ll get a picture of how God might bless us and what is the reality we want to pray for in this church.
Let me give you ten things, ten things, ten ways you can pray for Christ Covenant.
Number one: Pray for godly leaders who can lead and influence and stay godly for a long time. Pray for godly leaders who can lead and influence and stay godly for a long time.
Look, and I hope you have your Bibles open, look at 2 Chronicles 34, just at those first two verses: “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.” So obviously there was some co-regency as Josiah assumed the throne at age eight, it would have been some years later before he was himself making those decisions, but all told he reigned 31 years. And then look at verse 2: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of David his father and did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
The matter-of-factness of those two verses can be deceiving, but do you realize what a significant statement this is? Parents, wouldn’t you be thrilled if nothing else, if this could be said of your children? They did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Their whole life.
Now this doesn’t mean Josiah never sinned. Of course he did. Or that he never disappointed people, or no one ever got mad at him, but it means that looking over the course of a lifetime, he walked in a straight line. That’s remarkable.
Look at the end of chapter 34, verse 33: “And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territories that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.” That was the legacy of King Josiah. All his days he walked in a straight line.
If you want to be a leader, you better know where you’re going. That’s the simplest definition of a leader. A leader is someone who has followers. If you talk about how, what a great leader you are and you look behind you and nobody is following you, you’re not a leader. A leader is going somewhere and people are following him, or following her.
And as you lead in the church, it is so important for those, and I’m thinking of everything from pastors to staff to office bearers to those who lead in any number of informal ways, that you are walking in a straight line. If you’re, if you’re off by, by two degrees, that may not show up in a month, it may not show up in a year, but if you are two degrees and you walk two degrees off of center for thirty years, then everyone behind you is going to end up very far off course.
That’s why it was so important that King Josiah did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Do not underestimate how powerful it is, and how much good you can accomplish, simply by doing the right thing day after day after day.
You’ve heard it said before, it’s true, most people vastly overestimate what they can accomplish in five years, and they underestimate what good God can do with them in fifty. We tend to think “I’ve got a great plan and here’s what we’re going to do” and then it’s, you know, five months and then it’s six months, and especially when you’re young, you just think, you know, “I’m just gonna go out and I’m gonna change the world.” You haven’t even changed a diaper. You have these great plans.
It’s, it’s not to throw cold water on all those hopes and dreams. It is to say don’t just think what you’re going to do in, you know, five weeks. That’s great, you can learn a lot. Or five months. But what about five decades? What about a lifetime of walking in a straight line in the same direction?
Those of you here who are blessed with godly parents know this. When you, when you were growing up, you, you probably didn’t look around and think that your mom and dad were anything special. If you thought they were special, you quickly lost that notion when you turned 13 years old; they’re not. But many of us have then the privilege of looking back and saying “I didn’t see what they were doing and it was so ordinary at the time, but in all of that ordinariness, it was remarkable. They took us to church every single Sunday. We complained about it and they took us to church. And they loved each other. And they read the Bible. And they fed us. And they took care of us. And they taught us about God, and we learned the Lord’s prayer and the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments.” All of those things, ordinary faithfulness. Just simply walking in a straight line and doing it for a long time.
Judah was blessed to have Josiah as king for thirty-one years. There’s a saying “bloom where you’re planted.” That doesn’t mean you can’t move around. We moved here a year ago. All sorts of people move to Charlotte all the time. Some of you will move on for various reasons. But it is to say there is a strong case to be made that if you want lasting influence, normally it comes by being in a place for a long time. I speak this perhaps to my generation and younger who are bouncing degree to degree and short-term stint here and here and hold a job for 18 months and then over here, and it’s a great adventure. You can certainly serve the Lord that way, but more often than not, you’re going to have the biggest impact in your life if you bloom where you’re planted, if you, if you can take a spot, make roots, serve the Lord. That’s what churches need. We’re blessed to have people who come through and here for six months, two years, five years, but it’s the people that are here for decades, people that serve faithfully, people that show up, people that read the minutes, people that volunteer to bring the meals, people that give their tithe month after month, that make the church work. So pray that the Lord would raise up godly leaders in our church and they would lead and they would grow and they would stay godly and they would stay put as much as they are able.
Here’s the second thing to pray for: Pray that God would smash our idols. Smash our idols.
Look at verse 3: “For in the eighth year of his reign while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David, his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places.”
All right, 12-year-olds, what are you doing? Twelve years old he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places. I don’t know how he had time to do it, with Fortnite, but he found the time to do it! [laughter]
“He purged them of their high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images and they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them, and he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”
These were literal, physical idols. We understand that’s not the same. We do have physical idols, but they’re not statues we can see. There are other things we can see or not see. And Judah was blessed to have a king and to have a leader who was not afraid to tear down the idols.
What are your idols? Let me underline “your.” I know this is the part where you think I, I know some people in my life, they got idols, and I’m gonna get this sermon and I’m gonna send them the link to it, because they need some smash down their idols. No, okay, save that for later. Your, your idols. Your blind spots. You don’t even know what your blind spots are. Ask a friend, ask a family member. What, this would be a risky thing to ask over lunch, what do you think I don’t see about myself? Or maybe you have to say, I want you take some time this week and think about it and, and then when I know that you love me, I want you to respond to that question. What do you think people want to tell me and are afraid to tell me about myself?
Idols can be bad things you value that you shouldn’t, but they’re often good things that you over-value, or things that you value to the exclusion of other good things, or things that you value in such a way as to condemn others for not valuing them. Your idol would be “I can’t live without….” That’s your idol, that’s your god, that’s what you worship.
There’s only, only one thing we cannot live without, and that is God. What gives you meaning? What makes you supremely happy? What makes you anxious, angry, or despondent? You answer those sort of questions, you will have an idea of your idols. What keeps you from changing? What, if removed, would feel like the death of you?
So we ought to pray, “God, show us our high places. Show us our disobedience, in obvious places and in the places we never dare to look. And might we have the courage, and might we be the sort of godly friend, to speak truth into one another’s life.
You know when you’re out to eat and you get a little glob of salad dressing on your face? And you’re there, and you’re just, you’re just going going going. Or you get ketchup there and everyone around you is just (sound effect), do you see that? And they’re just doing like, you know, and no one has the guts to say “there’s something you can’t see.”
They couldn’t see their idols. They were all around, but they didn’t see. They were so ordinary, so commonplace. Everybody else did them. They had no idea.
Pray that God would smash our idols. And that’s a dangerous prayer, because idols don’t go quietly, and it hurts when you lose your idol.
Here’s the third thing to pray: Pray for lots of godly servants with abilities and zeal. Lots of godly servants with abilities and zeal.
Look at verse 8: “Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord as God,” so these were helpful folks.
Look down at verse 12: “And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohath, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music.”
Look down further at verse 20: “And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, ‘Go inquire of the Lord for me.”
Then verse 22: “So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah, the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe, and spoke to her to that effect.”
Turn over to chapter 35, verse 8: “And his officials contributed willingly to the people, to the priests and the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, Jehiel, the chief officers,” on and on and on. Lots of names.
We know Josiah; he’s a famous king. Maybe we remember Huldah or Hilkiah, but most of these names just quickly fade away. And yet, in these three chapters, we have dozens of names representing hundreds of people, all of whom were necessary for the reformation of true worship in Judah. It took lots of godly servants. Josiah may be the king, but clearly this is not a one-man show. Clearly it’s not Josiah physically just going through and tearing down all the idols and repairing everything. It takes many, many people, with abilities and with zeal.
We need people in the church with a multitude of gifts. Just notice here in these few chapters: We have rulers, recorders, builders, carpenters, administrators, priests, musicians, scribes, door keepers, laborers, attendants, a prophetess, a keeper of the wardrobe. There is something for all of you to do.
But I hope you are a part of a church because you want to do something. Yes, you’re here to receive, receive teaching, receive from the Lord’s hand, but you’re part of this body to contribute, not just to consume. If you’re just here to consume, then when you have a few Sundays stringed together that don’t give you what you want, you’ll find some other place to go that will give you what you think you want until they string together a month of Sundays, then you’ll be on to the next place.
We have here godly servants, engaged, involved. Abilities and zeal. Think of it: The A to Z of servanthood, ability and zeal. Those are two things. Can’t do without ability.
When I was leading our college ministry for a time, Fellowship of Christian Students, we got to our senior year and I don’t know how this happened, we didn’t have anybody who could play the guitar. How can you have a campus ministry without somebody playing the guitar? So I taught myself how to play the guitar. I do know how to play the guitar. Not like Nathan, or Hal, but I have, I have three chords, really, G-D-C. Boo boo boo boo. [laughter] And that got about three-fourths of our songs with those three chords. Sometimes I could venture to an A or to something else. Uh, I had zeal, my ability was ooooh, was wee little.
Sometime you have it the opposite, actually. You have ability but you don’t have earnestness, you don’t have desire. Now listen, I will never ask you to make your overriding passion in all of life to serve on church committees. That’s not what this is about, though we need people to serve on those. But I will never hesitate to ask you that your number one passion in all of life be following Jesus Christ. And if you do follow Him, then you’re going to belong to His bride and you’re going to be more than a consumer, you’re going to be a contributor. Serving with ability and with zeal.
Here’s the fourth thing to pray for: Pray for faithful, trustworthy, humble workers. Faithful, trustworthy, humble workers.
So you go back to chapter 34, verse 9: “They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites the keepers of the threshold had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord and the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord gave it for repairing and restoring the house, they gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone and timber for binders and beams for the building that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set” a whole list of people. “The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments and music, were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service.”
They were hardworking. They were faithful. You can read in this story that they, they were so trustworthy they, they didn’t even have to keep a guard or a lock on the money. That’s how trustworthy, how faithful, they were. And they were humble.
Nothing is worse than a church where the pastor says “it’s my church,” or where Betty says “this is my Sunday school class,” or Ralph says “this is my room,” and people are just jockeying for position. We aren’t interested in ministry silos, sort of everyone on this farm, “just look at my silo and my silo is getting bigger than, than your silo.” We’re over here and we’re doing our silo thing and we have our, our ministry, and trying to get, oh there’s too many people over at this silo over here. They’re into youth, they should be into, ooohhh, get them over here and just competing silos. That’s not the goal. Not ministry silos but ministry seeds. All sowing seeds.
And you have a passion to sow seeds in small groups and you have a passion to sow seeds in Trail Life and you’ve got a passion to sow seeds in Men’s Ministry, and you’ve got a passion to sow seeds in your workplace, and we’re just sowing more seeds. Trying to make disciples.
And look at how humble they were. Did you notice this? You probably never noticed this before. This, this is striking. Okay, you have all these, these builders, these carpenters, these guys who know how to do stuff and fix stuff. And you know who’s in charge of them? Look at the end of verse 12: “The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments and music, were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service.”
How would you like that, carpenters? Builders? Okay, you show up to a job site, the choir’s in charge. [laughter]
Now the Levites, obviously they, they had a certain priestly role. They were more than just musicians. But it does show something of the amazing humility of the carpenters who are put under the authority of the musicians and they don’t balk at it. Okay, all right, I’ll get my work done. The Levites, the musicians, you’re gonna tell me? That’s fine. Faithful, humble, respect for authority.
Here’s the fifth thing to pray: Pray for good soil for the Word of God. Pray for good soil for the Word of God.
Look at verse 14: “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.'” Most likely the book of Deuteronomy. “And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan and Shaphan brought the book to the king.”
Turn over to verse 18: “Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it before the king. And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us because our fathers have not kept the Word of the Lord to do according to all that is written in the book.'”
What if we were all like Josiah when we read our Bibles? And the Bible confronts us with our sin, and we tear our clothes, or whatever the metaphorical equivalent would be today. Do you really give the Bible the last word on everything to which it speaks in your life? Is, is this the last word?
Imagine if we had such humility, such reverence before God’s Word, when we discuss things somebody would make a theological point and we’d say, “You know what? That’s not what I’ve thought, but that’s in the Bible. I, I gotta change my mind. That’s, that’s what’s in the Bible. I hadn’t thought of that before. Maybe I gotta think about that some more.” But the Bible sets the agenda. The Bible has the final word.
I think of some friends of mine, a couple who, committed Christians, committed to the church, good family, and for years and years and years one thing they just couldn’t get in line with, didn’t really get on board with in the church, was that only men were elders, and men were pastors. They’d say, “oh, I don’t know. I don’t like that. That, that grates against some things and I don’t think so and that’s, that’s now I read the Bible.” And they served faithfully and to their great, immeasurable credit, sometime years later we’re sitting down talking and I just said, “Have you looked at this lately? Have you looked at this particular issue of men’s and women’s roles in the church and how God made us one and our value before Him, equal in our standing and status, but with different complementary roles, and qualified men are to lead in the home and in the church,” and to their credit, they said “You know what? We haven’t looked at it for a number of years. You know where we stand.” And they went and they said, “Do you have some books? Do you have some books pro and con, on both sides?” “Yep, here’s some good things you can read.” And we met and we met again, and after a number of weeks they said “Mmm, I think we need to change our mind.”
Does that, does that, does that ever happen to you? It should. Does it ever happen to me? Or did you just get everything right from day one? Are we willing to come before the Bible and the Bible alone and say “God, you call the shots.” Is your heart fertile soil for God’s Word, or do you come like, so many of us do when we’re confronted by a parent, when we’re confronted by a husband or wife, or a friend, and we’re ready to, the walls just, (sound effect) just start coming up. “I have five reasons why I’m like this, I have three things that you never did for me, I have two other ways that you’ve hurt me, and I’ve got one big reason why I’m never gonna change.”
That’s not what Josiah did. He read the words, he said “Oh, my. Lord, we’re not doing this. We are not doing this at all. And Your wrath is rightly against us.”
Is your heart good soil for the Bible to speak into your personal sins, whatever they may be: The language you use, your anger, the entertainment you watch, the way you dress, your gossip, the way you spend your money or time? Pray that our hearts would be good soil.
Six. Pray for a commitment to obedience. Commitment to obedience.
Look at verse 29: “Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem and the king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small, and he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statues with all his heart and all his soul to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”
Not only the king, but the people, entered into a covenant. This is a covenant renewal ceremony. You see, it wasn’t enough that they just said “oh, wow, we read the Word of God and it’s convicting us of some things and we ought to try to do better.” They, they, they stood together and they said “Are, are we in this or not?”
It’s one of the reasons we have church membership. It’s a biblical idea. It’s one of the ways of standing up and being counted, saying “yes, I’m making promises to you, you’re making promises to us. Yes, I, I want to be here. Yes, my commitment is serious, it is single-minded, and it is significant. No, I’m not her to just sneak in and sneak out. I’m not here just to put a day, a weekly salve on my conscience because I feel like should go to church and this is a church big enough that nobody will ever get to know me here.”
When you become a member, you’re doing this sort of covenant renewal. “Yes, I want to be obedient. Yes, I’m committed to you. Are you committed to me?” Are we promising before God and before each other that we are going to be true to this commitment, the commitment that our fathers made, and now we make as well? Never underestimate the capacity for commitment if it’s something we truly believe in.
I don’t have to tell most of you football season is starting. Some of you love it, some of you don’t. One of the things that, that sports, when they’re done well, can do is that they get people galvanized towards a common purpose. They get people you’re gonna hurt, and it’s gonna be hard, and you’re gonna suffer, and I’m gonna get in your face, but it’s gonna be worth it. And if any of you had had those sort of really good coaches, those great experiences, you know when you look back and you think, “yes, two a days were hard, yes, it was hot, yes, it was miserable, but I wouldn’t trade anything for those relationships, wouldn’t trade for anything for what we were able to accomplish,” whether you won the playoffs or not.
Because that’s the power when humans come together and say “we are committed to this thing.” And there is certain, listen, listen, there is certain levels of joy and satisfaction that you only get on the other side of long-term commitment. You need to know that in a marriage. There’s a lot that happens when you’re googly-eyed and you’re falling in love, and there’s love you know nothing about until you walk through the valleys, and you do it for years and for decades. And it’s the same thing in a church. And it’s the same thing with your commitment to the Lord Jesus. We want disciples, not simply attenders.
Seven. Pray that we would be scrupulous about the Word of God.
You see in chapter 35, verse 1: “Josiah kept the Passover to the Lord in Jerusalem, they slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month. He appointed the priests to their offices, encouraged them in the service. He said the Levites who taught all Israel and were holy to the Lord: ‘Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David the kingdom of Israel built. You need not carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the Lord your God. Prepare yourself according to your father’s house by your divisions as prescribed in the writings of David, the kingdom of Israel, and the document of Solomon, his son. Stand in the holy place, according to the groupings of the fathers’ houses of your brothers, the lay people, according to the division of the Levites by the father’s household. Slaughter the Passover lamb, consecrate yourselves, prepare your brothers, do according to the Word of the Lord by Moses.”
This is one of those paragraphs we go by quickly, it seems kind of boring, you know, divisions and the houses and groups and Passover, sacrifices. But do you see what’s going on here? Be very careful to follow the Word of God down to the smallest detail. And so they said “okay, where are we supposed to stand? If God has a place where we gotta stand, I want to stand there. If we gotta stand in this group, I want to be in this group. If I have to sacrifice this kind of animal, I’m gonna do it.”
When God brings about revival and reformation, you find people more attuned to the Word of God, more scrupulous with the Word of God, paying attention to it. Not thinking “oh, all of this Bible stuff, it’s, it’s gonna be boring, divisive, irrelevant.”
No, whenever there’s a revival, people seek the Scriptures, are earnest to conform their whole lives to it, down to the smallest detail.
Eight. Pray that we would party hearty and lament loudly.
Okay, what about the “party hearty?” Is that really in the Bible? Well, that phrase isn’t, but here’s the idea. Look down at chapter 35, verse 17: “And the people of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests, and the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were present and the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah. This Passover was kept.”
They were called to this feast. It was a time of celebration, to remember what God had done and how He was with them. We need times of celebration in the Church. Yes, frugality’s a good thing. We want to be good stewards. But the Bible doesn’t have this kind of rigid utilitarianism. Jesus even said “yeah, yeah, you have the poor, but this perfume which she has anointed me with is a great gift.” Lavish. There’s times for singing, celebrating, laughing, rejoicing, that we ought to be known for our great joy.
Was it G.K. Chesterton who said something about joy and mirth being the, the rumor of the pagans and the open secret of the Christians.
We can out joy you. We have it in real abundance, real celebration, real, clean, pure happiness, rejoicing, party hearty, according to God’s Word.
And then lament loudly when that is called for.
So verse 23: “The archers shot King Josiah.” He’s died, dead in battle. “The king said to his servants, ‘Take me away for I’m badly wounded.’ So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem and he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah and all singing men and singing women spoke of Josiah in their laments to this day.”
There’s time in the life of the Church for great celebration and laughing and rejoicing, and there are times to lament. It’s one of the reasons, incidentally, why it’s so good for churches to be steeped in singing the Psalms because the Psalms give us the full range of human experience. Not just the thin range of “yes, I’m at the mountaintop and I’m feeling great.” That’s not what you always feel when you come in to worship. You need songs that given an expression to your valleys and your mourning and your lamentation because that’s part of our life together as a church: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Which means in a church of this size, in every week you have reason to rejoice and every week you have reason to weep.
Number nine: Pray for soft, repentant hearts when we sin.
Look at chapter 36, verse 11: “Zedekiah,” so we’re on to the lesser kings, “was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck, hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
We all sin. The question is will you be quick to repent and to move on when you sin. There is, listen, there is almost nothing more important in a disciple, in an employee, in a child, than whether his heart is hard or soft.
You have Play-Doh at your house? If you can’t find any, look in the carpet somewhere there. You open up the Play-Doh and it’s just amazing. It smells good; you don’t eat it, but it does smell good, and it’s not gluten-free. You open up the Play-Doh and it’s so soft and, and moist and you, you move it and you can do all sorts of things with it. It’s great fun. It’s not great fun when you come back later in the day and they left all their creations out. They’re brittle, they’re crumbly, they’re dry.
Let’s wonder what your heart is like. Is God able to shape it, to move it. Do you find yourself when you sit under the teaching of God’s Word, He’s working and He’s refining it. You’re changing. Yes, Lord, help me. Oh, I’m sorry, I want to grow. Or is brittle, cold, rigid.
Maybe the most important quality in someone you’re looking to hire is he or she teachable, moldable, shapeable.
I don’t pray that I would be perfect as a pastor. That’s not going to happen. I pray that I would learn from my mistakes, that I would have a soft heart, an open heart.
Finally, number ten: Pray that we would always be people who hope, who hope.
Look at the end of the book, verse 23, chapter 36. So this is now the people being captured, and now sometime later Cyrus, who’s going to issue a decree that they may return, and it says in verse 23: “Thus says Cyrus King of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.”
And you know why it ends that way? Because it brings the story full circle. I said at the beginning that this book was written to the exiles returning to Jerusalem, and they’re asking the question “How did this happen? How did we get into this mess? How did we end up in Babylon? Does God love us? Did He keep His covenant to us? And if we’re coming back, how do, how do we avoid this again? How do we know that God’s for us and not against us?” And the singular message of the book is to trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. And repent.
And so here they are. They story returning home. And God’s laid out for them through the lessons of these kings what they’re supposed to do and what they’re not supposed to do. They’re supposed to see their sin, repent of their sin, follow God in obedience, and they’re supposed to be a people of hope. Because here they were, for those decades wallowing in Babylon. How do we sing our songs in a foreign land? And then He raised up pagan King Cyrus to say “You know what? I’m going to build you a home in Jerusalem and you’re to return.” Finally, finally, their prayers, their labors, their worship was not in vain.
You see, God’s people went from superpower to nothing. They had a rise and a fall and finally an exile. And now they are a humbled people heading back to the land in 2 Chronicles. This is the book for those returning from exile.
And we see here, through their example. We can learn the lessons the easy way or the hard way. But God will have us learn the lessons we need to learn. God’s Word will not fail. God is in control. He will do with us as is best for His people, and the exile was best for His people and it was for His glory.
But the remnant, those who remained, they kept believing, they kept hoping, they kept wondering, they kept praying, they kept pleading “might we return? Might we go home?”
You ever feel like you were made for something more than this? You ever feel like there’s gotta be something beyond this stuff, that even your best days aren’t quite as happy as you were hoping? Even your birthday didn’t quite fulfill all your expectations? That may not be a bad thing because you know what? You were made for something more than this. Your expectations are not going to be met here.
Hope. Something to come. What God can do, of what He’s up to, of how He can change us, how He can shape us, how He can cause us to grow, how He can save the hardest heart.
So here’s what you need to know: God is with you, and now He says “get up, time to get up. Repent, believe, and go.”
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank You for this book which we have been studying through the summer, for these kings, godly and otherwise. We thank you for the King of Kings who never failed the covenant, who will lead us to that heavenly home, who is even now preparing a place for us, a mansion with many rooms. And we pray that we would follow Him there. Give us soft hearts, Lord. We pray that you be at work to do even more than we could ask or imagine in our midst. Spiritual blessings from the heavenly places which only can be found in Christ Jesus, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.