Turning 

~~MTS-3819
Turning
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did…”         2 Kings 23:25

Not even the man after God’s own heart? David did turn to the Lord with all his heart and strength, and there was no king in Israel who came after him who could rival his love and devotion to God.
David was the pioneer in following the Lord and he did set a godly example for the following generation to imitate. He never did forsake the Lord; therefore there was no need for him to turn back to him. The sins of murder and adultery that he committed were done out of spiritual sloth and carelessness; more by accident than by design. His predecessor wasn’t a great example of godliness, but Saul didn’t really lead his people astray by turning to pagan gods. So what David was encountering as a king was not as daunting as what Josiah had to deal with. Religious corruption had become a way of life in Israel, and to turn back the tide was extremely difficult.
Josiah did all he could to bring back his people to the Lord, yet it was a little too late. The Lord’s anger against his covenant people had been rekindled and this time it proved fatal. God’s judgment against the Israelites had become irreversible, despite Josiah’s efforts to bring God’s people back to the faith.
Yet the Lord’s praise for King Josiah’s effort is unparalleled. The great degree of difficulty didn’t deter the king from doing the right thing with all his might. Against all odds, he did all he could as a king by demolishing all the idols and introducing the Book of the Law to God’s people through public reading.
Caving in under such intense pressure is just so much easier than continuing to hold back the dark tide of evil. Idolatry had taken root in people’s hearts since it had been promoted officially and the black wave was swallowing everything up on its way. What could one godly king have done to make a difference?
Even though the situation wasn’t reversed through Josiah’s efforts, he was lauded for what he had done and was deemed unrivalled among the kings before or after him.
What can we do as a Christian to stem the tide of secularism in our age? It’s so easy for us to succumb to the seduction of the dark force, go with the flow of the gigantic wave of secular movement, and become part of the problem, not the solution. If we quit trying to make a difference in the world, we will gradually become no different from the world and lose our identity as God’s people by identifying with the masses.
Josiah was in a position to do something to bring his people to God. He tried with all his heart, soul, and strength, and he was praised for his efforts. We can do the same thing as he did, albeit on a much smaller scale, which is what the Lord calls us to do.
  

   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 30, 2014 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Furthermore 

~~MTS-3818
Furthermore
“Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things…”       2 Kings 23:24

It might have been easy for Josiah to ban idolatrous rituals practiced in public by his people, but it would have been rather difficult to root out what people did in the privacy of their own homes or their interactions with mediums and spiritists. The state may be able to legalize certain religions, yet there is a very slim chance that it can legalize morality.
Out of his zeal for the Lord and hatred of idolatry, Josiah made an attempt to do it anyway. He took into his own hands what should have been done by each individual, and deemed it his duty to dispose of the last vestige of idolatry in Judah and Jerusalem. We have no idea how successful he was, but at least he made an attempt.
A revival was needed for the populace to follow suit by throwing away the vile things that they treasured and worshipped privately, and their hearts had to be transformed in order for them not to seek mediums and spiritists for guidance in time of need and grief.
The king was in fact trying to do the impossible, but the impossibility didn’t seem to keep him from doing what he considered absolutely necessary. Doing something is better that doing nothing, isn’t it?
If similar things were done in this time and age, Josiah would have been ousted from his position. What we fear the most these days is the unholy union of church and state. People, particularly atheists, combined with ACLU, are trying their best to keep this from happening. Indeed religion is a private matter and we should keep it that way for the most part, yet that doesn’t mean that we ought to stop bearing witness for Christ publically. We don’t enter people’s houses and take their household idols away; we nonetheless have a God-given responsibility to share with people the truth revealed by God.
Do we keep quiet when our friends turn to mediums and spiritists for help and guidance in time of need? Do we respect their personal choice and preference to the extent that we are afraid to say anything that may sound a little offensive?
“They know where we stand on these issues.” We often choose to remain silent by stating this. “Let’s respect their privacy.”
The privacy of the Israelites wasn’t the king’s main concern, for he was convinced what needed to be done at the time was of the greatest importance. People were hurting themselves by doing what they were doing, and the king was merely trying to help them. Although it might not have produced the desirable result, the king at least tried.
We should always “speak the truth in love” to the ones who seem to be going astray in their worship and practice, but it does take great wisdom on our part to know when and how to utter it to achieve a desirable outcome.        

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 29, 2014 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Celebration 

~~MTS-3817
Celebration
“Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”         2 Kings 23:21

To cease celebrating a certain date or event is to stop remembering. When we cease celebrating, we cease remembering.
The monumental event took place hundreds of years ago, and the Israelites seemed to have forgotten what had occurred. They must have heard something about the parting of the Red Sea, yet it sounded to them more like myth than an historical event. Most of them failed to make a connection between their past to their present, and by not making the link, the past had lost its meaning.
What King Josiah was attempting to do was to cause the Israelites to remember again by asking them to perform certain rituals during the Passover, so that they would remember the significance of an historical event that had taken place years before.
If the Passover hadn’t taken place, the Israelites as a race would have been wiped from the face of the earth. Pharaoh was in the process of conducting genocide against the Jews at the time. So when they celebrated the Passover, they not only remembered how their ancestors were spared from utter destruction; they also offered praises to the One who saved their fathers from the hands of their oppressors.
Have we ceased celebrating?
It’s not possible for me to pinpoint the exact date I became born again, for it seemed to happen over a period of time; therefore I don’t celebrate the day when the Lord saved me from damnation. I nonetheless can select a day out of the month or the year when I became a new creation and make it a day of remembrance and thanksgiving.
We all know the serious consequences of forgetting our wedding anniversary or our wife’s birthday, don’t we? We may not consider it such a great offense, yet our wives may easily interpret it as we no longer care for them anymore. Is there truth to their assumption? I think women’s intuition is indisputable in most cases. 
So what was there for the Israelites to remember anyway? It was a matter of life and death, existence and nonexistence, really. If there was nothing to be celebrated, they could at least celebrate their mere existence. It was because of the Lord’s grace that they could still walk about and had their being.
What’s there for me to remember and to celebrate?
It was also a matter of life and death for me, for I was heading straight to hell the way I was conducting my life as a pagan in my youth before the Lord snatched me out of the pit of my filth. Isn’t this enough for me to celebrate every day?

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 26, 2014 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Worship and Personal Conduct 

~~MTS-3816
Worship and Personal Conduct
“He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the LORD…”            2 Kings 23:7

Baal worship was introduced into the temple of the Lord, and what came with it was sexual perversion and all kinds of filth. What pleased the pagan god more than anything was moral degradation among his worshippers.
Why?
I used to think it was the Lord who led me to an area of my middle school campus where I found a fifty NT dollar bill in a crumpled envelop, allowing me to enjoy an afternoon of luxury by going to a movie and eating some Taiwanese dishes I wasn’t able to afford. Had I been taught to do the right thing, I would have turned the money in, yet the thought never came into my mind. Most people in my village would have counted it a blessing had they found some money by chance and would have kept it. At least that was the impression I gleaned by observing how people acted. We were idol worshippers, and our gods could not care less about our moral or personal conduct. There didn’t seem to be any connection between people’s worship and their personal conduct.
There was a small shrine built by the northern coast of Taiwan, dedicated to a dog that had been faithful to its master. It was known all over the island that the shrine was quite popular among prostitutes and many of them went to the shrine regularly to pay their homage to the divine dog. This does sound awfully bizarre, doesn’t it?
Idols are vanities, yet the one hidden behind them is real and what pleases him the most is for all idolaters to indulge in filth and sin. The Lord demands purity and holiness from his worshippers, but what Satan wants from his followers is just the opposite. I can almost envision how the evil one snickers with perverted pleasure when I happen to fall into any sort of sin. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Perhaps we can change this sermon from the Beatitudes to “Cursed are the filthy in heart, for they will see Satan.” 
We are what we worship. I think this saying does make a lot of sense. We seek to imitate the deity whom we worship, and if he is holy and pure, we will strive to be more like him by minding our inner thoughts and outward conduct. One of the most popular deities on the island of Taiwan is god of fortune and it’s quite obvious why people bow down to him. Satan does have the power to bless his followers with wealth; as far as how the wealth is obtained is the least of his concerns.
That was why it was so natural for me to consider that the fifty dollars I had found was mine to spend that weekend afternoon, for I had never been taught what it was like to be righteous and pure. Undoubtedly, there was moral decay among the Israelites when Baal worship was introduced into the nation, for behind Baal worship was a force that delighted in bloodshed and sin, and sexual immorality was merely a small part of an entire package.     
 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 24, 2014 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Burn 

~~MTS-3815
To Burn
“He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel.”        2 Kings 23:4

Josiah burned all the articles that were devoted to Baal in the Kidron Valley and carried the ashes to Bethel, which was one of the steps he took to cleanse the holy temple and make it holy unto the Lord again. The temple had been polluted by idolatry and all the filthy practices which came with it, and this idolatry had to be utterly destroyed so that the Israelites could welcome the Lord back to his dwelling place again. There was no possibility that the Lord could cohabit with idols in his temple. The Lord’s presence vanished when the image of Baal was ushered into his house.
“'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”  What took place in Josiah’s time happened in our Lord’s time as well, and we all know how Christ’s heart was consumed when he witnessed how people turned his Father’s house into a marketplace where people conducted business. Is a similar situation still occurring in our time?
We may do all things to maintain the outward purity of God’s church, which is the place where the Lord reveals his presence to the world, yet we can’t possibly guard every believer’s heart to make sure all of them are pure and holy before God, nor can we police their every action to make sure they are being consistent with the Scriptures’ teaching. We all know the Lord is far more concerned about our inner selves than our outer selves; therefore merely maintaining a facade of cleanness will always fall short of the Lord’s expectation.
Only the Lord knows what all of us are doing both inwardly and outwardly behind God’s “back” after we step out of the church door, and we will be overcome with guilt and shame if our sinful deeds are ever exposed. Isn’t now the time to cast all the filthy articles both within and without of our hearts into the fire and turn them into ashes? We cannot be pure and holy unless we offer ourselves to be consumed by fire every day. 
One by one I will cast all the filthy articles I have treasured both openly and secretly, the things that seemingly are acceptable to the world yet absolutely unacceptable to God, into the consuming fire and I will ask him to purify me every morning and keep me holy throughout the day. I will throw the articles of my lust, pride, greed, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony into the holy fire to be burned and plead to God that he consumes all of my hunger for fame and thirst for fortune and cause me to desire nothing but him and to place no earthly things above him.
So we learn from John Donne from his Holy Sonnet that we need to be battered inwardly every day so that we can stand before him unblemished. May this be our daily prayer that the Lord will “breake, blowe, burn and make me (us) new.”     
 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 23, 2014 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Covenant Renewal 

~~MTS-3814
Covenant Renewal
“The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord…”            2 Kings 23:3

What a moving scene it was! The king was standing by the pillar of the holy temple in the presence of the Lord and the Israelites and he was attempting to build a bridge between the two. The Lord was still abiding by the covenant he had made with his people, yet God’s people had strayed from the covenant and failed to do what they had been commanded to do; therefore the covenant had become invalid because of their failures. Indeed a renewal was badly needed, and only through it the chosen people of God could be brought back to the fold of God and their love for the Lord rekindled and restored.
May our love and fervor for the Lord be renewed daily so that our relationship with our Heavenly Father may not gradually wax cold and become stale and monotonous.
What can be done to renew our zeal for the Lord and refresh the covenant the Lord had made with us when we became his children through the merit of Christ Jesus?
The answer is pretty obvious from what we have read from the narrative when Josiah renewed the covenant of the Lord with the Israelites. He did so after he read God’s words to the people. Renewal will not happen unless we read the Bible daily.
“It’s reading the Bible that makes my spiritual life stale, since I have been reading the same thing year after year and it has become routine and mechanical,” some people may protest. Here is my answer: what’s hidden in the Bible is inexhaustible and it’s extremely thrilling to find the treasure buried underneath the surface. What we will obtain from reading the Bible is in equal proportion to what we expect to get from it. Our inner selves will be greatly renewed and rejuvenated if we read God’s words with great longing and expectation. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” We will be fed abundantly if this verse describes our attitude when we read the Holy Scriptures.
I am not saying that we must dig the hidden treasures from the Bible in order to be thrilled by it, since the surface of it is sufficient to excite us without measure. How can we not break into singing and be moved to tears when we meditate on the love of God and the sacrificial death of Christ? How can we not be renewed inwardly when we contemplate on what the Lord has done in human history and what he has done for us personally throughout our fleeting life? 
It might have been a little late for Josiah to renew God’s covenant with the Israelites, for they might have gone too far to be brought back into a covenantal relationship with the Lord and God’s judgment was at hand. May we not get to that point by neglecting God’s word and failing to renew our intimate relationship with the Lord daily.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, September 19, 2014 8:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Bible Reading 

~~MTS-3813
Bible Reading
“He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord.”    2 Kings 23:2

The word of the Lord had been kept hidden for a long time, and the Israelites were perishing for lack of knowledge of the Lord. They were misled by their leaders to worship false gods, for they had no knowledge of who the true God was. King Josiah did the wisest thing after the Book of the Law was discovered - he gathered all the people in Judah and Jerusalem and conducted a public reading of it.
There is hope of redemption and renewal when one starts to take the word of the Lord seriously. If people continue to take the Scriptures lightly or look at them with disdain or disregard, I am afraid they are still pretty far from God’s kingdom.
Have you read the Bible lately?
“I am going to quit reading the Bible through next year,” Kathy said to me the other day.
“How so?” I replied.
I guess she does not want to read the Scriptures merely for the sake of reading them. After years of reading God’s Word, by this time she should know the content pretty well and it may be wise for her to meditate on God’s word more, not just read it. The Israelites during Josiah’s time didn’t have such an issue, however. They simply didn’t have any idea what God had to say to them through the Book of the Covenant. They desperately needed to be read to so that they would get a rudimentary idea of the Scriptures.
I have often found myself reading the Bible without paying much attention to what it says. I just don’t want to fall behind in my daily Bible reading.
We need to have an attitude of humility and reverence when we open up the word of God, so when teachable moments come up when we read, we will be ready to accept God’s message humbly and respectfully. "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." I think this saying from James is applicable to our Bible reading as well.

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, September 18, 2014 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Disaster Delayed 

~~MTS-3812
Disaster Delayed
“Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.”
            2 Kings 22:20

The Lord seemed to put off his judgment against Judah so that Josiah wouldn’t see the disaster that was going to take place. Was the king pleased by God’s response to his prayer? Even though he would die in peace, the pending devastation Judah was about to face after his passing would still bother him. So should the Lord have put the king’s heart at complete ease by promising him that the entire nation would be spared from utter destruction?
To die without thinking about the following generation can be quite a selfish act. People who commit suicide are cruel beyond measure, for they only think about their sorrow and with their death, they leave thousands of heart-aches behind.
Humanly speaking, it was a good thing that Josiah died before all the tragic events took place. Yet it was hardly a comfort for him, knowing that his country, including all his loved ones, would suffer great pain after he was no more.
What could Josiah have done? The verdict was made and he could do nothing to change it. The disaster was going to come regardless, yet for the sake of God’s servant, the pace was slowed down a little. A disaster delayed might be good for some, but awful for others. People continued to die and to be born, and when disaster broke out, everybody suffered accordingly.
There is another issue, however. We may be led to believe that there is a great chasm between the present life and the life after and the two have no connection at all. If it weren’t so, Josiah would still be mourning for Judah’s destruction after his passing; therefore it wasn’t much of an issue whether he witnessed the disaster or not.
Would my mother-in-law who is still with us at age 96, and my father-in-law who passed away a few years ago, feel the same way toward what’s happening to their only son, who is currently experiencing some financial difficulties? Who of the two is more blessed? It’s quite puzzling, isn’t it? If death ends everything and there is absolutely no recollection or feeling among the dead, then what the Lord promised Josiah was indeed a good thing; if not, what the king considered a blessing might not be that good of a thing after all.
Given the choice, Josiah would have liked to avoid seeing all the devastation Judah was going to suffer. Who wouldn’t if they had the option? I used to be very concerned about how my parents would suffer if something bad were to happen to their son, but now I have no such worry since they have passed away. I guess there is God’s mercy even in people’s passing from the world. It certainly was in Josiah’s case.     

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, September 17, 2014 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Intercessory Repentance 

~~MTS-3811
Intercessory Repentance
“…and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”        2 Kings 22:19

King Josiah did not tear his robe in mourning for his own sin; he did so for the sins of his people. After he read the Book of the Law and discovered how the Israelites had violated God’s commands, he became so distraught and turned to the Lord with weeping and repentance. He became, on the one hand, frightened over what might happen to his country, and on the other he was anxious over the fact that his people were still unrepentant. He wasn’t quite sure what needed to be done right away, or if there was anything he could do at all. At the least he could do one thing himself: he wept and repented not just for his own sin, but for the sins of his people.
If all else fails, repent. I have practiced this lesson since my youth, learning it when I was a new Christian, for I have always had something over which I needed to repent. Only through the process of repentance has my joy in the Lord been repeatedly restored. Indeed the Lord is a God of second and third chances. I can hardly imagine what our spiritual state would be if repentance and forgiveness become unavailable to us.
Why does David’s famous poem of repentance speak to us more than all the other psalms he composed? I guess we can all identify with him when he pleaded: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” We don’t have to be murderers or adulterers to be moved by the king’s lamentation and asking for forgiveness. In essence, we all find ourselves in David when he repented and are in dire need for restoration and forgiveness.
Being the king over a nation, Josiah went a little further. Not only did he repent of his own sin, he did it for the entire nation as well. In the king’s mourning and weeping, we see that repentance isn’t just a personal matter; it’s a communal affair. Even old Job was so concerned that his own children might have sinned against God unaware that “early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them,” which was in fact a sacrifice of repentance.
Being a father and the head of a household, shouldn’t I repent for all the members of my family? Being a minister of a church, isn’t it my obligation to repent for my entire congregation for their sins and iniquities? Surely repentance is a personal matter and it must be done by individuals, so it’s a form of intercessory prayer when we ask God to forgive other people. If we could repent for other people, I believe it would change our pattern of prayer entirely. We would pray more fervently than we have ever done. Wasn’t it Nehemiah who offered repentance for the entire nation of Israel? “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.”
Whether it’s theologically sound or not, maybe I should learn from Job and offer sacrifices of repentance on behalf of my children. In fact, I should go a little farther and repent for my community and my nation as well. It can only help, and even if it doesn’t, what does it hurt anyway?  
   

   

   

         

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, September 16, 2014 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Because 

~~MTS-3810
Because
“Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made…”  2 Kings 22:17

Most of our “becauses” may not always be valid. Whenever I have caught a cold, I have always tried to trace the illness back to the origin, as if to lay blame on someone by doing such, but my guesses might have been wrong most of the time, and my investigative effort was proven futile at the end. What’s the use of finding out the truth anyway? What I needed to do was to deal with the disease, not to look for its cause, for finding out the origin of my flu wouldn’t have done me any good, except it might have generated in my heart a sense of bitterness against someone who passed the germs to me.
All the “becauses” provided in the Scriptures concerning how and why tragedies occurred to the Israelites were definite and without a doubt true. The devastations God’s people experienced were caused mostly by their rebellion against the Lord, and bad things often took place as a form of punishment.
When bad things happen, we always find ourselves trying to figuring out the ‘what if’s’, attempting to lay blame on someone, God included, accordingly. Rarely do we blame ourselves when things don’t go well and, ultimately, God seems to be the One who takes the brunt of our blame, for he is all-powerful, therefore he should take whole responsibility for all things whether they have gone right or gone wrong. 
Bad things happen because we are sinners, and they will continue to happen. We live in a fallen world and sin and death are the evil we encounter every day. Through Christ, death has been conquered once and for all, yet we still have to face death every day since the world has yet to be renewed and we are yet to be glorified.
Unlike Job who was still grappling with all the becauses, his three friends seemed to have all things figured out and neatly put away and appeared to have an answer for everything. They might have sounded theologically accurate in their discourses, yet their arguments didn’t seem to be entirely consistent with reality, which was pretty messy and complex.
Figuring out reasons behind all things that have occurred may prove to be a hit and miss kind of thing and the conclusions we have reached may well be wrong. What we need to do is deal with reality, not with speculation. Perhaps we should rest and drink more water when we have the flu instead of wasting our energy trying to find out the ones who passed the germs to us. Attempting to decipher mysteries that belong only to God doesn’t seem to do us any good except cause us more agony and bitterness within our hearts.
   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, September 15, 2014 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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