“25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. 26 Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.” 2 Kings 23:25-26
When I read about King Josiah in 2 Kings my heart cries, “YES!”
I love the way he obeys the Lord. I love the way he loves the Word of the Lord. I love the way he personally obeys the Word of the Lord. I love the way he reforms structures and systems according to the ways of the Lord. I love the way he inspires God’s people to obey the Word of the Lord. Not only is it refreshing to read amidst all of the “evil and wicked” kings, it is something I myself aspire to as a Christian leader.
I love reading about King Josiah and his obedience to the Lord.
But I have to be honest. I don’t like reading what happens after he dies. In fact, I wish it weren’t in the Bible. Indeed, my first thoughts are, “it just ain’t right.”
If you take a minute to read the last 10 or 12 verses in 2 Kings 23 you will find that after Josiah died, not only did God’s people “mess up” again – but Josiah’s own son led the rebellion by doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
Think about it.
Josiah vociferously obeyed the Lord and led the people of God to reform under the Scriptures. Yet the generation to follow Josiah rejected the Lord. And, to make sure you are paying attention, Josiah’s own son was a sinful prodigal.
Does that not make you mad in a way? Does it get under your skin some? It does mine. My first thought was, “God, he obeyed You! Why in the world would it be where his legacy of obedience would not be passed down at least ONE generation? Why couldn’t his own son be obedient and follow You?”
To be real honest, I even thought, “God, what was the point of obedience like this if it isn’t going to last or affect those who come after us, in particular our own children? I mean, why obey?”
Or, to be even more raw: “Father, if You can’t guarantee that my own kids will love you through my following You, then I am not sure I want to be ‘all in.'”
Enter Gut Check.
This whole dialogue (my reading Scripture and then thinking through it in this way) begs a question: “Why Obey?” If there is potential for 2 Kings 23 kind of “junk” after a life of being completely sold out, then why even obey in the first place?
Here’s what the Lord has graciously and patiently and mercifully reminded me:
#1. Obey God because He is God.
The very fact that He is God demands obedience. Period. And, if I really get down to it, if He is really MY God – then I will obey Him because I want to please Him. In other words, if I obey in order to get my kids to love God – then my “god” is my kids’ obedience. Do you see? This is not to say it is wrong to long for my children to follow the Lord. But it is to say that if I obey God for the purpose of having godly kids, then it is revealing a “god” that isn’t the real thing. Obedience to God must be out of a heart that loves and trusts and adores and treasures and seeks to exalt God for who He is – God. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what I want for my kids too? For them to actually love God for who He is – not love God for the sake of getting something else?
#2. Obey God because He is Trustworthy.
If I obey God for the sole purpose of having Him get people who come after me to love and follow Him – then all I am doing ultimately is manipulating Him (or, at least trying to!). Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting those who come behind me to love and honor and follow God! But if my sole purpose is this – and if I think if I do “x + y” God will provide “z,” then I am merely trying to twist God into doing things my way. It doesn’t demonstrate trust at all.
However, obedience that God desires is obedience to Him because of who He is and that He is trustworthy. He has a plan and He knows what He is doing. He has a plan and it is good and perfect and right and loving. In the story of Josiah and the nation of Judah, God had promised to bring destruction through the Babylonians. Sure enough, it happened a chapter later (2 Kings 24). Through all of that – and God’s restoration of His people from it – we now know more about God and His fascinating ways. My point? God knew what He was doing before, during, and after Josiah. He had a plan and the plan was carried out.
If you are ever like me and at times you wonder if it’s worth it to obey – let me remind you, “YES!” Obey God because He is God and because He is YOUR God. Obey Him because you trust Him. Obey Him because He knows what He is doing and His ways are best.
As a matter of fact, “Trust and Obey – for there’s no other way – to be happy in Jesus.”