Yesterday’s sermon …
- Began with ‘the most jarring phrase’ in the biblical library;
- Paused for the Apostle’s Creed;
- Contrasted that which sizzles with that with substance;
- Included invitations for a daily email of Reading Prompts for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Go Eat Pop Corn).
- Landed at this bottom line: To prepare for the future, treasure the past.
Well, we are going to start today with the most JARRING phrase in the entire biblical library. Because we’re REGROUPING during August and we diving into a small slice of the book of 2 Kings to do so. And we’re trudging along reading 2 Kings, remembering that chapters and verses WERE NOT part of the original, so the author didn’t necessarily want you to break where it breaks today AND we’re remembering that 2 Kings like the other books was written to be read OUT LOUD to a group of people who were largely illiterate. And the author is describing events that happened about 640 BC, or about 30 year BEFORE this Habakkuk cat we just finished belly-aching with.
Anyway, here’s what happens in 2 Kings 21:23-26 to a king of Judah (southerners!) named Amon:
23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.
25 As for the other events of Amon’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 26 He was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. And Josiah his son succeeded him as king.
And then, with no chapter break in the original!, the writer gives us the most jarring phrase in the biblical library. You ready?
Josiah was eight years old when he became king,
Whoa. In one HALF A SENTENCE there is this incredible contrast between expectation and execution; between assumption and reality. And the whole gathered community hearing this thing read – much less those who lived it out some years before! – must have been like, “Who? What? Did we just hear what we think we just heard? There was an EIGHT YEAR OLD KID, the age when they’re still eating their own boogers!, likely reeling from the loss of his dad, who becomes the King? And in that moment, with that massively small description, we get a new definition of what happens when the job is too big and you’re too small.
But is he the last one? Have you, too, been at that place where you looked headlong into the future and the future won? You felt ill prepared and unequipped? When you felt like you were eight and somehow given the keys to the kingdom. Sometimes it’s completely accidental, like the guy taking a flying lesson in a Cessna and his instructor has a heart attack. WORST NIGHTMARE! Of course, the reason we know what happened is that he got guided in! Yet other times it’s not so accidental; it’s more purposeful. You get to middle school and it’s your first algebra class; you get to be 16 and get handed your license and for some of you keys to a car.
You turn 18 and all of a sudden you can do all kinds of things you couldn’t before. And that freedom coincides with many of you with your first semester away at college, a time you look back on with a lot more shame than pride. That job required a level of maturity you were way too small to handle. Then your first real job at 22, your first time managing other people at 25. For me: pastor a church at 28. Pastor THIS church at 38. Or get this: you say I DO or I WILL, you get pronounced as man and wife and you turn around to face the congregation and you realize: I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I AM GOING TO MAKE THIS WORK. Even those of you who have gone back for a double or triple dip feel that same lack of preparedness. The future is suddenly NOW, I ‘m not prepared and the job is way too big and I’m way too small. It turns out the most jarring phrase in the bible is actually the most current of realities we face. How do we regroup from that?
Well, Josiah’s story is so interesting for so many reasons. Look at the next phrase in 22:1b: and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.
Oh, good. So he’s got some tenure (he DID die at 39, but that’s another sermon for another SERIES). Then at 22:1c to find out about his mom, upon whom you know he relied since his diddy died.:
His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath.
Then look at 22:2:
2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
Oh my gosh. If you are paying attention, this is still jarring. He did right – so far, so good – and “followed completely in the ways of his father David.” Wait! His father was Amon, not David! And the author of 2 Kings knew that. So why? What’s going on? Ahhh, glad you asked. He is saying: “this Josiah? He is an OLD SOUL. Not like his daddy Amon who followed all the fads and was vulnerable to all the trends. If it sparkled, he was seduced. But not J. He was like his great (x10) grandad David who was a man after God’s own heart. That’s his real dad. He breaks these sick family cycles with his old soul-ness.” And that 22:2c phrase about “right or left”? Language taken directly from the book of Deuteronomy. The author’s way of saying Josiah will not be a man of the moment, a man of impulse; he’ll be a man anchored in history, a man of substance.
Then check 22:3:
3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord.
OK, it’s his 18th year, he’s 26, which means … he’s a millennial! And what does he do? He oversees the rebuilding of the temple which was in disrepair because is father Amon and g-father Manasseh had allowed/insisted it be overrun with idolatry and sizzle. What Josiah’s dad and grandad did was like if one Sunday I stood up and said, YOU KNOW, I’M TIRED OF LIFTING THE BIBLE TODAY, LET’S LIFT THE KORAN. Or let’s re-arrange this altar area so there is a tribute to the Hindu god Vishnu. Uh, no. Just, no. And yet that’s exactly what Josiah faced and what Josiah repaired in 22:3-7:
He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”
And in the course of that repair, with construction dust flying and partitions erected and guys in hard hats strolling all about, the most astounding thing happens: 8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.
They found THE BIBLE. Most likely one book, one scroll, probably the book of Deuteronomy itself. That means it had been lost, disobeyed, ignored for years. And it got found. And in reading it they discovered: “Oh! This is why we’re falling apart We’ve lost God’s commands and on our own we’ve been living in opposition to them for years! It looks like rebellion actually has consequences!”
Look what happens next in 22:9-10:
9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
Oh I love this. The king LISTENS. The commander becomes the commanded. The sovereign becomes the subject. The old soul gets to the culmination of this epic recovery and he doesn’t just tolerated it, doesn’t just underwrite it, but he soaks in it. Immerses in it. Treasures it. He realizes that in these old words and this ancient faith is the kind of preparation for his reign he has needed all along. Here it is, the glorious lesson from a kind who spent his life regrouping: To prepare for the future, treasure the past. This church and this series is not connecting you with something that sparkles; it is aligning you with something of substance.
Because I just have this great obsession that the people of GS would not just know the ancient history of the bible and of our faith, but that we would immerse ourselves in it, we would delight in it. Like this old photo I have of Julie. Is the photo that great? Yeah, it’s OK. But it’s the note on the back. We were just new at dating and this not let me know this was real. I treasure these words. THAT’S what I’m talking about. The whole thing – Scripture, history, faith – we treasure that we’re not part of what was invented last week but what we’ve inherited from the centuries. Not built on bling that sizzles, but on the blood of the saints. It reminds us that we are defined by these ancient, glorious realities of the Creed: SAY APOSTLE’S CREED here. It’s funny, my mom (103) was asking me what she should do next in her life. My answer? Say the Apostles Creed every day. To prepare for the future, treasure the past.
But for those of you less than 103, my goodness. I’m not going to mince words. We want the people of this church in LifeGroups. So many of you are facing a future for which you are ill prepared – you’re too small and it’s too big – and I want you preparing for it more in circles than in rows. Because did you notice Josiah? He became teachable! He was a king! And he listened. He learned. He treasured. Kings don’t do that! This one did. If a king can make himself accountable and teachable, so can we. I am in a Men’s LifeGroup and we’ve been reading several books of the bible together. Every morning, I send the guys an email (more on that later) on the day’s reading. Helps me and helps them. Anyway, one of the guys admitted: If you didn’t do that I’d never read the bible.
Guess what?! I know most of you are in that same place! That’s why we want you in the Word, in a community (and more on that email in a bit!). I also lead a YA LifeGroup and the dynamic there is so interesting. We’ll be talking about life and they’ll be referencing cultural stuff about which I have NO CLUE (I’m looking up the cassette tape) and all of a sudden out of a mouth or two: VROOOM! Biblical genius. Weighty understanding and application. From 20somethings … you know, the ones who the world tells us hate Jesus and the church? Don’t buy it. Old souls in the best sense of the word. Tell me they’re not challenging me to up my game. To prepare for the future, treasure the past.
Josiah was just so teachable. Are you? Are you willing to surrender to the idea that you’re not the smartest or the first or the shiniest? Are you willing to sit at the feet of those from previous centuries who died for the faith you treat so casually? And who emerged with such matchless, priceless, treasured words like Colossians 1:15-18 (READ) and Romans 8:31 (READ). Oh my goodness, that’s the kind of thing that needs to be the soundtrack of your mind. To prepare for the future, treasure the past.
Let me let you in on a secret: this passion for LifeGroups – treasuring the past TOGETHER – has everything to do with why we say “living relationship” here. Some of you (not all, but some) may have heard of “personal relationship with Jesus.” Which is fine, it’s just not biblical. The biblical writers didn’t think in those terms; to them, personal could be private. Nope. Living things live together, in community, they stretch, they change, they grow. But get this: they have ROOTS. The deeper the root, the stronger the plant. Do I even need to make that connection? The deeper you are planted in what is ancient, the greater you can ascend to your future. Roots that are not in Dr. Phil but are in St. Paul. To prepare for the future, treasure the past.
Here’s what we’re going to do. We want you to sign up for the Go Eat Pop Corn reading over the next four weeks. I will send a thought about your chapter every day in your email inbox. It will be exactly like rediscovering a lost bible for a lot of you! And as part of that, we want you in the lobby (WHEN) getting in one of the new LifeGroups that’s starting or connecting with an existing. You’re at the feet of the ancients, alongside your contemporaries. And if you are BRAND NEW at all this, we’ve got a special BEGINNINGS group for you ….
Because here’s my dream for you. That you get up tomorrow morning. And maybe it’s the beginning of a new semester or a new job or a new relationship or a new season of sobriety. You are overmatched and unprepared. And you ground your day in the word of God – not as one leap but as the first of four weeks of massively small steps, and you open the front door with no fear of that future but sure you will flourish in it. Why? Because you started the day treasuring the past. That way, the most JARRING verse in Scripture leads to the most joyful day of your life. To prepare for the future, treasure the past.