Can you imagine being God and being privy to absolutely everything that goes on in the world. Sure that would be a lot of good stuff — but a lot more bad, really bad, stuff. Police officers often have a rather cynical, dark view of the world, because they are constantly cleaning up some of the criminal garbage off the street and otherwise taking care of unpleasant things that you and I really don’t want to even know about. You know, sometimes I get discouraged and just have to stop paying attention to the news; I wonder how much, much worse it must be for God. Today’s reading seems almost like God has been checking out what was going on the world and just wanted to erase the chalkboard — blow the whistle and say, “Everybody out of the pool!”
In the day of Josiah?
Josiah was a good-guy king, but he seemed to have met a surprising end, dying in battle against the Egyptians (2 Kings 23). But when you read about what was going on in Judah and Jerusalem despite Josiah’s best efforts to reform things, it begins to make better sense. Josiah was good, but apparently not everyone else was; and God was getting fed up. Good men can make a good start by taking out the “high places”, but unless they change the heart of men, their good efforts will not change much for the long run. There’s an old saying that you can’t legislate morality, and I think it’s true. You can pass laws, but you can’t forcibly change men’s hearts. That takes persuasion and reasoning — and even so, sometimes it doesn’t work, witness Israel.
But there was much more going on…
Judah wasn’t the only one misbehaving; they had plenty of company among the Gentile nations. The Philistines, Moab, Assyria, and others. And God was weary of it. Serious destruction was coming their way. But destruction is only part of God’s plan, building and restoration was the larger plan. And it’s something for us to remember regarding our own lives.
A number of years ago a fellow I was trying to study the Bible with told me that he didn’t really think, upon giving it some thought, that he wanted to become a Christian — there’s too many things to give up. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wasn’t to be dissuaded. I’ve thought about that conversation often and it seems to be me that it’s not unlike this demolition – restoration thing that God was planning to do with Israel. The object of demolition never like the demolition, but it’s always necessary if we are to improve. That’s why the old man of sin has to die — so the new man in Christ can be transformed. Before we can put on the new self, be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Eph. 4:22), we must lay aside the old self.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.