In last Thursday's study, we saw the beginning of the reign of King Josiah. Becoming king at the age of just eight years old, he walked in the ways of David, his ancestor. He started to seek God at the age of 16, began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry at the age of 20, and had the temple restored when he was 26.
It was during the temple restoration project that the book of the Law was rediscovered. When Josiah heard what was written in it, he humbled himself before God. He read it to the people, and commanded that they obey God's laws.
Unfortunately, the Jews rejection of God's commands for all these years meant that judgment was coming upon the nation. Fortunately, because of Josiah's humility before God, it would not take place during his lifetime.
Now, we pick up the story in chapter 35 of 2Chronicles...
The ark of the covenant had been through quite the adventure since the days of Samuel the prophet. The Jews, who were losing the war with the Philistines, decided to take the ark into battle with them, believing that they would win (1Sam 4:3). But the Jews were defeated and the ark was captured by the Philistines (1Sam. 4:11). After God brought many curses upon the Philistine cities in which the ark was being kept, they returned it to Israel.
The people of Beth-shemesh were the first to get the ark, but after more than 50,000 of them were killed for looking into the ark (1Sam. 6:19), the city of Kiriath-jearim was contacted and asked, "Would you like to have the ark?" (1Sam. 6:21).
The ark was almost taken into battle again by King Saul (1Sam. 14:18) but he changed his mind and it ended up back at Kiriath-jearim (1Chr. 13:5). Once King David had established Jerusalem as Israel's capitol, he decided that the ark should be in Jerusalem. But when he tried to have it moved, he didn't do it in accordance with the Law of God, and a man died (2Sam. 6:7). So the ark remained at the house of Obed-edom for three months (2Sam. 6:11) while David read the Scriptures and figured out how it should be moved.
King David was successful at bringing the ark to Jerusalem, where it remained in a tent (2Sam. 6:17). It was a short time later that David had the idea to build a permanent temple for the Lord, but God didn't allow it.
When David's son Absalom rebelled and took over the kingdom, the priests took the ark of the covenant with them as they left the city with David (2Sam. 15:24). But David told them to go put it back (2Sam. 15:25). Years later, David's son, King Solomon, built the temple and the ark was placed in its permanent home (1Kings 8:6).
But now, King Josiah is having to tell the Levites to put the ark BACK into the temple. When was it removed? At this, we can only speculate that in the same way the priests had removed the ark when Absalom took power in the days of David, that during the reign of either Manasseh or his son Amon, they must have removed it again. After all, it was King Manasseh's who built altars in the house of the Lord (2Chr. 33:4). Now, Manasseh did repent, and remove these altars (2Chr. 33:15), but his son Amon, King Josiah's father, never repented of the idolatry with which he caused the nation to be permeated.
Apparently, the priests had been carrying it from place to place, probably to keep it in hiding. Now, it would not be a burden on their shoulders anymore. It would be returned to the Holy of Holies in the temple.
Just as his great-grandfather King Hezekiah had done (2Chr. 30:24), King Josiah contributed offerings from his own wealth so that the people could be blessed. His officers followed his lead, and also gave generously.
This is a godly principal which no spiritual leaders should ignore. If we want the people to worship, the leaders have to give of themselves. It's going to cost us: our time, our energy, our efforts, even our finances. If a church has leaders that are only looking to take, and not to give, then worship will not be happening.
WKMG TV News of Central Florida reported yesterday of a church in Florida that seems to have leadership only willing to take.
Mercy House Ministries Pastor Billy Dan Benton, his wife Pamela, and three other church leaders have been arrested and are facing charges of grand theft and fraud. The church in Polk County, Florida had been collecting donated goods meant for victims of Hurricane Frances. But instead of distributing the food and other supplies, they have been accused by police of selling them at grossly marked-up prices. They had even allegedly bought milk and eggs from a local grocery store and sold them at higher prices! The sheriff's department said, "It's not a church in any shape or fashion, it looks like a grocery store when you go in there,"
Now, everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but reading that story reminded me of how the people of Israel were prevented from worshiping by the moneychangers and those who sold sacrificial animals in the temple. People coming to church, only to be robbed. But on the other hand, if church leaders give sacrificially, of their tithes and of their time, then worship is facilitated, and the people are free to approach God unhindered.
According to the Law that God gave to Moses, the Passover lambs were eaten by the people who offered them (Ex. 12:11). But there were also other sacrifices on that day - peace offerings (Lev. 3) - of which God received the best parts, and the rest of the meat was to be eaten by the priests and Levites.
Notice that while the Levites were doing their work, they made sure that the singers and gatekeepers "did not have to depart from their service, because the Levites their brethren prepared for them" (35:15).
This is another vital lesson for those who serve in the church today. Often, our service keeps us from the service. Because we are busy preaching the Word, or teaching in Sunday school, watching the cars in the parking lot, or handing out bulletins, we are often at our station of service during the service. But notice that provision was made for people like this too. We have tried to do the same thing for those who serve here. Having multiple Sunday services means that by being a Greeter, you may miss the worship service. Fortunately, you can attend the other one. Teaching the children on Thursday nights means that you miss the message, which is why we provide free tapes and CDs of each service to those who are serving during the service.
In this way, we are trying to insure that even the singers and the gatekeepers are getting to eat.
The Chronicler's comment about this Passover celebration is that,
2Chr. 35:18 There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet...
Now, you may recall that back in chapter 30 Josiah's great-grandfather Hezekiah had a pretty impressive Passover service. He had invited not only his kingdom of Judah, but also the northern kingdom of Israel. The Chronicler said,
2Chr. 30:26 ...there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.
So Hezekiah's Passover was the best one since the days of Solomon. But Josiah's Passover was the best one since the days of Samuel.
Even the best men of God are prone to slip up. And the Bible never attempts to disguise their failures, but they are laid out for all of us to see. The reason for this is because...
Rom. 15:4 ...whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Josiah's mistake was a seemingly small one, but it would end with his death. When Pharaoh Neco headed north to do battle against the Babylonians, Josiah got in the middle. Pharaoh Neco said, "This isn't your fight, and I have no interest in warring against you. Go home."
Josiah had stuck his nose in where it didn't belong. And yet, instead of saying, "Oh, my mistake, terribly sorry," he stayed in the battle. The end result was his death.
Now, if this godly man died from such a small mistake, and it was written down for our instruction, then what may we learn from this?
Certainly, before we enter any conflict, we should ask, "Is this my war? Have I been invited to participate? Am I jumping in where I don't belong?"
Sticking your nose into a battle that doesn't belong to you will always bring trouble. Listening to gossip and getting worked up about something that doesn't concern you. Jumping in and meddling in someone else's situation will cause you to be wounded unnecessarily, and possibly even die prematurely. The proverb says,
Prov. 26:17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
This warning has been carried through to the New Testament as well. Simon Peter reminds us,
1Pet. 4:15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler
How many wounds we could avoid by avoiding conflicts that don't belong to us!