This sermon is for the first week of Advent. It is the story of Josiah found in 2 Kings 22:1-10, 23:1-5 from the Narrative Lectionary. Josiah is confronted with the Word of God and it leads to a national reformation project. How, then, can we make scripture the center of our lives today?
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We are not a culture that likes to wait…
On Thanksgiving, my wife, my parents, and I watched the classic You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It was so funny to watch them log on to AOL with dial up and sit anxiously awaiting the connection, so they could hear those words “You’ve got mail.”
Now, if a site doesn’t load in less than one second on our phone, we’re beating on it and thinking we should upgrade to the latest model.
Today we begin the season of Advent. This is a season that is all about waiting. It is a time when we remember the nation of Israel as they suffered under the hand of oppressive Empires and waited for the day when a Messiah would come.
What are you waiting for?
Some are waiting for the baby to arrive.
Some are waiting for the test results to come back.
Some are waiting for the day when the kids clean up their rooms without being asked.
Today we will see that the Season of Advent is about learning to wait on God’s word.
King Josiah was the King of Judah. He found a copy of the scripture, read it, was convicted of how far the country had strayed from God’s path, cleaned up their act, and put the scripture at the center of their lives.
We should cultivate God’s promise by using the spiritual practices of Bible Study and Prayer on a regular basis in our lives. This is a way that we can wait on the Lord through reading, prayer, and meditation.
Amen. There it is. My challenge to you is to meditate on scripture regularly, and, at the end, I’ll give you a practical way to do that.
So, if you want to tune out now, you can.
However, allow me to complexify this topic a little. First, let’s look at the story itself, then we will circle back to the practical challenge to bible study and prayer.
Previously on the Narrative Lectionary.
This is the story of Abraham’s family. God made a promise that God would bless Abraham and through the nation that his family would become, all nations would be blessed.
Moses gave the people the Law. This was the key of their calling. At the end of Deuteronomy he said, I set before you today Life and Death. IF you obey God’s law, then you will have life. CHOOSE LIFE.
The rest of the story has been Israel struggling with life and death, and usually choosing death.
Remember, at the beginning of November we were in the book of 1 Kings and saw how the nation was split in two. Solomon built the temple by taxing the people heavily.
[ADVANCE] Then his son Rehoboam chose to tax the people even more and it caused a rebellion.
Now we move to 2 Kings and see what happens when the nation chooses to disobey God.
If you look at this messy chart, you’ll see that all the kings of Israel and Judah are listed. The “bad” ones are in red and the “good” ones are in green. The Kingdom of Israel had all bad kings. Every single one of them led the people to worship foreign gods and they abused the weak and the poor.
[ADVANCE]Remember, when Jeroboam led the people to rebel against Rehoboam and form the northern Kingdom of Israel, he lied to the people and established two idols. He said, “See, here are the gods that led you out of Egypt.”
Eventually the Empire of Assyria crushed Israel. They were cruelly massacred and the survivors were intermarried with other nations and the bloodline of Israel was destroyed forever.
Judah, on the other hand, had a mixture of good kings and bad kings. Some kings tried to lead the people to obey God’s Law and others got in bed with foreign gods.
[ADVANCE] Last week we heard from the prophet Isaiah. What we didn’t mention was that he said those words during the reign of King Hezekiah. He tried to lead Judah to follow God. He prayed that God would protect them from Assyria and they were shielded from the attack.
Then one of the greatest ironies of Israel’s history happens. Hezekiah’s son took over. His name was Manasseh and he was the worst and most wicked King Judah ever had. His story is in 2 Kings 21.
He worshipped foreign gods inside the temple and cruelly abused the people. He was a wicked man.
Then Manasseh died and his son Amon took over. Amon was bad as well, so his servants assassinated him.
His son Josiah became king when he was 8 years old.
That’s where today’s story begins.
When Josiah was 26 years old he decided to fix up the temple. Apparently it had started to fall apart, so he invested a bunch of money into its repair. When the workers were rifling through the storage rooms they came across a scroll that contained the Law of Moses.
It is unclear exactly which scroll they found, but most scholars believe it was the book of Deuteronomy. When Josiah heard the words of Moses he was convicted. He realized that his grandfather, Manasseh, had broken just about every law in the book and the nation was in great danger.
So, Josiah launched a great reformation that consisted of two parts.
[ADVANCE] First, he purged the land of all the idol worship.
[ADVANCE] Second, he reestablished the scripture, the Law of Moses, as the central guidelines for how to be the people of God.
Josiah’s reform bought Judah some time. They were not destroyed during his lifetime. But, when he died, the people slipped right back into the ways of Manasseh, and Babylon crushed them.
Why is this so important? Here’s what I think.
[ADVANCE] First, it is absolutely vital that we put scripture at the center of our daily lives. We must continually preach it in worship, and we should spend time each day in scripture reading, prayer, and meditation.
[ADVANCE] Why? Because, without scripture we would not know Jesus, and Jesus is the key to everything.
[ADVANCE] Second, we need to do this, not just alone, but in community. The fact that people disagree over scripture is part of the beauty of this thing called being human. We must continually learn how to lovingly debate and discuss the scripture. And in the process of the discussion, we will actually hear the Word of God. That is why we must continually have small group Bible studies and Adult Formation opportunities on a regular basis.
[ADVANCE] Third, we must remember that we are waiting. Just like Josiah, no amount of reform, or cleaning up our act in our own power is going to save the world. The only thing that saves the world is the grace of God through Jesus. As Christians, we long for the day when Jesus returns and makes all things new. The promise of God is already, but not yet.
This is the wait of winter.
I want to leave you with a practical note. If you do not have a regular practice of Bible study, you should know that we provide a daily reading schedule on our website each week. Go to graceandover.org, look under the resources tab, and click on Narrative Lectionary Devotions.
Each week I provide a quick overview of the readings and a link to the daily readings.
No matter what plan you follow, I encourage you to read scripture regularly, talk to God about it, and discuss it with people.
And together, we will wait on the Word of God.
I want to leave you with a video that shows how to have a quiet time with God.