Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How Did THAT Get In There?

People, even those who attend church regularly, ask, "Why is it so important to study (and apply) the Bible?" Well, even just a cursory reading of 2 Kings 22-23 can give us a clue to why reading the Bible is so vital. If for no other reason than to forestall the coming destruction.

It seems like God was ready, once again, to wipe the slate clean in Judah and start all over again. But the re-discovery of the Scroll of the Covenant, coupled with a humble and sensitive heart of King Josiah, and God relents in allowing the coming destruction, if at least just for awhile.

Two things, among others I suppose, really tug at me as I read these chapters, and prepare for this week's message.

First, is how humbly and quickly Josiah responds to the reading of the Covenant. He wastes no time in "getting things right," and putting things back into the God-directed order. It gets right to the task of calling the people to repent of their sins and then to renew their commitment to the Covenant. Then he gets to the even larger task of "cleaning house."

The "cleaning house" aspect is the second thing that tugs at me. When reading through chapter 23 it is sadly amazing to me how the Temple was filled with every kind of false god. Thus, the title of this blog entry. I realize that the idols and implements of false religion didn't get in there, and all around Israel overnight, but you'd think somebody would have noticed that this was contrary to the Word of God. But there's the rub. Not even humble King Josiah knew. The stuff had been there so long and nobody was reading from the Covenant, that it just seemed like the "normal" way of doing things.

So, there you have it, without the ongoing, generation after generation, of the reading of God's Word, the nation (church?) slowly slips into the slimy pit, unaware that they are even sliding. Thus, the importance of proclaiming the Word fully, completely to each and every generation.

Now the scary part: if Josiah were to visit our places of worship today (not just the buildings, but the whole of the life of the church) would he say to us, "How did THAT get in there?"

Oh Lord, teach us to read and to heed.


Anonymous said...

OK, this is a long one. Josiah and I go waaaaay back. I’ve always loved studying this particular section in Kings, because it correlates so easily to today’s culture, both secular and holy.
For me, many times when I read this passage, I’m reminded of the works of Sun Tzu and von Clauswitz. These two guys wrote extensively about war; how to wage it, and, more importantly, how to win. Sun Tzu wrote in the more typical esoteric Chinese fashion, whereas von Clauswitz went totally nuts and wrote volumes on the subject.
In both their works, and as it has been proven over time in battle after battle, there is a priority to waging war. In every instance, the first thing to do, in order to gain the advantage, is to disrupt the flow of communication between the enemy’s headquarters, and the front line troops. This disruption is paramount to winning. In fact, it’s so important, that it can be questioned as to whether or not it is possible to win while the enemy still has the capability to issue orders.
There are some that say that information, or, in military terms, intelligence, is the most pressing factor in warfare. To that, I say that they are two sides of the same coin. You may have communication, but without pertinent info to send, what’s the point? Conversely, you may have all the data needed, but without the means to get that info to where it is needed, again, what’s the point?
The weakest link between intel, and “comms” is the communication. In the ancient days, this would mean capturing the messenger as he runs to the Field Commander. In WWII, it would mean intercepting radio transmissions from the HQ to the front. Or capturing the code books. Today, disrupting communications could be seen as destroying a radar tower, or “taking out” the entire building that houses the comms system.
Another way to disrupt communications is not to interrupt, but to overwhelm. This can be accomplished simply by sending “mixed messages” to the enemy. One message would say advance, but then the next would be to retreat; thereby confusing the command structure.
During the Civil War, for example, bugles were used to spread the word to the divisions and regiments. However, in the early days of the war, every battalion had their own set of bugle calls. Unfortunately, on regiment’s bugle call for retreat might sound very similar to another’s bugle call for advance! All it would take is for the Confederate side to blow a conflicting bugle call to confuse the Union soldiers....
Propaganda is yet another form of disrupting the flow of information from the Generals. Propaganda that makes the “boots on the ground” question the veracity or the motive of the orders.
Many armies and navies have created a “workaround” to this issue. The commanders will issue a book of “Standing Orders” to the field. These Standing Orders are a set of commands that should be followed in the event that communications are severed. These orders are very basic, and in no way exhaustive, but they can give a very general view to the rules of engagement, and the battle plan.
Why am I saying all this war talk on a Pastor’s study blog?
Take what I just said, and lay it over Josiah’s situation like a template. In his day, the Temple was nothing but a storage shed for unused idols and detritus. There was no daily sacrifice, the priests were not attending to their duties, the people, for the most part, had completely walked away from God. How did this happen?
A complete breakdown in communication.
Prayer is a means by which we can talk with God. Someone once said that prayer is not us giving God a list of orders, but where God gives His soldiers theirs. It’s a form of communication. Without it, how do we follow His heart? How do we “check in”?
Also, the Word of God was buried in the midst of the trash that clogged the inner rooms of the Temple. The Standing Orders. The Standing Orders gave a complete list of the Who, What, When, Where, Why and Hows of the troops. Without it, there would be no discipline, no cohesiveness within the corps. Without the Standing Orders, it wouldn’t take long for anarchy to spread like a virus. Or, worse, mutiny.
When Josiah received the Word again, it was an uphill battle for him. Everyone was used to doing their own thing, there was no standard, no order.
In today’s environment, it remains the same. In many cases, prayer is not taught as an imperitive to the disciples of Christ. It’s something nice to do, before meals, or when all other means have been exhausted, but not as a practice. Reading the Word is also not a high priority. They will take the snippets that are parsed out on Sundays as the week’s requirement. I’ve been to churches where people don’t even bring a Bible to church, and couldn’t find one at home if they tried. People who have been attending church most of their lives and could not find Micah or Ruth, nor could they tell me if it was in the Old or New Testament.
One of the things that distresses me the most is seeing such a glut of information available to use today, via the internet, software or plain ol’ books, and no one reading them. Or, more confounding, not knowing what’s the important things in a relationship with God because they have been bombarded with so much data about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, that everything seems a priority.
There is a need in today’s America for teachers who will maintain a direct line of communications with God, and who will divulge the whole counsel of God through the Word, in context, and in plain language.
Hopefully this won’t come across as a rant, because that’s not my intent. I just feel very strongly that if a Christian has broken that line of communication with God, and does not have a working knowledge of His Standing Orders, then there is absolutely no way that he/she will ever become a victorious disciple of Jesus.
They will have completely lost the battle.

May we all be good soldiers of Christ,


Pastor Randy said...

One word: AMEN!