Are you living in alignment? Are you living in obedience? Are you living to please? Are you living to survive? Are you living to fulfill your purpose? Are you living to fulfill the plan? Are you making a difference by the way you are living?
Are you living in alignment to God’s will? Are you living in obedience to God’s plan? Are you living to please man or God? Are you just getting through or are you thriving because of your desire to pursue God? Are you living to accomplish God’s purpose in your and through your life? Are you living to complete the plan God has for your life? Are you living a life that points others back to God?
This morning’s reading starts like this…
King Josiah of Judah(2 Kings 22.1, 2)
1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. 2He did what was pleasing to the Lord; he followed the example of his ancestor King David, strictly obeying all the laws of God.
Josiah Attacks Pagan Worship3In the eighth year that Josiah was king, while he was still very young, he began to worship the God of his ancestor King David. Four years later he began to destroy the pagan places of worship, the symbols of the goddess Asherah, and all the other idols. 4 Under his direction the altars where Baal was worshiped were smashed, and the incense altars near them were torn down. They ground to dust the images of Asherah and all the other idols and then scattered the dust on the graves of the people who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the pagan priests on the altars where they had worshiped. By doing all this, he made Judah and Jerusalem ritually clean again. 6He did the same thing in the cities and the devastated areas of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far north as Naphtali. 7Throughout the territory of the Northern Kingdom he smashed the altars and the symbols of Asherah, ground the idols to dust, and broke into bits all the incense altars. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
The Book of the Law Is Discovered(2 Kings 22.3-20)
8In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple by ending pagan worship, King Josiah sent three men to repair the Temple of the Lord God: Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah, the governor of Jerusalem, and Joah son of Joahaz, a high official. 9The money that the Levite guards had collected in the Temple was turned over to Hilkiah the High Priest. (It had been collected from the people of Ephraim and Manasseh and the rest of the Northern Kingdom, and from the people of Judah, Benjamin, and Jerusalem.) 10This money was then handed over to the three men in charge of the Temple repairs, and they gave it to 11the carpenters and the builders to buy the stones and the timber used to repair the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to decay. 12The men who did the work were thoroughly honest. They were supervised by four Levites: Jahath and Obadiah of the clan of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam of the clan of Kohath. (The Levites were all skillful musicians.) 13Other Levites were in charge of transporting materials and supervising the workers on various jobs, and others kept records or served as guards. 14While the money was being taken out of the storeroom, Hilkiah found the book of the Law of the Lord, the Law that God had given to Moses. 15He said to Shaphan, “I have found the book of the Law here in the Temple.” He gave Shaphan the book, 16and Shaphan took it to the king. He reported, “We have done everything that you commanded. 17We have taken the money that was kept in the Temple and handed it over to the workers and their supervisors.” 18Then he added, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king. 19When the king heard the book being read, he tore his clothes in dismay 20and gave the following order to Hilkiah, to Ahikam son of Shaphan, to Abdon son of Micaiah, to Shaphan, the court secretary, and to Asaiah, the king’s attendant: 21“Go and consult the Lord for me and for the people who still remain in Israel and Judah. Find out about the teachings of this book. The Lord is angry with us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord and have not done what this book says must be done.” 22At the king’s command, Hilkiah and the others went to consult a woman named Huldah, a prophet who lived in the newer part of Jerusalem. (Her husband Shallum, the son of Tikvah and grandson of Harhas, was in charge of the Temple robes.) They described to her what had happened, 23and she told them to go back to the king and give him 24the following message from the Lord: “I am going to punish Jerusalem and all its people with the curses written in the book that was read to the king. 25They have rejected me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and so have stirred up my anger by all they have done. My anger is aroused against Jerusalem, and it will not die down. 26As for the king himself, this is what I, the Lord God of Israel, say: You listened to what is written in the book, 27and you repented and humbled yourself before me, tearing your clothes and weeping, when you heard how I threatened to punish Jerusalem and its people. I have heard your prayer, 28and the punishment which I am going to bring on Jerusalem will not come until after your death. I will let you die in peace.” The men returned to King Josiah with this message.
Josiah Makes a Covenant to Obey the Lord(2 Kings 23.1-20)
29King Josiah summoned all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, 30and together they went to the Temple, accompanied by the priests and the Levites and all the rest of the people, rich and poor alike. Before them all the king read aloud the whole book of the covenant, which had been found in the Temple. 31He stood by the royal column and made a covenant with the Lord to obey him, to keep his laws and commands with all his heart and soul, and to put into practice the demands attached to the covenant, as written in the book. 32He made the people of Benjamin and everyone else present in Jerusalem promise to keep the covenant. And so the people of Jerusalem obeyed the requirements of the covenant they had made with the God of their ancestors. 33King Josiah destroyed all the disgusting idols that were in the territory belonging to the people of Israel, and as long as he lived, he required the people to serve the Lord, the God of their ancestors.–from 2 Chronicles 34
Josiah Celebrates the Passover(2 Kings 23.21-23)
1King Josiah celebrated the Passover at Jerusalem in honor of the Lord; on the fourteenth day of the first month they killed the animals for the festival. 2He assigned to the priests the duties they were to perform in the Temple and encouraged them to do them well. 3He also gave these instructions to the Levites, the teachers of Israel, who were dedicated to the Lord: “Put the sacred Covenant Box in the Temple that King Solomon, the son of David, built. You are no longer to carry it from place to place, but you are to serve the Lord your God and his people Israel. 4 Take your places in the Temple by clans, according to the responsibilities assigned to you by King David and his son King Solomon, 5and arrange yourselves so that some of you will be available to help each family of the people of Israel. 6You are to kill the Passover lambs and goats. Now make yourselves ritually clean and prepare the sacrifices in order that your fellow Israelites may follow the instructions which the Lord gave through Moses.” 7For the use of the people at the Passover, King Josiah contributed from his own herds and flocks 30,000 sheep, lambs, and young goats, and 3,000 bulls. 8His officials also made contributions for the people, the priests, and the Levites to use. And the officials in charge of the Temple—Hilkiah, the High Priest, Zechariah, and Jehiel—gave the priests 2,600 lambs and young goats and 300 bulls for sacrifices during the festival. 9The leaders of the Levites—Conaniah, Shemaiah and his brother Nethanel, Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad—contributed 5,000 lambs and young goats and 500 bulls for the Levites to offer as sacrifices. 10When everything was arranged for the Passover, the priests and the Levites took their posts, as commanded by the king. 11After the lambs and goats had been killed, the Levites skinned them, and the priests sprinkled the blood on the altar. 12Then they divided among the people, by family groups, the animals for burnt offerings, so that they could offer them according to the instructions in the Law of Moses. 13 The Levites roasted the Passover sacrifices over the fire, according to the regulations, and boiled the sacred offerings in pots, kettles, and pans, and quickly distributed the meat to the people. 14After this was done, the Levites provided meat for themselves and for the priests descended from Aaron, for the priests were kept busy until night, burning the animals that were burned whole and the fat of the sacrifices. 15 The following musicians of the Levite clan of Asaph were in the places assigned to them by King David’s instructions: Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, the king’s prophet. The guards at the Temple gates did not need to leave their posts, because the other Levites prepared the Passover for them. 16So, as King Josiah had commanded, everything was done that day for the worship of the Lord, the keeping of the Passover Festival, and the offering of burnt offerings on the altar. 17 For seven days all the people of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 18Since the days of the prophet Samuel, the Passover had never been celebrated like this. None of the former kings had ever celebrated a Passover like this one celebrated by King Josiah, the priests, the Levites, and the people of Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem 19in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign.
The End of Josiah’s Reign(2 Kings 23.28-30)
20After King Josiah had done all this for the Temple, King Neco of Egypt led an army to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates River. Josiah tried to stop him, 21but Neco sent Josiah this message: “This war I am fighting does not concern you, King of Judah. I have not come to fight you, but to fight my enemies, and God has told me to hurry. God is on my side, so don’t oppose me, or he will destroy you.” 22But Josiah was determined to fight. He refused to listen to what God was saying through King Neco, so he disguised himself and went into battle on the plain of Megiddo. 23During the battle King Josiah was struck by Egyptian arrows. He ordered his servants, “Take me away; I’m badly hurt!” 24They lifted him out of his chariot, placed him in a second chariot which he had there, and took him to Jerusalem. There he died and was buried in the royal tombs. All the people of Judah and Jerusalem mourned his death. 25The prophet Jeremiah composed a lament for King Josiah. It has become a custom in Israel for the singers, both men and women, to use this song when they mourn for him. The song is found in the collection of laments. 26Everything that Josiah did—his devotion to the Lord, his obedience to the Law, 27and his history from beginning to end—is all recorded in The History of the Kings of Israel and Judah.–from 2 Chronicles 35
King Joahaz of Judah(2 Kings 23.30-35)
1The people of Judah chose Josiah’s son Joahaz and anointed him king in Jerusalem. 2Joahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for three months. 3King Neco of Egypt took him prisoner and made Judah pay 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold as tribute. 4 Neco made Joahaz’ brother Eliakim king of Judah and changed his name to Jehoiakim. Joahaz was taken to Egypt by Neco.
King Jehoiakim of Judah(2 Kings 23.36—24.7)
5Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for eleven years. He sinned against the Lord his God. 6 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judah, captured Jehoiakim, and took him to Babylonia in chains. 7Nebuchadnezzar carried off some of the treasures of the Temple and put them in his palace in Babylon. 8Everything that Jehoiakim did, including his disgusting practices and the evil he committed, is recorded in The History of the Kings of Israel and Judah. His son Jehoiachin succeeded him as king.
King Jehoiachin of Judah(2 Kings 24.8-17)
9Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for three months and ten days. He too sinned against the Lord. 10 When spring came, King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylonia as a prisoner and carried off the treasures of the Temple. Then Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah king of Judah and Jerusalem.
King Zedekiah of Judah(2 Kings 24.18-20; Jeremiah 52.1-3a)
11Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for eleven years. 12He sinned against the Lord and did not listen humbly to the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke the word of the Lord.
The Fall of Jerusalem(2 Kings 25.1-21; Jeremiah 52.3b-11)
13Zedekiah rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had forced him to swear in God’s name that he would be loyal. He stubbornly refused to repent and return to the Lord, the God of Israel. 14In addition, the leaders of Judah, the priests, and the people followed the sinful example of the nations around them in worshiping idols, and so they defiled the Temple, which the Lord himself had made holy. 15The Lord, the God of their ancestors, had continued to send prophets to warn his people, because he wanted to spare them and the Temple. 16But they made fun of God’s messengers, ignoring his words and laughing at his prophets, until at last the Lord’s anger against his people was so great that there was no escape. 17So the Lord brought the king of Babylonia to attack them. The king killed the young men of Judah even in the Temple. He had no mercy on anyone, young or old, man or woman, sick or healthy. God handed them all over to him. 18The king of Babylonia looted the Temple, the Temple treasury, and the wealth of the king and his officials, and took everything back to Babylon. 19 He burned down the Temple and the city, with all its palaces and its wealth, and broke down the city wall. 20He took all the survivors to Babylonia, where they served him and his descendants as slaves until the rise of the Persian Empire. 21 And so what the Lord had foretold through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “The land will lie desolate for seventy years, to make up for the Sabbath rest that has not been observed.”
Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return(Ezra 1.1-4)
22In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire: 23“This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The Lord, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. Now, all of you who are God’s people, go there, and may the Lord your God be with you.”