So first Josiah opened his heart and mind to God’s Word. Then he responded to God’s Word, making a covenant with, or a promise to God. But he didn’t just stop there. Josiah made himself available to hear God’s Word, he committed himself to God’s Word, and then he acted upon God’s Word. The next 25 verses talk about all the ways King Josiah helped his people get back into the habit of following God. He tore down the idols—idols are things or people or ideas that take the place of God in our hearts and minds—and he kicked out the false priests who were using the people for their own selfish ends and leading the people in the wrong direction. Not only did Josiah get rid of the things that were taking the people away from God, he also brought back the practices that are designed to help the people remember God. The Israelites had a special meal called Passover which helped them remember how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to freedom. This is kind of like our communion where we eat and drink particular things together in a particular way to help us remember how Christ died and rose to rescue us from slavery to sin and bring us into freedom.
So you can see how as a young man, King Josiah was an example to his people in speech, conduct, love, faith, purity, and it all started because he made himself available to hear God. But he didn’t just stop there, he responded to God’s Word, and finally, he acted on it. He lived it out. He was what James calls “a doer of the Word.” When I read this history about King Josiah, I am encouraged and challenged to be like him: opening my eyes and ears and heart and mind so I can see and hear God in the Bible and everywhere!… reading the Bible, and then acting upon what it says.
And I want to challenge you in the same way. You know, you’re lucky. You’re really lucky because you have adults in this room who love you and believe in you and have high expectations for you—and that’s rare. Most adults outside of this church and outside of your families have pretty low expectations. They don’t think very highly of your generation… or mine! You know what they’re saying about us? They’re saying we’re too distracted to be smart or do anything important because we’ve got cell phones and iPods and spend too much time online. They say we’re lazy. They say we’ve all got ADD. They say we don’t really care about anything but ourselves and that we don’t really care about our Christianity… And it’s easy to believe what “They” say. It’s easy to just be like, You know, whatever. If they think I don’t care about anything, then why should I care? But I don’t have low expectations for you. Your leaders don’t have low expectations for you. We know you’re valuable and passionate and capable. We see your great potential, the potential God has uniquely created in you.
And because I believe in you, I’m gonna let you in on a secret. You want to know how you can understand this Book better than ever before? Read the whole thing. Some people probably think you’re too young to handle it, but I think they’re wrong. You can do it! And I promise you, if you do, it’ll change your life forever. You know why reading the whole thing is the best way to understand it? Because it isn’t just a collection of histories and poems and letters and instructions. It’s a collection of histories and poems and letters and instructions that all have One Big Message. When we read just bits here and bits there, it isn’t very easy to see how everything fits together into One Big Message. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with some of the pieces in your living room and some of the pieces in your kitchen and some of the pieces in your friend’s house down the street! It’s pretty difficult to get the whole picture that way.
But when you read the whole Bible, especially if you do it in a relatively short timeframe like a year or so, then you get the whole picture in the same room; you get the framework that holds the whole picture together. When you read the whole Bible, you begin to see the same themes and concepts and messages over and over as they’re woven through the histories and poems and letters; and the lightbulb comes on: Oh, this is a really important part of what it means to be a Christian. Or, This is what Church is supposed to be about… Or, This is who God is.
Here’s a plan to help you. I know it isn’t January 1st, but that’s okay. Start with today’s reading (and then if you want to, go back and do the one’s we’ve missed when you’re scheduled to read Leviticus ;)). Use this plan. I dare you. [Yes, you, reading this blog post.] If you read something that doesn’t make sense or brings up some questions or makes you angry, ask your leaders about it, or your parents [faith community]. That’s what they’re here for—like how Josiah asked Huldah for help in understanding God’s Word—we aren’t supposed to do life and our relationship with God on our own. Don’t let this life-changing opportunity pass you by.