Ever since Landon was a baby, I have asked the Lord to make my son a better man than his father. It has been a simple, consistent prayer of mine for him, and I believe it will bear corresponding fruit when he is a man on his own. We all want our children to miss the mistakes that we made when we were young. We also want them to experience the depths of satisfaction that we have experienced in Christ. We desire for our children to be anchored in their own fruitful relationships with God. Personally, I am much more intentional in praying for Landon and Alicia in the area of their soul-needs than I am for their future temporary, earthly needs. In America, Christian parents can fall to the temptation to gauge the success of their children’s lives by how well they perform athletically, how solid of an education they receive, the awards they win, their physical appearance or even the career path they choose after their education is complete. All of those things (and more) are worthy of our investments, but they cannot be the core of how we invest and assign value to our children’s lives. As parents who walk with the King, more than anything else, we desire our children to find their own satisfying, meaningful stride with Him. For a couple of weeks, I have been focusing on a godly young man in the Old Testament whose own father failed him miserably in this area. Yet, Josiah still came out as a winner.
King Amon was Josiah’s daddy. Here are some summary statements about Amon from the bible:
“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt.” – 2 Chronicles 33:22
“He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to Him.” – 2 Kings 21:22
Josiah’s grandfather, the father of Amon was King Manasseh. According to the bible, Manasseh was even worse than his son:
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years…He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed…He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put my Name.’ In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger…Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” – 2 Kings 21:1-5
2 Chronicles 33:9 – “Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”
Jewish traditional teachings hold that it was Grandpa Manasseh who ordered the execution of the prophet Isaiah by sawing him in half- he was a prophet slayer. So, Josiah’s father and grandfather were abysmal men. They were godless, horrific examples of leadership in the Kingdom of God. They were not absentee fathers, they were fully present and actively evil. Josiah spent the first eight years of his life with the direct influence of either one or both of these men. His grandfather died when Josiah was six. His father was murdered two years later. Neither his father nor his grandfather ever offered one prayer to Yahweh on behalf of Josiah, asking Him to make the young boy better than his father. Josiah was spiritually abandoned to a heathen culture that had long buried the mention of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There was no bible for young Josiah. There was no holy worship of God, no humble reverence and no loyal obedience modeled for him.
There was only a God-marked heart beating in the young boy’s chest. That heart would belong to God for all of Josiah’s days.
When Josiah ascended Israel’s throne as a third-grader, nobody could foresee what would come from him. As he grew older, he began to discern the overt corruption that his father and grandfather had instilled in Israel. Like a sanctified wrecking ball, Josiah began to reform the nation by tearing down false altars, cleansing the temple, evicting the false priests, and repairing the house of worship. At age twenty-six, Josiah’s rebuilding of the temple led to the discovery of the scrolls containing Moses’ Law (those scrolls were the equivalent of our bibles). Josiah had these scrolls read to him and, upon hearing what the Law declared against Israel’s sin as a nation, Josiah tore his royal robes and repented on behalf of the nation over which he reigned. His reformation work grew more intense after he summoned the entire nation to hear the reading of the newly discovered Law. He called the nation into open repentance and covenant with Yahweh. Then, Josiah reinitiated the celebratory observance of Passover. The bible declares that the Passover under Josiah’s rule was the greatest ever held in Israel. Josiah went on to lead the people of God in loyalty to Him until Josiah was thirty-nine years old. The godly king died on the battlefield and was buried after a life of courage, reformation, loyalty to God and honor to the Word. Josiah finished well – so well that the scriptures say of him, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” (2 Kings 23:25)
There is no horizontal reason why Josiah should have succeeded. No godly influence came from his male examples in his life. His culture was infected with the most heinous sins imaginable in that day. The bible had been hidden for decades in some dusty room in the temple. Yahweh was not merely forgotten by the people, He had been functionally replaced with the pornographic, violent worship of Baal, Molech and Chemosh, the demonic gods of the pagans. Carved idols of these entities were erected in the temple. Every person in Israel lived according to their own desires, with no expectation of commitment to the Lord. This was the culture into which an eight-year-old king emerged. If he followed the paths of his father and grandfather, nobody would have been surprised.
But Josiah didn’t do that.
He walked in an unprecedented loyalty to the God that his fathers had refused.
And God was pleased with Josiah.
So, what is my point? It is very simple and very short: we cannot blame anyone or anything for the distance between ourselves and God. Frankly, everyone reading this post (including the one writing it!) are as close to the Lord as we desire to be. If there is distance, it is because we have chosen it. If there is intimacy, it is because we have desired it. None of us are in a cage. We have been freed to walk with the Almighty. We are walking as closely as we currently choose. We will walk with Him as long as we desire. Yes, He is sovereign, but God partners with us in such a way that we actually determine the nearness we experience with Him. He always remains in the same place. He is always willing. His arms are always open to deeper embrace.
Nobody helped Josiah. It may be that nobody is helping you. Yet, we are without excuse.
Josiah’s story proves that nothing can stop the child who prioritizes oneness with the Father.
Nothing can stop that.
Nothing can stop you.