THE CHOICE FOR 2024:
REPEAT OR RENEW?
PART 2: MOVE WITH, OR AGAINST, THE HOLY SPIRIT
I want to tell you the story of one of the greatest kings of Old Testament Judah: Josiah.
He came to the throne as a young boy of 8 (2 Kings 22: 1) after the long 50-year reign of his grandfather, Manasseh (2 Kings 21: 1) and the very short 2-year reign of his father, Amon.
Now Manasseh was considered a king who did “evil” in the sight of the Lord. He was a king who ignored Yahweh and followed the disgusting gods of the nations around him – Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech. Josiah’s father, Amon, was a “chip off the old block” and followed in the ways of Manasseh.
Josiah, wisely guided by Hilkiah, the High Priest of God, turned back to God, overturned all the evils of his father and grandfather, destroyed all the altars to other gods, called the people of Israel to return to Yahweh (see 2 Chronicles 34 for more on this), and (his greatest work) restored the Temple and its worship and the festivals of God’s people – especially the feast of Passover. In all these things he did so well. Through his faith in, and trust of, God, he turned the fortunes of the nation around.
We are given this accolade of his life:
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22: 2)
And yet, we read this of his last act in life:
29 While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Necho faced him and killed him at Megiddo. 30 Josiah’s servants brought his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father. (2 Kings 23: 29-30)
What on earth went wrong?
Let’s get a bit of historical context to help us:
The year is 609 BC and Josiah had been king since 640 BC. Throughout his long reign the dominant power in the area had been Assyria – an incredibly powerful and violent empire. For much of this time Judah had been an island in the sea of Assyrian control. The northern kingdom of Israel had long been overwhelmed, and even mighty Egypt was under their sway. But, throughout Josiah’s reign Assyrian power had been waning. The “new kid on the block” was Babylon and Assyria was being pushed back on all fronts. Egypt sent its army north, marching through Judah, in support of Assyria against the Babylonians under Nabonidus…
…and Josiah decided to march out against the Egyptians to stop them joining the Assyrians.
Why on earth did he do this???
Politically, although independent, Judah had been paying annual tribute to keep the Assyrians “sweet” and “off their backs”. Josiah would not have wanted Assyria to win against the Babylonians. I guess that he decided that if the Egyptians could be stopped, then the Assyrians would be defeated, and Judah would be completely free of bondage.
Humanly speaking this all made sense. And I am sure that Josiah thought this all through. However, what is clear he did NOT do was…consult God on the matter. Josiah acted on his own initiative, basing his strategy on his own wisdom.
This is not the plan that God had in mind. God, through the prophets had declared that Assyria would be destroyed – for example, God through Nahum (1: 14) says:
The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.”
Did God tell Josiah to do His job for Him? I think not!
God also declared through Habakuk (1: 6) who was prophesying at the same time as Josiah was king that:
I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.
So, when Josiah went out to fight the Egyptians, did he think that he was “helping God out”?
Nowhere does it intimate that Josiah had sought the will of God in this matter.
In fact, the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 35: 21-22 states this:
Necho sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”
22 Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.
We can be forgiven for our cynicism to the assertion made by Pharaoh Necho that God had commissioned him to go to war. He would say that, wouldn’t he? But, the writer of Chronicles, inspired by God Himself declares that Necho was acting and speaking at God’s command.
Josiah should not have gone out to battle against him.
Josiah made a mistake. He acted on his own human understanding of what should be done…and he paid for this with his life.
Oh, how we need to learn the lesson of Josiah! A deeply spiritual man, yet he moved against the Spirit rather than with the Spirit. He did not listen to what God was saying. And if he can make this mistake…then so can we!
Let us return again to the work of Jonathan Cahn who picks up (I believe) on this theme in his work, “The Book of Mysteries” and Day 4:
He took me to an open desert plain. It was a windy day, so windy it was almost violent.
“Come,” said the teacher. He was asking me to walk against the wind’s blowing. So I did.
“What is it like to walk against the wind?” he asked.
“It’s a struggle,” I replied.
“In the language of Scripture,” he said, “the word for wind is ruach. But it has another meaning; it also means the Spirit. In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is the Holy Wind. So what happens if you walk against the wind?”
“It creates drag. It becomes harder to walk and you get tired.”
“in the same way,” he said, “when you walk against the Spirit, it creates a drag on you life. Everything you do becomes harder. It takes more energy to do less. So when you go against His Spirit, you’re fighting against the Wind. And you can’t walk against the direction of the Wind without getting weary and worn out.”
“And what way is the direction of the Wind, the Spirit?”
“The Spirit is the HOLY Spirit. Therefore, it blows in the direction of the holy, and blows against the direction of the unholy. Now try something else. Turn around and walk back, the same way you came.”
So I did. I was now walking in the direction of the wind’s blowing.
“And what was that like?” he asked.
“It was much easier,” I said.
“That’s because there was no drag,” he said. “You were walking in the direction of the wind. And the wind helped you walk. It moved you ahead. It made your walking easier. So when you walk against the wind, it creates drag. But if you turn around, then the wind gives you power. So it is with the Spirit. If you turn, if you change your course, if you repent, if you walk in the Spirit, then the drag will disappear. Then the Spirit will empower you and will move you forward. And then everything you do, that you must do, will become easier.”
“So if you walk in the Spirit,” I said, “life will go from being a drag to a breeze.”
“Yes,” said the teacher. “For those who walk in the Spirit, the Wind is at their back.”
Let us learn the lesson of Josiah. Let us learn the lesson of Ruach.
As we journey through 2024, let us lay all that we do, all that we plan to do, all that we say, everywhere that we are called to go, in front of God. Let us ask His Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us – as He has promised:
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14: 15).
the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14: 26).
when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16: 13).
I am asking for us all to be wise in this. I am not suggesting that this year we ask God which colour socks we should wear when we get up from bed! But I am suggesting that we make it our New Year decision to wait on the Lord and to seek His guidance in all the important decisions that we have to make every day – so that we might walk WITH the Holy Spirit and not AGAINST Him.
Almighty God, our loving Father, has given us the presence of His Holy Spirit in order to guide us through our lives. Let us this year move WITH the Holy Spirit and not AGAINST Him.
One question remains: HOW do we ensure that we are hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and so walking with Him rather than against Him?
The answer is the same as that given over so many weeks now:
· Wait upon the Lord – spend time with Him and listen to Him (Isaiah 40: 31)
· Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5: 18).
· Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5: 17).
· Be guided by the Word of God (Psalm 119: 105).