Devotions for November 23-29, 2015
2 Kings 22:1-10, 23:1-3
Monday, November 23, 2015
“He did what was right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the way of his father David” (2 Kings 22:2a).
Evan sat in the worship service with his wife and two young daughters. He looked around at the gathered congregation. These people had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember. Evan had been baptized in this congregation and he had affirmed his baptism in front of the altar. He was still a member of this congregation and bringing his family to this church because of the people. Ms. Summers had been his fourth grade Sunday school teacher and had taught him stories from the Bible. Mr. Gardner had been his confirmation mentor and had talked to him about being a man and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Evan had been helped by Pastor Connors, who had been pastor of the congregation for the past fifteen years, when he had gone through some tough times. The people around him had shared their faith and nurtured his faith.
Josiah was eight years-old when he ascended the throne of Judah. At that tender age, the historian noted that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. His father and grandfather hadn’t been men who had followed the Lord. They were noted for being wicked and unjust kings. Perhaps it was Josiah’s mother who had nurtured him in his faith. This might be why she was listed in this historical record. It may have been other courtiers, also. We do know that Josiah’s commitment to worship the Lord and the Lord alone didn’t just happened. Adults passed on the faith to him.
We have a great responsibility to our children and the children around us. We are the ones from whom they will learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and what a generous, serving lifestyle looks like. We don’t need to all sign up to be Sunday school teachers. We can nurture the faith of the children and youth by taking and interest in them, encouraging them as they learn and serve and being role models for them—just like the adults in our lives when we were children did for us. We have been blessed and we have the opportunity to be a blessing.
Nurturing Lord, thank you for all those people whom your Spirit used to nurture our faith and encourage us in our walk with you. Use us to nurture the faith of the children around us so that they too are able to experience the joy of your love and grace in their lives. Amen.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
“He did not turn to the right or the left” (2 Kings 22:2b).
Little Jamal Warner loved to go hiking with his parents. They would walk along the trail while Jamal ran ahead or lagged behind. Jamal would sometimes stray from the path and study things that caught his attention—a flower, a rock, a bug or any number of things. One time in one of his excursions away from the travel Jamal got lost. Both he and his parents were scared as they looked for each other. Once they found each other Jamal’s parents insisted that he stay close to them. That request lasted until their next hike.
Life as disciples of Jesus Christ has often been compared to walking along a path. The Holy Spirit guides our steps and walks with us on our journey. We are tempted, though, at times to wander off the path. The glitter of the world may distract us. Our rebellion might propel us off the path as we try to find our own way. There are times when we hesitate to follow the Spirit because we do not like where the Spirit is leading us. Still, as disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to take the next step of faith and to follow.
Young King Josiah is a role model for us. He neither turned to the right nor to the left. He was focused and committed. Josiah encountered obstacles and experienced resistance, as we will in our lives, yet he continued to walk the path and to follow.
O Divine Guide, enable us to trust you and follow you without hesitation or distraction. Amen.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
“Let it be given into the hand of the workers who are at the house of the Lord repairing the house” (2 Kings 22:5).
The magnificent temple that had been erected by King Solomon had fallen into neglect. Several kings who had followed idols and false gods had ignored the temple and had used the temple’s funds for their needs rather than those of the temple. King Josiah sought to remedy the situation. He was devoted and committed to following the Lord. In order to nurture his faith and the faith of his people he knew that he needed to repair and keep up the temple.
There are times when we get too busy to attend to our temple. Our temple—God’s presence in our lives—is always with us, but we neglect it. We fail to read the Scriptures devotionally or to study them. Prayer becomes haphazard in our lives. Worship might even be neglected.
No matter how long we neglect the temple in our lives, it remains with open doors inviting us to enter. When we respond to the invitation we encounter God’s loving embrace, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace. It is as if we had never been away. Entering the doors of our personal temple we begin to realize what we have been missing.
Ever Present Lord, forgive us when we ignore you. Turn us around. Call to us, draw us back to you and embrace us with you love. Amen.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
“When the king heard the words of the book of the law he tore his clothes” (2 Kings 11:11).
The temple wasn’t the only thing that had been neglected. The religious practices and celebrations that were a part of worshiping the Lord were neglected, also. This became apparent to King Josiah when a lost book was discovered in the temple. Scholars believe that the book was at least a portion of the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy contains the Ten Commandment, several additional laws and instructions for the celebration of several holy days. When the book was read to him, Josiah tore his clothes—a sign of sorrow and repentance.
Josiah had already been describes as a king who did what was right in the sight of the Lord and he did not veer to the right or to the left. Still, when Josiah heard the words from Deuteronomy, he realized that something was wrong. Things needed to be corrected. Ignorance was not bliss.
The Holy Spirit is active in our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Even though we may love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are not perfect, nor will we ever be in this life. The Holy Spirit reminds us of this just as the Spirit did with King Josiah and the people of Judah. The Spirit convicts us of our sin showing both our need for a savior and our need for confession, repentance and forgiveness. Little by little our lives do take on God’s image and our words and actions more clearly convey God’s love and grace.
Divine Creator, create within us clean hearts and renew right spirits within us. Amen.
Friday, November 27, 2015
“The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah” (2 Kings 23:2).
King Josiah was not alone in his walk before the Lord. He was a member of a community—the people of Judah. Knowing this Josiah called all of the leaders of Judah and the people of Judah to accompany him to the temple of the Lord. Together they entered into God’s presence. Together they confessed, repented and were forgiven.
Too often we see our lives of faith as solitary quests. We become focused on nurturing our faith, on sensing God’s presence in our lives and in coming before God with prayers on our behalf. We, however, are not “only children.” We are members of God’s family and we have brothers and sisters around the world. As part of God’s family, God encourages us to move our focus off of ourselves and on to others. Together we grow in faith and service as we pray, support and encourage each other.
Loving Parent, be with our brothers and sisters. Enable them to grow in their love and commitment of you. Anoint their ministries so that their lives may honor you and serve others. Amen.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
“The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord” (2 Kings 23:3).
Eduardo and Linda stood in front of the altar of the church. Their family and friends sat quietly observing the proceedings. Eduardo and Linda had been married for twenty-five years. On their anniversary, they stood with their pastor as she led them in a renewal of their wedding vows—their commitment to each other. It was not something that they had to do, but rather something they wanted to do. They wanted to assure each other that they still meant every word that they had spoken and vow that they had made twenty-five years ago.
Renewing our commitment to live as disciples of Jesus Christ can be a profound experience. Our Jewish brothers do this by repeating the Shema twice a day. “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord your God is one, and you shall love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Every morning when he arose Martin Luther would make the sign of the cross upon himself and remind himself that he was baptized and a recipient of God’s great grace. Each instance was a way to recommit their lives to the service of the Lord. A new day has begun and a new opportunity is given to us to live our lives in response to God’s grace and recommit our lives to our loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
O Lord, we have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us. [Empower us so that] the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:19-20). Amen.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
“The king commanded … to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah” (2 Kings 3:4).
The temple had not only been neglected it had been used for the worship of other gods beside Yahweh. A good temple cleaning was in order. King Josiah commanded that all the vessels that had been used to worship Baal and Asherah be thrown out and destroyed. A new day was dawning in Judah, the king and people had recommitted themselves to worship the Lord and nothing was going to detract from the worship or get in its way.
Sometimes it’s good for us to clean our “homes,” too. Over the weeks, months and years the dust of regrets, mistakes, failures, grudges and the like have built up. A few idols have found their way into our lives that distract us and keep us from fulfilling our desire to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. The Holy Spirit is able to bring light to even the darkest corners of our lives and show us what needs to be removed.
We have been given a new life and we are invited to experience that new life in all of its abundance and freedom.