II CHRONICLES 35:22-24: “Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Have you ever been disappointed with the end of a really good movie? You were riveted all the way through the movie and then in the closing scenes you said – “What?” What just happened? What was the writer thinking? Is it too late to get a refund?
I feel this way when I read the story of the death of Josiah. Just previously I reveled in the celebration of the Passover that he led Judah in observing. The record says that it was a celebration unlike any of the other kings, unlike any since the days of Samuel. Wow – this even included David! Josiah was “point on” with his devotion to the Lord. He had returned to the Lord with all his heart, restored worship at the Temple, rededicated himself and the Nation of Judah to the Covenant, and celebrated the Passover. Now, in the closing scenes he gets shot with an arrow and dies. “What”?
As disappointing as the end of this story is, it is filled with a couple of great lessons. The first one is “life happens”. There are really no “Hollywood Endings” – except in Hollywood. If we try to live our lives with an unrealistic script we will always be disappointed. We will always be looking for a refund. This life is temporary. This life is filled with both victories and disappointments. In the end – “life happens”. Solomon declared – “I returned and saw under the sun that — The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 NKJV) We must learn to trust the Lord in “all things”, not just the things we script for our lives.
The second lesson is that God is always trying to speak to us and guide us. He does this in many ways. We must not limit the guidance of the Lord to only our preferred and prescribed ways. God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. This was not a normal means for God to speak. Now God tries to speak to Josiah through Neco, King of Egypt. Neco told Josiah that he was not coming to attack Judah, that he was passing through to fight with someone else. Josiah did not believe him. He did not recognize that God was speaking to him through the mouth of a Gentile king. So, Josiah disguised himself, went out to battle, was shot, and died.
Now we can be really hard on Josiah. But before we begin to judge him too harshly we should ask ourselves – “Have I ever missed the voice of God?” Josiah was not in rebellion against the Lord. Josiah had not fallen into sin, worshipping idols and profaning the Temple. Josiah was simply trying to defend his nation. Granted, he did not enquire of the Lord regarding this attack. This was his downfall. But, how many times have we also made this mistake. Do we always have a perfect batting average when it comes to praying before we act?
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels and God uses us in all of our imperfections. He has given us the full account of the lives of the saints that went before us for both our comfort and our instruction. We need to take comfort that those who served the Lord before us were not superheroes. We also need to take heed concerning the areas where they were tripped up and try not to make the same mistakes. God gives His Grace and Forgiveness to all those who cal upon Him. He knows we cannot do this perfectly, but the Holy Spirit is always there to illuminate, guide, and restore! I am both bummed out about the final chapter in Josiah’s life – and at the same time greatly encouraged.
Lord, thank You for Your grace, patience, and love. Thank you that You are always trying to speak into my life, to guide me into Your will, and to keep me from veering off course. When I fail to hear Your voice, when I don’t recognize Your voice, You do not abandon me. You draw me back to Your heart. You wash me and cleanse me through the Blood of Christ. You fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit. You lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake! This morning, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart of understanding. In Jesus Name!