Week of August 8

Steps to National Renewal

Read: 2 Kings 23; 2 Chronicles 35; John 7
“And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.”
2 Kings 23:3, ESV


“We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.” Now, how is that for a devotional wake-me-up?! I hardly wish to awaken the first thing of a morning and read that God, out of His mercy, must discipline me quite severely! Nevertheless, two of our primary passages record the fact of God’s impending judgment of Judah, and subsequent exile to Babylon. There is much to learn from their circumstances that will benefit our nation today, so we do well to take heed.

Let's See What the Bible Says

National renewal begins with an honest spiritual appraisal
Judah’s new king, Josiah, ascends the throne and initiates nation-wide spiritual reform upon finding a portion of the Law—perhaps Deuteronomy or other parts of the Pentateuch—during a Temple renovation. Josiah is so convicted when he hears God’s word read that he tears his garment. Perhaps the portion that was read was from Deuteronomy 27-28 that speaks of God’s judgment. He did what any one of us would do. He looked for someone to interpret what he had heard and the implications for the nation. He admits the nation’s sins, dreads the consequences, and hopes that it is not too late to change (cf. 22:11-13).

Huldah, a prophetess, shoots Josiah straight. I believe that our nation needs someone to speak the hard truth to us. God was about to bring disaster upon the people, just as His word had stated. However, this would not happen in Josiah’s lifetime because he had shown deep contrition and wept in God’s presence. Josiah, knowing what was coming, immediately set out to clean and purify the nation and its worship (23:1-27). He provided an example of what spiritual leaders should do as the leaders of God’s people. Our King, Jesus, did just that (cf. John 2: 13-17). Judah experienced relief from foreign oppression for a brief span of time, according to God’s word as stated through Huldah the prophetess (627 B.C.- 609 B.C.).
National renewal requires us to reject our false worship
Josiah’s reign over Judah provides us with a clear example of the pathway to renewal (cf. 23:35). He renewed the covenant with the Lord, celebrated the Passover, and purified Judah’s worship in a powerful way. The initial step toward revival began by purging entirely all forms of pagan worship throughout the land—including the priests. At the center of this reform was a dramatic act of tearing down a three-centuries old shrine that King Jeroboam had erected at Bethel. Idolatry had put down deep roots in the nation, so this king needed to take drastic steps to bring about moral change (cf. HCBC).

If we claim to want national revival, then we will need leaders (political and religious) to call for and act to end our moral malaise. Charles Finney once said, “A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.” We, who seek revival, should search for and eradicate the deepest roots of idolatry in our nation and our own lives (cf. 23:4-20). Note well, idolatry affects both people and places where it is practiced.
National renewal requires the right source
So, where do we begin to look for renewal? Notice that Josiah’s reform was not solely negative (purging). He instructed the people to observe the Passover in “strict accordance” with the law (23:21). The people gathered to observe the Passover in the 18th year of his reign in Jerusalem. It was an extraordinary celebration of the Feast (23:21-22; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

One immediate indication that there had begun to be a change was the verbal commitment of both the king and his people to observe God’s covenant and the fact that the entire nation—Judah and Israel—gathered to participate (23:3, 23; 2 Chronicles 35:18; NAC). There was no artificial effort to get people involved, such as a “high attendance Passover” promotion. These people were sick and tired of being sick and tired, so to speak.

Secondly, they gathered because they desired God’s healing (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14). We do well to follow their example, and this will begin by sincere prayer (humility) and a concerted effort on the part of Christ’s Church to practice an Easter faith!

Let's Deepen Our Walk

It has been a rainy spring in my part of the State, and this means bugs in Texas! We have needed to make several long-distance trips across the state, and my truck body and windshield became speckled with the remains of bugs that crossed the vehicle’s path. That does not sound very Larry-like in the description. How about this statement: They got smashed and the sun baked them all over the truck! Seriously, the truck needed to be washed, so I took it to a car wash, and for the tidy $18+ “Deluxe Wash,” I now have clean bugs all over my truck. Removing them will require focused effort. There is a spiritual application here.

Here is a thought for our own spiritual renewal. Andrew Murray once said, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.” Our “Christian” nation is in a period of moral rebellion that is characterized by examples including: fake news, widespread sexual misconduct, disregard for basic human rights (human trafficking), and a growing despair among the poor. We do hear cries for revival but there seems to be a general lack of awareness about how such things begin. Josiah has pointed the way for us today in our focal passage.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Revival necessarily begins with our individual lives. The way to truly make America (or any nation for that matter) great again is to humble ourselves before God. What steps will you take today to bring renewal to your life and our nation?

2. For families: We have talked much about prayer in these family applications. This is because prayer is foundational to spiritual growth. When we agonize before God over the state of our nation, He will hear us. If we ask Him in deep humility to make us clean in heart, He will do this too. When we seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from Heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Explain to your children that all of the evils and injustices of our world would be gone if we followed God’s instructions. Create a network with your family and add several other friends, neighbors, and church members. Covenant to pray once a week, together, or separately, for God to move across our nation. Pray for God to send an awakening. Many other Christians are praying for the same spiritual renewal.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock