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Insight #3 October 17, 2015

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Last Five Kings of Judah" 
For the week of October 17, 2015

            Josiah stands out as the last good king in Israel or Judah’s history.  Despite a bad genetic heritage (Manasseh and Amon), and despite his young age (eight years old when he came to the throne), and despite the surrounding evil influences (idolatry, ease of kingly living, etc), Josiah was able to discern the rightness of following the true God of Israel. 
            Josiah introduced reforms including elimination of idol worship, cleansing and repair of the sanctuary, systematic benevolence, priestly and governmental organizational reforms, worship reform, etc, and all this before the age of 32!  What a statement of encouragement for our youth.  Irrespective of the surrounding influences and parental failures, you can be a powerful reformer for God.  Like Josiah, you can rise above these factors to reveal the qualities of a Christlike life through your organizational skills, your fidelity to worship of God, and a care for God’s work in the church (sanctuary) and in tithe/offerings.
            We’re also told in 2 Chron.34:2 that Josiah didn’t turn to the right or the left.  He wasn’t identified with the people or issues of conservatives or liberals, but he set his heart to “seek the Lord”.  I’m sure he had counselors and advisors and mentors that attempted to steer him to the “right” or “left”, but he said no to these imbalanced extremes and sought the Lord for truth and direction.
            Josiah led out in a period of repentance that including Bible study.  He had the priests read the “Book of the Law” to all the people of Judah, and called them all to a remembrance of their unique festivals such as Passover.  He called for repentance as the “Book of the Law” was read, and inquired from the best prophets how to bring about reforms.
            With all these reforms and with all this revival, it would seem like a foregone conclusion that the Judah would have a bright future.  But unfortunately, it appears that the revival and reformation of Josiah’s era was an old covenant revival.  Behavior was changed.  There was a desire to do right.  The worship service was improved.  Idols were removed.  Tithing and offerings were reinstituted.  But as soon as Josiah passed off the scene, the hearts of Judah returned to their former practices.  This is the eternal mark of the old covenant.  External behavioral change and reform, but when new stresses and influences are brought to bear, there is a return to old habit patterns.  The deeper motivations of the heart are revealed.
            In the old covenant, the root motivation is always a sense of obligation and requirement, rather than a love for the Lord and a love for the principles of His kingdom.  Just like at Mount Sinai, where all the people said right words – “all the Lord has said we will do” – so Josiah introduced a lot of right reforms.  But just like at Mount Sinai, God discerned the underlying issues of the heart despite the words of the mouth – “They are right in all that they have said.  Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would love and honor me,” Deut.5:28-29.  They had the right words at Mount Sinai, but their hearts were not in harmony with their words.  Josiah had the right reforms of his day.  But neither of these experiences reached the hearts of the children of Israel.
            Could we be pursuing a similar course of revival and reformation today?  With frequent calls to revival and reformation, to changes in behavior that ignore the heart, to doctrinal purity in the absence of humility and repentance, it is easy to settle for a religion of apparent religiosity – a form of godliness – but lacking in the power of a heart appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ that produces revival and reformation via the vehicle of a repentance that is generated by the goodness of God (Rom.2:4). 
            “A prayerful study of the Bible would show Protestants the real character of the papacy and would cause them to abhor and to shun it; but many are so wise in their own conceit that they feel no need of humbly seeking God that they may be led into the truth. Although priding themselves on their enlightenment, they are ignorant both of the Scriptures and of the power of God. They must have some means of quieting their consciences, and they seek that which is least spiritual and humiliating. What they desire is a method of forgetting God which shall pass as a method of remembering Him. The papacy is well adapted to meet the wants of all these. It is prepared for two classes of mankind, embracing nearly the whole world--those who would be saved by their merits, and those who would be saved in their sins. Here is the secret of its power.”  {GC 572.2}
            All old covenant revivals have this in common.  There is a desire to quiet the conscience, and human nature chooses the least spiritual and humiliating way to accomplish this.  External behavioral reforms in the absence of a heart humbling appreciation for the love of God manifested at Calvary is the most common method.  We think we are remembering Him because we are religiously active and doctrinally informed, but we are “forgetting” Him in that we’re not in love!  And when circumstances change the presence or absence of love for Jesus is revealed.  Mount Sinai – Moses not around – back to idol worship despite the best intentions of a fear motivated commitment to do all that God had said.  Reforms under Josiah – Josiah dies and bad king comes in – back to a flashy idol worship religion.  Today – are we doing better with our calls for revival and reformation.  If we get all the “issues” and “controversies” correct, and we have a uniform appearance, is it possible we could still not love Jesus.  Is it possible we could be pursuing a revival and reformation that is totally sincere and earnest, but rooted in old covenant principles and experience?
            There is a solution!  “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. . . . They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.”--TM 91, 92 (1895).
            We need revival and reformation just as did the people of Judah under Josiah.  His sincerity and energy we need today.  But may we pursue that R&R from the foundation of Christ’s “changeless love for the human family.”  And thus we can have a genuine R&R, that follows a genuine repentance, that will stand the traumas and temptations of the closing hours of this earth’s history.  The experience can start with you and I – individually – today.

~ Bob Hunsacker