Do you ever feel like you are a firefighter? Is your day spent running from place to place “putting out the current fire?” Sometimes I get to the end of the day and I am exhausted from all the running I have done, and realize that I have only sat down for a quick bite to eat at lunch! But did I make my day profitable for the Kingdom? Am I concentrating on the “urgent needs” and forgetting what is truly important?
As I read through the accounts of the leaders of God’s people in the Old Testament, I noticed some key phrases that defined the leaders who were righteous in the eyes of the Lord. Each leader, as he began his rule, had a choice to make: he could continue in the ways of his predecessor, or he could forge his own path.
we have seen in many Christian homes the plaque which reads, “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). These words were given to the people as Joshua was about to die. He was their faithful leader after Moses died, and now he knew that he was leaving them also. He wanted them to continue in God’s ways. When the people say that they will serve the Lord (vs. 16), he reminds them, “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” (vs. 20). The people reaffirm to Joshua that they will serve Him (vs. 21), and then he gives them wise advice, “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23). The word “incline” here means “to lean toward; to have preference for.” He wants to charge them to be faithful, even after he has passed, and lean their hearts toward God, let their preference be to almighty God in Heaven, and not the foreign gods all around them.
Next we have the time of the judges. What we read time after time during these years is that the people would honor and serve God as long as the judge was their overseer. As soon as the judge would pass on, the people would fall back into sin. “But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways” (Judges 2:19). I don’t think that this is too different than what we see today. We tend to respond differently if we know that someone is watching our every move, don’t we?
He was only eight years old when he became king, and we read, “And he did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, [16 years old] he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:2-3). Josiah then put men in charge of repairing the house of the Lord. As the work progressed, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the Law in the house of the Lord (vs. 14). The book was given to Shaphan the scribe, who in turn gave the book to the king (vs. 16). King Josiah was so upset that the people had not been following these words, that he tore his clothes. Through Huldah the prophetess, the king then learns that because he had humbled himself before God, tore his clothes, and wept, the Lord had heard him (vs. 27). So then Josiah makes a stand, “Then the king stood in his place 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 with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.” (vs. 31-32) So, to summarize King Josiah’s reign: he did right in God’s eyes; walked in the ways of his father David; began to seek God; was told God’s law; humbled himself; made a covenant to keep God’s testimonies; then made all in Jerusalem to stand with him. As king, he had authority to decree this (remember King Darius in Daniel 6:7). What a noble king!
In 2 Chronicles 19, we read about this king of Judah. In verse 3, it says that when Hanani the seer met with the king, he told him, “But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Ashteroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God.” Jehoshaphat also set up judges in the land and charged them with these thoughtful words, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.” (vs. 6-7). He then concludes this charge by saying, “Act resolutely, and the Lord be with the upright.” (vs. 11).
Notice that God, speaking through the seer, knew that Jehoshaphat had “set his heart” to seek Him. We can’t hide anything from the Almighty! He knows if we are simply “talking the talk” or truly “walking the walk.” Hebrews 4:12-13 reminds us, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Understanding that God knows this about us, we need to do frequent “heart checks.” Is what I am thinking pleasing to Him? Did I shine as a worthy light for God today? Do my goals always point me in the direction of Heaven?
This is another king who purposely focused his path. His story is told in 2 Chronicles 27. We are told, “So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 27:6). Jotham basically “took charge” of his life and the direction that he wanted it to take. He put in order the way he wanted his future to take. Isn’t this what God still expects of us today? “…and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27. Even though our lives may seem to be just a vapor (James 4:14), we have a purpose, and the ultimate goal of eternal life and giving glory to God.
I heard a startling statistic this week that prompted this lesson: The number one cause of death in the world for people ages 15-49 is suicide (click here for source). ) This was so disheartening and sad to hear. How can there be so many people who don’t feel that they have a purpose for their life? How can so many disregard the gift of life God has given them? Sisters, this statistic reaffirmed to me that we need to spread the message of hope whenever we can. Show those around you that your life is one of service and dedication to God, and that you have a noble purpose for your life and family. We can be an example of those who DIRECT their lives, SET their hearts to seek God, and ORDER their ways to do the will of God. People really do crave structure in life, and not simply drifting through their days following one whim after another. Let’s learn from these ancient leaders and humble ourselves and live for the honorable purpose of being a good and faithful servant. “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will be established” (2 Chronicles 20:20). Our thoughts and actions should be purposeful and planned, not haphazard. Just as you set your alarm to wake you each morning, “set your heart” each day to give glory to God. Let us always be ready to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) and strive for our home in Heaven. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
By Robin Martin
Robin and her husband Randy are members at the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, MN, where Randy ministers as an elder. They just celebrated their 30 year wedding anniversary! They have seven children, four of whom have married Christian spouses, giving them eight grandchildren. Robin enjoys running her in-home licensed daycare, teaching the baby and toddler classes for the church, leading ladies’ devotionals, and has had the privilege of speaking at Ladies Days in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa. She loves to sew, quilt, cook, host events, and spend time with her family and friends!