Saturday, March 24, 2012

Comparing Jehoram with Josiah

Last week’s blog was about a pitiful King named Jehoram whom the Bible records this way, “[King Jehoram] was thirty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

The humiliation of Jehoram’s burial was due to his horrific rule that prompted the people to rise up against him. This is truly tragic when we learned that his grandfather and his father paved a way for him by ruling a total of 66 years with authority and might, with great love for God. His father brought peace to its borders and faith to its people to God’s delight. All Jehoram had to do was to imitate and continue on. But he failed miserably.

This week, I contrast King Jehoram with King Josiah.

Josiah lived at a time after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The people of Judah saw the destruction of their northern brothers at the hand of the Assyrians and were shaken. Prophet Isaiah was there to declare that the Assyrians were being used as God’s divine judgment against the faithless Israel. Their defeat was God’s own doing. And now, Judah must respond rightly or meet the same fate. Sadly, the people of Judah and her kings refused to take heed. Led by false prophets, they said, “It won’t happen to us!” Judah’s destruction came 130 years later.

In those 130 years, there were a total of eight kings in Judah. The first was Hezekiah, contemporary to Prophet Isaiah and was good, but he finished badly. After him came his bad son, Manasseh. His 55 years is marked by the removal of Jehovah God from the country and replacing it with a plethora of foreign cults. The Temple at Jerusalem was rededicated to another deity and a portion of it was actually used to house and operate shrine prostitutes! He ruined the country during his 55 years of reign, and when his son, Amon came to power and followed his evil ways, the officials rose up and assassinated him.

Then came Josiah. Evil Manasseh was his grandfather. Terrible Amon was his father. You might say that Jehoram and Josiah come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Jehoram came with great expectations. Josiah came with ugly baggage. Johoram’s life came on a silver platter. Josiah’s life came with holes and dents. “There goes that #$&*% Manasseh’s grandkid and @*&%$ Amon’s son! What can he do?”

Josiah could have accepted the low expectations placed upon him. But then I wouldn’t write about him now. He was simply amazing. During his 31 years of reign, he repaired the Temple with the intent to revive the Jewish religion. And when the Torah is discovered, and the reading of it revealed the promise of blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience, he caused the whole nation to repent and turn to God. King Josiah stirred up the nation to a dynamic wave of spiritual renewal! He created a national movement toward God! He destroyed all foreign cults from the land, restored the Temple fully and revived the religious celebrations throughout the land! That was a glorious time!

And this spiritual revival of the nation occurred because of this one man, Josiah. For a man who came into power with so little expectations, he held fast to his God and rose above mediocrity to become a great man of God. And so he is Jehoram’s complete opposite.

Some of us might say, “Not me. I am not good enough. God can’t use me because I am too broken. I am worthless. I am bad.” Look at Josiah. And look beyond him to the God that raised him up and filled him with boldness and with power. And God is there with us. But it requires our mindset to never accept the inner voice that discourages but turn to the divine voice that declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

And with these two kings, we have a full spectrum to identify with. For those who have been wonderfully blessed in all ways, the call of God is to use it fully for God’s glory! Don’t squander it away. And for those who come with great baggage, who feel you have very little to offer, allow the power of God to sweep you under and with your determination and God’s strength, be like Josiah!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2 Chronicles 21.20 (Life of Insignificance)

“None of us knows when we will die. But any one of us, if we wish, may select our own epitaph. I have chosen mine. It is, I should confess, a somewhat haunting thing to think about your gravestone while you are vitally alive. Yet there it is, a vivid image in my mind and heart, standing as both a glorious inspiration and an epic challenge to me: 100X.

It means 100 times. I have taken it for myself from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. I’m an entrepreneur, and I want to be remembered as the seed that was planted in good soil and multiplied a hundred fold. It is how I wish to live. It is how I attempt to express my passions and my core commitments. It is how I envision my own legacy. I want to be a symbol of higher yield, in life and in death.

Saint Augustine said that asking yourself the question of your own legacy—What do you wish to be remembered for?—is the beginning of adulthood. That is what I have done by writing my own epitaph…what about your epitaph? What have you been given, and what will you do with it the rest of your life?” (Bob Buford, Half Time, 1994)
Bob Buford wants to be known for how well he lived his life for God – that with what he was divinely given, he hoped to multiply it a hundred-fold for God’s glory. That’s a very high goal indeed. But not everyone lives that way.

In 2 Chronicles 21.20, it states, “[King Jehoram] was thirty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” King Jehoram was the crown prince for 32 years of his life and then became king over the nation of Judah for eight years. He grew up in privilege and power, but when it was all said and done, there was not much to write about. And so the Bible records simply that “he departed with no one’s regret.” No one regretted his passing! I am flabbergasted. I wrote on the side of my Bible next to this text: “Life of Insignificance.” That's because Jehoram had so much going for him.

Let me tell you more about King Jehoram. His grandfather was King Asa and he reigned for 41 years. For all his ups and downs, he was still declared good in God's eyes. His son, and Jehoram's father, Jehoshaphat took over and he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. For his faithfulness, he was blessed with a long reign of 25 years. During Jehoshaphat’s glorious reign, he strengthened Judah and brought fear to her neighbors. He amassed great wealth and power, right faith and peace in the land. And he proudly left it all for his first son, Jehoram.

And so Jehoram had it all; it was as if life came to him in a room-sized silver platter. Being the first born, he was born as the crown prince, heir apparent, prepared and groomed to be the next king. His grandfather had established faith and worship in the land. His father added to it by extending the borders and establishing peace. Jehoram was given all this blessing with the expectation of his people and of his God to do something great!

For all of that, we are left disappointed: “he departed with no one’s regret.” 

He had a great opportunity to make a difference, and he dropped the ball. He had everything! And yet, he accomplished nothing of worth. He had lived a “life of insignificance.” We weren't the only ones disappointed wit him. We read that his own people viewed him with contempt: “They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” How sad is that…

And we must turn that table to ourselves. How are we doing? First thing we must ask is, how blessed is our life? How much have we been given? We must begin with recognizing the generous hand of God in our lives. And the second thing we ask is, so, with what has been given to us, how are we doing with it? Is there a multiplication of our "talents," or have we simply buried them in the dirt? (Matthew 25, Parable of the Talents).

2002. Cemetery on a hill at Kyrgyzstan
God has prepared us. He has groomed us. He has given us all that we need to excel. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to make a great difference, to make our lives wonderfully significant, to make a world-sized impact for Christ! How amazing is that?

For all my American friends, we have been given so much. We have the freedom to practice faith. We live in the richest country in the world. We have opportunities that the world only dreams about at night. So what are we doing with all of that? Are we living a life of purpose and significance?

So what’s going to be on your epitaph? How will people remember you?