How to avoid dying before you’re supposed to (Part 1 of 3)

good choiceThe title implies an article about tips to a longer life. You know the sort – jog between delectable meals of kale, quinoa, and 5.3 ounces of Merlot. It’s not. I’m not the guy from which you want to be taking health advice. I’ve never been considered any sort of health sage, although I do have a stake in longevity insofar as living better is part of the conversation about living longer. Even a brief good life is preferable to a bad long one.

Anyway, though I pose no “Keys to Longevity,” I do have some thoughts about a heroic Bible figure who, in my opinion, died prematurely and unnecessarily.

It’s difficult for us to admit that our heroes are flawed. I personally like all my protagonists to be good guys through and through. If someone I admire greatly is accused of sinfulness, or stupidity as the case may be, I rush to his/her defense. “It’s not what it seems,” I claimed when Superman went off the rails. “He’s being misrepresented. No way he is guilty of cheating on Lois Lane! You’ll see.” I’m even more adamant about my favorite biblical characters whose spiritual trajectory veered below exemplary.

Don’t get me wrong; when the evidence is clear that a biblical hero of mine was in the wrong, I’m willing to concede their failure – adulterous David or fickle Peter, for instance. It’s when the account is a tad ambiguous and the jury is still out on a Hezekiah, a Jepthah, or a Job; that I’m apt to find some loophole to prove their innocence. But sometimes there’s just no such proof and I have to chalk my hero’s mistake up to their flawed humanity. Sometimes even the best of people make the worst blunders. Josiah, King of Judah, is one of those people.  2 Chronicles 35:20-25

Let me be quick to say that we’re all flawed to varying degrees and in varying ways. Plus, there’s a difference between flaws of character and lapses of good judgment (that’s how I see Josiah in this story). Some character flaws, the big ones that allude repentance, disqualify a person from spiritual leadership and maybe even from eternal salvation. But I’m not aiming at that target today. We’re talking about a man, who otherwise earned the distinction of being one of the godliest men in Jewish history, and yet drew his own premature finish line and made a “fatal mistake.”

I’m not saying that we should think worse of Josiah or laud his achievements with any less conviction. He was a great man who did great things for God and his country and yet made mistakes, at least one that we know of. Though I don’t write him off or erase his historic accomplishments for his lapse of good judgment, I can’t help but identify his life-ending mistake and draw from it what I can for our own benefit.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:11-12

In other words, the successes and failures of the Old Testament characters were recorded for us who care to succeed more and fail less. And though none of us are sinless, we should all try to sin less than we used to! Anyway, on to our flawed protagonist…

Josiah became King of Judah at eight years old! I don’t know, but does that seem to you a little young to be leading a country? My biggest decision at that age was Gilligan’s Island or Andy Griffith after a grueling day of long division and recess tetherball! Beginning one’s political career at eight would normally lead to some serious therapy bills in adulthood, but Josiah earned the reputation of being one of the nation’s most spiritually powerful kings over his thirty-one year reign. His role in Jewish history was so significant that hundreds of years before he was even born he was prophesied by name to be the nation’s most famous iconoclast!

Following Israel’s darkest season, it’s no exaggeration to say that Josiah brought his nation back to God. He rediscovered the Bible, destroyed thousands of idols, reinstituted the Passover, and inspired his people to become worshippers again after the fashion of his predecessor, David. If he had lived in the modern era he’d be recognized, along with the likes of Wesley, Edwards, and Finney as a one of history’s great revivalists!

His only recorded mistake came at thirty-nine, an error in judgment which cost him his life. As bizarre as it may sound, his blunder was when he stubbornly poked his nose into a battle that wasn’t his own and, as a result, he was killed. He cut his own life short when he insisted on fighting in a battle that wasn’t his to fight. Even though he was warned to stay away, he barged in – in disguise no less – and was killed by a rogue arrow.

Indulge me to share a few lessons we might derive from the story of an untimely end to an otherwise well-lived life. Next time . . .

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