In response to some feedback on my last post, believe me, Josiah is one of my favorite guys in Scripture. I’d follow that man anywhere. Except, of course, to the battlefield where he unwisely barged into a fight that wasn’t his! I’m not dissing him or saying that his death was any sort of judgment from God. Sometimes the consequences we face when put ourselves into situations that we weren’t meant to enter have nothing to do with God. I don’t ascribe to a theology of a micro-managing God. It’s not that he couldn’t control every detail in his universe if he chose to, but that would eliminate the rules of engagement he concocted when he said, “Let us make man in our image.”
All that said, may I share a few takeaways from this obscure story of the untimely end of Josiah’s otherwise well-lived life?
Don’t disregard the counsel of the ungodly off-hand.
“What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”
Sounds to me like the Pharaoh was, in this instance, claiming to speak on God’s behalf. I have to admit that Egyptian kings are not usually thought of as the most reliable source of godly counsel in Bible times! Isn’t there something about not “sitting in the counsel of ungodly”? But does that mean the ungodly never speak truth or that we should reject off-hand advice from not-yet-Christians? Evidently no. The gist of David’s counsel in the first Psalm is, just don’t make the ungodly your only counsel.
“All truth is God’s truth,” regardless whose mouth it comes from. God uses whom he chooses and even Job’s so-called friends gave some good counsel sparsely sprinkled (very sparsely) in among all their otherwise pre-fab proposals to their suffering brother. Sometimes even bad people, like the Persian King Cyrus, can say good things!
How the Egyptian came to possess his divine leading to go to battle against the Babylonians is as yet undetermined. Did a prophet tell him or did he hear it in his own spirit? There’s no telling, but we can say for sure that this pagan king had more of a clue about God’s will that day than Israel’s great king! Josiah might have done well, if not to consider the counsel, at least to consult his prophet friend Jeremiah for confirmation. I assume that he didn’t, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to battle that day and died at the ripe old age of thirty-nine, leaving his nation in the hands of one wicked son after the other.
Before discounting advice, listen a little more carefully for the ring of truth, even when it comes from unexpected sources.
Any examples of good counsel from otherwise bad people? Any warnings of a danger here?
Don’t pick a fight with every evil you encounter.
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” Proverbs 26:17
Even though Josiah was warned to stay out of it, he couldn’t help himself but getting involved in a fight that wasn’t his. This fight belonged to Egypt and Babylon. Let them battle it out! It’s like jumping into in a gang fight between the North and South Siders. Not advisable! In other words, unless you’re called in by God to mediate as a peacemaker in a dispute between warring parties, stay out of it!
I wonder if this is why many Christians have fallen by the wayside. They got into skirmishes and causes that they were neither called to nor equipped for. God promises to help us in his causes, not necessarily in all of ours. He empowers and protects the actual players (the ones wearing uniforms), but not necessarily people who come onto the field out of the stands!
I’ve heard it said that to “fight anywhere except where the battle is currently raging is a waste of time and energy.” In other words, to coin a phrase, “Pick your battles!” Are you familiar with OCID – “Obsessive-Compulsive Iconoclasm Disorder”? Definition: a person who is obsessed with tearing down all the world’s idols singlehandedly! OK, I made it up, but I’ve met a number of these well meaning, but nutsy-nosy folks who just had to weigh in on every social issue and spiritual ill, with or without God’s permission or power (power usually comes after permission). If you are stricken by this condition, there is a prescription for it. It’s called let the Spirit do the heavy lifting and if he wants your help he’ll let you know!
Josiah, then, wasn’t fighting the wrong enemy, but he was fighting in the wrong war. Just because something is evil it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to pick a fight with it. Throughout the Bible Egypt represents the bad guys and what wrong with the world. And as promoters of the good, sometimes we’re advised to confront select pieces of the bad, Lord knows there’s plenty of it to go around. When you’re called to do something about an evil, jump in with all fours, but no one person is called to face off with everything that’s bad in the world. We can’t fight on every front. Sometimes we have to leave a battlefield or two for some else to defend!
That’s where guidance fits in. When Jesus said he could “only do what (he) sees the Father doing,” he was admitting that even he couldn’t save every puppy in the Jerusalem pound. If that’s true of the Son of God, it’s a no brainer for the likes of us. The best we can hope to do is see what the Father is doing and do it with him. Of course that can’t mean that we can do everything he’s doing in the world, because we can’t spread ourselves out like he can. He’s the only omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient around. The rest of us are just omni-incompetent and omni-stupid!
So what we have to do is be on the lookout for the particular things that the Father is intentionally doing in front of us. Those are the things he wants us to do with him. He’s doing other things and going other places, but he highlights certain problems and people where his kingdom is not being honored so we can focus our resources there. It’s in those places where our limited capabilities might just be able to collude with his limitless powers and things actually get done. And the best part of it is we don’t die in the process!
Do you have any examples of battles that we Christians have gotten immersed unwisely?