Our continuing meditations on the ‘Silent Generals’, whose stories have been recorded in scripture for our learning, brings us to this fifth instalment. What lessons can we glean from their examples?
- JOSIAH: THE CHILD REFORMER
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkat. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” – 2 Ki. 22:1-2
What were you doing when you were eight years old? Josiah didn’t have the luxury of childhood indulgence; he became a king at a very young age. The second verse summarises the life of this king: “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, … not turning aside to the right or to the left.” The previous chapter tells of the legacy that Josiah was coming from and that makes the summary of his life all the more inspiring. His grandfather Manasseh was one of Israel’s worst kings. Josiah’s father, Amon, did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. That Josiah started well and didn’t turn aside from the Lord shows what the grace of God can accomplish. When the Book of the Law was found and the words read to him, Josiah tore his robes in repentance. God spoke through the prophetess Huldah and promised to hold back the punishment for the nation’s disobedience because of the king’s humble repentance. According to the law, every king had to have a personal copy of the law to read for themselves. It was also to be read to the congregation of the children of Israel (Deut. 17:18-19; 31:9-11). These the young king did and he also renewed the covenant to follow the LORD and keep his commands (2 Ki. 23:1-3). All the articles made for Baal and Asherah, Josiah had them removed from the temple and burned. The high places that were dedicated to other gods he desecrated.
The Bible records that, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Ki. 23:25). That was the first and greatest commandment fulfilled.
The bad precedence and example of his parents, Josiah didn’t corrupt himself with. The foolishness that is normally bound up in the heart of a child was not found in him. Childhood, power and money are an explosive combination but not with Josiah. Solomon had said, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!” (Eccl. 10:16). Josiah turned that woe on its head. He was a reformer. Paul says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for all believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). That’s exactly what Josiah did. When you know how difficult it is for a leader to effect reforms, the kind of opposition they face from people who benefit from the status quo, you will appreciate what this young man did.
What about you? How old are you? You were a child at eight and nobody expected anything from you then, but what about now? Are you a teenager, nay, a 20, 30 or 40-year-old and you’re still sagging your trousers? How old do you think Jesus was when he went about the work of redeeming the world? If you cannot order your life, who will give you others to lead? The little opportunity for power and money that you have, do all the girls and bars in town know you because of your prodigality? Do you have the courage to cause change for God where he has placed you or are you following the status quo? Who will reform your society if not you? Arise and be a Josiah.
- MICAIAH: SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
“But Micaiah said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says.’” – 2 Chron. 18:13
Being alone can be a terrible thing. A journey is always easier when it is shared. When Daniel was in exile in Babylon, one of the blessings he enjoyed, which I am sure must have eased the challenges he faced, was the company of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The prophet Micaiah didn’t have that luxury. All the prophets in his day had commercialized their calling. His was a lone voice in Israel.
King Jehoshaphat of Judah had visited his ally, King Ahab of Israel. Jehoshaphat agreed to Ahab’s request to accompany him (Ahab) to war but first asked for an enquiry to be made of the LORD. As one man, the other prophets were predicting success for the king. Jehoshaphat sought for a second opinion and Ahab reluctantly sent for Micaiah, not without first saying he never prophesied anything good about him. The servant who was sent also asked Micaiah to concur with the words of the other prophets. His response was the key verse above.
When he arrived, Micaiah sarcastically told the king what he wanted to hear but deep down, the king knew that was not the message. When Ahab asked again, Micaiah didn’t mince words; he told the king the LORD’s message. A sycophant among the prophets, Zedekiah, slapped Micaiah for daring to speak differently. The man of God was not deterred; he held on to the truth in the face of physical bodily harm. Ahab ordered that Micaiah be locked up in prison till he returned safely from the war. Again, in the face of prison, Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me” (2 Chron. 18:27). Ahab died in battle according to the word of the LORD spoken by Micaiah.
There is a saying that every man has a price, but Micaiah couldn’t be bought; he spoke truth to power. In the face of physical bodily harm and prison, he spoke the truth. He didn’t water down his message just to be in the good books of those that be. You need to be close to some clergymen to know the power and influence that political patronage wields on the preaching of many. Speaking truth to power may sound from a distance like an easy thing to pull off, until you are face to face with power and tyranny. If it were easy, everybody would do it and there would be few sycophants and bootlickers. But that’s what Micaiah did.
What about you? Can you, like Micaiah, speak the truth in the face of danger? O preacher, how much is your gospel worth? What amount of money will you be offered to play to the gallery? Whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever you do, can you speak the truth and damn the consequences? Don’t rush to say yes when you still lie to people over the phone about simple, inconsequential things like your location. The church and the world need Micaiahs. Be one.
- JESUS’ FEMALE DISCIPLES: SUPPORTERS OF THE MINISTRY
“Also, some women were with him. They had been cured from evil spirits and various illnesses. These women were Mary, also called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, whose husband Chusa was Herod’s administrator; Susanna; and many other women. They provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples.” – Luke 8:2-3 (GW).
One of the questions we don’t usually stop to ask is how Jesus paid his bills and those of his disciples. They had left their trades to follow him so they were his responsibility. Once when he was accosted for not paying taxes, he asked Peter to go to the lake and throw out a line. The first fish to be caught was to have its mouth opened and a coin found to use in settling their taxes (Matt. 17:24-27). Clearly, Jesus had financial obligations to meet. But it was not everyday that a coin was found in a fish’s mouth.
The passage above tells us about some women; Mary, Joanna, Susanna and others unnamed, who “provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples.” Joanna was particularly well-placed. It is interesting that the spouse of Herod’s close aid would be among the Lord’s disciples. Mary, also called Magdalene, had seven demons cast out of her. It looks like they pooled their resources together and supported the full-time, itinerant ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Their support must have come from their gratitude for the salvation that was theirs in Christ.
While in Bethany at the home of Simon, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. The people who were there thought it was waste, saying the perfume, worth more than a year’s wages, could have been sold and the money given to the poor. They valued philanthropy more than Jesus. The Lord defended her, saying she had anointed him in preparation for his burial (Mk. 14:3-9).
When Jesus was arrested, all his disciples fled. Peter dared to follow but from a distance. When he was confronted, he denied knowing Jesus. But the women hung around. When he was crucified, they were there, watching it all (Matt. 27:55-56). On the day that he resurrected, it was these same women who were the first to visit the tomb (Matt. 28:1). They reported their findings to the male disciples. Peter and John went to the tomb and found it just like the women had reported, but they returned home. He who has been forgiven much, loves much, so Mary Magdalene persisted. She stood at the tomb crying until the Lord appeared to her. How about being the first to see the resurrected Christ? And the first to preach the resurrection? Mary. “I have seen the Lord!” she later told the disciples. These women were followers of Christ, head and all. They gave everything.
What about you? In this period where everywhere is locked down, I hear you mocking churches who still request for offerings from their members. How else should the full-time staff on your church’s payroll be catered for? Don’t say what you have is too little; these women were not wealthy. The most expensive and precious things in your life, on whom do you expend them? Let no ‘alabaster jar of oil’ be too expensive for you to break and pour out on Jesus. Following Jesus was a risky endeavour; ask the man who was healed of blindness and attempted to speak positively of Jesus. He was thrown out of the temple. If it wasn’t dangerous, Peter wouldn’t have denied him; the other disciples wouldn’t have fled.
Are you a lady, what challenge can you draw from these women in your following Jesus? Even when men fled, they showed immense courage to stay. They were not fair-weather disciples; they followed him till death and beyond. How far are you willing to identify with Jesus?