In my last post, I discussed King Josiah and how his reign compares to America's last political season. Josiah was the King of Israel who is known for one thing: bringing revival and reformation to the nation (2 Kings 22 - 23 & 2 Chronicles 34-35). He was a young man who had a zeal for God. He burned with desire to see his nation restored to holiness. The King before him - Manasseh - was the most wicked King Israel had ever known. Ruling for 55 years, Manasseh sacrificed so many children to his false gods, the bible said he, "filled Jerusalem from one end to other" with their blood (2 Kings 21:16). When Josiah begins to rule as king at only 8 years old, he sets his heart to be like King David, and determines to turn his nation back to the living God. He rebuilt the temple of God in Jerusalem, tore down the high places built for idolatrous worship, celebrated a lavish Passover, and made a covenant with God that the nation would worship only Him.
God's heart was moved by Josiah's desire to return God's nation back to righteousness (2 Kings 22:19-20). From the outside looking in, it appeared God's blessing had fully rested on that land: the temple was buzzing with worship, idols were torn down, covenants were cut with Yahweh, and Josiah established righteousness & reformation for 31 years. But it was in the midst of that seemingly blessed environment that the Lord raised up the prophet Jeremiah to reveal His plans for coming judgment. Why then and why judgment? Because of the devestatings sins of the previous generation.
2 Kings 23:25-26 tells us, "Now before Josiah, there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to tall the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him". But then the horrible reality follows in verse 26: "Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah because of all the provocations with with Manasseh had provoked Him."
2 Kings 21 records these provocations of Manasseh. The Living Bible says, "He rebuilt the hilltop shrines that his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He built altars for Baal and made a shameful Asherah idol, just as Ahab the king of Israel had done. Heathen altars to the sun god, moon god, and the gods of the stars were placed even in the Temple of the Lord—in the very city and building that the Lord had selected to honor his own name. 6 And he sacrificed one of his sons as a burnt offering on a heathen altar. He practiced black magic and used fortune-telling, and patronized mediums and wizards. So the Lord was very angry, for Manasseh was an evil man, in God’s sight. 7 Manasseh even set up a shameful Asherah idol in the Temple—the very place that the Lord had spoken to David and Solomon...16 In addition to the idolatry which God hated and into which Manasseh led the people of Judah, he murdered great numbers of innocent people. And Jerusalem was filled from one end to the other with the bodies of his victims."
For all of Josiah's reforms, for all the revival that he attempted to bring, Josiah's 31 years of righteousness were not enough to outweigh the 55 years of Manasseh's wickedness. So God raised up Jeremiah to warn the people, to call them into righteousness & repentance, because it wasn't just Manasseh whose sinned must be judged - the people of Israel, although living in an hour of great revival and reform, had not "turned to God with their whole heart, but in pretense (Jeremiah 3:10)." It wasn't enough to replace the King and change the laws of the land - the people's heart didn't follow.
Jeremiah had one of the most difficult jobs of any prophet in the Old Testament, prophesying 40 years of gloom & doom during a time of blessing. Imagine having to stand at the doors of a thriving church - a church that had once seen the dark days of demonic worship in it's very building, but was now back to worship of the One True God - imagine standing at those doors to carry out the message that judgment was coming. It would seem laughable! It would seem like false prophecy! It would seem like this prophet had lost his mind. I can almost hear the worshippers walking past him on their way to the temple saying, "What's wrong with Jeremiah? He has majorly missed the prophetic word! Look at this temple! We have torn down idols and reestablished true praise! Our laws are built around God's laws. Our nation's leaders have recognized God above all else. Jeremiah is flat out crazy." At first, his warnings would have simply appeared odd and out of place. But then month after month, his words continued and soon, his words were annoying. Then, his words continued year after year and now, well, now he simply must be silenced.
And this is exactly what the people did. Church tradition tells us that Jeremiah was stoned to death for bringing his message of repentance to the masses. Although there is no record in scripture of his death, the bible is clear that the people, yes - even Jeremiah's own family - despised him for it. Imagine receiving this warning from God in prayer as Jeremiah did: "Even your own brothers, your own family, have turned against you. They have plotted to call for a mob to lynch you. Don’t trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak. Don’t believe them (Jer. 12:6)." This message would cost him his family, his reputation, his freedom - as he was thrown into prison for it - and it quite possibly cost him his very life.
I don't know what hour of history we are in currently in, but it is clear from the chaos around us that the hands of the clock have moved and the hour of Josiah is closing. The state of the church in our nation is only proof that, unless wide spread repentance is offered, we are in a lot of trouble. Barna's recent survey on the state of the church in America said that while 51% of American adults said they have a biblical worldview, only 6% of these individuals actually hold this worldview.
Barna came to this conclusion because the majority of this group's answers clearly fell outside of the “biblical worldview”. For example, of the 51%, 49% said that reincarnation was a possibility after they die. Additionally, only 33% said they believed that “human beings are born with a sinful nature and can only be saved from the consequences of sin by Jesus Christ.” Although we had laws put in place under Trump that greatly helped the church's civil liberties, laws cannot change the spiritual bondage that is present in the hearts of nominal Christians in our land. It is this very deficiency in basic biblical truth among those that call themselves Christians that is leading our nation further away from God's blessings. Because of this, judgment in some form or fashion is upon us. Although we may not feel the effects enough to disrupt our world right now, I do believe it is coming.
But that means Jeremiahs are coming, too.
God will not leave his church or this nation without a clear representation of His voice (Jer. 7:25). Don't be surprised, then, if Jeremiahs start standing at the gates of popular worship initiatives, movements, and denominations with a clarion call on their lips, "Get oil in your lamp, church! Pursue holiness of heart! Repent. Return. Watch and be found ready." But another call is going out to us, as well - a call to be the Jeremiahs of our day. To answer that call may cost us our popularity, our instagram likes, our job, or even our lives, but it will be worth the cost if we are found weeping for the things God weeps for and standing for the truth God proclaims. God longs to save people and to save a nation on the road to destruction, but even saving people or revival cannot be our goal. Our goal must simply be obedience to Him. As God told another prophet in Ezekiel 2, "Whether they listen or not (for remember, they are rebels), they will at least know they have had a prophet among them." This is the cost a a prophet with an unpopular message: They may not listen. They may not like it. But obedience to God will be our reward.
It's time to get right with God, church. It's time to return to sound doctrine, Christ-centered theology, and a gospel that is centered on repentance & the power of the blood of Jesus. It's time to come out from among the fads and fashions of modern day Christian culture & be found ready for whatever may come our way. It's time to count the cost. It's time to be a Jeremiah.