Lasting Revivals and Normal Idols

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 23.10-14
10 He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek. 11 He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun. 

12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon. 14 Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.

Reflection: Lasting Revivals and Normal Idols
By John Tillman

Around the world, Christians, including myself, pray for a revival like Josiah’s in our countries. But there’s a problem…

Josiah forcefully and radically changed Israel and Judah’s religious landscape. He tore down the infrastructure of temples, altars, and idols. He put out of work or killed the personnel of priests, prostitutes, and workers. He restored true worship for the first time in generations.

Josiah’s reforms were a massive change for the nations of Israel and Judah. These changes would have affected the job market, the economy, housing, and agriculture. Josiah cleansed Israel and Judah from top to bottom, but the next generation went bottom up. The changes didn’t stick. Why?

Josiah tore down the altars on the hillsides, but he couldn’t touch the ones in their hearts. He burned and ground the symbols of false gods into dust, but he couldn’t grind down the people’s habitual addiction to their images. He destroyed temples of gold and silver, but he couldn’t melt from their minds people’s comfortable familiarity with idolatry.

We need revival deeper than Josiah’s. If we want lasting faith in the next generation and a revival beyond a few changes to architecture, we need to base it on something other than force and power. We don’t need a strong man enforcing showy spirituality, religious observance, and moral behaviors.

Rather than dictatorial destruction, we need grassroots growth. Rather than pharisaical enforcement, we need Christlike engagement. We also need to clean our own houses first and do so with honesty.

It’s easy to be judgmental of ancient people’s idols. They seem so simplistic, terrifying, or just weird. “Storm gods, sex gods, and chaos monsters, oh my. How could they believe this?” But these gods were normal to the culture. Engaging with these idols was practical SOP that promised financial ROI.

When we look for idols in our lives, we shouldn’t look for weird things. We should look for normal things. The idols of a culture don’t always dress up in flamboyant costumes. They often hide in normality and ubiquity.

The idols we find in our lives are unlikely to appear as mystical beings or golden statues or be found in shrines and altars on hillsides. But they might resemble institutions, brands, or revered leaders. They might hide among private shrines of belief, our pet sins, and our longings for comfort, safety, and control.

Lasting revivals start small. May one start now.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people. — Psalm 66.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 23 (Listen 7:43
Psalms 77 (Listen 2:12)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 24 (Listen 3:21Psalms 78.1-37 (Listen 7:12)
2 Kings 25 (Listen 5:24Psalms 78.38-72 (Listen 7:12)

Read more about Nameless Prophets
Many tales, like this one, lack obvious takeaways. However, we know that God is on a mission of reformation and restoration. The process will be painful.

Read more about The Cost of Repentance
Josiah is known for religious reforms…a leader who not only recognized sin but called it out, determined to live differently, and worked to get rid of it.

Nameless Prophets

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 13.29-33
29 So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. 30 Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, “Alas, my brother!”

31 After burying him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.”

33 Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways… 

2 Kings 23.4-24
15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things.

17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”

The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”

18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.

Reflection: Nameless Prophets
By John Tillman

It is one of the strangest stories in the Bible. 

Three powerful and frightening signs.
Jeroboam was offering a sacrifice on the altar of Bethel when the Judean man of God prophesied to the altar. At the prophecy, two signs occurred. The altar split and the ashes spilled. The third sign came when Jeroboam threatened the man of God and his hand instantly shriveled. Jeroboam repented of his threat and at the prophet’s prayer, the hand was restored.

Two nameless prophets.
The mysterious “man of God from Judah” is identified only by gender and geography. He confronted a powerful king with powerful signs. Yet, he became so hungry he made a serious error in judgment.

The “old prophet” from Samaria was unscrupulous and ambiguous. Did he attempt to save a fellow prophet from starving on the side of the road? Did he sabotage a rival prophet who destroyed an altar his family served? Where did his loyalty lie? He lies to the man of God, then lies with the man of God, side-by-side in the same tomb. His dying wish implies he meant no harm, but we can’t be sure.

One corrupt, wicked king.
God promised Jeroboam a kingdom “as enduring as the one I built for David” if he would walk in obedience. Instead, he became as corrupt as the son of Solomon he rebelled against. (1 Kings 11.34-40)

One reforming, destroying future king.
Josiah is the greatest reformer of any biblical king. (2 Kings 23.25) He is known more by what he tore down than by what he built. David fought for political peace against outer threats, armies entrenched at the borders. Josiah fought for spiritual peace against inner threats, foreign gods entrenched in hearts and culture.

The Bible is not a curriculum. Many tales, like this one, lack obvious takeaways. However, we know that God is on a mission of reformation and restoration. The process will be painful. Errors in one generation harm those following. Future generations must tear down errors before harms can be healed.

Jesus is a greater reformer than Josiah. When Jesus sets things right, they will stay that way. Are we willing to be nameless prophets, announcing the coming king? God seeks the repentant and the faithful for nameless missions whose happy endings may come after our death.

Come soon, King Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” — Luke 12.32

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 13 (Listen 5:14)
Psalms 33 (Listen 2:08)

Read more about Incomparable King and Kingdom
Scripture’s accounts of kings are focused on the only statistic that matters—righteousness.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
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The Cost of Repentance

Scripture Focus:  2 Kings 23.3
The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. (2 Kings 23.3)

Reflection: The Cost of Repentance
By Erin Newton

In the decade of being parents, disciplining our kids has been hard. Some punishments are too soft. Each kid responds differently. The message is missed. In all of our struggles to teach these little humans, we want them to understand the proper way of living before bad choices become unconscious habits.

As one of Judah’s most virtuous kings, the reign of Josiah is known for his religious reforms. Finally! The people had a leader who not only recognized sin but called it out, determined to live differently, and worked to get rid of it. The variety of statues, images, and structures destroyed reveals the wide-ranging idols the people worshipped. Their sin was not just in one area but in many. Fertility gods, gods of rain and weather, gods of the mysterious stars and planets, gods associated with death. The intensity of their sin can be seen in the vision given to one of the prophets (Ezekiel 8).

Removing these things was hard. It took time, incredible effort, and the cooperation of others. Can you imagine your way of life being uprooted? The Israelites were in error but they were comfortable in that state. Suddenly, change created a sense of uncertainty, shame, or fear. They began to let go of their idols. Instead of cultic prostitution and sexual gratification, they needed self-control. Instead of homes filled with shrines, their possessions were destroyed. Instead of working to produce idols or cultic objects, they had to start anew, doing work approved by God. It was good and right but equally difficult and hard.  

Jesus knew the price that must be paid to truly repent and avoid sin. “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” Matthew 5:30. I wonder how many one-handed people walked the streets of Israel during that time.  

How far will you go to remove sin in your life? Can you cut off your hand? What does that look like today? Maybe it is confessing sin to a trusted, mature believer. Removing facets of technology to prevent further struggles with pornography, lust, greed, or jealousy. Setting boundaries with contentious believers to protect the fragility of peace. Whatever it may be, the cost is worth it. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. — Psalm 71.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 23 (Listen – 7:43)
Hebrews 5 (Listen – 1:57)

Read more about Rumors or Repentance
When someone critiques you and calls you to repent, what will you do? Will you dismiss them with a rumor… with violence…or will you listen…?

Read more about A True Example of Repentance
Individuals, companies, leaders, and even industries wish…the benefits of repentance without the moral investment…the caché of repentance without the change it brings.

Praying Through Ancient Hymns :: Worldwide Prayer

*Our devotionals for the next week and into the following week will focus on prayer. May this prayer and prayerful hymn, prepare our hearts.

Reflection: Praying Through Ancient Hymns :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

This prayer from Australia is interspersed with verses from William Henry Draper’s hymn “All creatures of our God and King.” 

Draper’s hymn, written around the turn of the century in 1899 and widely published in 1919, is a loose translation/paraphrase of one of the most ancient hymns of the church. The text is taken from Saint Francis’ Canticle of the Sun written in 1224, near the end of Francis’ life and amidst suffering from illness. Parts of Canticle are based on Psalm 148.

It seems much of the most profound art in the church was originally intended for children. This hymn is one example, being penned and set to music for the purposes of a children’s celebration before gaining its immense popularity that has seen two centuries of use in worship.

May we then, with childlike faith, approach God’s throne as Francis would have us do—as brothers and sisters, united through the Holy Spirit with each other, with nature, and with Christ, nature’s Maker and Lord.

*If unfamiliar with the hymn or tune, you may find lyrics and tune in this video.

A Responsive Song of Praise
From Australia

Creator of all, we praise your name. Large and small, important and insignificant, plain and beautiful, all are part of your Kingdom.

All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice with us sing,
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thou burning sun with golden beam, thou silver moon with softer gleam.
O praise Him, O praise Him.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Creator of wind, clouds, and the evening, we see your love of beauty and order.
We bring our heartfelt thanks for the beauty of the skies.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong, ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice.
Ye lights of evening find a voice, 
O praise Him, O praise Him.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

For humankind, the crown of your creation we pray for wisdom and peace.
May there be peace with brothers and sisters, black and white, rich and poor, powerful and weak.

And all ye men of tender heart, forgiving others take your part,
O sing ye, Alleluia.
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, praise Him and on Him cast your care.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Creator, sustainer we magnify your wondrous name. You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, We worship you as Lord and King, we worship you as companion and friend, we worship you as leader and as servant.

Let all things their creator bless and worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him, Alleluia!
Praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit three in one!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

*Song: “All Creatures of Our God and King” – recording by David Crowder Band

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life and will nor allow our feet to slip.— Psalm 66:7-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 21 (Listen -4:06)
Hebrews 3  (Listen -2:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 22 (Listen -3:45), Hebrews 4 (Listen -2:43)
2 Kings 23 (Listen -7:43), Hebrews 5  (Listen -1:57)

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Read more about Praying as Music
If music is a universal language, prayer can be similarly described. Prayer is humankind’s universal language of love to God. — Dr. Tony Cupit

Read more about We Confess :: Worldwide Prayer
When we call others to confession, we ought to be inviting them to join us, not sending them somewhere we’ve never been.