I was raised in a Christian home. I grew up in church, served in ministries, did everything “right.” In middle school and high school I also refrained from the more blatant sins of my peers: drinking, smoking, dating around etc. Because of this, I maintained a level of pride throughout my teenage years.
I remember being encouraged and esteemed by adults around me. I received accolades at school for good grades, good citizenship, good works. I remember being told by respected adults: “You have wisdom beyond your years.” They were seeing the external, but God sees the heart (Proverbs 16:2). And though I desired to please God, I was not “gospel-motivated.” I considered my own morality more than I considered Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
I read the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22-23 thinking about this, comparing myself with him and his wisdom in his youth. King Josiah began reigning over the entire nation of Judah at eight years old. Age eight! At eight years old I was lucky to get out the door wearing matching clothes! (thanks mom). The Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about what happens for the next decade of Josiah’s reign, but we know he did not turn aside from the LORD. And we also know that for 57 years prior, the nation of Judah and its kings had not served the LORD, but instead whored after other gods. Where did Josiah get this wisdom? How did he manage to walk in the way of the LORD with no examples going before him? What affected his heart so completely that he would break a longstanding pattern of apostasy?
When he is eighteen, King Josiah sends his secretary to oversee temple repairs and while he’s there the high priest gives him the Book of the Law (it had been lost for many years). It is read aloud to Josiah.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
(2 Kings 22:11-13)
Josiah doesn’t decide to turn a new leaf of morality. No, it is the word of the LORD that cuts him to the heart. He immediately repents and calls the nation to repentance. Though he’s a young man, he listens to the law and the prophets and is blessed because of it. My good works at eighteen were largely pride-motivated, but King Josiah’s are humilty-motivated. Oh, the beauty of dying to self that I may live in Christ!
When we get to know Jesus and when we immerse ourselves in the Bible, which is God’s word, we gain wisdom. Even “wisdom beyond our years.” Allow the word of the LORD to cut you to the heart. Allow the good news to penetrate your façade of self-reliance. Then we can walk humbly together in “gospel-motivated” wisdom that will bring blessing.
Photo credit: MB Photography