Leave It to Beavis
2 Chronicles 34:1-8
Dr. Jim Denison
In May of 1993, a television show premiered on MTV whose name I cannot repeat in a sermon. You know the title: Beavis and . . .
Beavis and his “associate” aired through 1997, though reruns are still being shown. The show dealt explicitly with teenage issues such as drug abuse, sexual identity, and violence at school.
Contrast Beavis with Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, the star of the Leave It To Beaver show. This now-classic sitcom aired from October 4, 1957 to September 12, 1963, and has been in reruns for 40 years. The parents were Ward and June; the brother was Wally. Friends were named Eddie, Larry, Whitey, and Lumpy. The Cleaver family dealt with problems such as bullies at school and getting a date for the prom.
Which is more true to life today, Beavis or Beaver Cleaver? What does God’s word say to our “leave it to Beavis” world?
This weekend we honor our high school graduates, as do churches and communities across our nation. Youth number more than one billion in our world. And theirs is one of the most significant seasons of life.
The psychologist Erik Eriksen described eight stages of human development from birth to death. In each stage, a person is confronted with a challenge unique to that stage. Eriksen called stage five “puberty and adolescence.” The primary task in that stage, according to Eriksen, is to develop identity, to define who we are.
This process does not end when we leave high school. We spend the rest of our lives determining our identity, our basic purpose in living. So here’s my question for our graduates in particular and the rest of us with them: who will you be when you’ve become who you are?
I want to offer you a role model this morning, with the passionate prayer that you will follow his example today.
What God can do with just one person
In the year 640 B.C., Josiah became king of the nation of Judah when he was eight years old. His father, King Amon, was so corrupt that his own court officials assassinated him in his palace, and put his young son on the throne in his place. Not an encouraging start to one’s administration.
But young Josiah made the right self-definitional decisions, setting a direction for his life which would change the destiny of a nation.
As a child, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David” (v. 2). He chose to follow the example of his godly ancestor.
Then, when he was sixteen years old, “he began to seek the God of his father David” (v. 3). This phrase means that he made his faith personal. He chose for himself a passionate commitment to Jehovah God.
And when he was twenty, he put his faith into courageous practice. Despite overwhelming popular sentiment, he purged the nation of the idols and pagan images which had polluted its soul (vs. 3-4). He banished the idolatrous priests which had corrupted its spirit (vs. 4-7). These moves infuriated the mighty Assyrian nation which threatened Judah’s future, but the resolve of this young king could not be shaken.
And even more significant greatness lay ahead.
At age 26, in the year 622 B.C., Josiah commissioned a massive renovation of the Temple in Jerusalem (vs. 8-13). The Temple chambers, so long neglected and in ruins, were cleaned out and repaired.
In the midst of the work, Hilkiah the priest found the “Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses” (v. 14). We call this the book of Deuteronomy. Written in 1406 B.C., it had been lost and forgotten for most of 800 years. Imagine finding a part of the Bible which had been for the most part ignored since the time of King Arthur.
When King Josiah read this rediscovered book, “he tore his robes” in personal repentance (v. 19). Then he acted boldly on this repentance.
The king sent his priest to consult with the prophetess Huldah, who warned them of imminent divine wrath because of the nation’s unspeakable sinfulness (vs. 22-28).
In response, this young king called together the leaders of the entire nation. He climbed up to the rebuilt temple and read Deuteronomy to them personally (vs. 29-30).
He pledged his personal obedience to this revelation from God: he would “follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul” (v. 31).
He led the entire nation to pledge themselves to this covenant with him (v. 32).
The result? “As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers” (v. 33). And the nation was saved.
But this young king wasn’t finished. In gratitude for God’s forgiveness, he led the entire country in observing the Passover, a religious ceremony which had been neglected for generations. Here’s how successful he was: “The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem” (v. 18).
Unfortunately, Josiah’s life did not end well. In self-sufficient pride he led his army into battle against the Egyptian Pharaoh, and was killed by an archer’s arrow.
But here’s how the nation felt about their young king: “…all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him. Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the men and women singers commemorate Josiah in the laments” (vs. 24b-25).
When Israel remembers her history and her greatest kings, among her most revered leaders is the young man who saved his nation. This is the story of Josiah.
Now, what does his story say to ours?
Who will be Josiah today?