2 Kings 23:26-37
Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, with which his anger was kindled against Judah…
Notwithstanding the Lord, etc. This short fragment of Jewish history reflects great disgrace on human nature, and may well humble us in the dust. It brings into prominence at least two subjects suggestive of solemn and practical thought.
I. THE WORTHLESSNESS OF UNWISELY DIRECTED EFFORTS TO BENEFIT MEN, HOWEVER WELL INTENDED. Josiah, it seems from the narrative, was one of the best of Israel's kings. "Like unto him was there no king before him." Most strenuous were his efforts to improve his country, to raise it from the worship of idols to the worship of the true God. He sacrifices his very life to his endeavors; and what was his success? Nil. "Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the Lord said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My Name shall be there. Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?" All the efforts of this noble king seemed to be abortive. But why? Because, as shown in our preceding homily, while his motive was good, his methods were bad. Instead of depending upon argument and suasion, moral influence, and the embodiment of moral goodness, he uses force. "He slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them," etc. Here is a principle in the Divine government of man. No man, however good, can accomplish a good thing unless he employs wise means. The Church of Rome is an example. Its aim, the bringing of the world into the one fold, is sublimely good, but the means it has employed not only neutralize the purpose, but drive large masses of the population away into the wilderness of infidelity and careless living. It is not enough for a Church to have good aims; it must have wise methods: not enough for preachers to desire the salvation of their people; they must use means in harmony with the laws of thought and feeling. Hence fanatical Churches and preachers have always done more harm than good. "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct." Indeed, this man's unwise efforts not only failed to benefit his country, they brought ruin on himself. He lost his life. "In his days Pharaoh-Nechoh King of Egypt went up against the King of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and King Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo." No doubt Josiah was inspired with patriotic and religious purposes in going forth against Pharaoh-Nechoh, and in seeking to prevent the march of a bloody tyrant and a hostile force through his territory in order to attack the King of Assyria. But where was his wisdom? What chance had he to hurl back such a formidable invasion? None whatever. Single-handed, of course, he could do nothing. And what help could he obtain from his subjects, most of whom had fallen into that moral degradation which robs the soul of all true courage and skill?
II. THE AMAZING INCORRIGIBILITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. Do we find that the men of Israel were improved by the efforts of such kings as Hezekiah and Josiah? Nay. They seemed to grow worse. Scarcely was Josiah in his grave before his son Jehoahaz, who was twenty-three years old, ascended the throne, and during the three months of his reign he "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord;" and when he is struck down another son of Josiah, Eliakim, who was afterwards named Jehoiakim, received the throne, and, after a reign of twenty-five years, the record is, "He did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord. Here, then, is moral incorrigibility. In all history, ancient or modern, I know no people whose doings were of a baser type. With all the lofty advantages which they had, and with the interpositions of Heaven vouchsafed to them, they seemed to grow worse from age to age. The little spring of depravity that broke forth from their great ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, seemed to deepen, swell in volume, and widen as time rolled on. It was at last a kind of Stygian stream. You can scarcely point to one pellucid wave rising on its surface. It was foul from top to bottom. How sadly have many professed disciples of Christ misinterpreted Jewish history! So much so that they have Judaized the very gospel, and made Judaism a model after which they have shaped communities professedly Christian.
1. A word to those who desire to be useful. Unless you practically recognize the truly scientific adaptation of means to ends, and understand the eternal principles by which the human mind can be rightly influenced, you will "labor in vain, and spend your strength for naught." There is no way by which coercion can travel to a man's soul, no way by which cruelties and persecutions can enlighten, strengthen, and ennoble souls.
2. A word, next, to those who desire to be benefited. You may have seers from heaven working among you, endeavoring to improve you and elevate you. But unless you yield to the influences and attend to the counsels, you will grow worse and worse. Pharaoh's heart grew harder under the ministry of Moses on the banks of the Nile; the Jewish people became worse and worse under the forty years' ministry in the wilderness, and the contemporaries of Christ filled up their measure of iniquity under his benign and enlightening ministrations. The things that belong to your peace may become the elements of your ruin. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.