Sometimes I don’t know how to respond to the narrative of the Old Testament. The reign, peak, and fall of the reign of Josiah in 2 Chronicles is at once tantalizingly hopeful and seeded with despair.
Here is a king who finally gets it. He loves righteousness and hates evil. He destroys all remnants of idols he can find around the kingdom. When he hears word that the law given through Moses has been recovered in the temple, he is stricken with grief and calls for its immediate translation and implementation in the land. The law, which the kingdom has neglected, will be ignored no more.
He throws a huge Passover feast, the likes of which haven’t been seen in ages, since the time of Samuel. Everything is good. The people have repented, God’s law is being exacted in the temple, the king has his head on straight.
Enter, battle scene:
After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah.
What twisted injustice is this? Things were finally going well for people and then the only righteous guy around is killed for his own insolence. Josiah’s finally mistake was trusting that his reign and kingdom would last forever—and more, that it was his reign. The following chapters frustratingly outline the further decline of Judah. Another high and disappointing low in the saga of the Israelites.
So where is God in this?
Infinitely more frustrated, to be sure. But still patiently weaving together the perfect storyline behind the scenes, giving His people just one more chance.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing.
Though His people again and again reject all approaches to be reunited in ceremonial law, to abide by His perfect arrangement, He once again prompts and nudges them back in the right direction.
The Wisdom and Patience of God draws my heart in. Hallelujah!