Sunday, November 9, 2014

King Josiah, Consequences, and Love

(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

By some standards, this isn't a particularly "Christian" blog. I don't rant about the unending fires of Hell, or dwell on cheerful thoughts like this:
"...The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you...."
(Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards (1741))
That's because it's not 1741 any more, and I'm Catholic. I've talked about the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, and Mark Twain, before. (December 1, 2013)

As a Christian, I agree with Simon Peter:
"Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

"We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
(John 6:68-69)

Authority and Consequences

I became a Catholic after learning who holds the authority my Lord gave Peter. (September 13, 2014)

As a Catholic, I have to believe that God wants each of us to seek, know, and love Him with all our strength. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1-3)

That's why God sent my Lord to live as one of us, be tortured, executed, and then stop being dead. (Catechism, 484-486, 638)

I also must believe that God creates a good and ordered universe: and didn't make a horrible mistake when creating us. Humanity, and each of us, is basically good — but since our beginning, we have lived with the consequences of our first parent's willful disobedience. (Catechism, 289-299, 388-409)

Baptism isn't so much a matter of washing a dirty soul, as restoring life to a spiritually dead one. (Catechism, 1213-1274)

Since two of our six children died before getting baptized, I'm particularly interested in the "baptism of desire." That, and the "baptism of blood," are — another topic. (Catechism, 1257-1261)

Joy and Elizabeth weren't baptized because they died before birth. My wife and I were preoccupied each time, and I've been over that before. (May 3, 2010)

"And He Found it Very Good"

"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed - the sixth day."
(Genesis 1:31)
That's after Genesis outlines God's creation of everything: "the heavens and the earth," and humanity. (Genesis 1:1-31)

Genesis?! I'm a Christian — and a Catholic — so I take the Bible very seriously. It's 'in the rules.' (Catechism, 101-133)

But I don't consult Sacred Scripture when my computer is on the fritz, and I understand that scientific discoveries are an invitation to "even greater admiration." (Catechism, 283)

Truth cannot threaten an informed faith, and poetry isn't science. (September 21, 2014; July 18, 2014; September 21, 2014; October 13, 2013)

Like everyone else living today, I'm called to seek God: but wounded by sin. I need help. That's where my Lord comes in. (Catechism, 763-766, 771, 1949)

I can decide to seek God and act as if following God's will matters: or not. But I can't work or pray my way into heaven. (James 2:26; Catechism, 1704, 1730, 1815, 1987-2016)

Sin — deciding to act against reason, truth, and a right conscience — is real. It is an offense against God, and a very bad idea. It's not that I could hurt the Almighty. The problem with sin, deliberately turning away from God, is that it can result in my being permanently separated from my Lord: in Hell. (Catechism, 1033-1037)

God doesn't send anyone into Hell: but nobody's dragged, kicking and screaming, into Heaven.

As long as I'm alive, I can decide that my offense was wrong: and ask God to forgive me. (Catechism, 1849, 1851, 1861)

God forgives sins. It's a fairly straightforward process: but there's more than just saying 'I'm sorry.'

After that, I have work to do: fixing, as far as I can, the damage done to myself, to others, and to my relationship with God. (Catechism, 1422-1470)

Acting against reason, truth, and a right conscience, has consequences. It's not that God 'gets even' with folks who sin. Ethical principles are woven into this creation. When we act against those principles, we get hurt. (Catechism, 1472, 1950-1960)

"...Our Written Obligations"

King Josiah lived about 2,650 years back. He "pleased the LORD and conducted himself unswervingly just as his ancestor David had done." (2 Kings 22:2)

Judah's two preceding kings, Manasseh and Amon, had other priorities. Manasseh "...immolated his son by fire. He practiced soothsaying and divination, and reintroduced the consulting of ghosts and spirits...." (2 Kings 21:6)

Amon's reign was more of the same. By the time Josiah became king, Judah was a mess. Among other things, the temple in Jerusalem was in bad shape.

Josiah ordered a massive repair and restoration project, which uncovered a long-ignored document:
"When the king had heard the contents of the book of the law, he tore his garments

"and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah:

" 'Go, consult the LORD for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found, for the anger of the LORD has been set furiously ablaze against us, because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.' "
(2 Kings 22:11-13)
I tend to remember Josiah's words in my own dialect – something along the lines of "we had a written contract!" or "we had a deal!" — with God the Almighty — and violated the terms.

No wonder that King Josiah was upset. He understood the consequences: which is why he paid attention to what the prophetess Huldah said.

Briefly, there was no avoiding penalties for offenses committed by the two preceding kings. That's just the way things work. But since Josiah reacted as he had, God delayed the consequences.

Love and Forgiveness

" 'But to the king of Judah who sent you to consult the LORD, give this response: "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: As for the threats you have heard,

"because you were heartsick and have humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard my threats that this place and its inhabitants would become a desolation and a curse; because you tore your garments and wept before me; I in turn have listened, says the LORD.

"I will therefore gather you to your ancestors; you shall go to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the evil I will bring upon this place." ' This they reported to the king."
(2 Kings 22:18-20)
King Josiah's efforts at restoring terms of the covenant seem harsh by today's standards. We've learned quite a bit in the last 26 centuries: and still have much left to learn. (October 26, 2014)

Josiah was buried "in his own grave" in Jerusalem, after falling in battle at Megiddo. (2 Kings 23:29-30)

That isn't going "in peace" by today's standards: but I'm quite willing to see Josiah's life and death as a fulfillment of God's promise. As I said earlier, forgiveness is real: but so are consequences.

Judah's next king returned to the low standards set by Manasseh and Amon.

Several centuries later my Lord came into this world: not to condemn the world, but to save it. (John 3:17)

God loves sinners: and wants us to stop sinning. The 'punishments' we experience as the result of our actions are a consequence of our ignoring ethical realities — and opportunities for us to learn charity and detachment. (Romans 5:8; Catechism, 226, 1424, 1472-1473, 2544)

Bottom line, God doesn't have anger management issues:

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