II Chronicles 34:29-33
Then the king sent word and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. The king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin pledge themselves to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem acted according to the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors. Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel, and made all who were in Israel worship the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD the God of their ancestors.
In this passage of 2 Chronicles, King Josiah reads the found book of the covenant to all the people gathered. The people of Judah were unfaithful and Josiah desired they turn back to God. Josiah, who became king at 8 years old, was 26 now and after he ordered the Temple cleaned out they found this lost book of the covenant. When Hilkiah the priest read it to Josiah, he wept and tore his clothing. He had found the direction from God he needed…he now had the words to give direction to his people.
He wasted no time calling everyone together. He read the book of the covenant in front of all of them. Beginning with himself (as it should be!), he recommitted himself to living for and following the Lord. He called all the people to respond in kind, and they did.
But what he did next, while overlooked by many of us, made all the difference in keeping the people faithful all the days Josiah reigned. Josiah knew something in the 7th century BC about psychology and success in faith that many of us never master: recommitment requires action if it is to be lived successfully.
First, after the recommitment of the people, Josiah REMOVED all the abominations in the land. Anything that would come in between the people’s commitment was taken away. The law of subtraction was at work. I see the value of this discipline everyday, especially in my own life. While it may seem trite, the simplest example that quickly comes to mind is my New Year’s diet. There is no way I can follow through on it if I stock my house with things that are not on my healthy menu. If I fill the house with junk…I will eat junk. The same is true in our spiritual lives, there are things we need to remove to grow closer to God and live faithfully. For some of us, we have to remove certain relationships (maybe friendships or dating relationships). For others of us, we have to remove practices or addictions. The bottom line is this: we can’t follow through on our commitments if we don’t take time to examine what obstacles need to be removed from our lives.
Second, Josiah made all who were in Israel worship the Lord. At first glance, we can take this at literal value. I like that. But I also like the idea that Josiah knew that just “removing” things would not be enough. Some THING also had to be ADDED TO our lives of faith. The practice of worship, journaling, daily prayer, Bible reading, small discipleship groups, etc. are all examples of things that can be added to our lives of faith. What do you need to ADD to your life that will better enable you to live into your commitments to God and others?
The next time you think about the commitments you struggle to follow through with, examine your life to see if you have removed the things that limit you. Then, take it a step further and see what you need to add to your practice of faith to live fully into your new commitment of life and faith.