Taking a Stand (Part 2)
In Part One of this article, we examined the culpability of the church in its failure to be salt and light in a morally disintegrating and dying world. Principally, this was seen as the spiritual dereliction of Christians whose faith and walk with God was so compromised so as to provide little to no spiritual restraint to the world’s growing moral degeneracy. I would now like to examine a narrative from the Old Testament which I believe can inform, challenge and encourage us in taking a stand for righteousness in a culture that has summarily disallowed God and withstood righteousness from every institution in the land.
(Please read 2 Kings 22, 23:1-25 for context)
One of the singular most egregious failures of the contemporary church is its affinity for copying the world’s methods in its efforts to counter, neutralize and defeat godless beliefs and behavior while winning the lost to Christ. Yet, the Scriptures clearly tell us that “…though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” The New Living Translation expresses the same verse this way: “…we don’t wage war with human plans and methods.” Additionally, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds.” We can plainly see in God’s Word that we are to prosecute a spiritual battle, not an earthly or carnal one. Once again, we are told that we are not fighting against “…people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” Our battle is a spiritual battle and must be fought with spiritual weapons that are effectual in the heavenlies.
In the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the church in Ephesus regarding spiritual warfare, he counsels believers to don the necessary spiritual armor that they will be able to withstand in the evil day and then to take a stand. The Ephesian 6 passage reads like this in the Amplified translation:
Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. So stand firm and hold your ground… (emphasis mine)
Behind all evil, all unrighteousness and all that opposes God and his eternal purpose in Christ, are demonic hordes overseen and directed by Satan, the god of this world. There is no natural wisdom or strength of man that can effectively counter the demonic instigations originating in the pits of hell. If we are going to succeed in overcoming Satan’s resisting of the Gospel and the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, it is imperative that we wage a spiritual warfare.
In Paul’s exhortation to pursue spiritual warfare he tells us to take a “stand” three times. The word “stand” in the Greek is histami. This word can take on a number of different nuances which must be determined by the context in which it is used. Examining our passage from Ephesians six, we find the following meanings applicable:
- To stand immovable (such as the foundation of a building)
- To be of steadfast mind
- Of one who does not hesitate or waiver
- To persist, continue, persevere
One of the most significant principles of warfare is taking the land. Those that control the land, have mastery over the land, are the ones winning the conflict. When the children of Israel were given the land of Canaan as an inheritance, they were required to fight for it and in essence dispossess the existing occupants from that land. This activity was to be thorough and uncompromising; Israel was to leave none of the indigenous people in the land. However, the historical account of Israel’s taking of Canaan reflects their failure to completely expunge the Canaanites and entirely possess all of the land. This meant Israel was not able to completely destroy all the pagan idols and altars. Additionally, their concession to the Canaanites was interpreted by God to be tantamount to covenanting with the enemy leading to the following consequences:
Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I had promised to your fathers, and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and you are not to make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall tear down their altars.’ Yet you have not obeyed My voice. What is this you have done? So now I tell you that I will not drive out these people before you; they will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:1-3)
In the conflict with Vietnam, America violated this historic principle of taking and holding the land. For whatever reason, in that war the U.S. measured military success more by “body count” than by taking the land as if when a certain number of the enemy was killed the war would have been won. Time after time American troops fought and died to secure a particular section of real estate only to relinquish it and return to fight for the same piece of land another day. The principle was: you take the land and you defend and hold the land.
It is certain that we as believers are intended to take a doggedly determined approach in confronting the evil behind all anti-Christ activity in this world and life. We are called to dispossess the enemy from the land of our spiritual inheritance. However, spiritual warfare is not a popular subject for pulpit messages for ministries intent on growing their memberships or at least maintaining their congregations. Yet spiritual warfare is the responsibility of every believer in and follower of Christ. It is not a “specialist” ministry or something to be left to the “professionals.” In all reality, most spiritual warfare literally takes place daily in the lives of true disciples whose normal conduct of life issues forth damaging blows to the enemy without even consciously and specifically identifying their target. This warfare manifests in one’s life of spiritual disciplines, yielded obedience, godly behavior and pursuing the transformational life in Christ.
We will now examine an example from the life of a godly king of Judah who, when the enemy’s work was exposed, did not take the safe and easy road of acquiescing to or compromising with the enemy, but rather chose to stand. I would like to emphasize here that what I’m about to share is not meant to be a method or spiritual technique that one might take and replicate in their own particular circumstances. Although it may appear that I am delineating steps leading to a preferred outcome, it is the intrinsic principles involved that I wish to encourage. In ministry, it is seldom true that “one size fits all” with respect to spiritual applications. This is why it is incredibly essential that we develop such a relationship with the Lord that we might recognize and hear his voice for ourselves in making meaningful applications of the Word.
Let’s proceed now to delve into the 2 Kings record of King Josiah’s reign in Judah (640-609 B.C.) which began when he was eight years old and ended with his death in battle 31 years later just a handful of years prior to the beginning of Judah’s Babylonian captivity in 597 B.C. As we study this passage reflecting the fervency and commitment of King Josiah, his jealousy for the things of God and the reforms he brought about, keep in mind that we are specifically focused here on taking a stand, standing against all that is antithetical to the eternal purpose of God and the coming of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
In receiving the kingdom of Judah, Josiah inherited the incredibly idolatrous legacy of many former kings of Judah. This was a nation completely devoid of Christ-centered spirituality and heart-centered worship of the only true God. For Judah, their relationship with God was centered in the temple in Jerusalem and their worship was focused in sacrifice and celebration through the major feasts.
However, the Israelites failed to keep themselves separate from the peoples of the other nations and ultimately adopted and worshipped their false gods. This idolatry was so extensive that Baal, Asherah and all the forces of heaven were worshipped right in Solomon’s temple. Additionally, there were pagan shrines and Asherah poles populating the landscape throughout all of Judah. Add to all this the existence of temple prostitutes and children being sacrificed by fire to Molech in the valley of Ben-hinnom and you begin to grasp the incredible depth of idolatry that Josiah confronted.
There are some things in our lives that we have a choice concerning and other things that are beyond our control. At eight years of age, Josiah was obviously not equipped to rule with wisdom and some degree of maturity. However, he was blessed in being surrounded with godly people under whose tutelage he could grow in wisdom and spiritual stature. It was only after eighteen years on the throne that he began his efforts at ecclesial restoration.
For whatever he saw as needful of reclamation in his kingdom, Josiah didn’t perceive it or address it as a civil matter but rather as the spiritual reality it was. He started with the restoration of the temple itself as the center of their worship and relationship with God. It had been around 250 years since the previous efforts toward restoration by Joash. We see here a fundamental principle of life. That is, for whatever is transpiring in the natural there is a spiritual correspondence. For whatever is happening on earth there is a heavenly correlation. Most of us are conditioned to attempt solving problems and issues from a temporal perspective. We apply whatever knowledge, reason and logic we can bring to the need at hand in essence denying the reality of a spiritual counterpart to what we are addressing. Somehow Josiah knew he had to win the war in the heavenlies before he would see the changes in his everyday life.
When the process of restoration began in the temple, the high priest discovered the Book of the Law (God’s sacred covenant with Israel) somewhere in the midst of all the deterioration and corruption. The book was subsequently read to the king bringing him to great sorrow and anguish over Israel’s abject failure to honor its commitment to the Lord. We see here another awesome principle wherein God will respond positively to the slightest efforts on our part to seek him and put our relationship with him in proper order. As soon as Josiah initiated the restoring of Israel’s walk with God, the Word was opened to him. God saw and responded to Josiah’s humble and penitent heart and set him on a Spirit-led course of action.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Ja 4:8-10 NRSV
The Word not only opens and draws us into a deeper relationship with God, but it also enables us to establish our moral compass, wonderfully set in truth and overseen by the Holy Spirit. From the time Josiah heard God’s Word and discovered how spiritually destitute he, the people of Israel and all their ancestors were, he set his sights on total restoration in their relationship with the Lord.
We read in this passage that the consequences for Israel’s idolatry and rejection of God was already cast and set in motion. However, God honored Josiah’s penitent and surrendered response as he rediscovered the covenant of God. Like Josiah, many of us grew up in spiritual ignorance, unaware of the powerful, saving covenant God has offered to us in Jesus Christ. But when the Word was properly conveyed to us, even as it was by the disciples in the book of Acts, our hearts melted and we chose the new life that only Jesus could give.
Like Josiah, we also were forgiven the rightful consequences for our fallen state. Likewise, we also were confronted and challenged to enter into a whole new pilgrimage destined to take us completely into the full stature life in Christ, to conform us entirely to his wonderful image. This is far more than simply believing in Jesus as the Son of God, repenting and accepting him as our personal Savior. Although right belief is essential in our relationship with God, Jesus’ calling wasn’t firstly to doctrinal scrupulousness; it was a call to deny self, take up our cross and follow. To become a disciple literally means to become like the master to whom you are utterly relinquished.
When Josiah was exposed to the Word and realized Israel’s total impoverishment, his commitment wasn’t against something but rather for something. Although he thoroughly attacked the deeply ensconced idolatry in the land, his primary focus was on restoring Israel’s relationship with God. Having called Israel’s leaders and the people to the temple, the seat of God’s presence, Josiah proceeded to lead the people in renewing the covenant and all its terms which had been so shamelessly ignored for generations.
The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the LORD’s presence. He pledged to obey the LORD by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. 2 Kings 23:3 NLT
Taking a stand for God is tantamount to taking a stand against the Devil. Upholding the ways of the Lord means virtually dismantling the designs of Satan. Standing for truth, integrity and righteousness in all one’s ways is to bring literal destruction on him whose existence began as a liar, deceiver and murderer. To follow Christ in the “way” is to utterly avoid the path of destruction proffered by the arch enemy of our souls.
Surrounded by godly advisors, exposed to the truth of God’s Word, filled with godly sorrow and humbling himself before the throne of heaven, Josiah did what every confessing believer in Christ must ultimately do—he took his place of authority and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence! Josiah took a stand!