After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. Because of his oppressive regime, the northern tribes rebelled and set up their own kingdom. The southern kingdom under Rehoboam became known as Judah, and the northern kingdom was called Israel. Of the forty rulers (according to the count of
Elmer Towns) from both kingdoms it was said of only eight of them that they “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” Israel had no good king. These eight kings who did right were all in Judah. Yet of these eight good kings, not all of them ended well.
One of the best of the good kings was Josiah. He began his reign at the tender age of eight and ruled for thirty-one years. He instituted sweeping reforms. He destroyed the false idols and burned the bones of the false priests on their pagan altars. He also cleansed the house of the Lord and repaired it. During this time, the workers found the scroll which contained the law of the Lord. When it was read to Josiah, he humbled himself and cried to God for mercy. God answered that He would delay the judgment that was coming on Judah. And He gave the king a promise. “Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same” (2 Chron. 34:28).
Josiah became king at age eight and ruled for thirty-one years. That meant he was only thirty-nine when he died. What happened to him? He got involved in a war he could have avoided. The king of Egypt marched against Carchemish. Josiah went against him. The king of Egypt told Josiah not to fight, that it was not him he had a problem with. But Josiah proceeded. During the battle he was struck by an arrow and died.
Did Josiah pray about his decision to go to war? The Bible doesn’t say. There are other instances in the Bible where men of God failed to enquire of the Lord resulting in negative results. We do not find that the scriptures either commend or condemn his action. However, the circumstances themselves indicate that Josiah died prematurely.
One thing we can learn from this tragic ending of a good man is that righteousness in character does not guarantee that one will always make a wise choice. Which underscores the importance of the apostle’s admonition. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Phil. 4:6a NLT). The Lord does not want us to be consumed with the worry that we will make some foolish mistake which may end very badly. What He does want us to do is to keep praying. Our times are in His hands. Prayer helps to remind us of that.
Another one of the kings of Judah was Joash. He started out doing what was right. “And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chron. 24:2). However, after years, the priest died. Then Joash turned.
“Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.” (2 Chron. 24:17-19). Joash did not have a good ending.
Knowing this is why Paul the Apostle was concerned about the Thessalonians. He was not personally with them. “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain” (1 Thes. 3:5). It is a sad truth that some, who once walked in the right path have strayed. They didn’t end well.
Two college students I worked with for four years had given their hearts to the Lord and were faithful witnesses throughout their schooling. Both were very involved in our campus Christian fellowship. However, after they left that atmosphere and went to different areas of the country, they were influenced by forces that were not interested in righteous living. Sadly, both lost their way and their faith.
Contrast their story with that of Roger, who, when he left campus wanted to make sure that he kept the faith. He found other Christians who encouraged him. Or Brad, who, when he was leaving church and going to a secular university asked me how he could keep from compromising in an ungodly atmosphere. I encouraged him to find fellowship with believers who would keep him accountable. He followed through. Both Brad and Roger not only kept their faith, but have been missionaries to foreign nations for years.
One other king is worth mentioning here. “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father” (1 Kings 15:11). He reigned for forty-one years. However, at the end of his life he became a bitter man. He made an alliance with a non-believing king and was called to account. Instead of humbling himself, he became angry and had the prophet who confronted him put in prison. He was also diseased in his feet and did not seek the Lord about it. He did not end well.
Paul the Apostle asked a question of the Galatians that is important to consider. “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7). We can be hindered like Joash, who was enamored with the princes of the land. The political insiders, the movers and shakers, the people with influence in the world can cause one who once ran well to completely compromise. Or we can be hindered by ourselves like Asa. He became proud and refused to listen to the prophetic word. We cannot afford to allow bitterness and pride to turn us from the pure word of God.
May we be diligent in keeping the gospel message central in our lives. We cannot afford to love the present world and forsake the way. We cannot allow ourselves to indulge in the bitterness that at times comes with old age and turns those who once were loving Christians into crusty curmudgeons.
Let us keep the sweetness of Jesus, who in his extremity followed the will of the Father and was obedient to the death of the cross. Then we will be able to say with the apostle, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).
The rewards are well worth it. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Now that is a good ending!