Josiah vs Jehoiakim: The SBC’s Decision for 2022 and Beyond (Part 2)
In Part 1, we considered 2 Chronicles 34 and King Josiah. We saw how Josiah responded humbly and obediently to God’s Word. It reminds us that the great hope for the Southern Baptist Convention is that we will respond to the Lord in a similar way as King Josiah.
If we hope to retain Biblically conservative institutions, be a faithful missionary enterprise, and continue to see Christ made known among the nations, we, comparable to Josiah, must:
- Rediscover the Book – that is, let the Bible again take its place as our highest authority and trust it as wholly sufficient.
- Understand Whose Book it Is – this is God’s And since we live in God’s World, we must live and worship according to God’s rules. God defines sin, not us. God defines justice and reconciliation, not us. This is God’s Book.
- Be Humble – We must reject the pridefulness of the world and go about our lives in God’s Way.
- Repent – Josiah tore his clothes in repentance. As God’s Word confronts us with sin we must be willing to turn from it knowing there is forgiveness in Jesus.
- Believe what the Book says – We must be willing to put our hope and trust in God’s Word. We must believe that what God’s Book says is best, even if the culture scorns it.
- Teach what the Book says – as Josiah taught the people, so we must teach this Book without apology.
- Do What the Book says – it is not enough to “believe” and “teach” the Book. We must build all that we are and all that we do upon the unbreakable Bible (cf. John 10:35). God’s standards must be followed, and it is to our great blessing when we do what the Book says (cf. Psalm 1).
Yet, there is another path Southern Baptists can choose. We could, to our great detriment, reject the pattern of Josiah and decide instead to walk in the ways of his son, Jehoiakim.
2 Chronicles 36 teaches us that Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, was 25 years old when he began to reign in Judah, having been appointed to the position by Neco, king of Egypt. Jehoiakim did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. This reminds us that ultimately what we want to do is what is right in God’s sight, regardless of what the world might say. What God says is right is right and what God says is evil is evil.
Undoubtedly, one of the major reasons Jehoiakim’s life was evil was because he rejected God’s Word. Jeremiah 36 teaches us that when he was just 29, Jehoiakim had a similar encounter to God’s Word that his father Josiah did, yet with a woefully different outcome.
Deep Cuts the Knife
God worked through the prophet Jeremiah to prepare a scroll to be read before King Jehoiakim. The stage was set again, just like it had been in the time of Josiah. And although the people had been unfaithful once again, the Lord graciously pursued them by persistently sending them His prophets. This is just like God to do. Holy and righteous, but also ready and willing to forgive.
Over 100 years prior, the prophet Jonah saw this first hand as God’s grace poured over the wicked Assyrians leading them to repentance in Nineveh. But that time had long since passed. Jehoiakim’s reign was a new day.
God had not sent the prophet Jeremiah to a foreign land but right to the heart of His people. The Lord, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, was willing to forgive. How would the earthly king of God’s people respond?
Sadly, not like his father. Instead of tearing his clothes, Jehoiakim tore God’s Word. The king took his knife and plunged it time and again into God’s scroll. It was a crime of passion, tearing God’s Word apart piece by piece and casting it into the fire.
John Gill comments that this was “a full evidence of an ungodly mind; a clear proof of the enmity of the heart against God, and of its indignation against his word and servants; and yet a vain attempt to frustrate the divine predictions in it, or avert the judgments threatened; but the ready way to bring them on.”
The Way Before Us
Thus, as we approach a new year, Southern Baptists have a choice before us. When it comes to God’s Word, will we go the way of Josiah or Jehoiakim? When we reject God’s standard, when we fail to submit to His authority as mediated through His Word, when we live as though His Book is not sufficient for all matters of a godly life before Him, we are really revealing a heart at enmity with God Himself.
To reject God’s Word is not merely foolish but also wicked. For to reject the Word of God is to ultimately cast aside the God of the Word. And for those who do that, retribution will come. Ignoring God’s Word will not get anyone out of His coming judgment.
God’s Word is sufficient for how we are to know Christ, how we are to reach the lost, how we are to worship, how we are to handle matters of sexual abuse, how we are to order the church, how we are to plant churches and send missionaries, how we are to understand the office and function of pastor, and the list goes on and on. But will we respond to God’s Word in humility like Josiah or will we idiomatically cast it aside into the flames of indifference as we continue to trust the wisdom and ways of the godless culture around us?
Josiah was not a perfect king. But his life points us toward the perfect king we do have in Christ. And at the end of days, we must find ourselves on the side of King Jesus or all hope is lost. And if we want to be found on the side of the King of Glory, we are compelled to bow to His Book. To trust His Book. To stake our very lives, and ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention itself upon all that is contained therein.
If we hope for repentance, reformation, and revival within our own hearts and the beloved SBC, then we must conform to, comply with, and concede all to the Book of God. May we rend our hearts before the King as we kneel to the authority and sufficiency of the Book.
God is holy and righteous. But He is also slow to anger and full of grace. He is most willing to forgive. But the route we will ultimately choose is not yet apparent. Choose wisely.
Trust and obey, brothers and sisters, for there’s no other way.