Zeal Gone Too Far?

Temple of Baal in Shamin Syria

Having preached Sunday on King Josiah’s renewal of God’s covenant in 2 Kings 22, I am fascinated with his reforms afterwards. According to the book of 2 Kings, Josiah was one of the few kings who followed in the path of God. Despite being raised in a palace where the fertility idols of Asherah and Baal were preferred, Josiah placed his trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. And when he heard the Book of the Law for the first time, he became zealous to reform the religion of Jerusalem and surrounding Judah.

First he cleaned out the temple of Solomon, the house of the Lord, removing all the foreign idols (2 Kings 23:4). He burned them outside of Jerusalem and scattered their ashes on public graves, which desecrated these ancient cultic objects. He marched out into the countryside to destroy the “high places” or non-Temple worship sites. He also expelled any foreign priests.

Such “zealous” action may sound excessive to our tolerant ears. Living in our pluralistic culture, we may read such harsh actions as bigotry and intolerance. Yet Josiah and the people of Judah had been given a very specific mission from God: to trust in the Lord God alone. Without this radical obedience their mission could easily be diluted into cultural irrelevance by the neighboring nations. No one would be following God’s covenant. Still, I doubt that we are called to burn or destroy the temples of other religions today. Such a brutal attack would not be honoring Jesus command to love our neighbor (Matt 22:39).

There is a second part to Josiah’s reforms that speaks more directly to our day and culture. It was a revitalization of worship towards the Lord God. He reintroduced the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem, a celebration of God’s victory in releasing the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. (2 Kings 23:21-23). The same holds true today. As Christians we need to more completely understand and celebrate our heritage as God’s people. The narrative lectionary has helped our congregation rediscover some of the Vibrant Life of Faith that can be found in the Old Testament. We don’t need to burn “high places,” but we can certainly burn with the light of faith in God. Our light can beckon our neighbor to a Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ.

How do you bear witness to faith in God in our pluralistic society?

Lord Jesus, may I be faithful as you are faithful.

2 thoughts on “Zeal Gone Too Far?

  1. Kitsi Vadheim

    Hi John
    I continue to enjoy your blog posts – keep them coming! They are a frequent reminder for me to stay tru to my own calling as a child of God.
    Reading today’s post, I was wondering what the ‘narrative lectionary’ is that you mentioned has been so helpful for the congregation at Resurrection. Thanks!

    1. Pastor John Keller Post author

      Kitsi, the narrative lectionary is a set of Sunday Bible readings (lectionary) that takes a congregation through the story (narrative) of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in nine months. We started with Genesis 1 in September, finish the overview of the Old Testament in December and on Christmas we start the New Testament with the birth of Jesus. We will finish with the book of Revelation at the end of May. You can read more </a


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