When I first rejoined social media a year or so back, I remember running across craft type videos. The kind with cool editing and upbeat vibes. Where they take some of the materials out and -snap- everything is together and ready to add the next round of materials that have come on screen. Or they’re baking, one second the cake batter is raw and scooped into one paper lined cup of a muffin tin and -snap- all the cups are not only filled but baked and ready for frosting. You get the idea. It’s all a snap away.
Sometimes I get the same snappy impression when I read my bible. I’ll be reading along and realize that someone’s entire life played out in one, I repeat one, chapter. Years and years played out in the few short words of a single verse. What took me one minute to read, took that person a lifetime to live out. The chapter opens, a young man seeks God, God responds and -snap- the person is old and has fully developed and lived out their epic faith with God, conclude chapter.
Take King Josiah. 2 Chronicles 34 starts out with Josiah taking the throne in Judah as an 8 year old. Two verses later it’s his 8th year of reign and -snap- he’s 16. That verse in between glosses over 8 years of growing up under royal pressures, learning how to be an adult, how to rule, how to do all the king things, with a simple statement that he was a good king who tried to be like David. (2 Chron. 34:1-3)
He somehow made the connection between David’s awesomeness as king and his relationship with God, so when he was 16 Josiah began to seek God. I don’t know what he had to learn about David or how to seek God, because (spoiler alert) he doesn’t find the Book of the Law (aka the Torah, aka Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, aka origin story for the country he was ruling over) for 10 more verses. Maybe Josiah had the Psalms, a large portion of which were written by David. Or maybe he had some sort of oral history passed down to him. I don’t know, but Josiah had some clue that God was the answer worth seeking. (2 Chron. 34:3)
Verse three skips any glossing over and makes another jump to 4 years later in Josiah’s life -snap- now he’s 20. We’re told in his 12th year of reign Josiah decides to rid Judah and Jerusalem of all forms of idolatry. The next four verses describe the most holy tour ever undertaken. Only this time it’s not for earthly glory – it’s for the glory of God; and there may have been music, but this time it wasn’t rock and roll – it was worship of the LORD God Almighty. Josiah systematically went through his land and destroyed/desecrated every high place, altar, and image other than God. He went to all the established points of worship and destroyed it to the point of no return. (2 Chron. 34:4-7)
Verse 8, now it’s the 18th year of Josiah’s reign and he is 26. Josiah gets home from his holy tour and decides to turn his attention to Solomon’s Temple. He spends six verses raising money, rebuilding the personnel infrastructure of the Levites, and refurbishing the building. As the workers and priests put the finishing touches on the temple one of the priests finds the Book of the Law. He sends it to Josiah with a note, and I’m paraphrasing, “Hey, we found the bible! Moses wrote it, so you should check it out.” Josiah was like, “Cool! Hey, Shaphan, you’re a scribe right? Read this to me.” Shaphan read the Torah to King Josiah. (2 Chron. 34:8-18)
For the first time in his life, Josiah heard Moses’ account of what God did for the Israelites in Egypt. He heard about the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He heard the Ten Commandments and the Levitical law. He heard the list of blessing that come with obeying the Law and the curses that come with disobeying it. At which point Josiah tore his clothes and sought the LORD again. He knew his fathers before him had not kept the Law and he wanted to know whether it was too late to make things right with God. (2 Chron. 34:19-21)
The scribe and the priest go and talk to a prophetess and find out that the former kings had brought curses down on Judah. But because Josiah had been faithful and humbled himself before the LORD as soon as he knew what was in the Law, God would spare him from experiencing judgement. Josiah goes on to throw the best Passover recorded since the days of Samuel. He carries on ruling and seeking God until his dies in battle somewhere in his late 30s. (2 Chron. 34:22-28, 35)
When you read 2 Chronicles chapter 34, it reads like a week, maybe two. When in reality it’s the majority of Josiah’s life. It’s easy to read the list of what he did and take it for granted that it was easy to live. There was probably some people who liked their idols and were pretty angry about losing them. I always wondered as a kid, growing up in the church, if there was ever a Levite that didn’t want to work at the temple and wished he could work real estate instead. Who knows what kind of fall out Josiah really faced when he confronted the sin of his country. But we read those four verses and are like, “Of course he did that. Someone needed to clean up Judah’s act.” Like it was a snap.
King Josiah spent years cleaning out idol worship and rebuilding worship at the temple. Not to mention the years of personal growth and character development he spent that got him to the point where he realized the idol worship needed to stop.
It took time for Josiah to become the good king who, “Did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David.” (2 Chron. 34:2 NKJV) It took time to grow, to put the pieces together, to take action and bring about change. 18 years is a long time, no snaps about it.
In all likelihood it will take time for us too. Time to seek God, and grow. Time to recognize and remove the idols in our lives. Time to learn what it means to follow Jesus and worship Him. We don’t get verses that are easily skimmed over, we get years; and really, that’s a good thing.
It says in Psalm 56:8, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?” (NKJV) God is still writing a book about His people. So I’m glad I have years. I can take the time I have in this life to set my eyes on Jesus. Time to seek the LORD, grow, and cry, and grow some more. One day I’ll have my own sentence, perhaps it will read something like Josiah’s sentence: Etta did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of her Beloved, Jesus; she did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.