Have you ever had a 16 year-old for a child? They're tough to manage aren't they?! You don't want them wrecking the house but you also don't want them wrecking your car! It's a hard life. In 2 Chronicles 34 we come to an incredible story that is really very hard fo us to believe -- especially those of us with teenagers. A 16 year-old boy is on the throne in Jerusalem, and He is proving to be one of the godliest leaders Israel has ever seen. Let's join Stephen as he introduces us to this boy-wonder.
The Boy Wonder
A few weeks ago, a member of our church e-mailed me two pages of things kids had to say about Bible stories and about Bible geography:
One kid writes, “Ancient Egypt was inhabited by Mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. The climate of the Sarah Dessert is such that the people lived elsewhere, so certain areas of the desert were cultivated by irritation.”
One boy wrote: The pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain. The Egyptians built the pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. (I’ll bet his math homework looks a lot like mine used to look!)
Another wrote, “God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Later, Jacob, the son of Isaac, stole his brother’s birth mark. (that would hurt).
Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice - they killed him. (now what this kid meant to refer to was hemlock - a form of execution for well known criminals.; but this kid wrote). Then Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline. Kids are terrific.
Last Sunday I told you about my 2 1/2 year old daughter Charity and the wonderful things she said to me, “You’re my best fwrend - we’ll be fwends fowever.” Well, my wife got a kick out of something that happened a few days ago. Marsha had driven out of town with Pastor Eisner’s wife to take her kids to Grandma’s. My secretary, Jean had picked up Charity and Candace from the babysitters and was bringing them to church that afternoon. My 8 year old daughter asked Jean - “Do you like my Daddy’s preaching?” Remembering that she was on the payroll, Jean said, “I sure do.” My daughter thought a minute, then said, “Well, when my Daddy’s away and Pastor Eisner preaches, do you like his sermons? So Jean lied and said, “I sure do?” After a little silence, my daughter then asked, “Well, who’s you favorite?” Not wanting to get too deeply into that subject, she hesitated . . . then Charity, sitting back there in her car seat, blurted out emphatically, “I like my mommy the best.”
Sometimes funny, sometimes stressful, the adolescent years are some of the most challenging - for children and parents.
As a graduate student I fulfilled an internship in the field of Child Psycology - it struck me as I would sit through sessions with children, how deeply they thought and how capable they were in sizing up situations involving problems.
I often forget that myself now as I am the father of kids who slam the back door.
There are, supposedly three questions that an adolescent asks and eventually answers as he moves toward and through his teenage years.
I’ve observed these same questions being asked by adults who never really answered them growing up.
I happen to agree with one author, that a mid-life crisis - is really not a mid-life crisis - it’s more like a second adolescence in an adult who has never answered these very questions earlier in life.
And their lifestyle, in many ways, mirrors the life of a young child who must have his or her way, and they make one foolish immature decision after another often, like adolescents, running away from their responsibilities and their families with little warning.
Question #1 - is the question of identity. “Who am I - where do I fit in the world?”
Question #2 - is the question of authority. “Who am I going to obey”
Question #3 - is the question of conformity. “What am I going to be like”
Now the Bible provides the answers to all three critical questions.
What a relief and joy it was, as a 17 year old to say, “My identity is Christ - what I am is a Christian”
The question of authority is also answered in the words of Peter, “I will obey God rather than man.”
The question of conformity is also clear - “Be not conformed to this world system, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12:2) “You who were predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)
Can you answer those three questions:
What is your identity - who are you? Who is your authority - who calls the shots in your life - who tells you what’s right or wrong? Then, who do you want to become most like?
When you turn to the Bible for an example of somebody who was answering these questions with godly answers, the last place you’d ever expect to find it is in the life of an adolescent.
Yet, one of scriptures surprises is the story of a boy named Josiah who became King of Judah when most other kids are just entering the third grade.
His story appears in both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. I want you to return to 2 Chronicles as we pick up our study from last Lords day.
You don’t have to look very long through chapter 33 to discover the fact that this boy had a horrible history.
We’ve just completed the study of his grandfather Manasseh in chapter 21; a man compared in scripture to Ahab and Jezebel’s reign.
His father Amon was also an idolater. There had been 50 years of spiritual famine!
The country was totally given over to idolatry.
According to chapter 33 the swirling events that placed Josiah on the throne were incredibly traumatic.
Notice the gruesome words of verse 22. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord as Manasseh his father had done, and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them. (skip to verse 24.) Finally his servatns conspired against him and put him to death in his own house. (you can only imagine that Josiah heard the screams that night of terrified servants - a wailing mother - he was at least awakened by the outcry of revenge - notice verse 25. But the people of the land killed all the conspirators against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.
What a bloodbath . . . perhaps he personally witnessed his father’s asassination.
Now, this 8 year old boy is King!
With a wicked man for a grandfather and father, with 50 years of idolatry and with the entire nation given over to immorality and rebellion against God; with the beginning of his reign marked by asassination and revenge, what hope would you have for a third grade king?!
Look with me at the startling words of chapter 34:1. Josiah was 8 years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2. And he did right in the sight of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father (Amon? no!) David, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Can you imagine? What a shock . . .
While the Bible doesn’t make the connection - I found it interesting to note that at the same time Josiah began to reign, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Nahum all began their dynamic ministries in Judah.
Now you need to understand that verse 2 is a categorical statement: v. 2: and he did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
That verse refers to his entire reign - not just what he was like as an 8 year old.
Then, in the next few verses, Jeremiah, who is writing these words, under inspiration begins to articulate exactly what Josiah did - and he carefully records the year of Josiah’s reign as if to make his point repeatedly throughout this chapter - “This is what a young man can do for God - when he’s answered the questions of identity and authroity and conformity.”
If you want to know what that kind of person looks like - God’s ready to show you:
Three characteristics are illustrated in the life of this young man:
ILLUSTRATION #1: an insatiable spiritual hunger
v. 3. For in the eighth year of his reign (I suggest you circle those words, the eighth year in your text; God isn’t including that fact becuase he just wants to stump us on Bible Trivia games) while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David.
(you could write in the margin of your Bibles, 16 years old.)
If he began to reign when he was eight, then in the eighth year of his reign he would be getting his chariot license. Just think, his mother wouldn’t have to take anymore to sword fighting lessons, or heads of state meetings.
When a young person turns 16 what do most parents think? Oh no!
Its a time when people seem to say, “Well, I hope they make it through without too much damage - let’s hope for the best?!”
Why do we think like that?
According to the children’s defense fund 1990; here’s why;
- Every day in the United States, 2,795 teenage girls get pregnant (that’s over 1 million a year!)
- Every day, 1,106 teenage girls have abortions
- Every day 1,629 teenagers are placed in adult jails
- Every day 623 teenagers contract syphilis
- Every day 211 teenagers are arrested for drug possession.
- Every day 437 teenagers are arrested for drunken driving (by the way, drunk driving is the number one cause of death among teens)
- Every day 1,512 teenagers drop out of school
- Every day, 2,989 teenagers watch their parents get divorced.
You say, in our society, teenagers don’t have a chance - their surrounded by wickedness - pleasure and temptation abounds.
Well, here’s a 16 year old - who at this juncture in his life, the Bible reads in verse 2 - “he began to seek the God of his father David.”
The Hebrew verb “to seek” means to carefully, dilegently look for. In the Book of Chronicles, this verb most often refers to looking for God in every life situation!
In other words, Josiah began to diligently, carefully, passionately look for God. in every situation that confronted him.
I want you to do something - I want you to look around this auditorium, and I want you to look for the color blue - go ahead, stare at the people next to you - look around you for anything blue. (have everyone stand who’se wearing something blue).
This auditorium in filled with blue - but you know something; if I hadn’t asked you to do that and after the service I asked you in the lobby, “Did you see all the blue stuff in there this morning - we were surrounded by it?” You’d say - I didn’t see much blue.
That’s like most Christians - hey, have you noticed God in the circumstances of your life - no . . . it’s becuase you’re not really looking for Him.
This 16 year old set out on a pursuit of God - with every responsibility and pressure and decision - he sought after God.
He had an insatiable appetite for God.
Illustration #2 is -uncompromising spiritual courage (12th year of his reign; 20)
v. 3b. And in the 12th year of his reign (circle that - he’s now 20 years of age) he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images, and the molten images. 4. And they tore down the altars of the Balls in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images, and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem.
This was headline news - Josiah, now a junior in college, destroys the industry of idolatry in his kingdom.
You get the idea that Josiah was courageous in the choice of words to describe his actions - look again - v. 3 - he began to purge . . . v. 4 they tore down the altars . . . the incense altars - he chopped them down . . . the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves
Where do you get the courage to run counter to your culture - to take the heat of criticism and and ridicule?
You answer the question:
“Who am I” - with I am a Christian;
“Who is my authority?” It is the word of God;
“Who am I trying to be like” - it certainly isn’t the crowd - it is the God of David - it is His son, Jesus Christ that you are becoming like every time you say no to evil and yes to godliness.
One more illustration - Josiah had unshakeable spiritual conviction
Verse 8. Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, (he’s 26 years old now) when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God.
It wasn’t enough to tear down - something needed to be built up - the temple.
We’re going to take a closer look next time at the discovery of an ancient manuscript - an the impact it had on Josiah’s life.
The potential for a young person to impact his generation possible . . . don’t underestimate them.
From the time Josiah was 8 years old to the time he was 26 years old, Josiah stood for God.
This is a message to every young person here - you’re not too young to live for God. Maybe you’ve copped out with, “Well, my parents don’t live for the Lord, why should I?” Take a hard look at Josiah - he had a terrible history with a wicked father.
And this is a message to every parent - don’t set your sights too low - don’t underestimate the spiritual potential of your children.
Don’t get in God’s way! If you’ve never sat down with your 8 year old or your 18 year old and said, “Listen the most important thing you can ever do with your life is live for God; you belong to Him” then you aren’t helping them answer the identity, authority and conformity question.
You’re a stumbling block . . . you’re in the way!
Who knows, Mom and Dad - you might have a Josiah in your house, whom God will use to bring about a reformation in the land.
The opportunity to develop spiritual convictions at a young age is a Biblical fact . . . so encourage them.
You want to know what the best way to help them answer those questions of identity, authority and conformity?
It is for Moms and Dads to have already answered the questions themselves.
I want to read you some inside information - it’s a paragraph summary taken from the book by Willima Meyers, “The Image Makers”. This book is about Madison Avenue’s most widely used categorization of people. They’ve put people into 5 basic categories and then determine their advertizing strategy:
Here are three of the categories:
The Socially Conscious Achievers: these are people who care more about inner peace and environmental safety than about success. They are looking for personal, not necessarily professional fulfillment. They will try anything from Zen to acupuncture. They are Madison Avenues toughest challenge. (20%)
The Emulators: not so set in their ways, a small but impressionalbe group of young people in desperate search of an identity and a place in the adult working world. They will do almost anything to fit in. The lack self-confidence and are discouraged about their prospects. They are into hedonism (self-satisfaction; instant gratification) and finding solutions to their postadolescent dilemmas. (15% of the population.)
IMAGINE - millions of young people entering the adult world, still seeking an answer to their identity - “Who am I?”
The Emulator Achievers: These are America’s materialists, have it made for the most part. They are a bit frustrated, just below the top rung on the ladder. Though affluent, they are somewhat dissatisfied with not having more (20% )
Ladies and Gentlemen, Madison Avenue has developed a strategy based upon the fact that at least 55% of our adult population do not know the answer to the simple questions, “Who am? Who should I listen to? and What am I supposed to be like?”
And the pressure is on.
One of the most astounding statements concerning peer pressure I ever heard came from the lips of a Christian teenager - he was in the process of impacting his high school for the cause of Jesus Christ - they were holding Bible studies and prayer meetings - this teenager was being interviewed on a Christian program - the host eventually asked the typical question - “Well, how do you handle the peer pressure?” This kid shot back with his answer, “Sir, on my high school campus, I am the peer pressure.”
He had answered the question of identity, authority and conformity.
Once you answer the question of who you are, you will profoundly impact the world where you do what you do.
We, having our identity in Him, obeying the authority of His word, have confidence that our Father has predestined us to be confromed into the image of His Son.
And as a result, like Josiah, we - CHILDREN AND ADULTS - can profoundly impact our wandering generation to the only way, the only truth, the only life worth living.