Sunday School Lessons

To Read the Manual, You Must First Find the Manual

I admit that I’m one of those weird people who likes to read users’ manuals.  Some of them are pretty simple (“here’s the on/off switch”), but others offer suggestions on how to use features that aren’t obvious, or how to use the product more effectively.  I’ve also needed some information about a product that I owned, and had to look for the manual (possibly on the Internet, if I lost the original) to get what I needed.

To set some context for today’s text from the Bible, I encourage you to read the first couple of verses from 2 Chronicles 34 (2 Chronicles 34:1-2), where a young kid named Josiah becomes king.

We might not know many 8-year-old kings today, but Josiah sort of had the throne (the role, not the chair) pushed upon himself, when the previous king (named Amon) was assassinated.  Amon’s killers were killed, and the people made Josiah (the son of Amon) king instead.  The line of succession was maintained, but the result was a pretty young guy on the throne.  I’m not sure if Josiah had good help (his mother is mentioned in 2 Kings 22:1, so maybe she was a good influence?), but he managed to do a good job in leading the people to follow God, taking shape when he was a teenager (about 16-20 years old).

At about the age of 26, Josiah had commissioned work to repair the temple of God (see verse 14), and while doing so, a priest found a copy of the Law that God had delivered to the Israelite people via Moses.

While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD that had been given through Moses. Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan.
2 Chronicles 34:14‭-‬15 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/2ch.34.14-15.NIV

I imagine someone working for a while at a job, copying what others are doing, and just trying to figure it out.  One day, though, she finds this dusty copy of an employee handbook, with standard work and procedures all written out in detail.  As she reads it, tasks that seemed irrelevant start to make more sense, and she finds new ways to do a better job at tasks that had previously been inefficient.

Having the best possible instructions is a great first step to doing the best possible job.  If Josiah was going to be an excellent king, this book was exactly what He needed to take the next step.

After Josiah had this book read to him, he realized that his nation was in serious violation of the instructions that God had given.  The Lookout (cited below) references Deuteronomy 17:18-20 as a possible passage that Josiah may have heard.  After checking with a prophetess, who confirms what would happen, we get to verse 29.

In verses 29-33, Josiah does four things, which are a good pattern for us as we seek to follow God:

  • First, Josiah shares God’s words of truth with others.  (Verses 29-30)  I see this as part of what Jesus called us to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • Secondly, he personally – and publicly – commits to follow God.  (Verse 31)  This is what we do when we publicly testify to our commitment to follow Jesus, whether in a testimony before others, or at our baptism.  However, we can continue to testify to that decision through our walk with Jesus.
  • Next, he has others do the same thing, committing to obey God.  (Verse 32)  While we might not be able to order others to follow God (unless any of you are a king or a queen), we can still make the invitation.
  • In addition, Josiah gets rid of obstacles for others to follow God, and leads them to do the right thing.  (Verse 33)  We can do the same.  In fact, the New Testament talks about not putting stumbling blocks in front of other Christians, even if something like eating meat sacrificed to idols isn’t inherently a sin (on its own).

Continuing in verses 1-2 of the next chapter, Josiah didn’t just claim that he would follow God.  Instead, he begins to practice what God had commanded.  By verses 18-19, we find that, for a young man, Josiah had made some pretty good changes in the nation (over the course of about 10 years).

In fact, if I’m reading this chapter correctly, Josiah’s Passover celebration exceeded even what David or Solomon would have celebrated.  Perhaps Josiah and the people felt that they had a lot of lost ground to make up for, or maybe they had gone through times that made them appreciate all that God had done for them as a people.

(Commentator Matthew Henry points out another Passover celebration, when Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion: what we sometimes call the Last Supper.  This reminder of God’s deliverance is important today, as it was for the people of Israel in Josiah’s time.)

Like Josiah, we must read the manual if we want to be successful.  Parents joke that there’s no instruction manual for kids, and young people in relationships look to the Internet for advice.  The fact is, God has given us more than enough to get started on the right path in life, but we need to spend at least some of our time reading what He gave to us in the Bible directly, and not only listening to others preach and teach from the same book.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for July 11, 2021

References:

  • The Lookout, July 11, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.

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