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Seeking After God

Of the kings who sat on the throne of David, Josiah, who came to the throne at the early age of eight years on the death of his father Amon, was the second youngest. His father and his grandfather had not distinguished themselves in their high office nor had they excelled in promoting the honour of the God of Israel. But the darkness of the past faded with the dawn of divine grace evident in the life of the boy Josiah, who while he was yet young "began to seek after the God of David his father".

It is good to witness one "yet young" directing his heart and mind towards God and His things. Young people from even eight years old may well make a start in seeking after God: a beginning of something that ought to increase and develop with the years and become the consuming passion in their lives. Many have in early youth shown a deep interest in divine things, and manifested love and devotion of a high standard. But sometimes it has been a passing phase, succeeded by an attitude of indifference and repudiation. Yet fear of such failure should not deter a young disciple. God is able to keep the young as well as the old from falling away to waste their lives in vanity and evil. Youthful days should, as in the case of Josiah, see the beginning of an exercise which will prove most rewarding. All who seek the Lord will find Him. Let such rejoice (Psa. 40:16).

Significant are the words applied to Josiah, "he began to seek after the God of David his father". The Spirit of God passes over Josiah's immediate and less noble forebears and links his name with that of David who in his lifetime sought God with his whole heart. To few men did God reveal more than He did to David regarding the house of God and the service and worship required from His people. To him the Lord disclosed the precious truth that "the LORD hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever: here will I dwell for I have desired it" (Psa. 132:13,14). Before he died, David gave commandment to all the princes of Israel saying, "Now set your heart and your soul to seek after the LORD your God, arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the LORD God" (1 Chron. 22:19). The Scriptures bear out that those who seek the Lord will be led to the house of God.

Josiah's early search after God was not in vain, for his was a threefold reward. Having seen the need to dispense with every high place, and every image that existed throughout Judah and Jerusalem contrary to God's will, he then initiated the repair of the Lord's house. Whether built of inanimate or living stones, God's house requires repair and restoration. In the process of this work, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord. What better could a seeking soul find than the word of God? How thankful we can be that we live in a day when the Scriptures have been recovered from under the debris of tradition and formality, and through the diligent labour of others the Word of God is now available so that a "plough boy" may read and understand the will and working of God. For only the Scriptures can make one wise unto salvation. Martin Luther's heart was arrested by the precious words of Rom. 1:1 7(AV), "the just shall live by faith", and so he learned the great truth of justification by faith, that one is justified in the sight of God by faith apart from works, as taught by the apostles and deeply expounded in Paul's epistles to the Romans and Galatians.

When the book was read to Josiah he quickly recognized God's purpose to pour out his wrath upon His people who had "not kept the word of the LORD" and immediately sent to inquire of the Lord concerning the words of the book. God's reply brought him his second great discovery, grace in the sight of the Lord. "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words... and hast humbled thyself before Me... I also have heard thee, saith the LORD" (2 Chron. 34:27). No greater treasure can a disciple lay down at the Master's feet than a heart humble and receptive to the living word of God; for such God has reserved very special blessing (Isa. 57:15). It was this attitude that brought commendation to the saints in Thessalonica. They had accepted the message, "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also worketh in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). It is no dishonour to manliness to accept God's word into a tender and impressionable heart as Josiah did in his youthful days. It is sad to recount that the final downfall of this worthy king was when he "hearkened not unto the words of Neco from the mouth of God".

The word that had so worked in Josiah was soon to work with his people too, though only in afeigned fashion (Jer. 3:10) for while the king caused all that were found in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to the words of the covenant, yet in heart there was little change of attitude towards God. But one important result emerged from their understanding of the word of God; that was the observance of a unique passover to the Lord in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign. Such an occasion had not been witnessed since the days of Samuel.

This third great find in Josiah's pursuit after God stemmed from the book found in the temple. What did they know of God's requirements for His people, any more than we know in our day apart from the revelation of Scripture? Divine truth has been revealed to those who, with an open heart, have sought to know God's will for His gathered people as well as for the individual believer.

Few believers would dispute that the Scriptures are the only means by which we know the way of salvation, and that the assurance of personal faith rests on the word of God. But this agreement is not always evident when we assert that the same revelation of Scripture provides clear and ample instruction for the collective life, worship and service of God's together people. The practical expression of the teaching given by the Lord Jesus concerning the kingdom of God is seen in the Acts of the Apostles. The kingdom had been taken out of the hands of the Israel nation and given to that "little flock" of faithful disciples who had kept His word and had now become the custodians of divine testimony on earth as associated with the house of God "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

The events that took place on the day of Pentecost and afterwards manifest obedience to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who formed the first church in Jerusalem were believers who, baptized in water as the Lord had commanded (Matt. 28:19) were added to those who were already together. Thus the Church of God in Jerusalem was constituted and "continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). The Scriptures show that the same order obtained in all the churches planted in the New Testament period, and that together they formed one united whole spoken of in singular terms: "the Fellowship", "temple of God", "holy nation" and "God's husbandry".

Those churches were composed of people called "living stones" built up a "spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:5). This spiritual house was as truly the house of God as was the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:12,13), with a definite foundation in the Mount Zion above, "because it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious" (1 Pet. 2:6).

As well as giving the pattern for the building of the house of God, New Testament Scripture gives the order of service, the Godward function of a holy priesthood and the manward service of a royal priesthood performed by those early saints in obedience to the "words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness" (1 Tim. 6:3) which still provide sufficient guidance for everyone who "willeth to do His will".

Surely it would be wrong to abandon this divine pattern, relevant throughout the present age, in order to conform to the errors of Christendom. We ought rather, Josiah-like, to accept with humility what God has to say and "to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book".