Obedience Not Sacrifice

What does God really want from us? How do my sacrificial acts of service impact my experience of God’s favor? These are good questions. These thoughts came to mind when I read about Josiah today.

In 2 Chronicles 35:18-19 I was struck by the amazing description of King Josiah. Notice what it says,

No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept.”

This story of the Passover celebration is so impressive that the author says there had never been another celebration like it including during the time of David and Solomon! Wow, this must have been amazing to see and experience.

I must admit when I read that story I expected to see in the next verses God’s blessing in his life for the incredible Feast he put on for God! My subconscious thought was a good God would reward him for such sacrifice! But notice what the next verses say,

“After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, ‘What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.’ Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, ‘Take me away, for I am badly wounded.’ So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.”

In the verses above, after a festival to celebrate Passover like never before in Israel, Josiah is killed! How is that fair? Didn’t he earn God’s favor for what he had done? The obvious answer is no. God does not think like we do. We cannot earn our standing before God. He desires obedience more than sacrifice. Josiah could not do enough good works to protect him from his sin of disobedience. Yes, God is fair and just and loving and holy and so many other things, but God is all of these things in unity and harmony without one aspect of his nature trumping the others.

Notice what Josiah forgot and was said by the prophet Samuel in 1 Sam. 15:22,

“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.”

It is so easy to loose sight of what God really wants from us. He doesn’t delight in our great works for him if we are not obedient. He wants our obedience more than our sacrifices for him. God does not “owe me” anything for my acts of service. Those should be done out of love for him without expectation of temporal blessing. If he rewards and blesses for our faithfulness, all the better. My job is to be faithful and obedient.

Following Jesus with you,