Today's Lectionary Text
2 Chronicles 35:20-27
After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Necho king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. But Necho sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”
Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.
Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, “Take me away; I am badly wounded.” So they took him out of his chariot, put him in his other chariot and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried in the tombs of his ancestors, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him.
Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the male and female singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments.
The other events of Josiah’s reign and his acts of devotion in accordance with what is written in the Law of the Lord— all the events, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.
Most of us do not get as clear of messages from God as Josiah received through King Neco. When Josiah went out to oppose Neco, Neco was very direct with him. "Look," he said, "My beef is not with you, and furthermore, God told me that he is going to destroy you if you get in my way." You'd think that would be clear enough to make Josiah back away slowly. Josiah might have been foolish enough to think he stood a chance against the Egyptians, but he probably should have known that you don't mess with Yahweh.
So, Josiah goes out in disguise, joins the battle, gets shot by arrows, and dies.
I wonder why Josiah didn't listen to Neco. Was it his own ego thinking that he was so big and strong that he could defeat Neco even if God was against it? Was he afraid that Neco was lying -- and that Neco actually did want to conquer Judah? Did he doubt that God could speak through this foreigner (an Egyptian nonetheless!)? Even if all of these things were true, Josiah was incredibly foolish getting in the middle of a clash of two great armies -- that had nothing to do with him.
It reminds me that sometimes I just need to mind my own darn business -- that not every battle is mine to fight. It also reminds me that I should listen to the voices of wisdom that speak to me, even (perhaps especially) if they are "foreign" to me. It's easy to discount the voices of those who have different experiences than we do. I think we can learn two things from Josiah's unfortunate demise. We should broaden our expectations about who might be speaking the wisdom of God and remember that seeking peace might be better than jumping in to fight someone else's war.
-Rev. Chris Jorgensen
Hanscom Park United Methodist Church
Prayer for Reflection
God of Wisdom, help us to be humble and open to your voice from whatever messenger you choose to send, and help us to seek your peace in every moment. May it be so. Amen.
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