What is it that makes a person choose to follow God?

2 Kings 21-22; Proverbs 15

There seems to be a persistent theme when it comes to the kings of God’s people. There were kings who served Yahweh their God and kings who served false gods. In 2 Kings chapters 21-22, we are told a tale of two kings. The first king, Manasseh, king over Judah, did evil in the sight of Yahweh God.

Wait a minute. Didn’t we just read about a similar situation a few chapters ago? Why does history repeat itself so often? Did the people learn nothing about what it meant to follow God (or not) from their forefathers? Did they not just witness their sister kingdom of Israel being starved and then carried away into captivity because they would not listen? Or was that too far in the past to grasp? Even if their memories faded, the people of the kingdom of Judah were living out a miracle of God through the reign of Hezekiah. His consequence to following God brought his people life. Not just any life, but an abundant and prosperous life. Why wouldn’t future generations mirror his ways and follow after his God? There must be more to it than knowledge of a history of consequences.

So what is it that makes a person (or a people) choose to follow God?

Romans 10:17 says that faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The kingdoms of God should have known the words of God. They were God’s chosen people who were given the Law of Moses. Many were taught the word of God through people close to them, such as their parents, priests, and sometimes prophets, and through repeated practice of those laws in their daily lives. God supplied them with everything they needed to do right before him. Yet we see kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. Some kings chose to serve God, while others chose to serve other gods.

I consider myself privileged to have been brought up in a household that taught me about my God and his son from as early as I can remember. Others in our faith didn’t have this advantage. They had to hear the word from someone perhaps not as close to them later in life or discover God through his word for themselves. These types of people are my favorite people. To have such a passion for truth that they’d seek God diligently despite their lack of a foundation in the word (or despite their lack of a foundation in the one true God) amazes me. Many of these truth seekers are doing so in the face of great persecution. This is praiseworthy.   

Some “good” kings of Israel or Judah appear to have been brought up in the word of God. I believe this type of upbringing was vital to their success as a God follower, even if at times they stumbled. A good upbringing, however, is not always enough.

King Hezekiah was a God follower, an amazing pray-er, and likely a good teacher of the word of God. Yet his son Manasseh chose not to walk in the ways of his father and instead chose to do evil in the sight of God – a lot of evil. It appears that Manasseh was born during the last few years of Hezekiah’s life (the 15 extra years God miraculously granted him). It is possible that he didn’t gain a firm foundation in the word from his father before his death. After all, he was only about 12 years of age when he began his reign as king. However, we all know another 12-year-old that was always about his father’s business, so I can’t give Manasseh too much slack with a father like Hezekiah.He must have heeded his father’s words in some way, as he knew to eventually repent of his evil ways before his God. If Hezekiah had been alive to see it, I’d imagine he’d be overjoyed to see his son repent and follow after the one true God. Thank God for repentance – as there’s time for it. Manasseh’s predecessor and son, Amon, did evil in the sight of God and reigned for only 2 short years. He was actually murdered by his servants. The word doesn’t give us much indication as to why but perhaps some of the people wanted to continue with Manasseh’s later reformed ways.

Finally we come to another “good” king of Judah, Josiah, Amon’s son. Josiah’s reign began when he was only 8 years old. Based on his father’s and the majority of his grandfather’s, evil behavior, I can’t imagine that he was taught much good. Perhaps the people around him experienced a taste of the good life that came at the end of Manasseh’s reign with his repentance and instilled some good practices in Josiah. But I can’t be certain that anything was taught to Josiah regarding the word of God. The high priest of the time actually found the book of the Law some 18 years into Josiah’s reign. I’m guessing that the last one to read or hear it was Hezekiah, almost a century earlier!

When Josiah heard the word of God for the first time in his life, he tore his clothes and he wept because he knew his fathers and his people had forsaken Yahweh God. He felt guilt and knew what his kingdom deserved. He immediately sought Yahweh on behalf of himself and his people. He found a prophetess, Huldah, who spoke to him concerning God’s judgment. We see that the nation of Judah was guilty but because of Josiah’s response to hearing God’s word, they were shown mercy.

It is Josiah’s response to hearing the word of God that answers my former question. What is it that makes a person (or a people) choose to follow God?

It’s their heart and humility before the LORD.

2 Kings 22:18-20

18 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord, this is what you shall say to him: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Regarding the words which you have heard, 19 since your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become an object of horror and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I have indeed heard you,’ declares the Lord.” 20 Therefore, behold, I am going to gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not look at all the devastation that I am going to bring on this place.’” So they brought back word to the king.

Josiah is likened to me as those truth seekers who didn’t have a biblical advantage as part of their upbringing. Josiah goes on to be one of the greatest kings of Judah of all times. It didn’t take him years of study in the ways of God to choose to follow God once he heard his words. All it took was his humble heart.

I am currently discipling my two young boys in an effort to steer their hearts towards God. I want to do everything in my power to raise up children in the ways of the Lord so that when they must choose on their own, they’ll choose him continually, even after a stumble. It can be discouraging to think that despite their advantage, they may still fail. I can’t make them have a heart for God. They have to want him on their own. That the words of our God and his son would be written on their hearts continually is my prayer for them.

It is astounding to me that there are Josiahs out there who’ve never even heard the word of God, but once they do, their hearts will immediately be for him. Oh how I long for a heart like that. Let’s pray for each other’s hearts.

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 21-22 and Proverbs 15

Destroy the Asherah

2 Kings 17-18

There seems to be a persistent theme when it comes to the kings of God’s people. There were kings who served Yahweh their God and kings who served false gods. In 2 Kings 17-18, we are told a tale of two kings. The first king, Hoshea, king over Israel in Samaria, did evil in the sight of Yahweh God. During Hoshea’s reign, the king of Assyria came up against him. Instead of relying on Yahweh for help in the time of trouble, Hoshea sought the help of foreign aid and made foreign gods.

He set pillars up and Asherim (wooden symbols of a female deity) on every high hill and under every green tree. He served Idols and worshiped stars. He made the people pass through the fire (sacrificed them to gods) and practiced divination and enchantments.

Over and over again, Yahweh God tells Israel to turn from their evil ways and keep his commandments and statutes, but they would not listen. They became stiff-necked and vain and did what Yahweh God commanded them not to do under Hoshea’s leadership. They put their trust in other gods and did not fear the one true God. The next and last king of Israel did accordingly. As a result, Israel was carried away into exile. God removed them from his sight.

Then there was Hezekiah, king over Judah. He did right in the sight of Yahweh. He removed pillars and cut down the Asherah. He trusted in Yahweh God and clung to him. He kept his commandments. Yahweh was with him and wherever he went he prospered. While all the nations surrounding him were taken into captivity, Hezekiah not only withstood the forces against him, but conquered them because he put his trust in Yahweh God, listened to his commandments, and removed the false gods from his kingdom.

In our times of trouble, will we despise the word of God and serve little self-made gods like Hoshea, or will we destroy the Asherah of our lives and serve the one true God like Hezekiah? We are told by our Lord Jesus that we will have trouble in this life but to take courage because he has overcome the world. In response to trouble, we have two choices to make that can lead to two very different outcomes. We can create and rely on our own Asherah or destroy it and rely on Yahweh God alone through his son Jesus Messiah.

We don’t live in a day and age when most people are physically making objects out of wood to worship or sacrificing their children to other gods. We may however worship and sacrifice to other “gods” that we’ve made priority in our lives over Yahweh God. If we’re not careful, we may find ourselves making our personal lives our priority. We can pursue a self-indulgent lifestyle that involves making ourselves happy, making ourselves financially secure, and making ourselves feel safe. We can sacrifice our time, energy, and focus on all things not God. We’ve got to stop doing this if our desire is to serve the one true God.

Idols can be hidden. There was a time when God ordained the bronze serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of the coming Messiah. It was to be held high for all Israel to look upon and live in the face of death. Yet, we find in 2 Kings that Hezekiah destroys it. Why? Because it had become a symbol of worship beyond what God intended for it to be. What once represented the Messiah who brings life became idol worship.

Have we set up idols of influence in our lives “on every high hill and under every green tree” without even realizing it? Have we become stiff-necked and vain with our priorities and done the very thing God commands us not to do? If we have, there’s hope! Thank God we have repentance and forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Messiah. Identify the Asherah in your life, repent, destroy it, and rely on God. 

-Juliet Taylor

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ! I am thankful for this opportunity to write.  I am a Biblical Unitarian and have been for life (although I didn’t know we had a name until recently). I grew up attending fellowship based off of the teachings of the Way International Ministries. There were some years I spent listening to church online from Living Hope International Ministries, until I found a local church that believed like me. I currently attend Higher Ground Church, now affiliated with The Church of God General Conference. I’ve been with my home church for about 14 years and attend with my husband and two boys. 
We love Yahweh God, his son Jesus Messiah, and long to be with them in the Kingdom of God. Love to all and God Bless! -Juliet

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 17-18 and Proverbs 13