Teach me, O LORD , to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
Preserve my life in your righteousness.
(Psalm 119:33-40, New International Version)
Josiah was thrust into the halls of power and tremendous responsibility at the age of eight. It’s difficult to imagine the weight of the crown of Judah on such a young king. At the age of eighteen, according to II Kings 22 he sent one of his scribes to the temple to take care of a matter. While there, the Book of the Law was found, covered in dust. For a long time, the people of God had set aside the Word of God. Zealous and penitent, Josiah set about a wave of national reform. He destroyed the idols, altars, and shrines to the false idol gods. Worship of the One True God, Jehovah, was restored. Gone were the pagan rituals; gone the pagan influences on life–almost.
The heart is a fickle, yet determined thing. We often turn away from what/who is most important to us because of urges of the heart. We find a new passion, a new fad, a new appetite and we run at it–with dogged determination. When those “new things” sometimes are shown to us to be poisonous to our spiritual and emotional well-being, the heart that was so easily convinced by pleasure is hardly convinced by truth. So, we continue on our self-destructive path. So it was with Judah under the reign of Josiah. The false gods were dismantled in Judah, but not in their hearts, and after the death of their Reformer King, they quickly returned to their pagan ways. His land had outwardly obeyed, but inwardly remained unconverted.
The psalmist once again calls us to an inner conversion and transformation by the Word of God, and calls on the Lord for help in getting to the root of all true renovation of the soul. He prays, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” Change of heart and change of vision are the root of all godly life. And that change begins with an honest look at ourselves through the corrective lens of God’s Word.
Other passages to consider:
Ezekiel 36:25-26, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ephesians 1:18-21, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
Hebrews 12:1-3, “1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I Thessalonians 5:23, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(all passages quoted from the New International Version)