What do we do as parents when our kids stray farther and farther away from gospel principles and safe living? What do we do if they fail to protect themselves and instead insist on striking out toward risky terrains?
I was reading today in 2 Kings and the lessons there are so instructive, especially for parents who cry at night because of a child’s (or children’s) choices.
The book of 2 Kings in the Old Testament contains a sobering history about two segments of the ancient Jews: the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Very few of the kings for either kingdom were righteous, nor were the inhabitants. The citizens followed their kings’ choices and sought after pagan rituals, some even participating in infant and human sacrifice.
The Lord (obviously) found these practices revolting. As a result, He used prophets to warn the Israelites and those of the kingdom of Judah to mend their ways. But both groups apparently liked living a lascivious lifestyle, for they continually sought after it.
The Lord waited centuries, patiently giving them chance after chance. Finally, though, He allowed a frightening Assyrian army to sweep in, destroying the one kingdom (the Israelite one) and scatter it; the other kingdom He preserved, due to a rare and righteous king (King Hezekiah for the kingdom of Judah). In fact, those in Judah were spared for quite some time — as long as righteous choices were made.
Unfortunately, Hezekiah died and his son began to rule in wickedness, again setting up pagan places of ceremony and initiating sacrifice again. But wait two generations and the story does become brighter: 8-year-old Josiah becomes king. And for me, Josiah holds instructive keys on how to rule a kingdom (or a household, for that matter).
Josiah did not care about being popular. He cared about what was right. He did not care about deeply established tradition. He cared about God’s laws. As a result, he cast down all pagan places of worship. He did that “which was right in the sight of the Lord,…” (2 Kings 22:2). He also began to clean up the old temple site of the Lord’s. He began to rebuild its walls. He oversaw it being cleaned out. As a result, he came across an ancient book. A book of scripture. THE book of the law as given to Moses. And he read it.
What he found there so troubled him that he called all the people to gather “concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13).
Discontinuing Bad Traditions
There are several simple principles Josiah teaches us. First, he did not care about tradition when it was a bad tradition. This translates for us today. As parents, we follow in Josiah’s wisdom when we say to our children, “Just because others are doing it does not imply it is wise … or safe.” These kinds of responses provide important principles our children need to hear when they say, “But MOOOOOMMMMMMM, Sally is doing it!” Again, Josiah did not care about tradition when it was a bad “tradition.”
Reconstruct & Strengthen our Spiritual Structures
Second, Josiah took great care to reconstruct the temple of God. Sometimes in our parenting, we may have let some of the “walls” of our spiritual places get run down (i.e. scripture study time, family prayer, personal prayer). But no problem! When we follow Josiah’s example, we simply get busy repairing the breaches and strengthening the walls to these important spiritual structures in our daily lives.
Third, because Josiah took the time to reconstruct the things of God, he received additional blessings and strength. For him, that strength came in finding a long forgotten book, something he could rely on to correct and chasten the people as necessary.
For us as parents, as we increase our connection to the things of God, it will simplify our parenting. We can simply reference the Lord’s ways while teaching our children (of course, this implies we are living those ways ourselves). Thus we can say to an upset child, “Honey, I know you’re angry. But because I love Heavenly Father and trust His wisdom, we really do need to do things this way [referencing whatever the standard is].”
Indeed, because Josiah took time to reconstruct the things of God (i.e. the temple in his day, while for us it might be the standards of God-like living), he received additional strength to face the day (i.e. for him it came in the literal form of finding a book of scripture, but for us it might come in the actual presence of the Spirit to strengthen us as we parent).
Set the Scriptures as Your Standard
Fourth, Josiah used the scriptures as THE standard of behavioral clarification and judgment. We can do this too. And how wonderfully clarifying this is. It simplifies our job as parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared with my kids, “Guys, this is something the Lord has clearly spoken against. I cannot allow this in my home.” Again, Josiah set a great pattern here. He read the scriptures, or the “book of the law,” to his people. As parents we need to set aside time for family scripture study so that law may begin to pervade the hearts of all family members.
Sometimes family life is messy. The way is not easy cleaning up that mess. But learning about the ancient men (and women) in the scriptures can sure be a God-send to those of us facing our own challenges today. I’m so grateful for Josiah and how he was willing to face down dangerous traditions, to reconstruct the places of spirituality, to accept additional blessings, and to use the scriptures as a standard. As we do the same, coupling all actions with prayer, the Lord will help inspire us to help our children by correcting their ways in loving truth and eternal standards.
To learn of additional ways to strengthen your family through Jesus Christ and His ways, visit the “Jesus Christ, The Son of God” website.
This post was originally published in 2008. Minor changes have been made.