2 Kings 23 vs 1 - 3
Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
When the Prime Minister spoke recently about our way of life being disrupted by Coronavirus I was saddened but not surprised to hear him mention, our liberty, our sports, our pubs, almost everything except our churches, even faith in general. He is though, someone who appears to have little grasp of faith, and no apparent knowledge of Christ. Like many others of the political elite across the globe he believes that faith should be confined to the private sphere since it has nothing to contribute in a modern society.
In Judah of course it was very different, religion played a central role in the life of the nation but when that faith was pagan in origin it had an entirely corrupting effect on the land and it seemed to find a ready resting place in the hearts of people. King Josiah in response to God’ law set about restoring the worship of the true God by publicly confirming the covenant and setting himself to rid Judah of its foreign gods and the depraved worship practices of prostitution and child sacrifice.
We are not in the position of a ruler to impose faith on people, nor in fact is such a thing possible. After his death we discover that while Josiah’s heart had been changed, the change in people was no more than skin deep and they quickly returned to type afterwards. That however does not mean that we should keep our faith private and out of the public eye or that Jesus and his word should not form and shape our attitudes, our actions, influence the way we vote and how we engage in a democratic society. Surely change, be it in an individual or a community is deeper and longer lasting when it comes from the inside out rather than being forced from the outside in. The community will change when the people are changed, and the people will change when their hearts are changed and the only one who can change the heart is the Lord. It’s a truth expressed by the psalm writer who when confronted by his sin makes the impassioned plea “Create in me a pure heart o God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10). The evidence that this is true is played out in Josiah and his nation. How is a nation changed? One heart at a time! Beginning where? Right here in us... purify my heart Lord!