“And Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” II Kings 22:2.
Deep in the hearts of human beings there seems to be a need for heroes, persons whom we can admire and emulate, persons who can serve as role models for ourselves and for others. One of my personal heroes is a man named Francis Asbury. He was a minister in the time of John Wesley, and served under Wesley in England during the years 1771–1777. But Wesley became aware that scattered along the Atlantic seaboard in far-off America there were almost a thousand Methodists, who were as sheep without a shepherd, so he assigned to Francis Asbury the task of going to the new land to minister to these Methodist people.
Most of them were scattered throughout the colonized areas along the coast, but some had made their homes in the mountains and valleys of the Appalachians, and a few were even beyond the mountains in the western plains. When Asbury arrived from England, he sized the situation up and bought himself a horse. For the next forty-five years he virtually lived on the road, most of the time on horse-back, never having a home of his own. He traveled a total of two hundred and fifty thousand miles on trails and primitive roads, through the wilderness and through the towns, across the rivers and through the swamps, defying the seasons and the weather. He said that a wagon with four wheels was too pompous for him. He did at times use a two wheeled, horse drawn cart, but since the awful condition of the roads occasioned so many upsets, he usually went back to his horse and saddle.
The journals that he kept, set forth an incredible record. He taught the scriptures and preached wherever he could find an audience, in pioneer cabins, in courthouses, in village streets and in forest groves, and frequently in churches. After preaching he would often sleep on someone’s floor, and travel on the next day to another such experience. This went on until he preached his last sermon in a church in Richmond, Virginia, in 1816. When he arrived there he was too weak to stand in the pulpit, so a special chair was arranged for him. Seven days later he died, as he had lived, in someone else’s home.
During his forty-five years of ministry he had seen the Methodist membership grow from one thousand to two hundred thousand, and they were uniformly among the most godly people in any community. He waged an incessant war with Calvinism, which encouraged the people to believe that victory over sin was not necessary. I was especially interested in the fact that he gave up eating bacon in 1777 and gave up tea and coffee in 1783, and noted, in his journal, a significant improvement in his health. I see him as a spiritual first cousin to the apostle Paul, and hold him as one of my personal heroes. Nothing could turn him aside from his chosen task. He was held on course by God’s gyroscope.
Another person who is high on my list of personal heroes is King Josiah of Judah. He also was held on course by God’s gyroscope, so that he turned not aside to the right nor to the left.
What is a gyroscope? It basically is a device consisting of three wheels, one within the other. The innermost wheel spins on an axle, like all wheels do. But the difference is that the two ends of its axle are anchored in the outer rim of another wheel, which spins in a different direction. And this second wheel’s axle is anchored in the rim of still a third wheel, which can turn in a third direction. The result of this arrangement is that the inner wheel can have great flexibility of movement.
But here is the curious fact. Once the inner wheel is set to spinning, no movement of the other two wheels can change it in any way. It will hold to its course, regardless of how the other two wheels move. In the 1850s a French scientist named Foucault discovered that this inner wheel will hold to its course even against the rotation of the earth.
In the early 1900s inventors began to exploit the possibilities of this discovery. The result is that gyroscopes are now used as automatic pilots to hold ships and planes on their courses, in cruise controls and stabilizers, and as guidance systems in torpedoes and guided missiles.
But God had used His own kind of gyroscope long before that. The inner wheel is a determination to do God’s will, regardless of circumstances or conditions. We see it in the experiences of Abraham, Moses, Joseph and many others. And we see it in an especially appealing way in the experience of Josiah, king of Judah. We look at this with interest, because his experience is so similar to ours.
Josiah came to the throne when both the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were filled with wickedness. He was the grandson of the evil king Manasseh, of whom it is written that he made the people do worse than the heathen about them, (II Chronicles 33:9) and that he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood from one end to the other, (II Kings 21:16). Josiah was the son of the even more wicked Amon, who was slain after only two years on the throne. So, there was evil all about him in Judah and Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of Israel had already been destroyed for its wickedness. The prophets Habakkuk and Zephaniah were prophesying a similar doom for Judah. The remaining righteous remnant was in nearly total despair. How, they questioned, were the purposes of God for Israel ever going to be fulfilled? Had the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all failed?
Josiah realized that the warnings against apostasy given to Israel through Moses, might soon be realized in the wrath of God against Judah. He sent some of his leaders to the prophet Huldah to inquire whether there was any hope for the nation. The grim answer would have reduced many men to despair, but not Josiah. There was no hope for the nation, the prophet declared. The people had gone too far to be benefited by mercy or forgiveness. They would only become more bold in their wrong doing.
But Josiah’s gyroscope was working. He had made a commitment to God to do His will regardless of circumstances, and there was no provision in that commitment for giving up. He went right ahead with his plans for teaching righteousness to Judah, and he resolutely destroyed the altars of Baal in the groves. Then he did the same thing throughout the ruined northern kingdom of Israel. He could not save the nation, but because of his steadfast stand for the truth of God, there will be many in God’s kingdom who would otherwise not be there. His gyroscope held him right on course, and when he sees the results in the kingdom of God, he will be satisfied.
Our condition is very much like that of Josiah. There is evil all about us, both in the world and in the church. According to the inspired writings, there is no hope that the church structure can be called back to doing the will of God. We read rather of a dreadful shaking time, by which God will purge the church. Well may the righteous remnant inquire, as they did in Josiah’s day, “Is there any way that the purpose of God for this church can ever be fulfilled? Have the promises made to our spiritual ancestors all failed?”
We need to make sure of our gyroscope. For our generation, I submit that the inner wheel is our commitment to do God’s will, regardless of circumstances, the second wheel is the Bible, and the third wheel is the Spirit of Prophecy. If our gyroscope is working, nothing can cause us to turn aside, either to the right hand or to the left. We will be like those persons described in Education, 57, whose “consciences are as true to duty as the needle to the pole.”
We are confronted with evils in the churches, in the schools, in the conferences and in the hospitals. And we are confronted with another distressing problem, against which we have been warned. In her discussion of the lessons to be learned from the experience of Josiah and others of his time Ellen White writes :
“The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way.” Prophets and Kings, 387.
On Sabbath, November 16, a prominent Historic Seventh-day Adventist ministry leader stood before the cameras on a national television broadcast, and announced to his stunned supporters, to the church and to the world, that he was through with being a Historic Seventh-day Adventist. His name is John Osborne. His exact words were these:
“I don’t want to be a Reformed Seventh-day Adventist—
I don’t want to be a Historic Seventh-day Adventist—
I just want to be a Seventh-day Adventist.”
Then he appealed to the conference minister who was standing beside him to “lead him back to the church.”
To say that this caused consternation among his supporters would be an understatement. Those who have placed their confidence in him and have given millions of dollars in answer to his eloquent appeals for support, were stunned. This is because in all the ranks of Historic Seventh-day Adventists, no one has been as vocal or as vigorous in relentlessly accusing the conference structure of evil doing as this man. He had even gone so far as to publicly predict that because of the great evils in the General Conference, that it would be swept away within twelve months of the time that he spoke (1994). Now he has announced that he wants to be a part of that same conference structure, and that he is through with being a Historic Seventh-day Adventist.
His spiritual gyroscope was obviously not working, but let us pity, and not condemn. The entire scene was pitiable in the extreme. To see it was to gain the uncomfortable feeling that one was watching something that should have been hidden from view, the deep anguish of a human soul. And this anguish is being duplicated in many sorrowing homes across the land. Some have even begun calling other ministry leaders to ask whether they, too, are going to abandon the cause of Historic Adventism. The answer, of course, is a firm “No.”
To all the sorrowing ones, may I say that your sacrificial giving has been recorded in heaven, and has brought joy to our Lord. He will not forget it. And let us remind ourselves that our commitment to Christ is the center of our spiritual gyroscope, and that the Lord Jesus Christ has not changed, the Bible has not changed, and the Spirit of Prophecy has not changed. We were given full advance warning about things like this, and our faith should be strengthened, not weakened.
Let us learn what we can from this experience. First, it is worth noting that persons who take extreme views are often capable of moving from those extreme views to their exact opposites in a surprisingly short period of time. While I was doing evangelistic work in Hawaii, a young man came to see me about a personal problem. He had a remarkable ability to make music with the simple little Hawaiian instrument, the ukulele. I had once heard him play a march, Under the Double Eagle, on it, and I could hardly believe my ears. Now he had a conviction that he should make a vow to the Lord that he would never play the instrument again.
I tried to proceed carefully, since I had learned that such extreme views can be dangerous, but I urged him rather to consecrate his talent to the Lord and use it for His glory. I was not greatly surprised to learn, a few weeks later, that he had given up all religion and returned to the world. Persons with extreme views do tend to be very changeable. They need to give more attention to their stabilizing gyroscope, that would hold them on a steady course.
Second, we must be sure that we are following God, not men. Men may come and go, and may disappoint us, but God is steadfast and sure. We must not let ourselves be charmed into a personality cult.
Third, we must remember that regardless of what men may do or may not do, the purposes of God will be fulfilled. His promises have never failed and they will never fail. The shaking time will be terrible, but God’s truth and God’s people will be victorious in the end. Habakkuk was required to prophesy the doom of Judah, but he was also shown the vision of the eventual victory and restoration. Therefore he could cope with the situations as they came, and he could triumphantly write:
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17, 18.
His spiritual gyroscope was in good working order, as was Josiah’s, and it held them both on course, no matter what happened around them. If God would do it for them, He will do it for us. Let us see this disappointment as a call for re-consecration, and renewed dedication, and press on our way.