Today’s first scripture for Mass is yet another excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Kings. Yesterday, we heard about the tribulations of King Hezekiah, one of the few rulers of the Israelites who was actually a virtuous king, a man of competence and character.
Today we learn about another of the good kings of the Israelites, a man by the name of Josiah. Josiah initiated a reform of the Israelites priesthood that expressed itself in a purification of Israelite worship. The dictates of the Law of Moses regarding Israelite worship were strictly applied, reverence to pagan gods and goddesses was forbidden and worship was centralized at the temple of Jerusalem. It was also likely that during the reign of Josiah that what we know as the Old Testament book called Deuteronomy was compiled, a book which would serve as an important point of reference for Josiah’s religious reforms.
Josiah’s concern about worship highlights that in order for there to be culture, there must also be a cult. What people worship, what a community esteems as their ultimate concern, will shape and influence politics, economics, literature and the arts, indeed all the aspects of civilization that we call culture.
Josiah knew that many of the Israelites were insincere in their worship. They were playing games with Israelite religion and using it, not as a way of honoring God, but as means to advance their own agendas and causes. Further, despite professing faith in the one, true God, they were at the same time worshiping false gods- the gods of wealth, pleasure, power and honors. The worship of these false gods had seeped into the public worship of the temple, symptomatic of the soul sickness of the Israelites. The one true God had been displaced in his own house by gods of wealth, pleasure, power and honors.
Has the one true God been displaced in our own lives by false gods?
Christ the Lord warns us to beware of false prophets. A prophet speaks God’s word of truth. A false prophet will speak his or her own word and elevate that word to having divine authority. How does one distinguish a true prophet from a false prophet?
Our reference point is Christ. A true prophet will bear witness to the Lord Jesus in words and in actions. They will introduce you to the Lord Jesus and present themselves as his servant. They will propose, not impose. They will offer an invitation, not a threat. They will introduce you to Christ, and they will not stand in his way. And the true prophet will do for you what Christ does- will for you what is the highest and most important good.