I participated in an ordination service for Pastor Joel Eastwood on Sunday night, Nov.13th. I am posting an edited version of the sermon I preached for that occasion. Congratulations to Joel on his ordination!
The nation of Judah, the southern kingdom, was a mess. In 686 BC, King Hezekiah had died. He was a godly king. In fact, because of his repentance, he was granted an extra 15 years of life during which he prospered greatly. But, in 686 BC he died and his son Manasseh ascended the throne. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh did not follow in his father’s footsteps. His rule was marked by vice and wickedness. He was a scourge, a blight on the good name of his father. Manasseh ruled the nation of Judah for 55 years – the longest reign of any of the Judean kings. 2 Chron.33:1-9 is a good place to find a summary of this reign.
Now, Manasseh had a son, and although he became the king, Amon was no better than Manasseh. The chronicler actually tells us in 2 Chronicles 33:20-23 that Amon was as bad if not worse than his father. He was so bad, that after 2 brutal years his own servants assassinated him.
In 640 BC, however things improve. A full 57 years after the death of his great grandfather, the young Josiah becomes the king of Judah. Josiah was a great king. In 2 Chron.34:1 we read that although he was only 8 when he started to reign, his reign began well. When he was 16 he sought after God (v.3). When he was 20, he began a national campaign to stamp out idolatry (2 Chron.34:3). But, this isn’t the only good thing Josiah does. Breaking down the high places and the private places of worship that had sprung up was just the beginning for Josiah. When he was in the 18th year of his reign, at age 26, he began a renovation of the temple. Manasseh, the wicked king had used the temple as a shrine for worshipping the heavens, and it needed to be repaired. And so the stimulus money was announced and work on the temple began. Stones were cut, flooring was laid (v.11). As workmen are scurrying about preparing the building, Hilkiah, a priest in the temple makes a remarkable discovery. He finds a copy of the law. I often wonder what it might have looked like. Was it covered in dust bunnies, as though it had lain behind the fridge for years? Was it frayed on the edges? Had it been nibbled on by the temple mice?
Hilkiah the priest finds Shaphan the scribe and gives him the copy of the law. Then Shaphan, realizing the value of the document brings it to Josiah the king. Shaphan then proceeded to read it aloud to King Josiah. But Josiah was not only going to hear the words of the Law, he was determined to keep them. After finding a prophetess to inform them what God would do to the people for not obeying the law, a prophecy announced in 2 Chron.34:24-26 we learn that Josiah will be spared the misery of watching this judgement.
How is it that Josiah secures the blessing of God on his life? Well, v.27 provides the answer to that question. Because Josiah’s heart was tender before the Lord. Because Josiah’s heart was – notice – humble. When Josiah heard God’s law – he was humbled.
Now, this is not a coronation, but an ordination. Joel is not a king, and last time I checked, we are in Lepreau, not in Judah. But there is a disposition which Josiah displays that transcend location, time, place and circumstance. Isaiah 57:15 says that God dwells with those who are of a humble and contrite heart. Joel, if I could tell you one thing tonight as you are about to be ordained to the gospel ministry, I would tell you this. Learn the lesson of humility. Pride is a canker. It will fester in your heart and spoil your ministry for the Lord more completely than anything else. You may become one of the greatest preachers in all the land. You may be possessed of a brilliant and keen intellect – and I think you are. You may amaze people with your insight and dazzle them with your wit. You may have people clamour for your advice. But that will all be burned up if it is done in pride and for self glory.
If you long to have a ministry among people that bears eternal fruit, you must learn the lessons of humility. You have a great teacher, for Jesus humbled himself (Phil.2). Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death. Learn that lesson. Don’t forget it. Bind it to your mind and heart. Nothing will ruin your ministry faster than a heart of pride. Pride is like a wildfire. It consumes everything in its path.
A ministry which is characterized by pride will result in ashes. No one wants to stand before Jesus with a fistful of ashes to offer as the fruit of your life.
Just because you are a pastor you will not be immune to the temptation of pride. In fact, 1 Peter 5, which is written to elders says this, (1 Peter 5:1-3; 5-6). Joel, pride will be the greatest threat to your ministry. Many people have fallen because of it.
What makes a great king – humility according to Josiah’s life. What will make a great pastor? Well, I’m a big fan of education – but it won’t be education that makes you a great pastor. I am glad to see you pursue and finally be ordained. But ordination doesn’t make you a great pastor. I’m glad you are loving pastor and I am glad to see that you have built and are building relationships in this community, but it won’t be relationships that will make you a great pastor. It will be humility. Because if you will humble yourself, then God will exalt you in due time!
Humility, I might add is not only for the pastor, but also for the congregation (v.5). That means that you must approach your pastor in humility. God resists those who are proud. But together, humbly moving toward each other and humbly moving toward your God will be able to accomplish much to the glory of God – because you will not be seeking your own glory.