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Renounce and Repent

During my junior year of college, myself along with several students and one professor, spent a weekend in New Orleans, LA to assist with the wreckage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Our team was tasked with demolition of severely damaged homes near the ninth ward. It was the simplest job to give to young college students with no experience in rebuilding homes. But our job was no less important than the carpenters, plumbers, and electricians that would arrive a week later to begin repairing and rebuilding the homes of folks who thought they had lost it all. Demolition, or the tearing down and throwing away of that which needs to be discarded, is always a part of the reconstruction process.

Our text this morning, 2 Kings 22:1-7, informs us that during the reign of King Josiah, repairs were made to the temple. But one may ask: what was the need for repair? The answer is simple: disregard and misuse. The corresponding text to 2 Kings 22 is 2 Chronicles 34. This corresponding text adds to Josiah’s record asserting that under his reign, false religious symbols and relics were discarded:

“[3] For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. [4] And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.”

Prior to repairing the temple for right worship, Israel was called to renounce the false religions they followed. Individually, the practice of renunciation was common in the early church. Prior to baptism, “the presbyter, taking hold of each of those about to be baptized, shall command him to renounce, saying: I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy servants and all thy works.”[1] Renunciation is closely connected to repentance, as repentance is the “turning from it [sin] unto God.”[2] Renunciation is also the declaration that one “cannot serve two masters.”[3] It is most likely that Israel had not completely abandoned the worship of Yahweh, but that they were practicing syncretism. They added the worship of pagan gods alongside worship of the one true God. This syncretism was to be repented of as well.

The reformer, Martin Luther, once stated that the whole life is one of repentance. One could say that our lives are to be marked by renunciation as well. We are called to turn away from other false allegiances that cannot save (including ourselves), and look only to Christ who truly forgives and grants eternal life. May the Holy Spirit assist us in replicating the cleansing of Josiah days, done in our own hearts.

[1] Apostolic Tradition 21.9 in Burton Scott Easton, The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1934), 45.

[2] Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 87

[3] Matthew 6:24

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