Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How does God form integrity into you? Integrity means that the individual parts of you are connected with each other in a healthy way - and your choices reflect your deep down convictions.

I've been reading deeply in the the Old Testament Book of Daniel. It is a narrative story of faith and decisions. Daniel (and others) grow in integrity through the episodes of this story. And I see a certain outline (formula?) traced in each chapter. The more I saw it repeated, the more I thought about how it is true for me, too:

Daniel (or the other main persons of the story) begins each chapter in a place of comfort within his culture. Then he is caught in a dilemma. He must make a decision and he chooses to honor God in his response to the dilemma he faces, despite the danger it puts him in. As a result, he becomes a counselor of greater influence - in other words, God blesses his God-honoring choice by widening the circle of people who listen to him, and broadening the number of people who follow his leadership.

I know that having each part of Daniel's story begin with the letter "c" looks a little cheesy, but bear with me - it makes it easier to remember.

For example, in the first chapter he is a young (probably 14-16 years old) man from a royal family residing in Jerusalem in wealth and privelege. Though there was at that time a rotten King over Israel (named 'Jehoiakim'), the King that preceded him (named 'Josiah') was actually quite awesome in his good character. So, while Daniel was growing up, the example before him was Josiah - a good king.

Why do I think Josiah was a good king? Dig a little deeper by going into the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, chapters 22, and 23. In that account of Israel's history, you will see that King Josiah was the most godly, full of integrity, king in a long, long time.

Josiah did five things that were good:
1. he revived the worship of God by his people. (He did this by repairing the Jerusalem Temple so people had a place to worship the Lord)
2. he recalled the people to reading God's Word. (for generations, the Torah had been neglected, not read or obeyed...but during the Temple restoration, a scroll was uncovered, Josiah read it, and got everyone to begin reading and obeying God's Word.)
3. he removed the state support of sexual immorality (Josiah stopped the male and female prostitutes hovering around the capital and the Temple who sold sex to give their clients a "spiritual high" through physical pleasure. Sounds kinky, and it was).
4. he restored the value of life (some people were actually sacrificing children to a pagan idol, and he put a stop to it).
5. he restarted the celebration of Passover (this was the once a year "story meal" that Jews gathered for in their family home, to eat dishes that told the story of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The Jews, by neglecting the Passover, had forgotton who they were and how God loved them).

I think that King Josiah made a big impression on young Daniel. Daniel grew up in a culture that honored God.

It makes me think how I can trace my own life story by the US Presidents who have held office during my lifetime. Their leadership, their convictions and decisions shaped the culture I lived in. Born in 1954 (Eisenhower, Baby Boom, tract houses, 'seeing the USA in our Chevrolet'), grade school in the 60's (Kennedy and Johnson - The Cold War, "drop drills" to practice hiding under the school desk to "protect" us if a nuclear attack hit - though recent Columbine was way more tragic, my generation had a sense of insecurity too. Vietnam, nightly "body counts" on the evening news, "free love" and rebellion against authority), graduated high school in 1972 (Nixon, then impeachment, Ford for a brief 2 years). I'll stop there for now...but it makes me think back to the culture that I grew up with.

I think I was comfortable in my culture, because of loving parents who were like a Josiah to me. They honored God, our home was run on Christian principles, we had fun, laughed at the dinner table, enjoyed the great outdoors. Yeah, I think I was a Daniel when I was young.

Was/is there a Josiah in your life?

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