Josiah's on First, Manasseh's on Second, Sennacherib's on Third . . .
Recently in our family devotions, we were reading about Josiah, the young king of Judah who turned his country upside down in an attempt to purify its worship. In the course of reading, we ran into a lot of references to other historical events.
Though God told Josiah that he would not see the coming wrath against Judah, he made it clear that Judah would indeed be sent into exile. To understand God's unwillingness to relent, I went back to his miraculous deliverance of Judah from the Assyrian king Sennacherib, then talked about how it was followed immediately by the extreme idolatry of Hezekiah's son, Manasseh.
When Josiah destroyed the high place at Bethel, I had to go back and talk about Jeroboam's rebellion, the start of the divided kingdom, the high places Jeroboam set up at Dan and Bethel, and the prophecy that a king named Josiah would one day destroy the high place at Bethel.
When Josiah destroyed Topheth, the shrine to Molech in the valley of Hinnom, I found myself explaining how Topheth and Gehenna became synonyms for hell. And when Josiah destroyed the pagan shrines Solomon had set up, I had to talk briefly about Solomon as well.
As you can imagine, my children started to feel like they were listening to an old Abbott and Costello sketch. Hezekiah did what? Who was Sennacherib? Where's Bethel? It was clear I was giving too much background information in the most confusing manner possible.
So I switched gears and opened the Accordance Timeline. Rather than showing All Items, I chose just to show the Rulers. I could then show how the kingdom of Israel split after the reign of Solomon, how Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and nearly conquered Judah during the reign of Hezekiah, and how quickly Manasseh had led Judah back into idolatry. I then pointed out the reign of Josiah, and showed how soon after his death Judah was conquered by the Babylonians.
At various points I also turned to the Atlas and showed the divided kingdoms, pointed out the location of Dan and Bethel, showed the location of Assyria and Babylonia, and displayed the animated route of Pharaoh Neco's campaign (in which Josiah was killed).
By using the visual assistance of the Timeline and Atlas, I was able to recap the history of ancient Israel in a way that helped the story of Josiah make more sense to my family. Perhaps if Abbott had drawn a diagram of the players' positions, Costello would have understood Who was on second . . . or was that What? I Don't Know. Oh yeah, he's on third! :-)