Read 2 Kings 22-23; (Cf 2 Chroncles 33-35)
God's Word is pure and precious to me. This is the story of Josiah, a young boy made king who sought to throw down idolatry and reform true faith in his nation. The key event was the finding of the Book of the Law.
Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king. His grandfather (Manasseh) had also been a evil king for most of the 55 years of his rule - so evil that Judah was more wicked than any of the other nations (who did not even know God or His word). He had built altars to star gods (Canaanite Baalism had a pantheon of astrological dieties similar to the Greeks) and practiced witchcraft, put a idol in God's temple, sacrificed his son to an idol and killed many innocent people. (2 Kings 21:2-9). Like Josiah's grandfather, his father (Amon) had also been an evil king who worshiped idols and did not walk in God's ways. (2 Kings 2:20-22). He was assassinated by his own officials after reigning but 2 years, and so Josiah, a young boy became king.
We can make the observation that God's providence had spared him the upbringing of his wicked father and broken the chain of "like father-like son" wickedness that had proceeded him.
The chronology of Josiah's reign: (2 Chron 34: 1,3,8, 19)
Because of the sins of his grandfather and father, God's anger burned at this wicked nation. The people did not know how to obey God. At 16 Josiah became a believer, but how was he to know how to please God and restore true worship. When He was 20 years old, he began to remove the idols from Judah, and remove the idols from the temple and Jerusalem.
When he was 24, while they were cleaning the temple, they found a copy of the Word of God which He had given through Moses. They took it to Josiah. For four years reforms had going on without clear direction. Efforts to please God by "cleaning up Judah's act" were underway. Now they had God's directions.
When he read it, he became very distressed. He realized that the people needed to return to the Lord. That idols must be torn down and priesthoods put out of commission. Yet the land was filled with idolatry. As you read the account of his destruction of the idols, notice how they had proliferated. Idols were everywhere - idols that encouraged prostitution and all sorts of immorality, even child sacrifices. Read Deuteronomy 28: 15-68 to see the curses God had put on the lifestyle of Judah.
But the efforts to reform the people can not outweigh the impact of their sins. Our sins can not be ignored or overlooked by God no matter how much we try to reform ourselves. (Rom 6:23) The consultation with the Prophetess revealed that God still would bring the judgement upon Judah.
Most significant in the account of Josiah was the keeping of the feast of Passover. Never since the days of Samuel hundreds of years earlier had Passover been so carefully observed. The correct way to worship and serve God is spelled out in the Word. We need to follow it's guidence, not tradition, or our own impulses in everything.
The restoration of Passover was especially significant because it (like the Lord's Supper) teaches us about how God forgives sins. We need a sacrifice to deliver us from sin. God provided the perfect sacrifice in the person of His son, Jesus, whom John the Baptist called "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."
No other king before or after Josiah turned to the Lord like he did - with all his heart and soul and strength in accordance with the Law of Moses.
Yet because of the sins of his fathers God could not turn away his wrath at their sins. (We cannot earn forgiveness by the things we do, however great they may be. By grace we are saved through faith, and even that is not ours, it is a gift of God, not on the basis of works, lest we boast (Eph 2:8,9) However Josiah's years as king had significant impact: on some of the people, in particular a man named Jeremiah, and a priest named Habakkuk...and many people were turned back to God. God's wrath had been delayed for a season to give more opportunity for repentance. Rom 2:4,5; 2 Peter 3:9; Isa 48:9.
We have to see the Word of God was here functioning as an instrument of reform. It exposed false gods and false forms of worship for what they were. It revealed God's true religion. In a similar way, the Bible functions in our daily lives - showing us our sin that we can confess and cast it out of our lives, and directing us to true obedience. And it directs us to our only hope of salvation - the sacrifice that pays the price of sin. (Gal 3:19-22) Scripture finds us guilty ("the whole world is a prisoner of sin") so that forgiveness and Life through faith in Christ may be given to those who believe. (vs. 22)
Josiah's early death at the Battle of Megiddo (609), while fighting against Pharoah Neco brought a sudden halt to his reforms. (2 Chron 35:20-25 makes it clear that he had disobeyed God's warning concerning this conflict between Eygpt and Assyria and entered into an unnecessary fight.) While outwardly the people seemed to be turning back to God, yet God saw their hearts were not with Him as the messages of Jeremiah and Habakkuk make clear. Why did God in His providence call home the reformer at the height of his vigor and zeal for the Lord, doing battle for Him? God spared him from the fires of judgement to come upon Judah in the next decade as Judah would be carried off into captivity in Babylon.
What significant factors affected his attempts at bringing reform to the people? How did the Law make a difference?
What spiritual roles did the Word of God have in Josiah's life, and in his kingdom's life? What was especially significant about the Passover celebration?
1 Peter 1:22-2:3 teaches us about this sanctifying work of the Word. We purify ourselves by obeying the truth. But it has to be a heart commitment, loving one another deeply. We are born again of an imperishable seed - the living and enduring Word of God. Even great leaders like Josiah may pass away, but the Word endures. Therefore we are to rid ourselves of all malice and deceit, hypocracy, envy, slander and instead crave pure spiritual milk, that we might grown up in our salvation, having tasted the goodness of the Lord.
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