Yesterday in church we learned about Josiah, who became king of Judah at age eight.
Who was King Josiah, what did he do, and why does it matter hundreds of years later?
Josiah had a notorious grandfather (Manasseh) – recorded as the most dastardly king of Judah. He had a son (Amon) that walked in his evil footsteps, leaving a poor spiritual heritage to his son, who was Josiah, the young king we are talking about here…
Josiah was eight years old when his father was assassinated. Early in his young royal life, Josiah was curious about spiritual things. Although his homeland was black with evil, Josiah still began to seek God.
It might be better to say that God drew him. God does that – and it’s often surprising. Especially when conditions around us don’t look promising, and we don’t appear to be headed in a holy direction.
All this drawing and wooing and curious interest about God made Josiah’s heart fertile ground. God was preparing his soft heart for an upsetting, earthshaking event that took place a few years later…
King Josiah told workers to clean out the temple. This was looking like a no-brainer job. Laborers were simply there to de-clutter, dust and organize. They were even told to keep track of their own hours. Things looked easy.
As trinkets were unearthed and dust flew, a scroll was discovered and brought to King Josiah.
This scroll was actually a treasured but forgotten book of the Law of God — given and practiced hundreds of years before.
Back when people followed God.
Back before people exchanged a loving God for a lie.
Reading the scroll aloud put a horrifying spotlight on Judah’s current state of affairs. God’s chosen people had been living in direct opposition to the words of this scroll-book. The nation was practicing child sacrifice and idol worship, even though generations before they had ousted people that were doing these same things.
When Josiah heard the words of the neglected book, he wept and tore his clothes.
Here they were, trying to tidy up the temple, making it sparkle and shine. But the temple – the spiritual heart of the nation– didn’t need dusting, it needed to be stripped down, disinfected, dismantled and rebuilt.
Josiah’s heart was overwhelmed and heavily grieved.
But Josiah wasn’t only stirred. He was changed.
Josiah turned the nation of Judah around 180 degrees.
(This thorough process involved lots of idols being ground to powder and piles of burnt bones.)
A woman named Huldah gave a prophecy at this point:
Judah be destroyed because of its abominations. It would be disciplined for the cries of its sacrificed children. But because of Josiah’s repentance and love for God’s discovered Word, Judah’s depressing end wouldn’t come during Josiah’s lifetime.
Lots of personal lessons here:
- We should expect to see God’s Word in God’s house. It shouldn’t be hidden, neglected, unused or unpracticed.
- Maybe we feel safe, knowing we will avoid the coming judgment. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn others. I want to be faithful to share God’s Word within my sphere of influence.
- When I am confronted by God’s Word, do I change? Or, do I continue puttering around, just dusting the externals?
- Josiah burned and destroyed the evidence and the promoters of idol worship in Judah. This made it impossible for the people to return to the former way of life. Have I made it easy or difficult to return to old, sinful ways? Burning bridges here can be a good thing…
- 300 years earlier, a prophet actually named Josiah by name, predicting that he would destroy idol worship in Judah. (I Kings 13:1-10) The Bible is bursting with fulfilled prophecies, confirming its truth.
- After all that Josiah did to reform Judah, his son Jehoiakim went the opposite way. He heard God’s word, and what he didn’t like, he conveniently had cut out with a knife and burned. God has no grandchildren; our children need to surrender to God for themselves.
- Josiah’s life ended on a strange note. He felt compelled to fight against Egypt, even though Pharaoh warned him that it really wasn’t his fight. Josiah did it anyway — he dressed up like a common person, was wounded and died. It’s always good to be reminded that even if a person’s life is resplendent and glorious, he or she is still just a person who makes mistakes.
- 2 Chronicles 34,35
- Jeremiah 36
- 2 Kings 22,23