By Kyle Pope
The Holy Spirit says of Josiah:
Now before him there was no king like
him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all
his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like
(II Kings 23:25,NKJV).
This is high praise, particularly in
light of the fact that Josiah’s short life lasted only thirty-nine years. These
were not years of ease and leisure. Josiah was born into a kingdom of
wickedness. His father Amon and his grandfather Manasseh had reversed all of
the righteous reforms of his noble great-grandfather Hezekiah (II Kings 21).
High places for idolatrous worship and altars to Baal stood throughout the land
(II Kings 21:3). In the temple itself altars to pagan deities had been built
(II Kings 21:5) and a wooden idol, called an Asherah (II Kings 21:7). Josiah’s
fathers had practiced witchcraft, child sacrifice and consultation of
spiritists and mediums (II Kings 21:6). Josiah came to the throne at the tender
age of eight, after his father’s own servants had killed him (II Chronicles
wisdom would assume that Josiah would follow the same wickedness as his family.
Yet, II Chronicles 34:3 tells us that in the eighth year of his reign, at
sixteen years old, “he began to seek the God of his father David.” This
spiritual quest took him to heights he would never have imagined. Four years
later he began to purge Judah of idolatry, destroying the altars of Baal,
pulverizing the molded, carved and wooden images and scattering the dust on the
graves of those who had worshiped at their altars (II Chronicles 34:4). We must
never assume that growing up in a difficult environment locks a person into a
life of wickedness. Nor should we forget the great moral potential that rests
in a young heart (even in a teenager’s heart).
Chronicles makes it clear that Josiah began his first efforts to purge Israel’s
idolatry with a relatively naive understanding of what it meant to “seek the
God of his father David.” As is often the case someone may have religious
fervor but not have a complete knowledge of God’s law. The challenge is not to
be satisfied with following our own definition of righteousness, nor shrink
back when we learn God’s. Six years later, in the eighteenth year of his reign,
an event took place which changed Josiah forever (II Chronicles 34:8). After
his initial purge, he commissioned a major restoration of the temple. In the
course of this effort the High Priest, Hilkiah found “the book of the Law of
the Lord [given] by Moses” (II Chronicles 34:14). A scribe named, Shaphan read
the book to the king, and as he heard God’s instructions his heart was broken
recognizing how his nation and his fathers had sinned against God. He tore his
clothes in remorse and commanded that inquiry be made to the Lord, “because
our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book to do according to all that
is written concerning us” (II Kings 22:13).
revealed to Josiah that the He would destroy Judah and Jerusalem because of
their wickedness (II Kings 22:16-17; II Chronicles 34:24-25). Yet, to Josiah,
God promised “because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before
God when you heard His words” (II Chronicles 34:27) He would not bring this
destruction during Josiah’s reign. God’s mercy motivated even more efforts on
his part to cleanse Judah. God’s forgiveness must never lead us to take sin
lightly, but encourage us to put sin far from us. Josiah destroyed the idols
and booths for ritual homosexual prostitution that were inside the temple (II
Kings 23:4-7). He burned the bones of dead idolatrous priests and scattered
their ashes over former places of idolatry (II Chronicles 34:4,5). Josiah
“defiled” the place of child sacrifice to Molech in the Hinnom Valley, outside
of Jerusalem called Topheth, so that idolatry could not be practiced there
again (II Kings 23:10). In fulfillment of a prophesy concerning him he
destroyed the altar built by Jeroboam in Bethel, and burned the bones of its
priests over it (II Kings 23:15,16; I Kings 13:1-34).
also moved forward constructively to move the people to a restoration of true
worship. It doesn’t matter if people forget what God has taught. It remains
true when it is first given and to generations in the future who are drowning
in falsehood and human tradition. Josiah led the people to observe the Passover
in such a way as, “...had never been held since the days of the judges who
judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of
Judah” (II Kings 23:22). Josiah reigned thirteen years after finding of the
book of the law (II Kings 22:1). He died when he was mortally wounded opposing
Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo and he was lamented by all the people and the prophet
Jeremiah (II Chronicles 35:20-27).
commanded the Israelites:“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Jesus later
taught that this is the “first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:38).
II Kings 23:25 describes Josiah’s turning to the Lord with the same words, he
turned, “with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might.” If we
seek God, if we love God, if we appreciate God’s mercy, if we have learned what
He asks of us, we must do no less.