2 Kings 22:8-20; 23:25-30
The story of Josiah further propels the head-spinning tale started by Hezekiah. Hezekiah reformed the nation and got rid of all the idols in Judah. Then his son did a complete 180 and plunged the nation into the depths of idolatry and paganism. Then, two generations later, we meet Josiah, who jerks us back the other direction and brings about a deeper cleansing than even Hezekiah had accomplished. What a roller coaster this has been!
There are a few reasons why Josiah was such a good king:
1. He did the best he could with the knowledge he had.
Notice in 22:9 that Shaphan reported to Josiah that the officials had paid the workers to repair the Temple. At this point in Josiah’s understanding of God, the Temple was the symbol of God’s relationship with the nation. When the Temple fell into disrepair it was evidence that the nation had fallen into a bad relationship with God. This disrepair happened because the priests had been hording the money and not using it to pay the workers to perform the proper maintenance on the building. Josiah desired to rectify the ruined relationship that Judah had with God that was the result of his father and grandfather’s actions. Yet, being the heir of two generations of pagan leaders, he didn’t know what God required. So, he started repairing the Temple…he knew at least that much.
2. He was receptive to truth.
As the workers and priests were physically cleaning out the storerooms they came across the scroll that recorded the Law of Moses. Apparently the previous leaders had thrown it into the back room, discarding it as yesterday’s news. It is hard to imagine, but the king of Jerusalem had never heard the Word of God read before in his life. When he heard it, he instantly submitted himself to it as the authoritative word of God.
3. He responded to God and sought a dialogue with Him.
For the first time in Josiah’s religious experience, God became real. No longer was God an abstract concept that was lost in the external forms of empty religious ceremonies that had been blended with Canaanite customs. Through exposure to the pure Word of God, Josiah realized that God was a living reality; a personality with whom conversation could be engaged. Where did he go to have a conversation? Did he go to the high priest? Did he go to the wealthy power-brokers of the city? Did he even go to Jeremiah (who was preaching at this time)? No. He went to a woman. Huldah was the wife of the man who watched over the temple wardrobe. Perhaps Huldah was one of those unassuming people who had a steady walk with God, who was not ashamed of her faith, and remained consistent to the truth even when everyone around her ridiculed her for being so “backward” and not “accepting” enough of the Canaanite practices that were now side by side with the Temple worship. Perhaps Josiah joined in his aversion to this woman’s bold faith…until today. When God revealed His truth to Josiah through His Word, where did he turn? He went to Huldah.
4. He acted on truth with no hesitation.
Once Josiah knew that he had missed the mark and that the nation was wallowing in the pig-sty of sin, he went right to work to set the record straight. He purged Israel of its idolatry and reconsecrated the Temple to become the vehicle for proper worship that it was intended to be.
5. He had a whole-hearted faith.
The recurring theme of Josiah, which is a recurring theme of the Old Testament, was that he served the Lord with all his heart, all his soul, and all his strength. Josiah realized that God doesn’t care about the buildings or the politics or the externals. He cares about a heart that is totally sold out for Him. When the heart is totally surrendered, then the action will naturally flow, with no hesitation and no fear.
Today we need to examine our hearts and ask if we are like Josiah. Are we acting on the information we currently have about God? Are we willing to be open to learn the truth and see if there are errors in our thinking that are evident in the Word of God? Are we willing to act on those things when they are brought to our attention, no matter what the social/political ramifications may be?
A final note about Josiah: He made a difference in his immediate sphere. His righteousness held God’s wrath at bay for a moment. Yet, it was not enough to stave off the coming destruction that was brought about by Manasseh. In many ways we are living in the wake of Manasseh in our own culture. Our society has bowed the knee to more Baals than we care to mention. It may be too late to pull the nation out of the fire. Yet, that doesn’t mean we don’t do what is right in our own sphere. Just as Josiah placed an umbrella of protection around his sphere, so too, may we act as a preservative to our sphere of influence. We can be the salt and light that can shine to our sphere of influence. Ultimately, that is all anyone can do. Let’s try to be like Josiah this week and leave the big-picture worries to God!