I wrote about “good” king Hezekiah a couple of days ago.
And today, I’m going to write about his great-grandson Josiah – who arguably was Judah’s most faithful king.
King Josiah was fixing up the temple when his high priest discovered the Book of the Law. Seems great-grandpa had attempted to follow the book (of Deuteronomy) 50 years before, but Josiah acts like he’s never even heard of it.
Josiah’s secretary called it “a book,” like it’s just some book they happened upon. So he read it to the king. “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.” 2 Kings 22: 11 Josiah is appalled that his people and forefathers have failed to live according to God’s laws.
Through the prophetess Huldah, God tells Josiah:
…because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you… 2 Kings 22: 19
Although Judah will endure disaster because of all the sins she’s committed, Josiah will pass away before the judgment descends. Even though he’s “safe,” Josiah reads the “Book of the Covenant” to his people and renews the covenant with God – to obey the Law (2 Kings 23: 1-3).
Then Josiah goes about completely cleaning out the kingdom of idolatry, pagan temples, and evil practices, some dating back to Solomon, when he built altars to his wive’s pagan Gods (vs. 13) He’s more godly than Solomon!!
On top of all this, Josiah celebrates the first strict Passover since (get this) the time of the Judges (vs. 21-22). Good great-grandpa Hezekiah had celebrated Passover, but not one as faithful to the law as Josiah’s. Neither David nor Solomon apparently celebrated the Passover!
No wonder that “before [Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” (vs. 25)
However, because of all the evil prior to Josiah and after him, God’s punishment comes and Judah and Benjamin are hauled off to Babylon.
It interests me that from the time of the Judges forward, the people of God continually wander from His Word and ways. But just a few generations before exile, Josiah’s reforms restore Biblical practice.
After the exile and return to Jerusalem, it seems like God’s people finally got a grip and continued to practice the Law (to the extent they were able without a temple). Maybe Josiah’s rule gave the exiles a pattern to follow, a pattern that seems to have continued through the intertestamental period right down to Jesus’ day.
When Israel “had it all” — the Promised Land, power, and prestige, she continually turned to idols and followed pagan practices. Josiah renewed God’s ways briefly – but it seems that only AFTER exile, did Israel continue in his ways. Maybe suffering is what we need to follow well.
And a good model like Josiah.
Dear Lord: Please let me take Your commands as seriously as Josiah did – and continue to obey them. You know which ones I’m talking about! Amen.