I. Josiah – The Unlikely King You’ve Likely Never Heard Of
Imagine being eight years old and having the responsibility of a king placed upon your shoulders. This would be intimidating enough but let’s also mention that your nation is in turmoil. Your father was assassinated and in a list of really bad kings, your grandfather is at the top. All odds point to you following the family tradition of physical and spiritual depravity. This is how King Josiah’s story began but by the grace of God, it is not how it ended. We aren’t sure what inspired Josiah to follow a path different from the kings before him (Divine Intervention? Providence of God? The Bible doesn’t say.), but at sixteen he broke from the family mold and led a series of national reforms that would spark revival.
II. Josiah – God’s Reformer
Going against what our hearts and culture believes is right is never easy, but that is exactly what Josiah did when he took the first steps towards national reform. Josiah began by tearing down the false places of worship which were completely forbidden by God. It wasn’t that they had kicked the God of Abraham, Moses, and David out of Judah but rather they began to worship gods in addition to Yahweh. But there was a huge problem with this, God had already spoken to them and let it be known that he would not compete for their love nor devotion. They may have felt additional gods were not a big deal but their feelings would have been in dark contrast to what God had revealed to Moses, partial obedience is complete disobedience regardless of how they felt about it (Exodus 20:3).
As Josiah would find out, God is a jealous God who doesn’t compete for attention. But I have to believe, that even if he somehow knew this attribute of God, it would not have made going against family and cultural traditions easy. Imagine how awkward family meals would have been after Josiah tore down the false places of worship that “grandpa” had built. Josiah did what was right in the eyes of God but what was right was not necessarily controversy-free.
It seems obvious that the hand of the Lord was upon Josiah as he continued to do what was right in spite of the inevitable conflict. However, Scripture also shows us two men that were supporting the national reforms. The Chief Priest and the Secretary are seen working in the background carrying out the tasks that Josiah felt God was calling him to lead. Their support surely would have brought conflict into their own homes but even though this was the case, and their positions had the ability to hinder Josiah’s mission they instead helped make it possible. History’s greatest revivals and awakenings may feature a keynote speaker or leader but behind each one are countless numbers of men and women encouraging and helping them pursue the will of God.
Question: Is there anyone in your life that is helping you pursue the will of God? Is there anyone hindering you?
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5
III. Josiah – God Spoke and He Listened
If tearing down the pagan places of worship was not enough, he to centralize worship back towards God’s original decree and began the repair efforts of Solomon’s temple. Three hundred years and decades of neglect left the temple in need of repair and Josiah took on the challenge. During the repairs something unbelievable happened… the Word of God was found (We believe it was the Torah, the first five books of the Bible).
Take a moment and let that sink in for a moment. They didn’t go into the temple looking for it; rather, while they were spring cleaning it found them. I believe this is meant to clue us into the spiritual brokenness of the people. Previous generations had neglected their responsibility to pass down God’s Word and the consequence was a future generation unaware that God had ever spoken (Deuteronomy 6).
So what do you do when you discover a document once considered to be the voice of God? You read it.
[Side Note: Many Christians profess that the Bible is God’s Word but their lack of commitment/desire to read it would say otherwise. The messages from the people we love only accidentally go unread.]
When Josiah heard of the discovery he asked the High Priest to read it him and the result was torn clothes, a sign of Josiah’s brokenness. Like within this story, every time we open God’s word for the right reasons two things are bound to happen – we experience conviction in areas of weakness and confirmation in areas of strength. We may be the ones reading the Bible but the Bible also reads us. Through the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged in areas of strength and exposed in areas in need of repentance; all the while, God uses His Word to transform us into the image of Jesus.
IV. Josiah – How He’s Remembered
When Scripture summed up King Josiah’s life in 2 Kings 22, it tells us that King Josiah, “did what was right in the eyes of God.” And that he, “walked in the ways of David.” For anyone reading 2 Kings, stating that Josiah did what was “right” is understandable, especially considering his relatives consistently did “wrong” in the eyes of God. But it’s Scripture’s connecting him to King David that I believe draws the most attention.
What does it mean that he “walked in the ways of David?” Well, how did he respond when he heard the Word of the Lord? Like King David, instead of changing the law to fit the desires of his heart (As Kings could and normally would), he sought to conform his heart to God’s law (repentance). He didn’t say, “Hey, High Priest, leave that where you found it.” Instead, he used God’s Word as we use a flashlight in the dark; to see his life and his nation in a whole new way…Through the eyes of God.
When God spoke to Josiah it exposed areas in need of change and instead of ignoring God, he genuinely attempted to align his life and his country to what God holy standard.
V. What Can We Learn From Josiah’s Story?
1. God Still Speaks Through His Word – The good news for you and me is that the same voice of God that Josiah heard is available to us – no rediscoveries or scavenger hunts necessary.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-12
2. Like Josiah, God Will Never Coerce You Into Anything This Side of Eternity. Opening God’s Word, Studying God’s Word, and Applying God’s word is dependent upon you. But the same God that blessed Josiah’s genuine efforts and spoke to him out of genuine love and concern wants to/will do the same for you. Will you draw near to Him? He is faithful.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
3. Small Acts of Disobedience Today Can Lead to Catastrophic Problems Tomorrow. The leaders of Judah didn’t seem to have much of a problem with the pagan worship that they allowed to coexist but by 2 Kings 22, the Word of God was completely forgotten.
4. God Can Accomplish Seemingly Impossible Things Through Faithful Men and Women Who Pursue Him for the Right Reasons. Josiah was not a perfect man but he repented like a godly man and looked to God for the standard to follow rather than the desires of his heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
5. Helping or Hindering? When it comes to pursuing God’s will for our lives, we may be a help or hindrance to others, and others may be a help or hindrance to us.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Hebrews 10:24
I pray you will commit to drawing near to God each day and when God speaks you will listen.