2 Kings 22:1-23:30
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah…
The last days of Judah as an independent kingdom are fast hastening to a close. The people, in spite of all God's merciful dealings with them, in spite of all the judgments and warnings which he had sent to their fathers, in spite of the influence and example of good kings and holy prophets whom he had raised up, were becoming worse and worse. More than a hundred years before, God had already abolished the kingdom of Israel, when the ten tribes were led away into captivity. And now for their great idolatries the destruction of the kingdom of Judah also is close at hand. In the midst of this period of decline and decay Josiah came to the throne to redeem for a time the history of his nation, and for a time to save it from its impending doom.
I. JOSIAH'S EARLY DEVOTION. We read that in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father. He was then sixteen years of age.
1. He began to seek after God in a time of almost universal godlessness and corruption. It is almost impossible for us to conceive the depth of degradation to which the nation had sunk. Two wicked kings in succession had undone all the reforms of good King Hezekiah. The first of these was Hezekiah's own son, Manasseh, the second was Manasseh's son, Amon. Manasseh worshipped all the host of heaven, and built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. He set up the worship of Moloch, which is almost too terrible to describe (see above on 2 Kings 16:1-20). He made his own son to pass through the fire to Moloch. He introduced not only the horrid cruelty of heathenism, but also its most filthy lusts. The reign of Amon was no better, but worse. He revived, and continued all the idolatries and all the corruption of his father's reign. It was at such a time as this that, when Amon died, his son Josiah, then only eight years old, came to the throne. At such a time as this he began to seek after the Lord his God.
2. Moreover, he was the son of a godless and wicked father. All the influences which surrounded him seem to have been unfavorable to the growth of true religion and the fear of God. But Josiah determined that, as for him, he would not bow down to idols, that he would serve the Lord only. And God gave him strength to serve him, and crowned his subsequent efforts with blessing and success. Learn here the folly of excusing yourself from serving God by the circumstances in which you are placed. You are responsible to God for your own life, and for your own conduct, no matter how others may act. It may cost us many a hard struggle to resist the temptations that surround us on every side; but it always succeeds in the end. You may be children of ungodly parents; you may be at service in ungodly households; you may be thrown by your business among ungodly companions and surroundings; - no matter! God expects you to be faithful unto him. Young men, Josiah's early devotion is a bright example for you to follow. Never suffer yourselves to be led astray by the notion that religion is an unmanly thing. The truly religious man is the noblest and most perfect man. He is great in all that constitutes true manhood. And if you want to find the greatest heroes in the world's history, you will find them, not among the followers of the world's fashion and the world's pleasure, but among the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and humble Christians in the Church of God. It is the highest aim any young man can set before him to be a humble and devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Never mind what circumstances or companions surround you, except to try and make them better. Joseph was faithful to God in Egypt. His faithfulness sent him to a prison for a time; but afterwards it raised him to be the greatest man in Egypt after the king. Daniel was faithful to God in Babylon, though he knew well it was at the risk of his life. His faithfulness brought him for a little while to the lions' den; but it afterwards made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon. It is true heroism to be ready to suffer - to suffer bodily pain, to suffer the loss of worldly goods, yes, to suffer even the loss of reputation itself, for the sake of truth and purity and right. Like Josiah, the sooner you begin to serve God the better. You will never regret it.
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
II. JOSIAH'S WORK OF REFORMATION. (Ver. 3. - 2 Kings 23:25.) Here also he began very early to do what he believed to be right. It was in the twelfth year of his reign - when he was only twenty years old - that he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places and the idols. Then in the eighteenth year of his reign - when he was twenty-six years old - he began to repair the house of the Lord, which had been long disused and neglected. God so prospered him in this work that the people brought large sums of money for the repairing of the temple. It was when this was being done that Hilkiah the priest found in the temple the book of the Law. There it lay, probably all covered with dust, like the unused Bible in many a home, a silent reproof to those who should have known what was right but did not do it. When the book of the Law was read to the king, he rent his clothes, in sorrow and in shame, when he thought of how the Law of God had been broken and neglected. It was determined that it should be so no longer, and, having gathered all the people together, he read in their ears all the words of the Law. Then, standing on a pillar, he made a covenant that they would serve the Lord and keep his commandments, and all the people agreed to it. After this was done, he appointed a solemn Passover to be kept by all the people. And it is said, "Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this Passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem" (2 Kings 23:22, 23). It was a marvelous work for a young king to have accomplished in the twenty-sixth year of his age. He found the land full of idolatry and corruption. But he had already pulled down the altars, and burned the idols, and swept away the dens of vice. He found the temple closed, neglected, and in decay. He had already repaired it and restored the worship of the true God. He found the Law of God forgotten, forsaken, and unknown - the temple copy of it hidden away out of sight. He had already restored it to its proper place as the ruling principle of his government and of the nation's life. Truly a marvelous work for a young king of twenty-six. We see here, as we have seen in the life of Hezekiah, the power of decision for what is right. Josiah was not content merely to know God and serve him by himself. He was determined that, so far as he had any influence, others should know and serve God too. He might have said, in the spirit of many lukewarm Christians of modern times, "What matters it? They have their religion, and I have mine." He might have said that, as a ruler, he had nothing to do with his people's religion, but only with their conduct as members of the state. Not so. He knew that it is religion, or the want of it, which makes or mars the happiness and prosperity of the nation. He knew that, as a servant of God, he was bound to bear his testimony and to use every influence in his power against sin and in favor of what was right. And so he acted, not with half-measures, not with half-hearted hesitation, but with firmness, fearlessness, promptness, and determination, as becomes one who is doing the work of God. And so, also, God stood by him, and gave him success in all his work. Such an example is full of instruction for our modern life. Never be a consenting party, even by your silence, to what your conscience tells you is wrong. Never consent, even by your silence, to anything dishonoring to God or not in accordance with his will. Never be a consenting party to anything that you would be ashamed of in the sight of God and men - to acts of injustice to others, to dishonesty or unfairness of any kind, to profanity, to neglect of Sunday observance, or any other form of prevailing wickedness. "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; with their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united." Like Josiah, we can never begin too soon, not only to serve God ourselves, but also to bring others to him. Like Josiah, let every servant of God show the reality of his and her religion by deeds of usefulness, by bearing testimony against sin, and by unwavering firmness in the cause of Christ and duty.
III. JOSIAH S EARLY DEATH. Josiah died at an early age. He was mourned for with great lamentation. Some think that it is of him that Jeremiah, in his Book of Lamentations, speaks when he says, "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of Jehovah, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen." The passage perhaps indicates how great was the influence for good, which Josiah exercised, and how much the people depended upon him as their leader and defender. His early death, before he had completed his fortieth year, must have caused many to wonder at God's mysterious providence. But his work was done. He had really done the work of many lives in one. And so when servants of God are taken away in the prime of life - or prematurely, as we say - let us remember that God's ways are not our ways. In Ms sight their work is done. They have finished the work, which he gave them to do. Let us so use the precious time, which God has given us, that in our dying hour we shall not have to look back upon a wasted life. But let us live, as Josiah lived, a life of holiness, of usefulness, "redeeming the time." And then when we are drawing', near to the gates of death, we shall feel that for us they are the gates of heaven. We shall be able humbly and thankfully to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.