Click here to learn more!
JOSIAH BEGINS HIS GOOD REIGN
Josiah was only eight years old when put on the throne (v.1). His father at this time (when he died) was 24 years old, so that he must have been only 16 when Josiah was born. But Josiah reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. What a contrast he was to his father Amon! He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, choosing to walk in the ways of David, maintaining a consistent path, not turning to either side, right or left (v 2). Indeed, he was the last king in Judah to have a good record, which shows us that even when the condition of the people generally has sunk to a low ebb, there may still be bright exceptions to the general trend. At the tender age of 16 he began to seek the Lord, and at 20 years he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the carved and moulded images, and had the altars of Baal broken down, the incense altars cut down, breaking in pieces the wooden, carved and moulded images, grinding them to dust which was scattered on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them (vv.3-4)
Thus he made sure that those images would never again be introduced into Jerusalem. Though Manasseh had taken away the images he had before made, he did not destroy them, so Amon had brought them back. Josiah would allow no such thing.
Josiah also burned the bones of the idolatrous priests on their altars. Evidently these were the bones of those who had before died. But be did not stop with cleansing Judah and Jerusalem: he did the same in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon and Naphthali, for those tribes had been so reduced as to have no king (v.5). When he had accomplished this work of breaking down the altars and images, reducing them practically to powder, and had cut down all the incense altars throughout the land, he returned to Jerusalem (vv.6-7), which means "the foundation of peace." All this took place before Josiah even knew of God's law. He had not needed the law to tell him that idolatry was sin against God. Why not? Because the practice of idolatry is sin against God as Creator, as everyone should know, not only sin against His law.
THE BOOK OF THE LAW FOUND
When one acts rightly on the light he has, God will certainly further enlighten him. The evil in Judah having been judged, at the age of 26 Josiah was concerned about repairing the house of the Lord. He sent three qualified men with instructions to do the repair work. They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered him money that had been gathered from Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah and Benjamin. (v.9).
Those who were overseers of the material needed for the house of God used this money for the hiring of workmen to repair the house and for craftsmen and builders, to buy hewn stone and timber for beams and for the floor the house (v.10). This was evidently a large project, for the ungodly kings previous to Josiah had been guilty of destroying a great deal of that which was not their own property, but God's.
Josiah's influence was good, for the men did the work faithfully (v.12). The names of those who supervised the work are recorded in verse 11. Thus God highly commends those who are true builders, and surely no less today if we have concern for the building up of the saints of God, thus building the assembly. Levites are mentioned here as being skilful with musical instruments. This is symbolical of skill in ministering the Word of God for the refreshment and encouragement of saints. They may have played their instruments while the men were working, picturing servants willing to help those serving in practical matters by ministering the Word of God to them.
There were overseers set over the burden bearers also. How good for us if we are burden bearers. But we need instruction as to how to do such good work. Also some of the Levites were scribes, officers and gatekeepers (v.13). Though there was diversity in the work, yet it was done in unity. Scribes were needed to keep things orderly; gatekeepers were required to see that only that was allowed in which ought to be in. These are all necessities in the Church of God today, though none are by man's appointment. Rather, the Spirit of God moves those He sees fit to carry out such functions with no one assuming any special place for this.
However, in the course of doing the repair work, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord, given by Moses. How sad that the book had been given no place of honour, but was obscured in the house of God! (v.14). In that book it was written that when one ruled as king over Israel he should write a copy of this law in a book and read it all the days of his life (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). But by the time Josiah took the throne, he did not even know that this book existed! Who was to blame for this? No doubt both earlier kings and priests.
Shaphan received the book from Hilkiah and brought the message to the king that his orders were being carried out in reference to repairing the temple, but also told that Hilkiah had given him this book (vv.16-18). Shaphan (a scribe) then read from this book before Josiah.
How profoundly serious was the effect upon the godly king Josiah in hearing the Word of God! In a spirit of deep self-judgment he tore his clothes, then commanded five men, including Hilkiah and Shaphan, to go and enquire of the Lord for him and for the small number left in Israel and Judah. For he recognised that Israel was under the great wrath of God because their fathers had not kept the Word of the Lord (vv.20-2 1). He did not attempt to rationalise, but faced directly the truth declared in scripture, and wanted to know just how God was now going to deal with his nation.
The condition of Israel was so low at this time that there was no prophet whom they could consult, but a prophetess named Huldah was available and they went to her (v.22). She faithfully gave them God's answer that He would bring calamity upon Israel, all the curses written in the book Josiah had heard read. The reason is given plainly, "because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched" (vv.24-25). Not even the exceptional faithfulness of Josiah could avert this judgment.
However, God would still show His appreciation of the character and work of Josiah. Because Josiah's heart was tender and he had humbled himself before God when he heard what had been written in the book of the law, had torn his clothes and wept before Him, the Lord would respond kindly toward him, allowing him to die before the threatened judgment fell on Judah, so that he would not see all the calamity that was the result of Judah's sin (vv.27-18). This is a striking case of which Isaiah speaks, "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from the evil." Is this not true today also? The condition of the professing Church today is so seriously evil that there is no remedy. God will judge this condition: but He will take away the godly by rapturing them Home to heaven before His judgment is poured out.
PURPOSE TO SERVE GOD FOR THE TIME
The prediction of future judgment against Israel's sin did not discourage Josiah from serving God during whatever little time was left for this. He gathered all the elders of Judah, the priests and Levites and all the people of Jerusalem, to read to them all the word of the Book of the Law. Whether or not they were all affected by this as he was, he considered it necessary that all the people should hear God's Word. This was the basis of any relationship with God.
He then made a covenant before the Lord, requiring all the people to ratify it (vv.31-32). This was simply a renewal of the covenant of law, in spite of the fact that they had broken that law. Was there really any hope they would now keep it? No, but it was the only basis of blessing that God had given them at the time, and they were still responsible, God was allowing them every opportunity to change if it had been possible.
Thus, we are told, "Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers" (v.33). This illustrates what the devoted energy of faith on the part of one man can accomplish. He was a leader whose influence was great, though the eventual results among the people were not good. In the days of Josiah the Lord told Jeremiah, "Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretence" (Jeremiah 3:10. Josiah had turned to God with his whole heart, but not so with the people generally. They could (and did) easily go in the opposite direction when Josiah died.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 34". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29