2 Kings 22:1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.
Josiah led God’s people from around 640 to 609 BC. He implemented greater reform than any king before or since. Since the previous king was wicked, the nation was apostate. The temple was used for male prostitution (2 Kings 23:7), and children were being sacrificed (2 Kings 23:10). The days were extremely dark, and the time had come for godly leadership.
2 Kings 22:8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.
God’s word had been missing for years, and no one seemed to notice. The priesthood remained, and there was religious activity, but there was no Bible. Then, while the temple was being repaired, God’s word was rediscovered.
This would be hard to imagine if it was not so common today. Many churches have busy leaders who do everything but teach God’s word. As a result, most people do not know the Bible, and live contrary to its teaching.
The apostles are a better example. When they were asked to do other things they replied, we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). This is the first duty of Christian ministers, and their most important service to the church.
2 Kings 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.
Josiah was alarmed by the terrible threats of punishment found in God’s word. The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. . . .
Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you . . . you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. . . . You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, If only it were evening! and in the evening, If only it were morning! (Deuteronomy 28:20-67). When Josiah heard the divine threats, he knew they were in trouble.
Likewise, Jesus Christ. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19), he said. And, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), he will say.
An important idea that led to my conversion was the possibility of waking up in hell and never getting out. Jesus is the most credible person who ever lived, and he threatened me with eternal fire. I could either force the idea out of my mind, or repent of my sins and follow him. The severity of his threats helped me to make the right decision.
2 Kings 22:13 Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.
Josiah sent representatives to the prophet Huldah to see if there was any hope. Her answer was not encouraging. This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book . . . . Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched (2 Kings 22:16-17), she said.
The collective sins of the nation had reached a point where God’s wrath would not be turned away (Genesis 15:16). Throughout the Old Testament, God poured out his wrath on Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and many others nations. We ought to be concerned for ourselves, but also for our country.
2 Kings 23:1-2 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. . . . He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord.
The word of God came to them with such power that they agreed to serve him at once. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12), says Hebrews.
Likewise, the early church grew through the power of God’s word. [T]he word of God spread (Acts 6:7). [T]he word of God continued to spread (Acts 12:24). The word of the Lord spread (Acts 13:49). And, the word of the Lord spread widely (Acts 19:20), wrote Luke. God’s church fulfills its mission through the power of his word.
2 Kings 23:29 Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Necho faced him and killed him at Megiddo.
Josiah was under forty years old, and his death seemed premature. Why didn’t God preserve his life so he could continue reforming the nation? God’s ways don’t always make sense to us, but there is a glimmer of light here. Josiah is remembered as one of the finest kings to lead the nation, and he died a servant of God. Who could ask for anything more?
Reflection and Review
Why was Josiah alarmed when the Bible was read to him?
How do we know that God’s threats will be fulfilled?
Why should we care about the sins of our nation?