Lessons from Josiah

Josiah was the last good king of Judah before they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. His life is an example of what it means to be a man of God.

He was eight years old when he became king, but even more impressive he was only 15 years old when he began to seek after God (2 Chron. 34:3). Josiah's desire to know God was not just an intellectual pursuit, because he acted on his beliefs. When he was 19 years old he purged Judah and Jerusalem of their idols (2 Chron. 34:3-7).

Having purged the land, he turned his focus to the house of God (i.e. Temple). To see clearly what God is teaching us in this story, we need to make note of the parallel between the house of God and the church. The Levites had been collecting money from the people and storing it in the temple, but it was not being used for rebuilding. Josiah instructed Hilkiah to rebuild the temple, and the money was given to the craftsmen to do the work. This lesson should not be lost on the church. The church is good at collecting money, but are we using it to rebuild the church? Rebuilding the church involves reaching out to people who are outside and discipling those who are inside, until we are united in faith and the knowledge of God (Eph 4:11-16). The church is not a building and we need to make sure that we do not lose sight of that.

"While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses (2 Chron. 34:14)." It seems then that the money or the disorder in the house of God had hidden the Book of the Law. This is very similar to the current state of the North American church today. Our wealth and general disorder has hidden the Word of God. We are all a part of this problem. Perhaps we know what the Bible says, but we do not try to help people who don't. Perhaps we don't know what the Bible says, but we don't listen to those who do. It is frustrating to see so many people in the church today content that they are right, and watching as the church gradually slips into irrelevance. If everybody thinks they are right, then we are all probably wrong. Money and all the divisions in the church are largely responsible for the lack of clarity in the church.

"When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes (2 Chron. 34:19)." Even though Josiah had been seeking the Lord for over 10 years, he was grieved that he was doing it in ignorance. He realized that the wrath of God was upon him and the people of God because they had not kept the word of God.  He immediately inquired of God to see what was in store for him and the people. God responded and told him that the people would indeed be punished, but he would be spared because his heart was tender and he humbled himself (2 Chron. 34:27). Judah had watched Israel go into captivity over 80 years earlier, but they didn't even realize (or didn't want to admit) that it was God's punishment for their idolatry that was written in the Book of the Law. Perhaps they thought they were right and would somehow escape the punishment of God. As individuals in the church we need to be open to what God is saying to us. We often go to the Bible to see what we want to see, or we don't go to it all so that we don't see something we don't want to. This is because we don't want to change, we want to continue in our idolatry. Our hearts need to be tender and humble to seek after God.

Josiah was not content with just knowing the word of God, he wanted to live his life based on it. He also wanted everybody else to as well. He made a covenant that he would walk after the LORD, keep his commandments, testimonies, and statues, with all his heart and soul, based on the Book of the Law (2 Chron. 34:31).  The people joined in as well. This covenant with the Lord was not mere words, but was demonstrated by the sweeping reforms he enacted. He cleaned out the house of the Lord of all its idols and defiled the altars of foreign idols. Following God is not just about head knowledge, but it is about having the courage to live it out, even though nobody else is doing the same.

The life of Josiah demonstrates someone who had a desire to know God. He is an example to us in the church of how to have courage and resolve in a time of impending judgment.

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