Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CLVII - II Kings 22-23 - Josiah, King of Judah

In the last post we looked at the reign of Manassah.  He was an evil king who reigned as king of Judah for fifty-five long years.  Then his son Amon reigned for two years and was just as bad as his father.  These two extremely evil kings were sandwiched in time between two kings who were both considered the very best of Judah's kings.  Before Manassah, was his father Hezekiah, and after Amon was Josiah.  We spent much time studying Hezekiah, and today we'll look at Josiah in the 22nd and 23rd chapters of II Kings.

Chapter 22

Verses 1-2  -  The History books are generous to Josiah.  {I've always liked the name Josiah.}  He is regarded as a political and religious reformer.  To accomplish what he did, he must have been courageous and resolute in character.  He was only eight years old when he took the throne.  One thing that makes me a respecter of his character was that the only advisors around the king's palace were those appointed by Josiah's evil father Amon and his more evil grandfather Manassah.  Was this eight year old boy wise enough already to make discernments against all of these adult males.  God must have had His hand in this.  The most recent good role model was Hezekiah, and he died 49 years before Josiah was even born.  The Scripture says in verse 2 that Josiah "did not turn aside to the right or to the left".  This phrase is high praise when used in the Scripture.

Verses 3-7  -  Repairing the Temple  -  When Josiah was 26 years old he made a priority in his reign to repair the Temple. {The Temple, as we saw back in I Kings 6, was magnificent beyond description.  Josiah noticed that this Temple to the Living God of Israel was in a run-down state of repair.  He must have thought this to be disrespectful to God and all of Israel's great ancestors.}  These verses tell how he instructed Hilkiah the high priest to gather all the money in the treasury of the Temple.  {It doesn't say how much money there was.  It was probably paltry compared to Israel's glorious past.  Remember, only the Israelites in Judah came to the Temple.  Those in the northern kingdom were captured and taken to Samaria as slaves more that eighty years ago.}  I like the way Josiah gave the instructions in this passage.  He instructed the high priest to give the money to the artisans who were to supervise the repairs of the Temple.  These men were instructed to hire the craftsmen they needed and to purchase the materials necessary for the repairs.  Then in verse 7 he says that they were not required to give an accounting of the money, because they were considered honest men.  {This is no small deal.  To this day, accurate accounting is always required in the handling of money.  Josiah was a gifted leader, among his other qualities.}

Verses 7-20  -  The Book of the Law  -  When the work on the Temple was being done, Hilkiah the high priest found an old book, which he knew must have been important (probably due to the protective place it was being hidden).  {There has been centuries worth of study and speculation as to the exact book this was.  Current wisdom says it is the Book of Deuteronomy.  Deuteronomy was part of the Torah (the Law), which is comprised of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Bear in mind that this copy of Deuteronomy hidden in the Temple may very well have been written by the hand of Moses himself.}  I'm not certain as to why Hilkiah gave the book to his scribe Shaphan to read.  I would have thought the high priest would have been anxious to read it himself.  But after Hilkiah recognized what it was by Shaphan's reading, he immediately sent Shaphan to show King Josiah this precious find.  In verse 11 it says that when Josiah heard the words from the book he "rent his clothes" in remorse, as he knew that Judah was not living in obedience to God's writings.  If Josiah was at all a student of History, almost any section of Deuteronomy would have caused alarm.  Deuteronomy is very clear on God's expectations of His people and the consequences for disregarding them.  Josiah knew the level of importance of this knowledge he had come upon.  He knew it could not be ignored.  So his reaction was quick.  He appointed a commission of five men, Hilkiah being the leader.  They were to search out a true prophet of God and get a clear meaning of God's wishes on this matter.  The most reliable prophet within Judah at this time was a woman named Huldah.  She was actually living in Jerusalem.  The royal deligation found her, told her about the book found in the Temple, and presented the kings's concerns, requesting her to, "inquire of the Lord for Josiah and the people of Judah" (vs 13).

Huldah's prophecy was simple and direct.  Her response was not just her opinion.  It was "what the Lord says" (vs 16).  She says God is going to bring disaster on Judah.  {All the Judaens were aware of what happened to Israel.}  The specific charge against Judah was apostacy:  Forsaking the true God of Israel and worshiping strange gods.  That is short and not so sweet.  She told them what would happen and why.  But then she continues on with her prophecy in verse 19 and says that Josiah himself would be spared from seeing this judgement on Judah because Josiah had repented and humbled himself before God.

Chapter 23

The delegation of five took Huldah's message back to Josiah.  Josiah's response was again quick and determined.  He knew he must be the leader of this great nation and do everything he possibly could to make amends.  He knew he could not undo centuries of apostacy, but he knew he must put forth every reasonable effort.  So he called all the elders and clan representatives of the people of Judah together at the Temple.  When they were all present, Josiah himself (not Hilkiah the high priest) went to the speaking platform to announce a sweeping change.  Note that in the second verse was the first mention of the term "Book of the Covenant".  After Josiah read the entire book, he "made a covenant", which could be rendered literally.  He was inside God's Temple, holding the Book of Deuteronomy, in the witness of all the elders of Judah.  Josiah pledged to "walk after the Lord".  This would require him to keep the Lord's commandments, testimonies, and statutes.  These three terms covered the spiritual, moral, and worship requirements which God imposed on His people through the Book of Deuteronomy.  Then at the end of verse 3, all the people in the Temple pledged themselves to the covenant made by Josiah.

Verses 4-20  -  Please take a moment to read this passage.  It tells of all the steps Josiah took just to get rid of all of the religious idols, places, building, and even people that had anything to do with worshiping false gods.  This passage will give you an idea of extremes God's chosen people went to dishonor Him.  Just one small example in verse 7 tells that Josiah destroyed the buildings that housed male prostitutes used in Baal worship.  But you should read the entire passage to get a flavor of what had taken place.

Verses 21-23  -  The most important observance in all of Jewish History is Passover.  This observance celebrates God delivering the Israelites from Egyption slavery.  This is the most important of the three feasts they were to celebrate each year.  I mention this because I believe Passover had not been observed properly for generations.  {Our Lord is a patient God, isn't He?)  Joshiah called for a Passover celebration in Jerusalem.  He said he wanted this celebration to be as it is written in the Book of the Covenant.  He really gave it all the hype it deserved.  It says that there had not been such a Passover celebration since the time of the Judges.  That would be over 430 years.

Verse 29  -  {This massive and jubilant celebration just might be a contributing factor for the event recorded in verse 29.  Remember, Passover was when God's Angel of Death passed over the Hebrews' houses as he killed the first born of all of the Egyptians.  The Egyptians do not look back kindly at this event.}  While Josiah was still the king of Judah, Pharaoh-Nicho had become king of Egypt.  For some reason, Pharaoh-Necho had become an ally of Assyria.  Assyria was still an aggressor against Judah, and the added forces of the Egyptians made the Assyrians an even more severe threat.  In defending Judah territory at Megiddo, Josiah was killed by the Egyptians.

Please remember this great king Josiah.  Few had accomplishments equal to his.

Next post  -  Judah Falls - Wrapping up II Kings

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