Posts Tagged ‘Josiah’

We’re finishing up today our look at king Josiah, and as well our series from 2 Chronicles. Before we do this, lets review Josiah’s life, as a reminder, and to keep things in context. Last week we saw how:

  • He destroyed the idols from Judah and even the territory of Israel.
  • He restored the temple, since it had fallen into ruin.
  • He was repentant when the lost Book of the Law was read, when he saw how far off track they were as God’s people, and heard the warnings of judgment.
  • He sought the word of Huldah, the prophetess, who said that judgment would come, but that he would die in peace, before the coming destruction and exile.
  • He led the people in a covenant renewal ceremony, reaffirming their allegiance to God.
  • He hosted an elaborate Passover celebration, the most amazing one since the days of Samuel the prophet, centuries before.

It’s clear that Josiah was a righteous man. He truly sought after God. And he was a bold reformer.

As 2 Chronicles 34:2 says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” The way he is presented in Scripture, he is the most righteous king since David, with the possible exception of Hezekiah, his great grandfather. In any case, he’s as good as they come.

Yet . . .

our story ends on a sour note. In a completely baffling and startling way, he dies in a senseless battle and for no good reason.

Having completed all the great reforms of the 18th year of his reign, 13 years later, our text says in v. 20 – “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to meet him.”

Neco was going north to give assistance to his ally, the Assyrians who were being defeated by the Babylonians. He was passing through a part of the territory of the former kingdom of Israel to get there, along the coastal highway. And Josiah went up to do battle with him, at Megiddo.

Neco tried to dissuade Josiah from battle. In v. 21 he said, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” In other words, ‘I don’t want to fight with you and don’t oppose God’s will.’

  • Well, Josiah didn’t listen – v. 22.
  • He disguised himself for the fight – v. 22, (recalling the story and death of the unfaithful Israelite king, Ahab – 18:28-34).
  • He was shot by an archer and mortally wounded – v. 23, (again recalling the Ahab story).
  • They put him in his chariot and he died, apparently, on his way back to Jerusalem – v. 24.

This was a terrible blow to the kingdom of Judah. This shows up clearly in vs. 24-25 – “All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah; and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a rule in Israel; behold, they are written in the Laments.”

Everyone mourns and cries. Many laments were composed for Josiah, including one by the prophet Jeremiah. They were a part of a now lost book of laments that was still used many years later.

We have to remember that, like Hezekiah before him, Josiah was seen as a Messianic figure: a son of David who could restore the people of God to their rightful place in the world; who could bring back times of blessing and peace.

He was a person that people put their hope in. He had accomplished so much. Yet he dies in this tragic way, and then not too many years later, Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken off into exile in Babylon.

There’s a tension in this story that makes us ask . . .


Why did he die? The other righteous kings received material blessings and miraculous victory in battles. He died a senseless death. Nothing good came of it.

And why did he die like this? With regard to Huldah’s prophecy, it’s true he didn’t live to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but it would be hard to say that he died in peace.

2 Chronicles 35:22 gives the immediate answer. After Neco told Josiah he didn’t want to fight, and that God had told him to accomplish his mission, v. 22 says, “Josiah did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo.”

If we ask, “How could he know this was God speaking?” We don’t know. Perhaps he tested it with some Judean prophets, and went to war anyway.

But the broader context is that he didn’t accept the word of the Lord through Huldah that unstoppable judgment was coming. And we could also add here the word of Isaiah the prophet to his great-grandfather Hezekiah; and the word of Jeremiah the prophet, Josiah’s contemporary – both of whom said judgment would come.

  • Perhaps he thought that his reforms would stop the judgment. Why else would he be out picking a fight with an empire, in an area that was not even his own land?
  • Perhaps he thought that God would intervene and he would be able to reunite and restore all Israel to its former glory under his rule.

But according to God’s word this was not a time for restoration, it was a time for judgment.

And so instead of staying in his territory, being faithful, and dying in peace, he ventures off to do what God had not purposed, and is killed by Neco. He placed himself outside of God’s will. And the result was that Huldah’s prophecy over him was nullified. He did not die a peaceful death.

A lesson

Let’s see what we can learn from this.  Josiah was true in his worship, not an idolater. He lived according to the precepts of the Law, both religiously and morally. But he still failed, because he didn’t listen to God; what God’s purpose was for the people at that time and in that place.

This teaches us that even if we are doing all that the Scriptures teach – we still need to listen to God, to know what God is up to in our particular situation.

It teaches us that even if we are trying to do something good for God – we still need to listen to God. Is this what God wants, or is it what we want?

God was trying to speak to Josiah, but he didn’t listen. He spoke through Huldah and even the pagan Neco. But he failed to heed the message.

May we be sensitive to hear the voice of the Spirit in our lives and what God wants to do in our lives. And may we not simply go out and do whatever we think is right and good, but what God tells us to do; what God’s purpose is for us – in this time and in this place. Lest we place ourselves outside of God’s will for our lives. We need to listen to God.

Finally, a reflection on . . .

Josiah and Jesus

As I said, Josiah was seen in a Messianic way, a son of David who could save God’s people. Jesus also was a son of David and also a descendent of Josiah (Matthew 1).

And so as we prepare to receive the Lord’s supper this morning I want to end with some comparisons and contrasts between Josiah, a partial foreshadowing of the Messiah, and Jesus, the true fulfillment:

  • Both sought to obey God: If Josiah was faithful, except for the incident with Neco, Jesus never failed, but was faithful in all things.
  • Both were tragically killed: If Josiah was killed for no good purpose, acting outside of God’s will, Jesus willingly gave his life according to God’s will.
  • Both raised great hope: If Josiah’s actions led to despair and lament for many years, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brought true hope, joy and salvation forever.
  • Both are connected to Megiddo: If Josiah was killed by a pagan king, Jesus will defeat the nations when he returns in glory at Armageddon (Revelation 16:16), the New Testament name for Megiddo.

And it is Jesus that we celebrate this morning, this son of David, that we remember as we partake of our meal.

William Higgins

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We are beginning to draw to a close our ‘on again, off again’ series on the kings of Judah from 2 Chronicles. To give us some perspective on where we have been, we have looked at: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh and now Josiah. We will have covered 300 years of history.

Josiah – the basics

  • He began to reign at eight – 34:1. His father had been assassinated, which is why he became king so young.
  • He reigned thirty one years – 34:1.
  • He was righteous. As 34:2 says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
  • He began to seek the Lord when he was 16 years old, in the 8th year of his reign. As 34:3 says, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of David his father” (NIV)

The 12th year of Josiah reign

This is when he begins to reform God’s people. Remember, Manasseh, his grandfather spent most of his time as king, 55 years, promoting various forms of idolatry. And his father Amon also took this policy. So idolatry was deeply ingrained throughout the land of Judah and the territory of the former northern kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by Assyria. Now here Josiah is, 20 years old, trying to set things right.

First, he destroyed Judah’s idols. “He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them.” – 34:3-4.

The story goes on to tell how he scattered the dust of the idols over the dead idol priests graves and he burned the bones of the priests on their altars – thus defiling the altars.

Next, he destroyed Israel’s idols, that is, the territories north of Judah. 34:7 says, “he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel.”

The 18th year of Josiah’s reign

This year is the focus of the rest of our story today. He is now 26 and he accomplishes more in this one year, than any other king in terms of reform (only Hezekiah comes close).

Five things need to be pointed out here: 1. The temple restoration. It needed repairs – 34:8. As it says in v. 11, the previous kings had let it go to ruin, presumably Manasseh and Amon.

A collection from both Judah and Israel was given for the work – 34:9-11. So we again see that some in the former kingdom of Israel were connecting with Judah.

The Levites oversaw the work – 34:12-13. It notes in particular the Levitical musicians, who it says, “were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service . . ..” This is interesting. Were they simply supervisors, or did they play music at the work site to set the pace? Its not clear.

2. The “Book of the Law” is rediscovered. 34:14-15 says, “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. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’”

It may have been hidden in the temple during a time of invasion or threat from an unfaithful king, like Manasseh or Amon.

This could refer to all five of the books of the Law, from Moses, the first five books of the Bible. But most think that this refers to a particular part of the Book of the Law, that is, the book of Deuteronomy.

The book was read to Josiah – 34:15-18. Deuteronomy is clear that breaking the covenant, as they had done, would bring judgment and exile. 34:19 says,  “And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.” As Josiah says, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.” – (v. 21). He knew they were in serious trouble.

So he sent messengers to see if this would indeed happen – 34:21. They found a prophetess named Huldah, who gave them . . .

3. A prophetic word. She said that, because the people had forsaken God (v. 25) and committed idolatry, judgment would come. “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.” – 34:24

She goes on to speak out God’s word in v. 25 – “. . . my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.”

But she also had a word for Josiah. Because his heart was tender and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Book of the Law (v. 27), “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.” – 34:28.

So he got mixed messages. Unstoppable judgment for the people. But kind regard for him as king.

After hearing all this, Josiah didn’t despair, but acted to do what was right. He gathered everyone together at the temple, to carry out a . . .

4. A covenant renewal ceremony. He read to them the book of the Law – 34:30. And then he recommitted to following God’s covenant. It says, “And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.” – 34:31.

He also led the people to recovenant – 34:32; to be faithful and to do God’s will as well. And he also “made all who were present in Israel (the northern territory) serve the Lord” – 34:33.

The rest of v. 33 sums up, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

Finally, 5. The celebration of Passover. We won’t get into all the details of this. We looked at Hezekiah’s Passover celebration several weeks ago.

Suffice it to say that Josiah’s was even more grand. For instance, they had nearly twice as many sacrifices at this celebration.

35:18 says, “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah . . ..” A sweeping statement!

On this high note, Josiah ended his 18th year as king – 35:19.

Lessons from our story

1. Young people can do great things for God. When he was 16 he began to seriously seek after God for himself. Not because of parents, or circumstances, but from his own heart and desire.

And this is what we look for in those who come for baptism. But this is a call to all our young people whether you are baptized or not. Are you seeking after God? There are so many distractions in the world. Give yourself fully to seeking after God and you can do great things for God as well.

When he was 20, he was a leader who began to act as a reformer. Do we as a congregation have room in our midst for young people to serve and to lead?

When he was 26 he accomplished all his great reforms. At 26, he was one of, if not the greatest of all the descendents of David. So, yes, young people can and should be serving and leading and doing great things for God’s kingdom.

2. How to respond to God’s word. Josiah was walking in the light he had. But then they found the Book of the Law and read it to him, he responded immediately to all that was new to him, to obey God’s word. He sought to make things right, when he learned how far off track they were.

When we read the Scriptures, when we hear the word, when we learn something new – we also need to respond immediately to obey God’s word in our lives. When we find out that there are things in our lives that need to change, may we act like Josiah, with humility and speed to make things right.

Finally, 3. How to go about covenant renewal. This is one of several examples of this in 2 Chronicles.

What I want to say is that, since we are in a process of covenant renewal, we can learn from Josiah how to do this the right way.

34:31 says, he “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”

Our hope, as Elders, is that as we go through our covenant renewal that each of us will take it seriously. And that we will all reaffirm our trust in and obedience to our Lord Jesus. And that it will come from our heart, and that we will make it with all of our heart and soul, like Josiah.

William Higgins

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