WHEN SOCIETY ABANDONS GODLY WAYS
Week of August 26, 2007
Bible Verses:† 2 Kings 22:1-5; 23:2-4,24,26-27.
Biblical Truth: God can transform societies when His people respond properly to His Word.
Desire Righteousness:† 2 Kings 22:1-5.
† Josiah was eight years old when he became
king, and he reigned thirty-one years in
† Now in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the LORD saying, † ďGo up to Hilkiah the high priest that he may count the money brought in to the house of the LORD which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. † Let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are in the house of the LORD to repair the damages of the house.†† [NASU]
[1-2]† From the start the author summarizes Josiahís
life favorably. Like Hezekiah [see 2 Kings 18:3], this man acts like David. He
resolutely follows in his ancestorís footsteps. Given the religious climate
Manasseh and Amon have created, and given the fact that Hezekiahís similarity
to David led to reform, readers may expect some sort of renewal to ensue. World
politics shifted during Josiahís reign. Ashurbanipalís death in 627 B.C. left
Assyria with a leadership struggle that cost them control of
[3-5]† Serious reform begins in Josiahís eighteenth year of rule around 622 B.C. His desire to serve the Lord surfaces even earlier according to the Chronicler, who states that Josiah begins to seek the God of his father David in the eighth year of his rule when he was just sixteen years old (around 632 B.C.) and starts removing some high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images in about 628 B.C., his twelfth year as king [2 Chron. 34:3]. Therefore, it is not strange that in his eighteenth year the king senses an obligation to repair the temple, an impulse felt by Joash years earlier (see 2 Kings 12:1-16). Though the text does not divulge his motives for the repair, perhaps Josiah intends to promote worship at the central sanctuary. Whatever his reasons, this project provides the impetus for greater reforms later.
Elevate Godís Word: 2 Kings 23:2-3.
† The king went up to the house of the LORD and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. † The king stood by the pillar 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 carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.†† [NASU]
To his credit Josiah is not content with waiting for his own peaceful death. Rather, out of gratitude for Godís mercy in his own life he determines to attempt to lead the whole nation to true conversion to the Lord, and thereby avert as far as possible the threatened curse of rejection, since the Lord in His word had promised forgiveness and mercy to the penitent. This attempt begins with a covenant renewal ceremony that stands in the tradition of great renewals such as the one Deuteronomy itself represents and the one Joshua initiates [Joshua 24:1-27]. The scene of the covenant renewal closely resembles Solomonís dedication of the temple (see 1 Kings 8:1ff). As in Solomonís ceremony the king, elders, priests and people join together in the service. One new group is represented, however, the prophets. Once in place the king and the people listen to all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. Now the assembly knows the privileges and obligations inherent in the relationship with the Lord. First, Josiah promises to keep the covenant, then the people follow his example. Each person pledges to obey Godís commandments, testimonies and statutes, a diverse enough list of types of laws to suggest they have heard a law code of some scope and substance.
Yet the peopleís commitment was not sincere. It was in the case of Josiah, but not in the case of the people generally. They honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. The movement was not a spontaneous one originating in the hearts of the people themselves, but came down to them from above through the kingís command. The formal ceremonies of covenanting were gone through, and some temporary, and perhaps genuine, enthusiasm was awakened. But there was not real heart-change of the people. Their goodness was like the morning cloud and the early dew [Hosea 6:4].
The general consensus is that this book of the covenant was
the book of Deuteronomy. There are seven elements that favor this conclusion.
(1) Deuteronomyís emphasis on centralization of worship at the place chosen by
God, that is, the temple in
Walk in Godís ways:† 2 Kings 23:4,24.
† Then the king
commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the
doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were
made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned
them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to
Bethel. † Moreover, Josiah removed
the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the
abominations that were seen in the
† Because of their renewed dedication to the
Lord, the king and people remove foreign worship sites and implements, first
† One last reform remains. Josiah rids the land
of mediums and spiritists, individuals skilled in the art of alleged
communication with the dead. This was, to judge from the condemnatory passages,
a common problem in
Realize Judgment may still come:† 2 Kings 23:26-27.
† However, the LORD did not turn from the
fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against
Sadly, Josiah acts
mentioned here and at 24:3 and Jer. 15:4 as the person who, by his idolatry and
his unrighteousness, with which he provoked God to anger, had brought upon
Questions for Discussion:
1.††††† Describe the
character of Josiah. Who is he compared to? Why? Why do you think God raised up
Josiah as king at this point in
2.††††† What great event did God use to bring about reform during Josiahís reign? What does this teach us about where true revival must begin? Why was this revival eventually a failure?
1, 2 Kings, Paul House, NAC, Broadman.
The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament , Warren W. Wiersbe.