As we trace the history of the nation of Israel through the Old Testament, we read of first Moses and then Joshua leading the nation. In the book of Judges, men and women were raised up of God to bring the nation back to Himself. The people then desired to have a king to reign over them, to be like other nations (1 Sam 8). God gave them Saul. Saul, David, and then Solomon each reigned for forty years, after which the nation was divided into two - ten northern tribes known as Israel, and two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Over the northern tribes of Israel ruled nineteen kings, all of whom did evil in the sight of God. The southern two tribes of Judah had nineteen kings and one queen rule over them. Of the nineteen kings, eight ruled well and sought to follow the Lord.
Our consideration in this article is upon the life of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chr 34-35). If we trace his background we find that both his grandfather, Manasseh, and his father, Amon, did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 21.1-2; 19-20). Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, reigned two years in Jerusalem, "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did" (v.20).
Manasseh revived idolatry among the nations. He used enchantments, witchcraft, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards. "He wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger" (2 Chr 33.6). Amon, too, did evil in the sight of the Lord and sacrificed unto carved images and served them (2 Chr 33.22). As we examine those who reigned before Josiah, we begin to build up a picture of the state of the nation at this time.
Josiah, then, came to the throne at eight years of age and reigned for thirty-one years, dying at the age of thirty-nine. Despite the condition of the time, Josiah did not give up hope. Even as a young boy, and a young man, he had the desire, zeal, and enthusiasm to rise above all that had gone before to serve God and make a difference.
Perhaps, as we look around us today and see the sin that abounds in the world in which we live, the lack of interest in spiritual things as far as that world is concerned and also the apathy which exists among some of the saints, we sometimes question, "Can we really make a difference?". Can we make an impression, and be a shining light for the Lord, reaching out to others to tell them of our Saviour?"
In the mind of Josiah, there was no question, and no hesitation. Notice also that all this was done by a very young man. It is never too early to serve the Lord. Young people today, you might not realise it or appreciate it, but you have more free time available to you now than you ever will have! Perhaps before long you will be courting, then engaged and married. In the goodness of God, you may be blessed with children. With all of these stages comes more responsibility, and all of these things increasingly compete for your time.
As a young believer, don't waste the time that you have now. Get down to the good Word of God. Read it, study it for yourself. There are so many helps available to us today to enable us to understand the Scriptures. Books, computers can assist the Word of God to be taught on a regular basis. Put yourself in front of all of these things and keep the Scriptures always before you. Have a verse delivered to your phone every day, and use the Bible plans available to read through the Bible in a year. Use the time you have available wisely!
Josiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father" (2 Chr 34.2). Notice that apart from Josiah there were three other kings of whom a similar endorsement was given. Asa "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father" (1 Kings 15.11); Jehoshaphat "walked in all the ways of Asa his father…doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord" (1 Kings 22.43); and Hezekiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did" (2 Kings 18.3). Josiah "declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left" (2 Chr 34.2). While he was yet young, he began to seek after God and he began to purge Judah. It may be that Josiah looked back to his grandfather and father and saw failure, yet he did not use that as an excuse for doing nothing with his life.
Maybe we see those around us, perhaps members of our family or those with whom we were close friends, and they have done little with their Christian life, and many years have been wasted. Let us not use them as an excuse for us to do nothing for God now, but rather be like youthful Josiah. There will of course be opposition. If we set out in our life to be something for the Lord, the devil will attack, and try in any way to stop us, but let us focus on the job in hand. Time is not on our side. We are not young for long and the Lord is soon to return.
Before any progress could be made, the high places, groves, carved images and altars of Baal had to be purged. Josiah set about this task. Before any building and repairing could be done, rubbish needed to be cleared out. So also in our lives. If we are to build for God, anything that takes His place and saps our energy and effort, needs to be purged from our lives before building can commence. At the rebuilding of the temple (2 Chr 34.14) Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law. This was then brought and read before Josiah (34.18). At the hearing of it, Josiah rent his clothes. He realised that the nation had not kept to the law and as a result judgment would be theirs.
He then gathered the people together "and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord" (2 Chr 34.30). 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 with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book" (2 Chr 34.31).
What a privilege to be where the Word of God is valued, read and taught. Do we see to it that we are not only reading and studying it ourselves, but attending all the assembly gatherings, and supporting local assemblies when the Word of God is taught? Perhaps we take it for granted that on a regular basis we can, within a short distance, gather to hear the Scriptures expounded. Maybe we don't even bother to attend. If this is the case, shame on us, and note the error of the king (2 Chr 35.20-24.) At the end, Josiah took up arms in a battle in which he should not have been involved. The king of Egypt sent ambassadors to warn him, "I come not against thee, this day" (v.21).
Is there a lesson for us even here? Out in the world today, there are battles in which we as believers should not be involved. Let us keep to the Word, read it, hear it, perform it, depart not from it. Josiah was not focussed on the failure before him and around him, but on living a life for God, recognising that as the next generation he had a present responsibility…and so do we!
To be continued.