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2 Kings 22:15; 23:24, 24, 2627comment (0)

August 23, 2007

By Sigurd Bryan

Related Scripture: 2 Kings 22:15; 23:24, 24, 2627

Director, Samford Sundays, Samford University

When Society Abandons Godly Ways
2 Kings 22:1–5; 23:2–4, 24, 26–27

Desire Righteousness (22:1–5)

This lesson is about the reign of Josiah who ruled over Judah for 31 years (640–609 B.C.). He was perhaps the best king Judah had from a religious standpoint. This is significant because Josiah’s grandfather was Manasseh, who was the most wicked of Judah’s kings, and his father Amon walked in the ways of his father, Manasseh. The reigns of these two kings provided the background and created the need for the righteous rule of Josiah.

A new day dawned for Judah when Josiah was crowned king. He was only 8 years of age, but the Book of 2 Chronicles says that in the eighth year of his reign, he began to seek the God of his ancestors. In the twelfth year of his reign, he began purging Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry and the places where pagan worship had been taking place.

The temple in Jerusalem fell with disuse and disrepair during the long, idolatrous reign of Manasseh. A renovation of the temple was under way when in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign, the Book of the Law was discovered in the house of the Lord. It was brought to Josiah and read to him. Upon hearing the words of the book, Josiah in distress “tore his clothes.” He knew if the words in the book were true, then the nation of Judah was facing judgment, because for many years, the people of Judah had not obeyed the words of the book.

Josiah’s response was to direct all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to be gathered to him at the house of the Lord. There, the king read all the words of the book in their hearing. Then the king and the people made a covenant to follow the Lord, keeping His commandments with all their hearts. Following this commitment, Josiah instituted the most sweeping religious reformation Judah ever experienced. It included a thorough cleaning of the temple of all idolatrous items. The reformation extended into the territory of the northern kingdom at such places as Bethel and Samaria.

We have abundant evidence that Josiah was a righteous king who desired a godly nation (a superlative appraisal of Josiah is given in 2 Kings 23:25). He realized that when the worship of God is abandoned, a nation can only move in one direction and that is downward.

Elevate God’s Word (23:2–3)
One of the beautiful features of this account of Josiah’s reign is the king’s respect for God’s word. The book that was discovered in the temple by Hilkiah the high priest is likely our Book of Deuteronomy, or a major portion of it. When it was read to Josiah, he humbled himself and became penitent. Then he called all his people together and read the words of the book to them. As a result, he made a personal covenant with the Lord to obey the commands in the book. It is significant to read the next words, “All the people joined in the covenant.” The public example of the king had its influence on the people. With such elevation of the Lord’s word, it is no wonder that Judah experienced revival.

Work for Change (23:4, 24)
Josiah’s reforms sought to bring every area of life — public and private — into conformity with God’s will. One of the major changes that took place was the centralization of worship at the temple in Jerusalem. This was in accordance with Deuteronomy 12. Pagan priests were deposed and all worship sites outside Jerusalem were shut down or destroyed. At the temple, the worship of God could be carried on properly. This would further unify the nation (everybody worshiping at the same place).

Realize Judgment May Still Come (23:26–27)
In 609 B.C., the reform movement under Josiah came to a sudden end with the tragic death of Josiah in a battle with Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (2 Kings 23:28–30). The kings who followed Josiah in Judah gave the people opportunity to return the their old habits. Josiah’s reformation was a noble effort to turn people back, but its weakness lay in its inability to change people’s hearts. There had been only an outward return to the Lord under Josiah.

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