Second Chronicles 34 tells us part of the story of King Josiah. His kingly heritage included Hezekiah, a great grandfather who had a heart after God. Next was his grandfather Manasseh who was a cruel, evil king. He so thoroughly led the nation of Judah into wickedness that when he repented and turned to God, he was not able to turn the nation around. Then there was Josiah’s father Amon who was equally as evil and was eventually murdered by his own servants. It was then the people made Josiah king of Judah. He was eight years old.
Josiah broke the chain of evil and its consequences. His young heart turned toward Jehovah and he eventually led the whole nation in that direction…something his grandfather was not able to do. We don’t have to follow the course set before us by our predecessors. We can change the pattern of destructive behavior, just like Josiah did. This is how it happened.
When Josiah was 16 years old, he began to actively seek after God. Someone in his life must have taught him about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and made a profound difference. At the age of twenty, he “began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, the carved images, and the molten images.” And he “cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.”
Josiah got rid of all the idols and the places where the people were worshiping them. He had such a passion to rid the nation of evil that he went out to oversee it himself. When he finished the job, he returned to Jerusalem.
Do we have that kind of passion to see our nation cleansed from evil, or for our hearts to be cleansed for that matter? It requires a zeal that is active, that is “hands on”. The Holy Spirit stirs our hearts, but we too often lack the passion that moves us to action, that compels us to abandon our comfortable lives to follow Christ. So we settle back down in the course set by those who went before us walking in spiritual darkness. We don’t have to do that. But we have to change if we want to see change around us.
There are times when a nation, a church body, or an individual needs to uproot idols and the places where they are worshiped; to rise up in holy zeal to destroy sin and the instruments of sin. It’s not a physical battle, but a spiritual one. It’s is not enough just to get rid of evil. We must rebuild within us that which is good and embrace Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
When all the shrines, temples, groves and idols were brought down and destroyed, Josiah began to repair the house of the Lord his God. While they were cleaning out the temple, Hilkiah, the priest, found a book of the law that was given by the Lord to Moses. He gave it to Shaphan the scribe. When he went to report that the work was completed, Shaphan took it to Josiah and read it to him.
Josiah tore his clothes as a sign of his anguish and mourning, and he acted immediately. He commanded Hilkiah, Shaphan and two other men to “Go, enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book.”
He saw the gravity of the situation for him personally and the whole nation. He knew they had been sinning against God just as their fathers before them. After all the changes he had made, they were still far from following God. They needed more than a rebuilt temple. They needed the God of that temple. They needed to keep their covenant with God. It was time to face the truth and remove themselves from the path of destruction their ancestors had set them on.
If we will open-mindedly re-acquaint ourselves with the book of God, the Bible, we will see how far we are from following Jesus. Have we realized the sin of our own lives or our nation? Will we do something about it, or continue in the same destructive path of unrighteous that leads us to worship idols of our own making instead of God? There comes a time to make a decision to reorder our lives, break from the sins of the past, and walk in truth…according to His book. It’s actually simple to read Jesus’ teachings and follow them once we are saved and have the Spirit of God inside us. We don’t have to answer for the sins of our progenitors, but we will answer for our own.
Josiah acknowledged his sin and the sins of the nation. He had already come so far. But they were not keeping the law God had given to His people, and Judah was set for destruction.
The men Josiah sent to enquire of the Lord went to Huldah, a prophetess, who told them the nation would indeed be destroyed for their wickedness and willful defiance of the law of God. But then she added these words.
“And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the Lord, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.”
God blesses those who seek after Him, who turn from sin. He honors those who honor Him. Josiah’s heart was tender. It was open to receive God’s Word, and it changed him and all Judah. Once we step out to do what we know is right, God will give us greater revelation. That revelation seemed to be too late, but God ordered a reprieve, an extension of grace, because Josiah the king had a heart after God.
Josiah didn’t rest on what he had already done and stop seeking God. He had God’s promise that judgment would not come in his lifetime, so he could have just breathed a sigh of relief and stopped there. The reason he went farther is because he loved God with all his heart and soul. He was willing to surrender his all to Him.
Josiah took the next step. He went to the house of the Lord and everyone in Judah gathered there. Then he read all the words in the book of God’s covenant so they could hear them. He made a covenant before God “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… And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 34:31-32)
So Josiah freed the nation from idol worship and taught them to serve the Lord God. And for as long as Josiah lived, they did not depart “from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”
Is there still time for our nation? I believe so, if the people called by His name will stop following the pagan ways of those who have undermined the worship and ways of the One True God. If we will get rid of all our idols and tear down the shrines where we worship them. If our hearts will seek God above all else. I do not believe sports, social media, and some forms of entertainment are sinful. But, sometimes I am amazed to see thousands of people at sports arenas, spending millions of dollars and praising their teams or at entertainment venues nearly worshiping the ones offering their talents. I am shocked by what professing Christians entertain themselves with, what they post on social media and how they openly live outside the teachings of Jesus. Neutral things that are not sins in themselves, quickly become sinful when we put them above God. Even so, we may receive an extension of grace if we seek God with all of our hearts and follow His Word, destroying the idol temples and rebuilding the temple of God, inviting in the holy God of that temple. We are His temple, both individually and corporately, but so many are defiled that God’s glory is not seen clearly in us. His manifest presence in the earth is clouded by our sin.
Is there still time for us as individuals? Yes. If we have a tender heart to seek God and are willing to lay down everything for Him. If we love His Word and follow Jesus’ teachings. But we cannot continue in sin, spurning the Word of God, and receive the grace of God.
Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” [shall be in peace]. Josiah loved the Word of God and he and his nation were rewarded to live in peace. But there came a time when Josiah died and the people returned to idol worship, leaving their worship of God behind yet again. The first part of Huldah’s prophecy was then fulfilled.
“Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” (2 Chronicles 36:14-16) They ran out of time.
Hearing the Word of God yet despising it and turning from it is dangerous to any nation or individual. Their destruction will be without remedy. The time will come when no one can step in to save them. It may seem now that God will not judge sin, but His waiting is because of His love and compassion for us. There will be a day when all sin and all sinners will be judged before a righteous God. And the sentence will be just. Only those who have been saved through the blood of Jesus Christ and live a life surrendered to Him and His Word will receive eternal life.
When there is no more time, there will be no remedy.
God is waiting.
The clock is ticking.