Today: [2 Kings Chapter Twenty-Three] Josiah’s Covenant with God. Josiah receives the word of the Lord from Huldah the prophetess and brings all the people of the city and the southern kingdom to Jerusalem. He stands up personally and reads the Torah – all five books from beginning to end in the hearing of all the people great and small. He causes the people to swear to obey the Lord in all things and goes about both in the southern and northern kingdom to eradicate idolatry and the groves and altars other than the great altar of Solomon. For all this he only secures peace in his lifetime and a testimony, a lasting testimony of godliness even above that of David himself.
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[2Ki 23:1-37 KJV] 1 And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 2 And the king went up into 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 ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. 3 And the king stood by a 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 [their] heart and all [their] soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
Josiah in his eighteenth year discovers the book of the law of Moses in the ruins of the temple. In addition to this he is made aware of a 200 year old personal prophecy that names him by name as a reformer of the corrupt and idolatrous city of Jerusalem. He rends his garments and humbles himself before God. He is determined to make amends for the wickedness of his father Mannesseh and his great grandfather Ahaz. He sends to an obscured woman prophet to inquire of the Lord the path that he must take to redeem his people and save his nation. The Lord responds to his cry and directs his path. The scribes return with the word of the Lord from Huldah the prophetess and Josiah gathers all the elders of the city and the entire southern kingdom. He requires all the people small and great to gather to him in Jerusalem and he personally reads all five books of the Penteteuch standing beside the pillar named Boaz in the house of God. Upon completing a lengthy reading of the entire Torah he compels the people small and great to swear and oath to keep the words of the covenant that are written in the book of Moses.
What an resolute and pure response the king had and the people with him. In our day and in our religious culture we think more in terms of latitude regarding God’s word than we do adherence of obedience. Suggestions that God actually expects us to be obedient and compliant to his will and his character are met with sneers of contempt and we are branded as legalists and obscurentists who don’t understand how God no longer requires or exacts this level of compulsory obedience from his people. Let us remember the words of Paul regarding the nature of the New Covenant in Acts 17:
[Act 17:30 KJV] 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Jesus himself emphasised the lengths believers must go in order to demonstrate a godly response to the new covenant:
[Mat 5:20 KJV] 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
If our spiritual experience does not fall behind the water mark set by the scripture then we have no need to examine ourselves – but if we are not content and desire more of God and more of His grace and power in his life we must know He is not holding out on us. We must look to ourselves. If we want something different we must do something different – not just according to the dictates of our own conscience for our conscience is defiled by religious expectation. We must go to the word and determine every day what accountability – personal accountability looks like for the words, laws and examples given there for us to learn by.
4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. 5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. 6 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped [it] small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. 7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that [were] by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove. 8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that [were] in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which [were] on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city.
Josiah exhibited more than a sentiment toward reform, he went to great lengths to implement change to the fullest extent. It has been said that judgment first comes to the house of God. All of Josiah’s reforms were focused on the highest echolons of power and the priesthood. He removed every vestige of Baal worship from the temple. He nullified the ordinations of preists who were ordained by his father and his grandfathers. He took the artifacts of idolatry and ground them to powder in teh fields of Kidron and then defiled the graves of the disobedient people with the ashes thereof. He put the temple prostitutes out of business who had been a fixture in Jerusalem for generations going back to Solomon’s day. He brought in – he called in all the Levites and priests from the outlying areas from their posts where they sanctioned sacrifice in the high places and destroyed again the groves, the sacred trees and the images the people worshipped there.
By the time Josiah began to implement all these reforms Jerusalem and Judea no doubt began to look quite different than it did before. Notice that he didn’t ask anyone’s permission. He didn’t convene a council to see how to go about making these changes in the least disruptive way. How much upheaval and disruption of the status quo would come to your home, your church or your workplace if you as Josiah demonstrated such zeal for the Lord’s house. The time for polite co-existence is at an end, if it ever existed. The house of the Lord lies waste and the altar of Baal has replaced the brazen altar of God. What must we do that we might redeem our generation and establish a standard of godliness again in the land. Who are you willing to offend? More importantly and more telling who are you NOT willing to offend?
9 Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. 10 And he defiled Topheth, which [is] in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. 11 And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which [was] in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 And the altars that [were] on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake [them] down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. 13 And the high places that [were] before Jerusalem, which [were] on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. 14 And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. 15 Moreover the altar that [was] at Bethel, [and] the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, [and] stamped [it] small to powder, and burned the grove. 16 And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that [were] there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned [them] upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. 17 Then he said, What title [is] that that I see? And the men of the city told him, [It is] the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. 18 And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.
Josiah removed the pornographic image of Ashteroth from the Holy Place and abolished the cult of celebrity from the house of the Lord. What would happen if we did away with our sound systems and smoke machines? What would happen if we destroyed our platforms and completely rejected the seeker sensitive philosphy of the church and actually put God first and allowed no man, woman or musician to any longer take the glory that only belongs to God.
After making an end of cleansing the southern kingdom Josiah moved on the remnants of the northern kingdom and finally destroys the altar at Bethel and the golden calf that still stood there – erected by a people now taken into captivity. He defiles the graves of their nobles, but left untouched the grave of the first prophet to prophesy against the altar of Baal from Reoboam’s day the successor to Solomon. Josiah was so respectful of the prophets that he would not even disturb the remains of a prophet long dead who stood up for God in the land of Israel.
19 And all the houses also of the high places that [were] in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke [the LORD] to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel. 20 And he slew all the priests of the high places that [were] there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem. 21 And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as [it is] written in the book of this covenant. 22 Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; 23 But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, [wherein] this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem. 24 Moreover the [workers with] familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. 25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there [any] like him. 26 Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.
Even with all the reforms and changes that Josiah made he only brought about peace in his day. The iniquity of Mannasseh and Ahaz lingers in the land and the innocent blood of thousands of sons passed through the fire to Molech on the Mount of Olives call out for justice. Josiah was so unique in his passion for God that it was said that there was not king before him who followed God after all of his heart – not even David and certainly not Solomon. Yet the die is cast and Judah will inexorably go into captivity.
27 And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, [are] they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 29 In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. 30 And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead. 31 Jehoahaz [was] twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name [was] Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32 And he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done. 33 And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. 34 And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there. 35 And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, to give [it] unto Pharaohnechoh. 36 Jehoiakim [was] twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name [was] Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37 And he did [that which was] evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
Josiah goes to war with Pharoah of Egypt is slain at Meggiddo. The Pharoah so respected his Judean enemy that he brings him to Jerusalem to be buried with his father. Josiah’s son reigns in his stead and follows in the sad tradition of his forebears and chooses the path of iniquity. His is put in irons by the king of Egypt and taken to the land of his enemy to die there. His predecessor Johoiakim came to power when he was 25 and followed in the inquities of the kings of Judah and the legacy of Josiah is lost as the final days of the kings of Judah is coming to an ignominious end but for the mercy of God.
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