Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
JOSIAH – Serving God In Youth
2 Kings 22:1, 2, 19

 1. There is an association between the Book of Deuteronomy and 2 Kings that is often unnoticed. This association is one of the more remarkable lessons found in a study of the Kings of the Old Testament. It occurs during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. Ask Class – Any ideas as to what this connection is between these two points?

 Josiah is the last good King to rule the Southern Kingdom. After his untimely death there would be four other Kings and then the nation would be taken into Babylonian Exile. All who followed Josiah to Judah’s throne were wicked and evil. In Josiah the Southern Kingdom had one last opportunity to save itself from destruction. 

2. Historical Highlights surrounding this King.

 a. Notice the influences that surrounded Josiah.

   1) We first observe his family’s influence.
   “Josiah is the most astonishing instance that is contained in Scripture of goodness springing up, and attaining high perfection under the most extraordinarily unfavorable circumstances” (Pulpit Commentary, Vol 5, 440).

   Josiah’s grand-father was the infamous Manasseh (2 Ki 21:1-16). This King was responsible for loosening all restraints on morality and idolatry. Things are recorded about Manasseh that are horrible. Manasseh repented and tried to correct the evils, but Judah would not change (2 Chron 33:10-17). It was due to Manasseh’s evil influence that Judah eventually crumbled as a nation ( 2 Ki 24:3-4).

   Josiah’s father was Amon who continued the evil practices of Manasseh. The evil that was practiced early in his life, that was encouraged by his father, held control over Amon’s choices (2 Ki 21:19-23).

   These were the examples which young Josiah had to imitate. Childish innocence is soon lost in such a household. No doubt Josiah had witnessed the grossest acts that human depravity could imagine and perform. Every idol of the heathens was honored by Judah; the Temple was defiled; homosexuals were encouraged (2 Ki 23:7). Every form of wickedness was encouraged – violence, deceit, profane swearing, luxury, covetousness, oppression, injustice, treachery, and utter shamelessness (cf Zep 1:5, 8, 9, 18; 3:1-5). Within the Temple were idols to the sun god, Baal, etc.

   Young Josiah was brought up without any known religious instruction.  Isaiah was martyred in the early part of Manasseh’s reign. Micah had died even earlier. Jeremiah did not receive his prophetic call until Josiah’s thirteenth year (Jere 1:2). Habakkuk and Zephaniah probably lived under Amon’s reign but were probably severely restricted and prohibited from any contact with the baby Josiah.

   The encouraging lesson here is that one can be raised in the worst possible environment but CHOOSE to follow God! Contrary to modern philosophy, environment is not the decider of destiny – it is up to each individual to choose!

  2) We notice those who influenced Josiah for good.
   You find names of holy hearts – Hilkiah the priest, Shaphan the scribe, Huldah the prophetess. These are prominent in the story of the young King’s reign. Their influences helped counter those of the evils from Manasseh and Amon. 

   During his reign the prophet Jeremiah received his call. He began advising Josiah about the Lord’s will. Jeremiah arose at a critical period in Josiah’s reign. Together this prophet and King cooperated to urge obedience to God’s will.

   These positive influences (none of which were from Josiah’s family) combined and helped form the young King’s attitude toward God. They are responsible for the training that led to the commendable words of 2 Chronicles 34:2-3.

  b. The religious practices at the time Josiah ascended Judah’s Throne were devoted to evil; a complete rejection of God’s sovereignty. It was a time of universal godlessness and corruption. The nation had sunk to the depths of degradation.

  The national attitude was totally self-centered. The people were concerned only for self’s pleasures. They were indifferent to Jehovah God, not interested in Temple worship, and, totally ignorant of the Word of God. It was NOT the time for one to expect a warm welcome of those calling for reform and restoration.

3. ADMIRABLE ACTIONS of the young King Josiah.
 When the historical highlights of Josiah’s up-bringing and the climate of society’s attitudes, one does not expect to see the amazing actions that characterize his reign. The acts can be categorized according to the King’s ages:

  a. At eight years of age – Josiah became King of Judah (2 Ki 22:1; 2 Chron 34:1). Immediately he begins to seek God. Three actions are attributed to the “Boy-king” at this tender age:

   1) He did “right” in God’s sight – he trusted upon God to decide what was right and what was wrong. This is something he did not learn from his father or grand-father!

   2) He “walked in the ways” of David – his trust led him to live for God in everything he did.

   3) He “did not turn aside” – he was consistent in living for God. He had probably seen the tragedies that resulted when people choose to ignore God’s commands and begin to modify (“turn aside”) the clear commands.

  b. At sixteen years of age – Josiah began to demonstrate a genuine commitment to God (2 Chron 34:3a). This reveals that in the eight years since his inauguration as Judah’s King, Josiah had studied and understood God.

  c. At twenty years of age – Josiah began a purge of idolatry in Judah (2 Chron 34:3b). He knew what was right and began to do it.

  d. At twenty-six years of age – Josiah launched an aggressive reformation in Judah by which true worship to Jehovah would be restored. Josiah was not content to know what God wanted and to serve the Almighty by himself, but he was determined that he would help others know and restore their faith to Him as well! He lived in a society that did not care. Was surrounded by people of no conviction as to how God ought to be worshiped and served. The prevailing attitude – “What difference does it make?”

   1) The Temple was ordered repaired. Through long periods of neglect much had to be done. Once again the commitment to abstain from idolatry was stated (cf Dt 12:1-3). Josiah did this more thoroughly than any other King before him (2 Ki 23:25). 

   2) The Book of Law was discovered and placed in preeminence. Counting the years of Manasseh, Amon, and those that Josiah had already served as King, it could mean the Law had been missing for 80 years. Josiah was read portions of the Law and was shocked at its words (2 Ki 22:11). The King was moved with a holy fear and dread overwhelmed him. He did not dispute the sin (2 Ki 22:13). The Law from Deuteronomy was re-read to the national assembly (cf 2 Chron 34:24; Dt 28-29). It a book long lost but at once recognized as the standard of authority for the nation (2 Ki 22:13b). 

   3) The Covenant with Jehovah was renewed. All classes of society were gathered together (2 Ki 23:3a; 2 Chron 34:31). This was Judah’s last national covenant with God; her last opportunity for salvation. This covenant included:

    a) “To walk after the Lord.” this committed them to worship practices as God commanded (cf 2 Chron 11:17; 2 Ki 17:8; 21:22; etc). This phrase has the ideas of obedience, sincerity, and purity.

    b) “To keep his commandments.” This committed the people to a earnest and sincere obedience.

    c) To perform the words of the covenant.” This committed the people to recognizing the Word of God as the final authority. They were to follow God’s Word, not their feelings nor imaginations.

  4) The Passover was reinstated (2 Ki 23:21- 23; 2 Chron 35:1ff).

4. LEGACY’S LESSONS that the young King Josiah leaves.

 a. He leaves an example of courage!
  He was a man consumed with following God’s will in life. No doubt his policies and actions infuriated some. Even though he lived in a culture that had no respect for honoring God, Josiah was going to honor the Lord.

  “He found the land full of idolatry and corruption. But he pulled down the alters and burned the idols. He found the Temple closed, neglected, and in decay. He had the Temple repaired and then restored the worship as God’s Word commanded. He found the law of God forgotten, forsaken, and unknown. He had the Word of God restored and placed it as the ruling principle in his society.”

 b. He leaves an example of influence!
  2 Chron 34:33. The young King’s dedication to God was honored by those who were in his Kingdom. After him there would be no other King who would uphold the Truth. Josiah’s efforts resulted in God’s Word becoming the supreme authority in Judah. But his efforts were not taken up by those who followed him. Because his successors did not honor God’s Word, the Southern Kingdom was damned.

 c. He leaves us an example of how to receive God’s Word!
  He shows us that we ought to “hear and heed” God’s Word! He listened and allowed it to sink deep within his heart. He was diligent in applying it to his life even it such was not to his liking. How many today would be saved IF ONLY they would receive God’s Word as Josiah did? Far too many hear God’s Word but either neglect it or modify it to their tastes.

  d. He leaves us an example of how to serve God even if no one else does!
  There was outward conformity to his decrees, but Judah’s heart was not converted. The nation was waiting for a change of Kings so they could once again bow to their idols. But he did not miss his opportunity to serve and urge others to do so! In lip the people honored God, but their hearts were far from God (Is 29:13). Regardless of the people’s pretense, Josiah remained firm in his devotion.

 e. He leaves us an example of true zeal for the Lord.
  He was guided by allegiance for God’s way. His motive was to restore the proper devotion/worship to God. His authority was strictly God’s revealed word. He zealously fought to restore pure and undefiled religion. He thus ought to be imitated by all Christians today. Let us reflect his determination, energy, methods, and thoroughness. He succeeded! Like him we should be unsparing in our judgment of what is error, evil, and sinful. Like him we should be dedicated in uprooting all that is false in religion and call people back to the purity of the Bible’s authority!

  f. He leaves us an example of how critical our youth are to God!
  As a young man he knew what was right and was determined to follow right. He knew that as a servant of God, he was obligated to use every power against sin. He acted, not with half-measures, not with popularity calculations, but with a fearlessness and determination that belongs only to one who knows the authority of the Almighty God! He urges young and old alike – never consent by silence to anything that dishonors God or that violates God’s Word. 

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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