During the time of the kings, Israel was ruled by Saul, followed by David and then by his son Solomon. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided into the northern tribes (called Israel), and the southern tribes (called Judah). The northern tribes had one bad king after another, who repeatedly ignored the words of the prophets. The people routinely practiced idolatry, and God eventually allowed those tribes to go into captivity under the Assyrians.
The southern tribes of Judah also flirted with idolatry, but every so often they’d have a good king who inspired the people to return to God. Hezekiah was one such king who honored God, and led the people by example. After a time of prosperity under the reign of King Hezekiah, Judah goes back into decline under the reign of his son Manasseh. The new king reestablishes all of the pagan practices destroyed by his father and while Manasseh does repent later on in life he makes a real mess of things for the people. After his reign, Manasseh’s son Amon takes over, and he too continues in the evil ways of his father. Amon however, never repents of his evil ways and is assassinated in his palace, by his own officials. During their two reigns, the nation has rejected God, discontinued worship and the temple has fallen into a state of disrepair.
When our story opens, Amon’s eight-year old son Josiah has just assumed the throne. Someone must have been praying for him, because he turns out to be nothing like his father or his grandfather.
In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols. Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 34:3-7, NIV
Indeed, a great and needed revival comes to the nation. With the assistance of the high priest Hilkiah, Josiah is on a quest to purify the land and restore the temple of the Lord. He instructs his officials to take the temple offerings and hire craftsmen to undertake repairs.
“Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord—the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 2 Kings 22:46, NIV
Construction begins and the workmen are busy. Masonry dust fills the air as does the sound of hammers and chisels. Areas of the temple are cleaned out, trash is discarded, and storerooms are emptied. As the high priest retrieves the temple money from the place where it was stored, he makes a surprising discovery.
While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan. Then Shaphan took the book to the king and reported to him: “Your officials are doing everything that has been committed to them. They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.” Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. 2 Chronicles 34:14-18, NIV
While the king has been seeking after God and trying to do what is right in his eyes, he immediately recognizes a huge problem. Because the document has been tucked away out of sight and out of mind since the days of Hezekiah, the Word of God is not being read and the law is not being followed, nor has it been for many years.
When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.” 2 Chronicles 34:19-21, NIV
Josiah’s officials meet with the prophetess Huldah, who lives in Jerusalem. She tells the officials what the Lord has to say concerning the matter in question. His message to King Josiah has both good news and bad news. Because of the long-standing idolatry perpetrated by Josiah’s ancestors, the southern kingdom of Judah is scheduled for punishment, just as the northern kingdom of Israel was punished. However, because of Josiah’s humility before God, said destruction will not take place until after his reign is over.
Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.
Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’” So they took her answer back to the king. 2 Kings 22:19-20, NIV
King Josiah returns to the temple, gathers all of the people together, reads from the law, and rededicates the nation back to God.
Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. 2 Kings 23:1-3, NIV
After many years of sin, the people have humbled themselves and repented. The nation had strayed far from God, but in his mercy he gave the people a leader who would help shepherd them back.
Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 2 Kings 23:25. NIV
The people had been out of fellowship with God for so long, that they didn’t remember anything about their past relationship with him. They had fallen away. They had forgotten God, but never once did he forget about them. And so he found a way to remind them.
Josiah’s story was one of forgetfulness, but God’s provision was one of remembrance.
Remember—repent—return. It was that simple then. It’s just as simple today. If you’ve fallen away, or if you’ve never known him at all, it’s never too late to repent and turn (or return) to God.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9, NIV
For more information, visit http://KNOWGOD.org.
Thanks for joining me on this wild adventure through the Bible! I hope you found the series interesting, informative, and insightful—and I hope you’ve learned something new along the way—I know I have! If you’ve missed any part of this series, or if you’d like to share the link with others, you can find all of the posts in the side bar category 31 Days of God’s Provision.
On the journey toward Home,