Introduction: 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22-23 describe the reforms and blessings that came to Judah under King Josiah. Judah suffered under the idolatry of his grandfather Manasseh and his father Amon. Because of their actions, God pronounced Judah’s judgment (2 Kgs. 21:10-17). Yet, Josiah rejected the evil ways of his predecessors. He instead obeyed God’s Word to a greater degree than any king before or after him. He led Judah in a revival. As a result of his actions, God delayed His judgment upon Judah to give the people another opportunity to repent. From Josiah’s actions, God reveals seven lessons on spiritual renewal. These include: (1) obedience, (2) faith, (3) worship, (4) learning God’s Word, (5) repentance, (6) fearing God by hating evil, and (7) a public commitment to following God’s Word.
First, Josiah was one of the greatest kings because he acted with complete obedience to God’s Word. Through his example, God reveals that renewal starts with full obedience to His Word. Second, at age 16, Josiah had the faith to follow God’s Word, even when the public opposed following God’s Word. Through his example, God reveals that renewal requires the faith to follow God’s Word, even when it is unpopular. Third, Josiah’s reforms included the restoration of the Temple for proper worship. Through Josiah’s example, God reveals that renewal also requires a restored worship focused on God that is guided by His Word. Fourth, Josiah’s reforms included the discovery of the law that was hidden inside the Temple. Through this example, God reveals that renewal requires learning and memorizing His Word. Fifth, upon hearing God’s Word, Josiah felt convicted and repented for God’s people. Through Josiah’s example, God reveals that renewal requires the conviction of sin and repentance. Sixth, God revealed that His judgment upon the Jews would be delayed but not removed. This was because they did not fear God, and they returned to their sins after Josiah. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that renewal requires that you fear His Word by hating evil. Finally, Josiah led the people in a public covenant to follow God’s Word. From Josiah’s example, God also reveals that renewal should include a public commitment to follow God’s Word. This helps to ensure accountability.
Josiah becomes King of Judah and faithfully obeys God’s Word. After Judah’s two worst kings, God blessed Judah with one of its greatest kings: “1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 He did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Chr. 34:1-2; 2 Kgs. 22:1-2). In 639 B.C., Josiah became king as an eight-year-old boy. In God’s providence, He spared Josiah’s formulative years from his father Amon’s wicked influences. Because of Josiah’s faith-led obedience, God blessed him with a 31-year-reign, from 640 to 609 BC. Also because of his faith-led obedience and reforms, God blessed Judah with three decades of peace, prosperity, and renewal. His actions further delayed the timing of Judah’s judgment.
Josiah’s obedience to God’s Word was unwavering. The Bible records that Josiah “did [not] turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Chr. 34:2; 2 Kgs. 22:2). This reflected his faithful adherence to every aspect of God’s law: “So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Dt. 5:32). “and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” (Dt. 28:14). “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). “Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” (Prov. 4:27). If you pick and choose to follow the parts of God’s Word that you agree with, God can’t say the same about you. Is your obedience unwavering?
Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. Josiah was a role model because his faith produced the fruit of obedience. Without works, a person’s faith is dead: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Jam. 2:17). A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). Is your faith evidenced through obedience to Jesus’ Word?
Josiah showed the faith at a young age to ignore the will of the people and follow God. Because of his faith, Josiah began to seek out God at age 16. He then had the courage to act on his faith to destroy popular idols, same sex centers, and the practice of killing kids: “3 For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. 4 They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6 In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, 7 he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.” (2 Chr. 34:3-7; 2 Kgs. 23:4-14). The fact that Josiah had to purge so many evil things, including idols to Baal, Asherah, and astrology worship in God’s Temple, demonstrated how far the Jews had fallen from their walk with God under Judah’s two most wicked kings, Manasseh and Amon. He burned these idols in the Kidron Valley. Josiah also destroyed the counterfeit priests who mislead the Jews into idol worship (2 Chr. 34:5; 2 Kgs. 23:4-6). He also ended same sex practices, which were celebrated in that day (2 Kgs. 23:7-8). Priests who had sacrificed in the pagan high places were barred from entering the Temple. Yet, they were allowed to eat unleavened bread with their fellow priests (2 Kgs. 23:9; Lev. 2:4). He further ended the then popular practice of parents killing their children, allegedly for a better life (2 Kgs. 23:10). Yet, because the people did not share his desire for obedience, his reforms did not last.
Josiah was a great spiritual reformer because he had the courage to act on his faith. Josiah was possibly Judah’s greatest king. At a time when most would have dismissed him as a misguided boy, he had the courage to ignore the will of the people and purge Judah of influences that would have been celebrated as civil rights (2 Chr. 34:3-5). Amongst all of Judah’s kings, only Hezekiah had a similar courage to purge the country of its pagan influences in the face of popular will to the contrary (2 Kgs. 18:3-6). Yet, Hezekiah also sinned (2 Kgs. 20:12-19). In terms of the purity of his heart, Josiah exceeded Hezekiah and even David: “Before him there was no king like him who 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; nor did any like him arise after him.” (2 Kgs. 23:25). Yet, the fact that God celebrated the courage of his faith means that he would have received the exact opposite reception of the people. They would have branded him as an intolerant, religious extremist, who sought to undermine the people’s civil rights. We know that his reforms were unpopular because the people returned to their sinful ways after his reign.
Josiah’s reign was a fulfillment of a prophesy. Approximately 300 years earlier during Jeroboam’s evil reign in Northern Israel, a man of God prophesized about the reformer King Josiah: “He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.”’’ (1 Kgs. 13:2). By removing the evil influences of his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh, Josiah fulfilled this prophesy.
The Jews rejected Josiah’ right to destroy idols that had existed since Solomon’s reign. Judah’s idolatry could be traced back to Solomon, more than 300 years earlier. He turned from God and began to worship some of the pagan gods: “5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.” (1 Kgs. 11:5-7). Hezekiah briefly destroyed these altars (2 Kgs. 18:4). Yet, because they had existed since Solomon’s days, Manasseh and Amon restored these pagan altars. These leaders did this because the people wanted their idols. Josiah’s sons would also reverse his reforms because they did not share in his faith-led obedience. Thus, God warns that faith does not always come easy. Frequently, God tests your faith to see if you will follow Him or public opinion.
The people likely branded Josiah’s prohibition against same sex acts as homophobic. Josiah’s prohibition on same sex acts would have been extremely unpopular. “7 He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah.” (2 Kgs. 23:7). Most considered it a civil right. Many hold the same view today. Yet, no matter how unpopular it may be for people in society today to hear, same sex acts are against God’s law: ‘“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.’” (Lev. 18:20). For the unsaved, the penalty was also death (Lev. 20:13). God even barred cross-dressing: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Dt. 22:5). In the New Testament, Paul affirmed that same sex acts remain prohibited under God’s law, even after Jesus’ death (Ro. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). If Josiah ran for office today, He would be ridiculed and rejected by the masses. So would God. Yet, Josiah clung to God’s Word, even when the masses rejected God’s Word.
The people also likely derided Josiah for his prohibition against killing children. Josiah would have also been deeply resented for ending the practice of allowing parents to kill their children out of an alleged promise that the pagan god Molech would give them more children: “10 He also defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire for Molech.” (2 Kgs. 23:10). God makes each child within the womb (Ps. 139:13). A parent is merely a steward of His children. He gives people children to teach them His laws (Dt. 4:9-10; 6:7; 11:19; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6; Eph. 6:4). Thus, child sacrifices to the gods of that time (i.e., Molech) were expressly prohibited as an abuse of the parent’s stewardship of God’s children: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21). For those who engaged in this practice, God warned: “I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.” (Lev. 20:3-4). He also warned the Jews that He would curse the land if they sacrificed their children: “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.” (Ps. 106:38). When God gave the law of proportionality, He singled out killing an unborn baby as a crime worthy of death: “22 If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Ex. 21:22-24). God also warned that self-destructive behaviors between parents and their children is one sign of a curse on a nation (Lev. 26:29 - “Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.” Dt. 28:53 (same)). Making a child sacrifice for yourself or for a better life is also a form of idolatry (Is. 47:8-10). Since 1973, there have been nearly 58 million U.S. abortions. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that child sacrifices are now allowed. God took His laws so seriously that He sent the Jews into exile when they ignored them. Thus, should believers expect God to bless the western world as it openly rebels against His laws?
Stay pure and obey Jesus, or Satan will turn your heart against Jesus. Josiah knew that separating the Jews from evil influences was important for ensuring that the people did not return to their sins. You must also keep yourself pure by keeping yourself separate from evil influences: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnerships have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:15-18). Have you taken steps to separate yourself from evil influences and to guard your heart from the idols of this world?
When you put your faith in Jesus, He will give you His strength and courage to face evil. When you step out in faith to serve Jesus, He can also give you the strength and courage to face ridicule: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26; Mk. 10:27; Lk. 18:27). If you are mocked for following God’s Word, are you praying for Jesus’ strength to ignore these attacks?
Josiah sends his scribe to repair the Temple. As part of his many reforms, Josiah repaired God’s Temple to restore proper worship in Judah: “8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 Then they gave it into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the Lord, and the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord used it to restore and repair the house. 11 They in turn gave it to the carpenters and to the builders to buy quarried stone and timber for couplings and to make beams for the houses which the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12 The men did the work faithfully with foremen over them to supervise: Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites of the sons of Merari, Zechariah and Meshullam of the sons of the Kohathites, and the Levites, all who were skillful with musical instruments. 13 They were also over the burden bearers, and supervised all the workmen from job to job; and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.” (2 Chr. 34:8-13; 2 Kgs. 22:3-7). At the age of 26, during the 18th year of his reign, Josiah ordered his servants to repair the Temple (2 Chr. 34:8). Josiah’s servant Shaphan faithfully executed his plan to rebuild the Temple. This included the removal of the pagan idols that polluted it (2 Chr. 34:3-5). The high priest Hilkiah faithfully obeyed these directives. He would be the first of the last three high priests before the Babylonian exile (2 Kgs. 25:8-20). He was also the father of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1-2). Hilkiah was responsible for both restoring proper worship and ensuring that the silver donated for the Temple was properly used. Overseers then ensured that the carpenters, builders, and masons properly did their work with the right supplies (2 Kgs. 22:5-6; 2 Chron. 34:12). The Temple had not been fully repaired since Jehoiada the high priest worked with King Joash to repair it 218 years earlier (2 Kgs. 12:1-16). Josiah wisely understood that without vibrant worship, and a strong priesthood and accountability, his Spirit-led reforms would not last.
Spiritual renewal requires worship. In prioritizing the repair of the Temple, Josiah followed the example of Jehoash, who sought to repair the Temple during a prior attempt at spiritual reforms: “Then Jehoash said to the priests, ‘All the money of the sacred things which is brought into the house of the LORD, in current money, both the money of each man’s assessment and all the money which any man's heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD, let the priests take it for themselves, each from his acquaintance; and they shall repair the damages of the house wherever any damage may be found.”’ (2 Kgs. 22:4-5). If you are looking for renewal, renew your worship life.
Josiah set the example for others with his accountability and obedience. Through Josiah’s example, the people under him followed in both spiritual accountability and Spirit-led obedience (2 Kgs. 22:7). During the reforms under the high priest Jehoiada and King Joash, a similar trust and faithfulness existed with the monies collected to rebuild the Temple (2 Kgs. 12:15). God also requires that His stewards be faithful when they exercise control over His money (1 Cor. 4:2).
The high priest finds the missing Torah hidden in the Temple. During the repairs to the Temple, the high priest found the complete Torah, which was likely hidden during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon: “14 When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses. 15 Hilkiah responded and said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Then Shaphan brought the book to the king and reported further word to the king, saying, ‘Everything that was entrusted to your servants they are doing. 17 They have also emptied out the money which was found in the house of the Lord, and have delivered it into the hands of the supervisors and the workmen.’ 18 Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.” (2 Chr. 34:14-18; 2 Kgs. 22:8-10). The high priest found the “the book of the law” during the eighteenth year of his reign, in 621 B.C. The book of the law was another term for Moses’ Torah or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. If the book had been lost, this suggested that Manasseh had tried to purge God’s Word from Judah during his evil reign. A copy of the Torah had to be kept next to the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies “Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.” (Dt. 31:26). Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and he could only do this once a year (Lev. 16:2, 34; Heb. 9:7). Thus, this copy of the Torah was beyond the reach of Manasseh and Amon. Without the rediscovery of God’s Word, renewal could not have truly begun. The people would instead follow their own morality.
God’s Word was meant to studied by all. The fact that only one copy of God’s law remained hidden in the Temple showed just how far the Jews had fallen from what God commanded to them. God commanded that each king to write a personal copy of the law to guide his actions. “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes,” (Dt. 17:18-19). God also commanded that His law be read to the nation once every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles: “Then Moses commanded them, saying, ‘At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.”’ (Dt. 31:10-11). The Jews had failed to study and learn from the law as God commanded.
Hide God’s Word in your heart. An unknown priest hid God’s Word in the heart of the Temple from Manasseh and Amon. Like that priest, God wants you to hide His Word in your heart: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). “The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.” (Ps. 37:31). “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” (Dt. 6:6). ‘“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”’ (Jer. 31:33). If you hide God’s Word in your heart, the Holy Spirit can still guide you when society ridicules God’s Word.
Josiah hears God’s Word and tears his clothes in sorrow for the Jews’ disobedience. Upon hearing God’s Word, the Holy Spirit convicted Josiah regarding the failure of the Jews to follow it: “19 When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. 20 Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”’ (2 Chr. 34:19-21; 2 Kgs. 22:11-13). The tearing of a person’s clothes was a sign of sorrow and grief (2 Kgs. 18:37; 19:1). As a leader, Josiah felt convicted for the sins of his entire nation. Josiah most likely feared God’s wrath after hearing the discipline that God promised to inflict upon His people if they refused to follow His Word (Dt. 28:15-68). He sent his faithful servants to inquire regarding God’s wrath. Josiah knew that God is faithful to keep His Word, even His punishments.
God’s Word convicts of sin. God’s Word is able to pierce the heart and convict a person of their sins. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”’ (Jer. 23:29). “Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.” (Hos. 6:5). The Holy Spirit then convicts the person of their sins: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;” (Jo. 16:8).
Seek God’s guidance through His Word. Josiah also knew to use God’s Word and God’s prophets to guide His steps as king. God’s Word can a be a lamp to guide your steps as well. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19). The Holy Spirit also takes the Word and applies it to the unique circumstances of your life to guide your path. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide your steps?
God’s Word can also cause a spiritual revival. Josiah’s hearing of the Word and his faith led to Judah’s spiritual revival. Revivals frequently begin with the people hearing God’s Word and repenting of sin. If you are seeking to revive your heart, it begins with reading the Word and prayer for the Spirit to guide you.
God’s prophetess foretells future judgment for the Jews’ long-term disobedience. Although Josiah had a heart for God, the people did not. Because they would revert back to their sins upon Josiah death, God’s judgment upon them would remain: “22 So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her regarding this. 23 She said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 24 thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched.”’ 26 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus you will say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard, 27 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. 28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants.”’” And they brought back word to the king.” (2 Chr. 34:22-28; 2 Kgs. 22:14-17). Huldah was a prophetess. Other famous female prophets included Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Deborah (Jdgs. 4:4). Huldah’s name in Hebrew meant “weasel”. This did not imply that she was conniving as the word is used in Western culture. Instead, the name implied that she was forced to use her prophetic gifts in secret or underground during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon.
Huldah confirmed God’s judgment upon Judah for its past and future sins. Through the Holy Spirit, Huldah confirmed that God would judge Judah for its past and future idolatry (2 Chr. 34:24; 2 Kgs. 22:16-17). Although Josiah would lead a revival, the people would not share his zeal for God. Thus, they would return to their sins. The prophet Jeremiah therefore confirmed God’s judgment: “Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them; because I spoke to them but they did not listen, and I have called them but they did not answer.”’ (Jer. 35:17). “Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest.” (Micah 3:12). “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:” (Dt. 28:15). “It shall come about that just as all the good words which the LORD your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.” (Josh. 23:15).
Fear God’s Word by hating evil. The Jews did not experience a lasting revival because they did not fear God, the beginning of wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10; 2:5; Ps. 111:10). The Jews of Judah who lived during and after Josiah were fools because they chose to ignore the prophesy of judgment: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7). The Jews would have shown their fear of God if they had hated evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). This included obeying God’s Word: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecc. 12:13). Do you enjoy watching or talking about evil things?
Even in exile, God would not abandon the Jews. Even when the Jews sinned, God never left or forsook Israel. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6). This promise also applies to any believer in Christ (Heb. 13:5). If God allows you to experience His discipline, He does so out of love to correct your walk.
If a nation repents and turns back to God, He will deliver it. God promises to deliver any nation trapped in the idols of the flesh if it repents: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). It is the role of the Church to pray and be His salt and light in leading the nation to repent. Is your church fasting and praying for your nation to repent?
God heard Josiah’s humble prayers. Although God would still have to judge Judah, the book of Kings reveals that He heard the faithful prayers of Josiah and delayed His wrath: ‘“18 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Regarding the words which you have heard, 19 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord.” (2 Kgs. 22:18-19). Josiah prayed because he knew that God promised to judge His people for their sins: “Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book;” (Dt. 29:27). God answered Josiah’s prayers by stating that he would not live to see God’s judgment (2 Kgs. 22:20). Because of the blessings that God gave Josiah, the entire nation benefited. As long as Josiah lived, their judgment and suffering would be delayed as well. God also wants you to pray as an intercessor for others to repent and to seek Him.
God hears the prayers of the humble, the faithful, and those who do His will. Huldah advised that God heard Josiah because of his humility and his faith (2 Kgs. 22:19). God also promises to hear the prayers of the humble, those who fear Him, those who do His will and the righteous: “O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear” (Ps. 10:17). “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.” (Ps. 145:19). “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.” (Ps. 34:15). “The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Prov. 15:29). “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:12). “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” (Jo. 9:31). God will reward your faith-led obedience. Among other things, He will hear your prayers to Him when you cry out for help or comfort.
Sin can hinder your prayers to God. In the Old Testament, God warned that He would not hear the prayers of sinners and those who rejected His law: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Prov. 28:9). “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3(b)). “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;” (Ps. 66:18) “Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.”’ (Jer. 11:11). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, . . ..” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9). In the New Testament, He warns that sin can “hinder” a believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Believers are called upon to take communion on a regular basis to repent and cleanse their sins (1 Cor. 11:25). If you confess your sins and repent, Jesus will forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). Your sins will then no longer impair your prayers.
The Jews benefited from Josiah’s prayers through a delayed judgment. Because of Josiah’s faith-led obedience and his prayers, God delayed His judgment upon the Jews. This gave them another opportunity to repent: “Perhaps their supplication will come before the LORD, and everyone will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and the wrath that the LORD has pronounced against this people.” (Jer. 36:7). God even delayed His judgment upon Ahab after he repented (1 Kgs. 21:25-29). Yet, the Jews did not use this delayed judgment as an opportunity to repent. Thus, God later reaffirmed His judgment: “Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept His statutes; their lies also have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.” (Amos 2:4). If God has spared you from a punishment, repent and turn back to Him.
Josiah reads God’s law to the people, and the people reaffirm God’s covenant. After recovering God’s once lost Torah, Josiah read it to the people and led the people in renewing their covenant with God: “29 Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the Levites and all the people, from the greatest to the least; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. 31 Then the king stood in his place 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 his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. 32 Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers.” (2 Chr. 34:29-33; 2 Kgs. 23:1-3). Hilkiah discovered a hidden copy of the Torah in the Temple, and Josiah tore his clothes in grief after realizing that the Jews had failed to follow it for generations (2 Kgs. 22:11). By reading the Word, Josiah learned that it was God’s plan for His Word to be read aloud and publicly proclaimed. Moses did this to establish a covenant relationship between God and His people (Ex. 24:3-8). Joshua did this as well (Josh. 8:34-35). Thus, Josiah promptly gathered the elders and read God’s law to them (2 Kgs. 23:1-2). His public reading may have focused on the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20; Dt. 5) and the blessings that come from obedience and the curses that come from disobedience (Lev. 26; Dt. 28). He stood at an entrance pillar to the Temple (1 Kgs. 7:21; 2 Kgs. 23:3). There, he led the elders, the priests, and the people to reaffirm their covenant with God (2 Kgs. 23:3). Yet, because the people did not follow his example, his reforms did not endure beyond him. God wants His people to learn from Josiah’s example.
God requires that His people study the law at least once every seven years. God did not want His people to forget His law. Thus, at least once every seven years during the festival of Tabernacles, also called Booths or “Sukkot”, God required that Jews listen to the public reading of the law as a body: “9 So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, ‘At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”’ (Dt. 31:9-13). Unlike the three normal assemblies of God, which were restricted to the men of Israel (Dt. 16:16), this special assembly included men, women, children, and even foreigners (Dt. 31:12). Unlike today, the typical person did not have God’s printed Word. The public reading of the law took place during the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles (Dt. 31:10). This was the week when the Jews joyfully celebrated that God dwelt with them in the wilderness (Ex. 25:8; 29:45-46; Lev. 23:42-43). The festival also foreshadowed when Christ came to dwell with us and when He will dwell with believers during the Millennial Reign. This was also the festival when people were released from their debts (Dt. 31:10). The requirements for this festival were a “perpetual statute throughout your generation. . . ” (Lev. 23:41). If you celebrate it, “your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands. . .” (Dt. 16:15). Some Christians might find it curious that God would have His law read on the same day that He freed people from their debts. Yet, there is important symbolism here. Christ freed every believer from a legal requirement to follow His Ten Commandments out of obligation (Matt. 5:17-20). Nevertheless, following the law as a choice and not an obligation will keep you out of bondage to sin. Also, if you make the voluntary effort to observe Jesus’ Ten Commandments, it is a sign of your love for Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6; Matt. 19:17). Although freed from the law, Paul became a “bond-servant” and obeyed out of love (Ro. 1:1). When was the last time your church studied the law collectively?
The lesson for the Church. Some churches teach that you do not need to observe the Ten Commandments. Others teach that you still should do so out of love, just as Jesus wrote. For many churches, the Ten Commandments are only occasionally studied. Yet, no matter which view you and your church adopt regarding the Ten Commandments, you should study them as body at least once every seven years, just as God commanded. There is wisdom in God’s law. Even after Christ’s death, Paul urged that believers continue to publicly read God’s law, just as Moses commanded: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13). He was not referring to the public reading of the New Testament because it had not yet been written. He was instead referring to the public reading of the Torah, as was and is still the practice in every synagogue. The only difference between the Jewish reading and the Christian reading of the Torah is that the Christian churches would have explained and celebrated what Christ fulfilled after every public reading. In case any believer assumes that the writing of the New Testament either negated or changed the meaning of Paul’s instruction, that view is also mistaken. During the Millennial Reign, the nations will come to Jesus where He will read the law to the masses: “And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Is. 2:3). If we take Paul’s instructions seriously, how can a church spend the vast majority of its time publicly reading only the New Testament and ignore harder parts of the Torah as is common in many churches? Like Josiah, we should be filled with both grief at our unwillingness to study God’s Word and resolve to correct this error.
The lesson for you. As beneficiaries of God’s law, the Jews were obligated to teach it to their children: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7; 4:9-10; 11:19; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6; Eph. 6:4). Do you know God’s law well enough to teach it? If so, do you teach your children God’s law?
The public confession of faith in God’s Covenant. Josiah followed Moses’ example in having the people affirm their agreement to be bound by the Ten Commandments. After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses had the 70 elders and the people make public vow to accept it: “3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Ex. 24:3). When the people spoke “we do,” they were agreeing to enter into a wedding contract (consisting of the Ten Commandments) with God. In Jewish culture, a couple enters into the wedding contract before they dwell together. God tells us that He was betrothed to Israel (Jer. 2:2). He was faithful to His bride (Ps. 18:25). Yet, a wedding contract must be signed by a friend of the bride and a friend of the groom. Moses was a friend of the bride, Israel. But God did not allow him to sign the contract. Instead, Moses later broke the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:19). The sin that caused the people to break the wedding contract was spiritual adultery and idolatry. Rather than accepting their bridegroom and waiting on Him, they made for themselves a new bridegroom out of a golden calf (Ex. 32:24). Jeroboam in Northern Israel later recreated two golden calves. Adultery is the one sin that Jesus said would justify divorce (Matt. 5:32). God later implored the Jews to return to their husband: ‘“Return faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband.’” (Jer. 3:14). Jesus will one day complete His marriage with His Church (Rev. 19:7-14). The bridegroom and the bride will then be able to dwell together (Rev. 20:4).
God also wants you to publicly confess your faith in His New Covenant. Like the Jews, God also wants you to publicly confess your faith and agreement to the New Covenant as your wedding contract with Him: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Ro. 10:8-9). If you confess Jesus to be Lord and Savior before others, He in turn will confess you in heaven (Lk. 12:8; Matt. 10:32). Are you sharing the good news of the Gospel with others? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Develop your faith by reading and hearing the Word and seeing how it is fulfilled. When your faith is weak, you can also make it grow by hearing the Word and seeing how it is confirmed. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:5). Developing your faith is important because an “unbelieving heart” will cause a person to fall away from God (Heb. 3:12). Are you reading and studying the Word to strengthen your faith?
Satan comes to bring doubt about the peace offered through the Word. Although the message of this chapter stresses the importance of God’s Torah, some scholars allege that Josiah perpetrated a massive fraud upon God’s people. Some allege that he wrote the book of Deuteronomy. Yet, the book of the law, which included the book of Deuteronomy, repeatedly identified Moses as its author: “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, . . ..” (Dt. 1:1). The Jews took Moses’ words very seriously. They called the book “élleh haddebarim” for “these are words.” By short hand, it is called “debarim” or “words.” Moses repeated his claims of authorship on several other occasions (Dt. 1:5-6, 9; 5:1; 27:1, 9; 29:2; 31:1, 9, 22, 24, 30; 33:1). He later made clear that he not only spoke these words, he recorded them from beginning to end: “Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi . . . After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave his command to the Levites . . . ‘Take this book of the Law and place it besides the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.” (Dt. 31:9, 24-26). If Moses did not write the book of Deuteronomy, the author committed a fraud by falsely attributing its words to Moses.
The Documentary Hypothesis. For thousands of years, few questioned Moses’ claim of authorship. Not until the early nineteenth century did some writers suggest that the Torah or Pentateuch might have had more than one author. During this time, German scholar Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780 - 1849) claimed to have discovered something that the rabbis for centuries got wrong - - that Moses did not write the book of Deuteronomy (Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago Moody Press 1994), 91). He felt troubled by the fact that Moses made inconsistent references in the Torah. For example, he refers to the mountain where he received the Ten Commandments as “Sinai” in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers (Ex. 19:2, 20; 34:2; Lev. 7:38; Nu. 33:15). Yet, in Deuteronomy, he refers to the same mountain as both “Horeb” and “Sinai” (Dt. 1:6; 33:2). The style of writing in the book was also allegedly different. Some were also troubled that Moses would have referenced the Jews being “scattered” by God’s judgment hundreds of years before it happened (Dt. 4:27; 28:64). Rather than accepting the supernatural and the possibility that Moses would have recorded a prophesy that was fulfilled by the Babylonian captivity, critics scoff that the book must have been written hundreds of years later after the Jews were taken into Babylonian captivity. Some argue that the Deuteronomic code (chapters 5 through 26) was not drafted until the 7th Century B.C. during King Josiah’s reign (641-609 B.C.).
Josiah’s alleged conspiracy. Josiah recorded that he discovered the law during his reign (2 Kgs. 22:8-13). Some now claim – without evidence -- that Deuteronomy must have been written just before that. Others believed that Josiah conspired to write the Deuteronomic code and then falsely claimed to have found it. Under either scenario, the authors falsely claimed in the book that Moses wrote it (Dt. 31:9, 24-26). Why would they do this? Before Josiah, Judah at this time was a vassal of Assyria. Yet, during Josiah’s reign, Assyria began to decline in power. Sometime around 622 B.C., Josiah launched religious reforms. Following the format of vassal state covenants of the day, he or others allegedly wrote the Deuteromic code as a covenant between the kingdom of Judah and Yahweh. The theory was that this would create a sense of nationalism amongst the Jews and allowed Josiah to consolidate religious worship (and therefore) power in Jerusalem (See, Dt. 12:5-7). If this were true, the book of Deuteronomy was allegedly not written until hundreds of years after Moses’ death, sometime between 1735 and 1480 B.C. Other critics later claimed that the first three chapters at the beginning and the chapters at the end did not appear until the end of the Babylonian exile in the late 6th Century B.C. Yet, to accomplish this, the writers in different centuries needed to conspire together to falsely claim that Moses authored the book. Moreover, rather than trying cover up alleged inconstancies in places, names, and styles, the authors were sloppy in their fraud by keeping the alleged inconsistencies in the five books.
The authentication of the prophets. The prophets apparently never knew about this conspiracy. They claimed that Moses authored this book (1 Kgs. 2:3; 8:53; 2 Kgs. 14:6; 18:12). For the documentary hypothesis to be true, these prophets were blind men who were duped into believing and accepting Moses’ claims of authorship. Thus, they did not speak for God. Only the enlightened men of the nineteenth century would learn the truth.
Paul’s verification of Moses’ authorship. Paul was “educated at the feet of Gamaliel in the strict ways of our ancestral law.” (Acts 22:3). Thus, he was trained by one of the best rabbis at the time. Yet, he and his peers were also apparently not aware of the conspiracy. Based upon Jewish tradition at that time, he was clear that it was Moses who physically wrote the law contained in Deuteronomy: “For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.” (Ro. 10:5). God cannot lie: “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2; Nu. 23:19). Thus, God could not have told Paul to write false things in the Bible about who penned the Law in Deuteronomy. Paul’s claim to have received the Word by divine revelation would then also be suspect. Half of the New Testament would then be suspect.
Christ’s verification of Moses’ authorship. Jesus also repeatedly referenced Moses as the drafter of the law. He also pointed out that those who doubt Moses’ authorship will also likely have trouble believing His Word: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (Jo. 5:46-47; Matt. 19:3-9 (Dt. 24:1-4); Mk. 10:3-5). Why would Jesus refer to Moses as the drafter of the law if He knew all along as God that Moses did not draft it? During His encounter with Satan in the wilderness in a weakened state, He further quoted from Deuteronomy three times to rebuke Satan (Matt. 4:1-10; quoting Dt. 8:3; 6:16; 5:7-9). After hearing these words, Satan fled (Matt. 4:11). For the documentary hypothesis to be true, both Jesus and Satan had to have been unaware of the books fraudulent authorship. Jesus also could not be God if He were perpetuating a lie regarding Moses’ authorship (Heb. 5:18). Satan would also have little reason to flee something penned hundreds of years after Moses under false authorship. If the documentary hypothesis were true, scholars in the nineteenth century were allegedly able to figure out a fraud that had escaped the prophets, Paul, and even Jesus. The mere thought of this line of reasoning should be enough to make even the most casual Christian recoil.
The use of the documentary hypothesis in seminary schools. Sadly, the documentary hypothesis is now taught as required reading in most seminaries and Catholic schools. Many feel the Spirit quenched under this teaching. If we cannot accept that the words of the book belong to God’s appointed law giver, then there is no reason to accept the book’s claims as true. Neither God’s promises of blessings for obedience nor the curses for disobedience can be accepted as authoritative. Others have undermined God’s warnings of conditional curses for disobedience by simply refusing to teach about them or alleging that Jesus made them irrelevant. Thus, Satan has many tools to deceive us.
Trust God’s Word to guide you to His peace. God’s Word is accurate and will exist as God’s standard of truth forever: “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Ps. 119:89). “[T]he word of our God stands forever.” (Is. 40:8). “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:18; 24:35). God’s Word is reliable because Jesus is the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:14). Do you have complete trust in His Word?