Introduction: The second to last chapter of the book of Chronicles concludes with Josiah’s strict observance of the Passover. Only five chapters earlier, the Bible recorded how another great reformer named Hezekiah also observed the Passover. Many modern day Christians might consider these two chapters to be entirely irrelevant to their lives. Few Christians observe the Passover. Most believe that it is a “Jewish” holiday that Jesus made “irrelevant”. But that view is a mistake. The New Testament states that the Old Testament holy days reveal the “shadows” of Jesus (Col. 2:16-7; Heb. 10:1). These “holy convocations” or “miqras” can also be translated as “rehearsals” (Lev. 23:2). While celebrating the Passover, the Jews unknowingly rehearsed and prepared for the arrival of Jesus. Today, believers are called upon to prepare for His return. The book of Chronicles was meant to encourage the returning exiles that God would restore the Davidic dynasty of kings. Josiah and Hezekiah, the two greatest kings since David, unknowingly rehearsed for the return of the King of Kings. From Josiah’s observance of the Passover and his death on the battlefield, God reveals seven lessons on preparing for Jesus, the King of Kings. You can prepare for Jesus’ return by: (1) being holy, (2) sacrificing for others, (3) vigilance, (4) worship, (5) observing a voluntary Passover, (6) obedience, and (7) faith.
First, Josiah encouraged the priests to prepare themselves for God by “consecrating” themselves to be holy. Today, you are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). You can also prepare yourself for Jesus by purging the sin in your life to be a holy vessel for His use. He will then purify you and make you righteous. Second, Josiah and his officers helped the people participate in the Passover through personal sacrifices by offering to those in need. From their example, God reveals that you can prepare yourself for Jesus’ return by sacrificing for others in need. Third, to comply with the law, the Levites rushed to ensure that each person ate their Passover meal on the same night that it was prepared. The Passover meal foreshadowed the Communion bread and wine that Jesus offers to all believers. He also does not want you to delay in accepting His communion. The Jews ate in a rush to remember how they left their old life of bondage behind. Jesus also does not want you to delay in leaving your old life behind for Him. Fourth, the priests also prepared the people to celebrate God’s deliverance through worship. Jesus also wants you to prepare your heart for Him through worship. Fifth, God celebrated Josiah for his faithful observance of the Passover. God never wants obligated worship. Thus, you are freed from any obligation to celebrate the holy days. You can also show your gratitude for Jesus by celebrating Him with a voluntary Passover. Sixth, God spoke through an Egyptian pharaoh to warn Josiah not to attack him. But Josiah failed to seek God’s guidance and obey the Word that God conveyed through pharaoh. From Josiah’s mistake, Jesus warns that you can prepare for His return by obeying His Word and His guidance through the Holy Spirit. Finally, despite being the most obedient king to ever live, the Bible reveals that Josiah acted like Ahab, possibly the worst king to ever live, by trying to ignore God’s Word and concealing himself in battle. Josiah then died in a similar manner as Ahab did in a battle that God did not condone. In addition to resulting in Josiah’s death, this would also lead to the demise of Judah. The people would then impose a king who restored their pagan idolatry. God would then use the Babylonians to send the Jews into exile and captivity. God recorded Josiah’s disobedience to reveal that there was no righteous human king who could deliver the Jews and save them. Nor can your acts of righteousness and efforts to comply with God’s law save you from your sins. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus’ atoning death, God’s promised King of Kings.
Josiah urges the priests to consecrate themselves to observe the Passover. After purging Judah of its idols, Josiah prepared the priests to properly observe the Passover: “1 Then Josiah celebrated the Passover to the Lord in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover animals on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2 He set the priests in their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord. 3 He also said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the Lord, ‘Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel built; it will be a burden on your shoulders no longer. Now serve the Lord your God and His people Israel. 4 Prepare yourselves by your fathers’ households in your divisions, according to the writing of David king of Israel and according to the writing of his son Solomon. 5 Moreover, stand in the holy place according to the sections of the fathers’ households of your brethren the lay people, and according to the Levites, by division of a father’s household. 6 Now slaughter the Passover animals, sanctify yourselves and prepare for your brethren to do according to the word of the Lord by Moses.’” (2 Chr. 35:1-6; 2 Kgs. 23:21-23). Josiah strongly believed in the importance of observing God’s holy days. Thus, beginning in 622 B.C., he strictly observed the Passover (2 Chr. 35:1-19; Dt. 16:2-8). Hezekiah previously observed a Passover (2 Chr. 30:1-3). But he was unable to observe it on its intended day because the priests were not ready. Thus, Hezekiah had the Jews observe it on a permitted alternative date (Nu. 9:1-5). It was the failure of the priests to consecrate themselves on time that prevented Hezekiah from observing Passover on its intended day. Thus, Josiah encouraged the priests to prepare in advance so that they would not miss the appointed time and the hour for the Passover (2 Chr. 35:2-4). Under either his father Amon or his grandfather Manasseh’s idolatrous reign, certain priests had removed the ark of the covenant from the holy of holies because of the pagan idols and pagan practices that defiled the Temple. Thus, Josiah encouraged the priests that it was no longer their burden to protect the ark. They could now restore it to its rightful place (2 Chr. 35:3). Yet, they first had to prepare by consecrating themselves and being holy.
The Passover feast was a rehearsal for Jesus. Josiah ordered the priests to sacrifice the lamb after they had prepared themselves at God’s appointed time (2 Chr. 35:6). The Passover celebrated that, during the final plague, the shed blood of the lamb allowed each family who acted in faith to have death “pass over” their firstborn child (Ex. 12:12-13, 22-23). While celebrating these festivals, the Jews gave thanks for God’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. They also unknowingly rehearsed for Jesus’ deliverance of all believers from the bondage of sin. God gave the blood of His firstborn son to allow judgment to “pass over” His believers: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (Jo. 1:29). “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Is. 53:7). The Passover lamb had to be without blemish or it could not be used in the sacrifice (Ex. 12:5). Jesus also was unblemished: “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:18:19). God further specified that the sacrifice could have no broken bones (Ex. 12:46). This again foreshadowed Christ. He died on the cross without any of His bones being broken (Ps. 22:17; Jo. 19:32-36). To make sure that the lamb was unblemished, it was observed between the 10th and the 14th of Nisan / Abib. During this time, Jesus was tried by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. But Pontius Pilot could find no fault in Him (Lk. 23:4; Jo. 19:6). He lived as a holy sacrifice for you. In turn, He wants you to lead a holy life without blemish or sin for Him (Ro. 12:1; 1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:45; 19:2). The Jews took for granted what God did for them in Egypt. Many also take for granted what Jesus did for them in freeing them from bondage to sin.
Prepare yourself for Jesus by removing the sin from your life. Hezekiah gave a similar command for the priests to consecrate themselves: “Then he said to them, ‘Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place.”’ (2 Chr. 29:5). When the Jews returned from exile, they also consecrated themselves before observing the Passover: “For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves.” (Ezra 6:20). Jesus was in the grave during part of this festival. Through Christ, we are freed from our old sins. On the first day (Palm Sunday), believers were to purge their houses of leaven (Ex. 12:15). By tradition, this was done by the wife of the family. Again, leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8). If we leave any hidden sin our lives, it will rise like leaven in bread. The rabbis taught that if a Jew had to wait for the bread to rise before they could join God’s people, their heart was still in bondage of Egypt. Today, believers are the bride of Christ (Rev. 22:2, 17). The house or temple where the Holy Spirit dwells is in your body (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Through Jesus’ death, your body has also been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If you were once a slave to sin, you have now become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). As a slave to righteousness, you cannot follow the morals of the world (Lev. 18:1; Ezek. 20:18-19). You should therefore be looking to purge sin from your body to celebrate this festival (1 Cor. 5:7; 6:13-15; 18-20). If you long for the things of the world, this is the time to remove those things from your life. Are you making a sustained effort to keep the yeast or sin out of your life?
With faith, Jesus can also make you righteous and holy. During Hezekiah’s observance of the Passover, after the priests burned the unholy idols, repented, and sprinkled blood, God consecrated them to serve (2 Chr. 30:16). Through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, He can also make you righteous: “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Ro. 5:19). Because He has made you righteous, He calls upon you to keep yourself consecrated by staying holy (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2). Are you living your life as a holy living sacrifice for Jesus (Ro. 12:1-2)?
Josiah gives generously for the poor to offer sacrifices. To ensure that all could participate, Josiah and his officers sacrificed from the best of their flocks by giving thousands of animals for the poor families who could not afford their own sacrifices: “7 Josiah contributed to the lay people, to all who were present, flocks of lambs and young goats, all for the Passover offerings, numbering 30,000 plus 3,000 bulls; these were from the king’s possessions. 8 His officers also contributed a freewill offering to the people, the priests and the Levites. Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, the officials of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover offerings 2,600 from the flocks and 300 bulls. 9 Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethanel, his brothers, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, the officers of the Levites, contributed to the Levites for the Passover offerings 5,000 from the flocks and 500 bulls.” (2 Chr. 35:7-9). During Hezekiah’s Passover observance, he and his officers also gave generously to the poor. They offered 2,000 bulls and 17,000 sheep (2 Chr. 30:24). Josiah more than doubled Hezekiah’s generous sacrificial offering. The Jews unknowingly rehearsed for Jesus by sacrificing for Him by giving to the poor. Jesus in turn gave the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. You can show your gratitude with your sacrifices of your time, talent, and treasure for Him. You can also show your gratitude by sacrificing to help the poor and those in need.
God will remember when you sacrifice for Him by helping those in need. God will remember your sacrifices for Him when you serve with the right motives: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10; Jer. 31:16). For example, He promises to bless you each time you serve Him by helping the poor secretly: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41). “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17). Are you sacrificing for those in need?
The Jews prepared and ate the Passover sacrifice without delay. To remind the Jews that they had to leave behind their old lives of Egyptian bondage without delay, Josiah and the priests ensured that everyone ate the Passover sacrifice on the same day: “10 So the service was prepared, and the priests stood at their stations and the Levites by their divisions according to the king’s command. 11 They slaughtered the Passover animals, and while the priests sprinkled the blood received from their hand, the Levites skinned them. 12 Then they removed the burnt offerings that they might give them to the sections of the fathers’ households of the lay people to present to the Lord, as it is written in the book of Moses. They did this also with the bulls. 13 So they roasted the Passover animals on the fire according to the ordinance, and they boiled the holy things in pots, in kettles, in pans, and carried them speedily to all the lay people. 14 Afterwards they prepared for themselves and for the priests, because the priests, the sons of Aaron, were offering the burnt offerings and the fat until night; therefore the Levites prepared for themselves and for the priests, the sons of Aaron.” (2 Chr. 35:10-14). After everyone had obtained unblemished animals, the people then sacrificed them (Dt. 16:5-6; 2 Chr. 30:17). The people then gave the sacrificed blood to the Levites to present at the altar. The priests then prepared the sacrifices for the people to eat that same night (2 Chr. 35:11-13). The people ate first. As servants, the priests ate only after the people did (2 Chr. 35:14).
The eating of the Passover sacrifice foreshadowed the Communion that Jesus offers. Not without coincidence, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with the disciples during the Last Supper. During the Last Supper, “Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.”’ (Matt. 26:26; 1 Cor. 11:24). The bitter herbs reminded the Jews of their suffering in Egypt. They also remind us of Jesus’ suffering in having His blood spilled as part of the New Covenant: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ [Jesus] said to them.” (Mk. 14:24; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Is. 53:4-12). Before being nailed to the cross, He was brutally whipped (Matt. 27:26; Jo. 19:1). He did all this so that we could live in communion with Him. Are you seeking out His communion and His fellowship?
The commandment not to delay in eating the sacrifice. After the people slaughtered the Passover sacrifices, the priests promptly “roasted the Passover animals on the fire according to the ordinance” and then “carried them speedily to all the lay people.” (2 Chr. 35:13). The Jews then ate the Passover meal, called the Seder, before morning. When Moses first commanded the Jews to flee Egypt, he ordered them to not delay in eating the Passover sacrifice: “10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.” (Ex. 12:10-12). Thus, the Jews could not delay in parting with their old lives.
Don’t delay in accepting the communion and fellowship that Jesus offers. Jesus also does not want you to delay in consuming what He offers you. No less than seven times, this commandment appeared in the Torah: “‘6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. 7 So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. 8 Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people.’” (Lev. 19:6-8; 7:14-15; 22:29-30; Ex. 23:18-19; 34:25(b)). Jesus rose before the third day so that His body would not be corrupted (Acts 2:27; Ps. 16:10). We can therefore eat the Communion that He offers from His body because it is holy. By telling believers not to delay until morning, Jesus was also telling them not to delay in giving the best of their time, talent, and treasure for Him. When a seeker asked Jesus “‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father,’” before following Him (a metaphor for closing down his father’s business), Jesus responded “‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Lk. 9:60; Matt. 8:22). This meant that the man could not delay in his commitment to follow and serve Him. If your desires for your old life of the flesh are delaying your service, you are not ready to receive what He offers: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:62). Your life could end at any moment. Jesus could return at any moment (Lk. 12:40). Thus, you cannot assume that you will have decades or even years to decide whether to follow after Him (Jam. 4:13-14; Heb. 3:12-13, 15). Jesus gave us the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate that some will foolishly wait until it is too late to accept Him (Matt. 25:1-13). Are you waiting for the right time in your life to follow after Jesus? Where is Jesus on your priority list in your life?
Jesus took your punishment as the Passover Lamb. The Passover sacrifice was roasted over a fire (2 Chr. 30:13). The fire represented God’s judgment of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, . . .’” (Jer. 23:29). The roasting of the lamb over the fire represented the judgement that Jesus took for everyone: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24). Further, His sacrifice was the only means of escaping God’s judgment (Ex. 12:12-13). The shedding of the blood at the altar symbolized the exchanging of His life for yours (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). How are you giving thanks for the price that Jesus paid for you?
The Levites led the Jews in worship. To help prepare the people’s hearts, the Levites also led the Jews in worship: “15 The singers, the sons of Asaph, were also at their stations according to the command of David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the gatekeepers at each gate did not have to depart from their service, because the Levites their brethren prepared for them.” (2 Chr. 35:15). Interestingly, worshiping God is not specifically listed in His law for the Passover. The reason for this is simple. God wanted the people to voluntarily celebrate what He did for them. Josiah also wanted to ensure that the Passover was not a somber event. Thus, with the help of the Levites, the Jews prepared their hearts to express heart-felt gratitude for their deliverance.
Jesus also wants your voluntary worship to prepare your heart for Him. As one of David’s enduring legacies as king, he institutionalized the role of the Levites to lead the people in worship (1 Chr. 25:1) Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun were David’s primary worship leaders (1 Chr. 6:31-48). “41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the Lord, because His lovingkindness is everlasting. 42 And with them were Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those who should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God, and the sons of Jeduthun for the gate.” (1 Chr. 16:41-42). Josiah reinstituted David’s reforms to ensure that the Jews continued to worship God out of gratitude. Thus, he looked to the descendants of Asaph and Heman to lead the Jews in worship. He further included “Jeduthun the king’s seer” (2 Chr. 35:15). This means that Jeduthun was a prophet. The reason for including a prophet was to ensure that God could speak to the Jews through their music. Through their example, God reveals that worship can both prepare your heart and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you seek to serve Him.
Celebrating God in the appointed manner brings great joy. Hezekiah also ensured that the Passover included joyful worship: “the priests praised the Lord day after day with loud instruments to the Lord, . . .” (2 Chr. 30:21). When Nehemiah had the Jews who returned from exile observe God’s festivals, they also experienced God’s joy for celebrating Him in the appointed manner: “The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing.” (Neh. 8:17). Thanks to Jesus’ death at the cross, you are freed from an legal obligation to observe God’s holy days (Col. 2:16). God never wanted worship that was compulsory or not from the heart. Yet, if you celebrate Him during the appointed times, He will also give you the joy of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). If you are lacking joy in your life, are you clinging to Jesus and celebrating Him in the appointed manner?
Praise and worship Jesus for all things good or bad. Jesus wants you to praise Him in both good times and bad times: “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation,” (2 Sam. 22:47). “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3). “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” (Dt. 32:4). “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14). Worship helps to clear your mind to receive God’s Word when your world is in turmoil. Thus, you should never skip the worship that precedes the message at Church. Through Jesus’ model prayer for you (the Lord’s prayer), He also invites believers to begin by praising God’s holy name (Matt. 6:9). Do you praise Jesus for all your successes? Are you also praising Him during your trials?
Josiah united the people for the greatest Passover celebration since Samuel. Josiah united the people of both Judah and the remnants of Northern Israel in this Passover. It was the greatest such celebration and even exceeded anything that David initiated: “16 So all the service of the Lord was prepared on that day to celebrate the Passover, and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord according to the command of King Josiah. 17 Thus the sons of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. 18 There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign this Passover was celebrated.” (2 Chr. 35:16-19). Besides Hezekiah (2 Chr. 30), the Jews had failed to observe the Passover in this manner since the time of the judges (2 Chr. 35:18). Of all of the kings to rule Judah or Northern Israel, including David, none were as obedient as Josiah (2 Kgs. 23:25). Although Hezekiah observed a Passover, it was on an alternative date and did not include the same level of preparations and unity. The repeated discussions of the Passover in the context of the two great reformer kings since David was meant to confirm a message. God cares deeply about the Passover celebration. He meant for it to be an eternal memorial of His deliverance.
God instructed the Jews to observe the Passover as a “permanent ordinance”. God celebrated Josiah as Judah’s most obedient king: “25 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). When God gave the Passover laws to Moses, He stated on three separate occasions that it was a law that they were required to observe forever: “14 Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance . .. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. . . . 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.” (Ex. 12:14, 17, 24). The Passover was central to establishing God’s faithfulness to redeem His people from bondage. Thus, by failing to observe the Passover, the Jews were ignoring what God did to free them from their bondage to sin.
Christians can observe a voluntary Passover as a chance to celebrate Jesus. The Passover and the related Feast of Unleavened Bread reveal the “shadows” of Jesus (Col. 2:17). In other words, they tell us more about Him. These holy days correspond with the Passion Week when the people crucified Jesus and He then rose from the dead. Passover is God’s appointed time to give thanks for Jesus, the Passover lamb, who died for you to allow judgment to “pass over” you (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29). When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, He was observing a Seder, which means “set order.” (Lk. 22:7-23). Each aspect of the Seder dinner foreshadowed Christ’s death. If we are supposed to follow Christ’s example, why don’t Christians observe a Last Supper each year to glorify Christ? The answer does not lie in any passage of scripture. Nor does the answer lie in the traditions of the early Church. All of the early Church members observed a Last Supper. They used it as an opportunity to give glory to Jesus while observing communion in the manner He requested. It was not until emperor Constantine banned the observation of the 14th day of Nisan during the counsel of Nicaea in 325 A.D. He and the bishops decided to only observe Resurrection Sunday and the crucifixion. In a letter to the churches, Emperor Constantine appealed to a then common belief that the Jews were the enemy of Christians in explaining this decision: “The commemoration of the most sacred paschal [Passover] feast being then debated, that it would be well that it should be everywhere celebrated upon the same day . . . It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in their celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded . . . Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries.” (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3:18; quoted in First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club (2013) Vol. 1 Unrolling the Scroll – Bo p. 241). Thus, by the edict of an anti-Semitic rant, the Church stopped observing the Passover dinner of the 14th and only observed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. The translators of the King James Bible even deleted a reference to the early Church observing the Passover dinner in Acts 12:4. The translators changed the Greek word for Passover (“pascha”) to Easter, something that did not exist until centuries later. Jesus warns believers not to choose the traditions of mankind over His Word: “‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”’ (Mark 7:6-8; Matt. 15:7-9; Is. 29:13). Even if your church ignores the Last Supper, you can still observe it voluntarily to honor Christ.
God freed believers of any obligation to observe the holy days. The New Testament says that you cannot be judged for failing to observe the holy days. “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - -” (Col. 2:16). But few understand that the festivals became meaningless before Jesus: “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14). The Jews observed the holy days out of obligation and without grateful hearts. God never wanted this. Thus, He freed believers of any obligation to celebrate Jesus on the appointed holy days. If celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice during the Passover is a burden for you, don’t do it. Yet, if you are looking for an opportunity to thank Jesus, this is an appointed time to do so.
Josiah ignores God’s direction by seeking to wage a war that God did not sanction. Despite living a life of incredible obedience, Josiah failed to seek God’s will through prayer and then ignored God’s Word by waging an unauthorized war against Egypt: “20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him. 21 But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, ‘What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.’” (2 Chr. 35:20-21). At the time, Egypt formed an alliance with Assyria against Babylon. In 612 B.C., the Assyrians lost their capital in Nineveh to the Babylonians. The Assyrians then retreated to Haran. Pharaoh-nechoh II (609-594 B.C.) traveled to Haran to aid the Assyrians against the Babylonians when Josiah led an army to prevent the Egyptians from reaching Haran. There, he died during this battle. Pharaoh-nechoh II warned Josiah against intervening. But Josiah went anyway at his own peril (2 Chr. 35:20-27). Through his actions, Josiah delayed the Egyptians. The Babylonians then defeated the Assyrians at Haran. In 605 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar finally defeated the Assyrians. This allowed Nebuchadnezzar to then turn his sights against Judah, who was now without allies. God could have used the Egyptians and the Assyrians to weaken and possibly defeat the Babylonians. But Josiah interfered with God’s plans. This resulted in both his death and the sad demise of Judah.
God desires obedience to keep you out of bondage. To keep themselves free from bondage, the Passover included a requirement that Jews obey as God had told them: “50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.” (Ex. 12:50-51). According to the Apostle Paul, you are a slave to whatever you serve: “[Y]ou are slaves of the one whom you obey . . ” (Ro. 6:16(b); Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus said, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the law out of love instead of obligation is a test for whether you really know God (1 John 2:3). Satan has placed your flesh at war with God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, you must pick which you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). Are you trying to serve two masters? Or, are you being obedient to God?
God desires obedience more than sacrifice. God wanted the obedience of the Jewish kings more than their sacrifices. “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22). Are you obedient in your walk with Jesus? If not, what kind of an example are you setting for others?
Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. 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). If you call Jesus your Lord, is there any area of your life where you are refusing to obey Him?
Always pray and read the Word for God to guide your actions. Josiah presumed to know God’s will. But he failed to pray. Nor did he test the statements of the pharaoh. To avoid the sin of presumption, you should first read God’s Word to guide your steps. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105) When you pray, the Holy Spirit will then help you to remember Jesus’ Word and apply it to your life: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; . . .” (Jo. 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying on a daily basis for God to guide your steps?
God can speak to you through non-believers. Pharaoh Neco did not believe in or follow Yahweh. But God still used him to speak on His behalf. Thus, you should test all things. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thess. 5:21). When nonbelievers give you advice, are you testing it through prayer?
Josiah rejects God’s Word and dies in battle. Despite knowing that pharaoh was in fact speaking God’s Word, Josiah persisted in his plans to wage war. He tried to disguise himself. But he died in battle because God was not there to protect him: “22 However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. 23 The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, ‘Take me away, for I am badly wounded.’ 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 25 Then Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah. And all the male and female singers speak about Josiah in their lamentations to this day. And they made them an ordinance in Israel; behold, they are also written in the Lamentations. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah and his deeds of devotion as written in the law of the Lord, 27 and his acts, first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.” (2 Chr. 35:22-27). The Jews wept because Josiah had been the most righteous king to ever rule over them. His obedience to the law far surpassed that of even David (2 Kgs. 23:25). Yet, like everyone else, Josiah could not comply with God’s law. He therefore died because of his sins. He further died at the plain of Megiddo (2 Chr. 35:22), the valley of Armageddon. He was, however, still honored in death because of his faith. Jeremiah and others lamented his death. He was also buried in David’s tomb.
Judah’s most righteous king became like Israel’s worst kings. By disguising himself to avoid God’s Word, Josiah acted like Saul when he sought to disguise himself from God to visit a witch (1 Sam. 28:8). He also employed the tactics of the worst King of Israel Ahab, by trying to disguise himself to avoid God’s commands of him. “The king of Israel [Ahab] said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will disguise myself and go into the battle, but you put on your robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into the battle.” (1 Kgs. 22:30; 2 Chr. 18:29). The Bible also draws a direct parallel between Josiah and Ahab in how they died and their final words: “Now a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor So he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.”’ (1 Kgs. 22:35; 2 Chr. 35:23). To compare Josiah to Ahab may seem harsh and unfair. But the point God is making is that the righteousness of either king was like filthy rags before God: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Is. 64:6). Without the blood of Jesus, none are righteous before God: “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Ro. 3:10-11). If salvation were possible through good words, then there was no need for Jesus to die on the cross: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2:21). Indeed, someone who breaks just one part of the law, like Josiah, is guilty of breaking all of it, like Ahab (Jam. 2:10).
Because all leaders will sin, put your faith Jesus, your true King. The book of Chronicles and the book of Kings together emphasize that there was never a righteous king. From the greatest kings, David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, to the worst kings, like Ahab, Manasseh, and Amon, they all sinned. Thus, God warned His people to trust in Him and not in human leaders for their deliverance. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). It is common during elections in western nations for people to put their hopes in one political party or in one candidate. It is important to care about who is elected. A Spirit-led leader can lead a nation into God’s blessings, and a rebellious leader can lead a nation into God’s curses. Yet, like every other person, human leaders will sin (Ro. 3:23). Thus, you should never place your hopes in leaders. Instead, place your faith in Jesus (1 Tim. 6:17). He is the King of Kings (Rev. 19:16). He is the only one who can forgive your sins and save you: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Have you placed your faith and hope in Jesus or in your leaders?