Introduction: 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 (2 Kgs. 23:25). 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 change their ways. From Josiah’s actions, God reveals seven lessons for obtaining spiritual renewal. These include: (1) faith-led obedience, (2) worship, (3) learning God’s Word, (4) repentance, (5) fearing God, (6) intercessory prayers, and (7) finding peace by trusting God’s Word.
First, Josiah was one of the greatest kings because he acted with faith-led obedience to God’s Word. Through his example, God reveals that renewal starts with faith and obedience to His Word. Second, 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. Third, 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. Fourth, 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. Fifth, God revealed that His judgment upon the Jews would be delayed but not removed. This was because they did not fear God and returned to their sins after Josiah. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that renewal requires that you fear His Word by hating evil. Sixth, God delayed Judah’s judgment because of Josiah’s intercessory prayers. From Josiah’s example, God reveals that renewal should include intercessory prayers. Finally, Josiah found peace even though he still suffered. From Josiah’s example, God also reveals that renewal includes finding peace by trusting His Word, even when you experience pain or sorrow.
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; and his mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 He did right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kgs. 22:1-2; 2 Chr. 34:1-2). In 639 B.C., Josiah became King as an eight-year-old boy. In God’s providence, He spared Josiah’s formative 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.
Josiah became King of Judah at only age 8, and then became one of its greatest kings1
Josiah was a great spiritual reformer. Josiah was possibly Judah’s greatest king. At age 16, he earnestly sought God. By age 20, he began to actively purge Judah of its idolatry and pagan influences: “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. 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. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 34:3-5). Amongst all of Judah’s kings, only Hezekiah had a similar courage to purge the country of its pagan influences (2 Kgs. 18:3-6). But 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).
Josiah’s reign was a fulfillment of a prophecy. Approximately 300 years earlier during Jeroboam’s evil reign in Northern Israel, a man of God prophesied 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 prophecy.
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 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?
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: “3 Now in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the Lord saying, 4 ‘Go up to Hilkiah the high priest that he may count the money brought in to the house of the Lord which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. 5 Let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord, and let them give it to the workmen who are in the house of the Lord to repair the damages of the house, 6 to the carpenters and the builders and the masons and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the house. 7 Only no accounting shall be made with them for the money delivered into their hands, for they deal faithfully.”’ (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 Chron. 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 reforms would not last.
Josiah led the nation to spiritual renewal by first restoring the Temple for worship2
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: “Only no accounting shall be made with them for the money delivered into their hands, for they deal faithfully.” (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: “Moreover, they did not require an accounting from the men into whose hand they gave the money to pay to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully.” (2 Kgs. 12:15). God also requires that His stewards be faithful when they exercise control over His money: “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” (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: “8 Then Hilkiah the high priest 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 who read it. 9 Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, ‘Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.’ 10 Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.” (2 Kgs. 22:8-10). The priests 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.
Hilkiah read God’s Torah to King Josiah, and God’s Word convicts Josiah3
God’s Word was meant for all to study it. 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 the 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: “11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. 12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, 13 ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”’ (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 the leader of Judah, 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. 28:14:15-68). He sent his faithful servants to inquire regarding God’s wrath. Josiah knew that God is faithful to keep His Word, even His punishments.
Josiah repented upon hearing God’s Word because the Jews had not followed it4
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 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. As one commentator observes, revivals frequently begin with the people hearing God’s Word and repenting of sin. “Throughout the history of God’s people, when the word of God is recovered and spread, spiritual revival follows. It can begin as simply as it did in the days of Josiah, with one man finding and reading and believing and spreading the Book. . . Revival and spiritual awakening are marked by such expressions of the conviction of sin.” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 22).5 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: “14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her. 15 She said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.’’” (2 Kgs. 22:14-17). Huldah was a female prophet (2 Chron. 34:22-28). 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.
God’s prophet Huldah confirms God’s judgment upon Judah6
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 Kgs. 22:16-17; 2 Chron. 34:24). 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 prophecy 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. [If] “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 hears Josiah’s humble prayers. Although God would still have to judge Judah, 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, to seek Him, and to avoid His judgment.
Josiah prayed as an intercessory for Judah, and God heard his prayers7
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.
Plea as an intercessor for God to help others. By studying God’s Word, Josiah learned of the power of intercessory prayer of the great kings and leaders who preceded him. Another man of great faith, Abraham, also used his faith to plead with God as an intercessor to spare the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:23). God spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ faithful prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). God again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). As an intercessor, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins (1 Sam. 12:23). David also prayed as an intercessor for God to spare the Jews after 70,000 men across all of Israel died in a plague that came about because of David’s sins (2 Sam. 24:17). Elijah also cried out to God in faith for God to raise a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:21-22.) God further honored Hezekiah’s prayers of deliverance as an intercessor when Judah faced destruction (2 Kgs. 19:14-19; Is. 37:16-20). Jonah also made a plea as an intercessor when his disobedience caused the men in his boat to suffer (Jo. 1:12). God wants you to follow in their examples.
Intercessory prayer is also stressed in the New Testament. The great examples of intercessory prayer are not limited to the Old Testament. The apostles also continually prayed for others. “. . . I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Col. 1:9). “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. Yet, it doesn’t work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). Are you praying as an intercessor for those whose faith has failed them?
God promises to spare Josiah from His wrath and give Josiah peace. As part of Josiah’s blessing, God spared him from judgment and gave him peace: “20 ‘Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.’’’ So they brought back word to the king.” (2 Kgs. 22:20). Josiah would later die in battle (2 Chron. 35:23). Yet, he escaped the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction and the Jews’ exile and captivity.
God offers peace that differs from the world’s peace. Because Josiah would later die in battle (2 Chron. 35:23), some might think that God failed to keep His promise to Josiah. Yet, Jesus clarified that believers will not escape persecution, even when they receive His peace: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God . . .” (Acts 14:22). Because Jesus’ peace involves reproof, discipline, tribulation, and hardships, His definition of peace is different from the world’s definition of peace: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jo. 14:27). To understand the peace that Jesus offers, we must look at how God uses the term peace. In Hebrew, the word Shalom or “peace” has a different meaning than the English translation. Rabbi Robert Kahn observes: “One can dictate peace; shalom is a mutual agreement. Peace is a temporary act; shalom is a permanent agreement. One can make a peace treaty; shalom is the condition of peace. Peace can be partial; shalom is whole. Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete.” Josiah received the blessing of knowing that God was with him, even when he faced struggles. If you are looking to be made comfortable, this is only a temporary condition that will fade. God wants to form a permanent peace with you.
God’s peace allows you to control your response to stress. The peace that comes from God does not prevent stressful things from happening. It is instead the ability to stay calm, collected, and happy in the face of adversity. In other words, God will not give you peace by changing your surroundings. He will give you peace by changing your response to your surroundings. If you give your burdens to Him, you will have no burdens.
God’s peace also includes eternal peace. In a foreshadowing of Jesus, the prophet Hosea later explained that the Messiah would bring eternal peace from death: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.” (Hosea 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:55). The prophet Isaiah also prophetically spoke of the Messiah who would forever conquer death: “He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.” (Is. 25:8). “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah.” (Ps. 49:14).
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 prophecy 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.).
King 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 Deuteronomic 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 allow 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 to cover up alleged inconsistencies 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 book's 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. The Bible proclaims that 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). “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the 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: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jo. 1:14). Do you have complete trust in His Word when you are hurting and looking for peace?