Introduction: Josiah was the greatest reformer to rule over either Northern Israel or Judah. But his reforms did not last. Thus, he was the first of the last five kings to rule over Judah. His sons Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim (Eliakim) both rejected his reforms and embraced evil. The two final kings to rule over Judah, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, would also reject Josiah’s reforms. Thus, Judah would be sent into exile and captivity like Northern Israel. How could Josiah’s reforms be so quickly undone? Josiah’s reforms and the failures of his sons reveal seven lessons for maintaining your walk with God. These include: (1) studying God’s Word, (2) obedience, (3) evangelism, (4) proper worship, (5) repentance, (6) Spirit-led guidance, and (7) fearing God.
First, to bring about a revival, Josiah publicly read God’s Word, including parts of the law that the people did not want to follow. To maintain your walk with God, He also wants you to study all of His Word and His law, not just the parts that you like. Second, to bring about a revival, Josiah also meticulously obeyed God’s Word. This included decisions that were unpopular in that time, including the destruction of idols, same sex centers, and the practice of killing children. To maintain your walk with God, He also wants you to obey all of His Word, not just the parts you agree with. Third, to keep the fire of revival going, Josiah also spread the Word to the mixed multitudes in the territory of Samaria, previously called Northern Israel. To maintain your walk, God also wants you to share His Word with others. Fourth, also to keep the fire of revival going, Josiah had the Jews worship God during His holy days, including Passover, in the manner God requested. He also purged the mediums who corrupted worship as God requested it. To maintain your walk, God also wants you to worship Him how He requests it. This should include worshiping Jesus in the manner He requests during the holy days that God created in the Old Testament to both foreshadow and honor Jesus. Fifth, despite Josiah’s great reforms, God reaffirmed that He would judge and exile the people because He knew that their hearts had not changed. Believers today can learn from the Jews’ mistakes. To maintain your walk, God wants you to repent of your prior sins and change your ways. Sixth, Josiah failed to seek God’s guidance before battling the Egyptians. As a result, he died in battle. The elders also failed to seek God’s guidance in selecting a new leader. They picked a son named Jehoahaz who was not in line for succession and who was not walking with the Lord. He quickly abandoned Josiah’s reforms and embraced evil. From these mistakes, God warns that you should always let the Spirit guide your actions and pick those who will lead you. Finally, Josiah’s son Jehoiakim (Eliakim) then also embraced evil. He returned to idolatry. He killed a prophet. He burned God’s Word, and he allowed Judah to live as a vassal state of Egypt. In short, he did not fear God or hate evil. From his mistakes, God reveals that to maintain your walk, you should fear Him. The Bible defines the fear of the Lord as hating that which God calls evil.
Josiah read God’s law to the people, and the people reaffirmed 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: “1 Then the king sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 2 The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar 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 all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.” (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.
Josiah led the people of Judah to renew their covenant with God1
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. But there is important symbolism here. Jesus 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). But 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: “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;” (Lk. 12:8; Matt. 10:32). Are you sharing the good news of the Gospel with others so that others may join the wedding in heaven? (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?
Josiah destroys idols, centers for same-sex acts, and the practice of killing children. After renewing God’s Covenant with His people, Josiah followed it by systematically destroying every idol that had previously broken the people’s covenant with God, Judah’s same sex centers, and its practice of killing children: “4 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah and in the surrounding area of Jerusalem, also those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon and to the constellations and to all the host of heaven. 6 He brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and ground it to dust, and threw its dust on the graves of the common people. 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. 8 Then he brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates which were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the city gate. 9 Nevertheless the priests of the high places did not go up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brothers. 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. 11 He did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the official, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 The altars which were on the roof, the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, the king broke down; and he smashed them there and threw their dust into the brook Kidron. 13 The high places which were before Jerusalem, which were on the right of the mount of destruction which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the sons of Ammon, the king defiled. 14 He broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with human bones.” (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 misled the Jews into idol worship. “Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chr. 34:5; 2 Kgs. 23:4-6). He also ended same sex practices, which were celebrated in that time(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 practice of allowing parents to kill their children (2 Kgs. 23:10). Yet, because the people did not share his desire for obedience, his reforms did not last.
Josiah was zealous for God’s Word, and he smashed pagan idols everywhere2
The Jews paid for Solomon’s sins for hundreds of years. 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.
God’s prohibition against same sex acts. Josiah’s prohibition on same sex acts would have been extremely unpopular. 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. Yet, he clung to God’s Word, even when the masses rejected God’s Word.
God’s prohibition against killing children. Josiah would have also been deeply resented for ending the practice of allowing parents to kill their children (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?
Josiah fulfills a prophecy by extending his reforms to Samaria. In addition to reforming Judah, Josiah took advantage of Assyria’s weakened influence to purge pagan idols from Samaria. This fulfilled a prophecy that a prophet gave against Jeroboam: “15 Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. 16 Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that were there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones from the graves and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things. 17 Then he said, ‘What is this monument that I see?’ And the men of the city told him, ‘It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.’ 18 He said, ‘Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.’ So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. 19 Josiah also removed all the houses of the high places which were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made provoking the Lord; and he did to them just as he had done in Bethel. 20 All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars and burned human bones on them; then he returned to Jerusalem.” (2 Kgs. 23:15-20). Jeroboam set up two centers for counterfeit worship of golden calves. One was located in Beth-el, approximately 10 miles north of Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 12:28-33). After the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel, they renamed the area Samaria. The Jews and foreigners who lived there continued to mix Judaism with idolatry (2 Kgs. 17:24). After destroying this altar, Josiah desecrated it with burned ashes of idols. They then killed the false priests in accordance with God’s law (Dt. 13:6-18; 17:2-7). Yet, because Josiah’s sons did not share his love for the lost, they did not continue this evangelism. Thus, Samaria would slide back into idolatry.
Josiah fulfills a prophecy by destroying Jeroboam’s altar to Baal in Samaria3
Josiah’s actions fulfilled a prophecy that God would judge Jeroboam’s false religion. Approximately 290 years earlier, God sent a prophet to warn Jeroboam that Josiah would destroy his counterfeit religion: “1 Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 2 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. 13:1-2). The term “man of God” is used for a prophet (e.g., 1 Sam. 9:6-11). The man of God showed that he was a prophet because he accurately foretold the name and judgments under Josiah, who would not appear for 290 years. This also fulfilled a prophecy that God gave through Moses: ‘“I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.”’ (Lev. 26:30).
God’s Word is true and is always fulfilled. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3). “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Is. 42:9). No other holy book can make similar claims of fulfilled prophecy as the Bible does. There would be no way for this man to accurately predict events 290 years into the future unless God directed him.
Like Josiah, be a light to non-believers around you. Some mistakenly believe that the call to evangelism began in the New Testament. Yet, God originally called upon the Jews to be His light to the gentile nations around them: “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”’ (Is. 49:6). “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the Earth.’” (Acts 13:47). Josiah showed his love for the lost by sharing God’s Word. Jesus is the “true light” (Jo. 1:9). He is also the Light of the World (Jo. 8:12). Like Josiah, are you sharing Jesus’ true light to non-believers around you? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Josiah restores the Passover and the spiritual purity laws. After purging Judah and Samaria of their idolatrous practices, Josiah reinstituted the Passover and purged the mediums who also led false religious practices: “21 Then the king commanded all the people saying, ‘Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.’ 22 Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was observed to the Lord in Jerusalem. 24 Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 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. 23:21-25). 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). Besides Hezekiah (2 Chr. 30), the Jews had failed to observe the Passover since the time of the judges (2 Kgs. 23:22). He also destroyed the mediums, which were strictly prohibited under God’s law (Lev. 19:31; 20:27). Of all of the kings to rule Judah or Northern Israel, including David, none were as obedient as Josiah (2 Kgs. 23:25).
God instructed the Jews to observe the Passover as a “permanent ordinance”. 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 should observe the Passover as a chance to celebrate Jesus. Most Christians are typically quick to dismiss the Passover and the related Feast of Unleavened Bread as Jewish festivals. Yet, both of these festivals pointed to Christ. The New Testament states that these holy days reveal the “shadows” of Christ (Col. 2:17). These “holy convocations” or “miqras” can also be translated as “rehearsals.” (Lev. 23:2). 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 Christ, 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 council 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. Yet, the Church later had no trouble adopting the pagan term Easter based upon the Germanic goddess who was worshiped during the month of April, called “Eostre.” (First Fruits of Zion p. 241). 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.
Worship God as He requests, not as you want to worship Him. God wants you to worship Him both in a manner as led by the Spirit and also consistent with the truth written in His Word: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jo. 4:23-24). “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Ps. 145:18). If you desire to worship God, do so in the manner He requests.
God again promised to exile Judah because of its unwillingness to change. Even though Josiah was Judah’s greatest reformer, the people’s hearts would not change. Thus, they remained under God’s future judgment: “26 However, the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. 27 The Lord said, ‘I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’” (2 Kgs. 23:26-27). God knew what was in the people’s hearts. They feigned obedience before their king (Jer. 3:10). Thus, with their next king, they would quickly embrace their idolatry and other evils that Josiah tried to purge from Judah.
Despite Josiah’s public reading of the law, the Jews ignored God’s warnings of exile. When Josiah publicly read the book of Deuteronomy, the people would have heard God’s repeated warnings that He would be forced to send His people into exile after all other forms of progressive discipline failed to reach them: “64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.” (Dt. 28:64). “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Dt. 4:27-28; 29:28; 32:26). They would have heard this in the book of Leviticus as well. ‘“You, however, I will scatter among the nations . . .” (Lev. 26:33(a)). The Jews had also seen God apply this law to deport the peoples of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 17:5-6). The prophet Jeremiah also repeated these warnings: ‘“[Y]ou will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”’ (Jer. 5:19(b)). “And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance that I gave you; and I will make you serve your enemies in the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.” (Jer. 17:4). “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;”’ (Neh. 1:8). “Therefore, son of man, prepare for yourself baggage for exile and go into exile by day in their sight; even go into exile from your place to another place in their sight.” (Ezek. 12:3(a)). “I will scatter you among the nations and I will disperse you through the lands, and I will consume your uncleanness from you.” (Ezek. 22:15). “Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has broken his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” (Jer. 50:17). Led by the Spirit, Huldah also confirmed that God would judge Judah for its past and future idolatry (2 Kgs. 22:16-17; 2 Chron. 34:24). Thus, the Jews had multiple warnings. It might be tempting to mock them. Yet, if judgment begins with God’s people (1 Pet. 4:17), Christian nations should not ignore God’s warnings of judgment.
Worshiping anything other than God can bring curses to you and your descendants. God will not withhold any good thing from you when you walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11; 19:7). Yet, failing to worship God as He requires will only lead to sorrow and heartache in your life. His anger burned against Israel when they worshiped other gods: “So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel . . .” (Jdgs. 2:13-15). God then removed His blessings and allowed the Jews to be taken into captivity: “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth . . . The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines . . . so that Israel was greatly distressed . . .” (Jdgs. 10:6-14). “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel . . .” (1 Kin. 9:6-7; Ex. 20:5; Dt. 5:9). False gods will inevitably disappoint. Only worshiping God will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). If the Church remains silent as the Christian nations openly embrace idolatry, present and future generations will also suffer.
Repent of your sins and change your ways. Believers also cannot be expected to enjoy the fullness of Jesus’ blessings if they fail to repent of their sins and live as a new creation. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin, the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). You can show that you have made a real repentance by living as a new creation in Jesus: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). If you have repented of your sins, are you living as Jesus’ example to others?
Jehoahaz succeeded Josiah and did evil before God. After Josiah died in battle, his son Jehoahaz became king. But he ignored his father’s example and instead embraced evil: “28 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 29 In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. And King Josiah went to meet him, and when Pharaoh Neco saw him he killed him at Megiddo. 30 His servants drove his body in a chariot from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father. 31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. 33 Pharaoh Neco imprisoned him at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and he imposed on the land a fine of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.” (2 Kgs. 23:28-33). 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). The Jews, however, delayed the Egyptians. The Babylonians then defeated the Assyrians at Haran. In 605 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar finally defeated the Assyrians. Johanan was the firstborn son and should have succeeded Josiah: “The sons of Josiah were Johanan the firstborn, and the second was Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.” (1 Chr. 3:15). Thus, Josiah most likely was not training Jehoahaz in God’s laws to be king. Jehoahaz’s name meant “Jehovah holds fast”. This was Josiah’s wish for Jehoahaz. Yet, it did not reflect his heart. He instead embraced evil. In 609 B.C., Jehoahaz became king. Yet, he ruled for only three months before he became a captive of Pharaoh-necho II in Egypt. He later died in Egyptian captivity (2 Chron. 36:1-4). God likely removed His hand of protection because Jehoahaz rejected his father’s reforms and instead embraced the idolatry and false gods of his great-grandfather Manasseh and his grandfather Amon.
Let God guide all your decisions. Josiah sinned because he knew that it was not part of God’s will to fight the Egyptians. Thus, he disguised himself (2 Chr. 35:22). Josiah should have instead sought out God’s direction through prayer (Prov. 16:13). Because he fought without God, Josiah died in battle. His death also created chaos for Judah.
Let God guide any leadership succession process. We can infer that the elders liked Jehoahaz more than God’s appointed successor. They might have been upset with Josiah’s reforms and wanted someone who was sympathetic to their views. It is not hard to imagine why they felt this way. If Josiah were alive today, he would be branded an extremist who failed to value Judah’s religious diversity. He would have also been branded as homophobic for shutting down the same sex centers. He also would have been branded as anti-choice by ending a parent’s right to kill a child. Although the people’s choice might have seemed wise to the elders, it had disastrous consequences for the people of Judah. God removed His hand of protection, and the time of Judah’s exile drew nearer. In Matthew, Jehoahaz’s name is omitted from the line of people leading to Jesus. This suggests that God never recognized Jehoahaz as a rightful king. The lesson is that leaders should never select successors in haste without being led by the Spirit: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22). When you vote for leaders, do you study their faith and their walks with God and pray for God’s guidance?
The importance of selecting godly leaders in restraining sin. Satan’s goal has always been to break down authority through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery by causing people to turn away from God. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen 3:16). Satan tries to make us rebel against God’s institutions of authority. In quoting a prophecy, Jesus revealed what happens when we submit to Satan’s attempts to make us rebel: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:23). Without a godly shepherd, the sheep descended further into sin. Thus, godly leaders need brave citizens who are willing to reject public opinion to follow them. Will you be one?
Without Spirit-led leaders, the people will naturally drift into rebellion. Without godly leaders, “. .. every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 17:6(b); 21:25.) Both then and now, God warns believers not to adopt a relativistic standard of morality: “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;” (Dt. 12:8.) Moses also warned that the people would return to rebellion and disobedience without guidance: “27 For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death? 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands. 30 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete:” (Dt. 31:27-30).
The lesson for the Church. America celebrates “relativism,” where each person’s view of right and wrong are accepted as equally correct. But God warns: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). He also warns: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil . . .” (Is. 5:20(a)). The Church needs strong leaders to keep Jesus’ flock and the nation from being led astray. The road to Christ is narrow. The path to destruction is broad (Matt. 7:13-14). Thus, the Church must ensure that God-fearing leaders are selected to guide God’s people.
Pharaoh Neco makes Eliakim king and takes control over him and changes his name. Pharaoh Neco used his control over Judah to appoint another son of Josiah as king that he felt he could control; Eliakim. To demonstrate his control, he then changed his name to Jehoiakim: “34 Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away and brought him to Egypt, and he died there. 35 So Jehoiakim gave the silver and gold to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land in order to give the money at the command of Pharaoh. He exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land, each according to his valuation, to give it to Pharaoh Neco. 36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.” (2 Kgs. 23:34-37). From 609 to 597 B.C., Pharaoh-nechoh installed Eliakim, Jehoahaz’s half-older brother, as his new puppet king. His new name Jehoiakim meant “the Lord has established.” This was meant to symbolize his claim that God had consented to Egyptian rule. He also used this claim to try to make the Jews believe that it was their duty to pay a heavy tribute. Yet, being a vassal state of Egypt placed Judah at risk for Babylonian attack because Egypt was its enemy (2 Chr. 36:5-8). Moreover, the heavy tribute weakened Judah’s ability to defend itself. Furthermore, Jehoiakim taxed his people severely to pay tribute to Egypt. Moreover, Jehoiakim misused the funds that he did have to build a palace for himself (Jer. 22:13-19). On top of these sins, Jehoiakim did evil in God’s eyes by practicing idolatry (2 Kgs. 23:37; 2 Chr. 36:5, 8; Jer. 22:13-17; 25:1-7). He even murdered the prophet Urijah (Jer. 26:20-23). Jonathan was God’s appointed successor who would have likely resisted Egypt and continued on with his father Josiah’s reforms. But the people did not want religious purity. Thus, they did not fight to have him become king.
While Josiah publicly read God’s Word, Jehoiakim publicly burned it. This chapter concludes with a contrast. While Josiah publicly proclaimed God’s Word, Jehoiakim publicly burned God’s prophetic word for Judah: “Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him. 23 When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments.” (Jer. 36:22-24). In response, God cut Jehoiakim from the throne the way that he had cut and burned His Word: “And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘You have burned this scroll, saying, ‘Why have you written on it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will make man and beast to cease from it?’’’ ‘Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night.”’’ (Jer. 36:29-30). Those who disregard God’s Word do so at their own peril. God’s Word can either bless or curse depending upon your actions.
God’s Word (including His law) will keep you from returning to the bondage of sin. By placing Judah under both physical and spiritual captivity to Pharaoh-necho, Jehoiakim reversed the freedom that God gave to His people: “With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”’ (Ex. 13:14(b)). Jesus also came to free mankind from the bondage to sin and human oppression that humans have imposed upon themselves. On the first day of His public ministry, He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:14-21). “‘So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:36). “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1). Jesus gave you His Word (which includes His law) to protect you from slavery to sin. When you ignore His Word, you also risk placing yourself into bondage.
Fear God by hating evil to keep you from returning to the bondage of sin. Jehoiakim fell from his walk because he did not fear God by hating evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps. 97:10). “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Ro. 12:9).