Josiah: The Courage to Restore

Take Courage

A restoration took place in the days of Josiah, king of Judah. He sought to restore the practices of the Law of Moses that had been abandoned.

Then the king sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 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.

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 Kings 23:1-3).

An effort began in the 19th century in this country to restore the New Testament church. We often refer to this effort as the Restoration Movement. It was a call for people to leave the churches of men and forsake the creeds of men. The restorers encouraged people to follow the Scriptures as their only rule of faith and practice, then unite upon the word of God alone. It is not easy to give up what one has been taught or to leave those with whom one has had fellowship. But many did. Josiah’s example helps us see how we can have the courage to restore whatever may be lacking in our service to God.

The Background

Josiah became king when he was just eight years old (2 Kings 22:1). What would have to happen to make a boy king? It would take some unusual circumstances. First, his father was assassinated (2 Kings 21:23). Then the people, rather than submitting to the would-be usurpers of the throne, rebelled against the conspirators, killed them, and made the young son of Amon king in his place (2 Kings 21:24).

Josiah did not have an ideal upbringing. Besides the fact that his father was killed by the time he was eight years old, his father “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:20-22). His grandfather, Manasseh, was exceedingly wicked – even to the point of sacrificing his son as a burnt offering to a pagan god (2 Kings 21:2-6). He was so evil that despite his grandson Josiah’s reforms, God still destroyed Judah “because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him” (2 Kings 23:26). Josiah did not have the type of upbringing that would tend to produce faithfulness at such a young age.

Despite all of this, Josiah had a good heart. He was interested in spiritual things, which led him to repair the Lord’s house (2 Kings 22:3-7). His tender heart made him receptive to the word of God and inclined to obey it (2 Kings 22:19; 23:25).

However, the nation had departed far from the truth. The book of the law had been lost (2 Kings 22:8-10) and, therefore, had not been kept (2 Kings 22:13). The Passover had to be re-instituted (2 Kings 23:21-23). The idols, mediums, and spiritists had to be removed from the land (2 Kings 23:24). Sin and immorality were widespread – including the presence of “male cult prostitutes” and child sacrifices (2 Kings 23:7, 10).

Why This Took Courage

The nation had a long way to go to return to the Lord and His ways. Because of this, Josiah needed courage to restore the practices God commanded and the purity He demanded of His people.

First, Josiah needed to change. Though one could easily argue that Josiah was better than most of the others, he needed to return to the Lord as well. The book of God’s law had been lost (2 Kings 22:8-10). Therefore, he – as well as the nation as a whole – needed to correct the sins they had been committing in ignorance.

Second, Josiah had to combat tradition. By the time the book of the law was found, the erroneous practices that existed in the land had been going on for a while – some dated back to the reign of Solomon (2 Kings 23:13). It is often difficult to combat tradition – even when it is wrong – because people become accustomed to it and learn to tolerate it.

Third, Josiah had to go against what his family had done. Both his father and his grandfather were evil men (2 Kings 21:1-2, 19-20). Rather than following in their footsteps, he needed to observe their sins and “not do likewise” (Ezekiel 18:14).

Fourth, Josiah had to oppose the errorists. This was not just about Josiah making up his own mind to change his life. He had to mount a real opposition against real people. Truth is often easier to accept in theory than in practice – particularly when it comes to opposing those who are the enemies of the truth.

Fifth, Josiah had to submit to a higher law. He was the king, but he was not above the law – especially God’s law. Some rulers believe they are the ultimate authority. But Josiah recognized his responsibility to do what all must do – obey God (cf. Psalm 72:11).

Josiah Took Courage

Josiah knew what was right. After the book of the law was found, Shaphan the scribe “read it in the presence of the king” (2 Kings 22:10).

Josiah understood the benefit of restoring the practices of God’s law. Upon hearing the words of the law, Josiah recognized the state of the nation: “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 Kings 22:13). The law of God contained blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28). He knew it would be better for the people to serve the Lord and receive His blessings.

After learning the truth, Josiah acted. He “made a covenant” to keep the law (2 Kings 23:3), then obeyed the law and carried out the necessary reforms. “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 Kings 23:25).

Application for Us

As we seek to restore (or maintain) faithful service to God, we should learn from Josiah’s example.

First, we must be willing to change when necessary. No one is perfect. Paul reminded us of this when he said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even Christians can be wrong, as Peter (Cephas) “stood condemned” for his sin (Galatians 2:11). When we are wrong, we need to repent – whether that means repudiating sin in our individual lives (Acts 8:20-22) or correcting errors in the congregation with which we worship (Revelation 2:4-5).

Second, we must not allow ourselves to be enslaved to tradition. Though the word tradition in regard to religious matters carries an immediate negative connotation with some, not all traditions are wrong. Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth, or by letter from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). But we must abandon the traditions of men that are contrary to the law of God (Matthew 15:6-9) – no matter how long we or those before us held the tradition.

Third, we must not place family above our service to God. The Lord must come first in all things. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). Following Christ will sometimes put us at odds with those who are closest to us in this life. It is difficult to see these ties threatened. But it is far worse to be “severed from Christ,” as this means we have “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Fourth, we must be willing to oppose error. This means we must oppose those who promote error: “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17). It also means we must oppose those who practice error: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Many prefer the path of compromise in their attempt to be more tolerant than God. Because of this, we will often face opposition, not just from the errorists, but from weak-kneed brethren who sympathize with them.

Fifth, we must submit to a higher law. King Josiah was certainly not exempt from God’s law. We are not either. Jesus has “all authority” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, we must “do all in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). He will save “all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). So we must be sure we measure up to His standard of judgment (John 12:48).

Conclusion

When Josiah found the book of the law of God and discovered that the nation was not keeping His commandments, he could have chosen to ignore it. He could have given preference to tradition, family ties, and the contrived harmony that comes through religious compromise. Instead, he chose to side with God and restore the practices and purity of service according to His law. We must have the courage that Josiah had to look honestly and humbly at the word of God. If we find we have fallen short in certain areas, we must make whatever corrections are necessary. If we are following the divine pattern in other areas, we must maintain our faithful service and not “turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).


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