As a student of history, one of my heroes is King Josiah. He was the most righteous king of Judah’s history. Although some may fuss with me over this assessment, I would even argue that he …
As a student of history, one of my heroes is King Josiah. He was the most righteous king of Judah’s history. Although some may fuss with me over this assessment, I would even argue that he exceeded David in his zeal for God. Centuries before his birth, God had shown his prophet that Josiah would be born and spoke of him by name. Despite being the grandson of the most wicked king in Judah’s history, Josiah was among the most righteous of kings to ever live or rule in any time or anyplace.
During the time of Josiah’s grandfather and father, the law of God had become so neglected that it was nearly lost. They found a copy of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) hidden in the walls of the temple when Josiah had ordered it to be repaired. When they read it to Josiah, he tore his clothes in mourning, for he knew that God could be nothing but displeased with Judah for all its sin. He sent to Huldah the prophetess to inquire of God, and the Lord promised that he would indeed bring disaster on Judah for all its evil.
Nevertheless, God spoke a better message to Josiah through Huldah, saying:
“To the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how 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 also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place (2 Kings 22:18-20).”
After hearing that, Josiah went immediately to read God’s law to his people. He renewed the national covenant with God in the temple “and the people joined him.” He cleaned up all the idols that Judah had polluted God’s house with. He got rid of all the high places where false gods were worshipped. He ended cult prostitution and child sacrifice. He removed the mediums and necromancers, and after he was done cleaning up Judah, he invaded Assyrian occupied Israel and cleaned it up too.
When Josiah was done washing the land of idolatry, he celebrated the Passover of God as it had not been celebrated in centuries. No other king so sought to honor God with their whole heart. Yet, none of his reforms outlasted him. Josiah’s body wasn’t even cold, and his son was leading the people back into the bondage of idolatry.
As a young man, I shook my head in sorrow at this great evil that Josiah’s son had done. I laid the blame for Judah’s quick relapse into idolatry squarely on the king’s shoulders, and truth be told, God holds Josiah’s son accountable for his failures as a king. However, what about the people? What about all those people who joined Josiah in renewing the covenant with God? Where were they? Shall those who covenanted with Josiah and God not take some blame for so easily forgetting their commitments?
It is as Shakespeare observed in Henry V, “Every subject’s duty is the kings, but every subject’s soul is his own,” meaning that every citizen is morally responsible for their own actions.
At various times in history, God has given various nations their very own Josiah with varying results. When reforms outlasted the reformer, it was because the people took it to heart. I have often prayed for a Josiah for our nation, but the older I get the more dubious I am that such a person could have a lasting impact on our nation.
We speak often of the slavery in our past but ignore the slavery that goes on in our midst at this very hour. Why is America the leader in the global sex trade? Is it not because of our appetite for porn? Is our drug problem solely the result of the cartels selling it, or do those of us who are buying the drugs have the courage to own our fair share of the blame? All sides of the political spectrum rail against our bad leaders, but if the truth be known, our bad leaders are just a symptom of the general decay of our nation.
May I gently propose that our political problems are merely the result of our spiritual problem, and no spiritual problem will be solved with a political solution. If a leader is alone in turning from their sin and following Christ, then that leader will be alone in receiving Christ’s forgiveness, for the Lord calls on us all to turn from our sin and follow Christ. If our nation is to continue before the God who determines the fate of all nations, then we must all repent of our sin and seek to honor God with our whole hearts.
(Shane Legler is pastor at Garland Community Church of God.)