There is nothing complicated about the title of today's study: Lessons From Josiah. We're going to be examining what the Scriptures reveal about Josiah and trying to glean some lessons from him that we can apply to our lives in the twenty-first century. May we always be looking for opportunities to grow from those things written before (Rom. 15:4).
Let us begin by reading II Chronicles 34:1-7 - "Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, 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 wooden images, and the molded images. They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around, with axes. When he had broken down the altars and the wooden images, had beaten the carved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem."
Josiah was quite an impressive servant of God! He reigned in the southern kingdom of Judah around 640 B.C. Although the northern kingdom of Israel had already been conquered by the Assyrians for their wickedness and idolatry, God's children in Judah were following the same destructive path. They hadn't learned the importance of faithfulness to God. Josiah came into power in a difficult time. The people were far from faithful to God, but Josiah with courage and dedication labored to reform the nation and bring them back to the old paths of righteousness (cf. Jer. 6:16).
Let us now proceed to observe seven points or lessons from Josiah.
1. ONE DOES NOT HAVE TO ACT LIKE HIS FAMILY MEMBERS.
A man by the name of Amon was Josiah's father. He was a wicked king just like his own father, Manasseh (though Manasseh did reform late in life). II Chronicles 33:21-23 reads - "Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before the LORD, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more." Josiah was just the opposite of his father. He wasn't a chip off the old block. He was a godly man, not an idolatrous, wicked king. Most people would probably have expected him to be like his father, but the fact is he was not. That should be a lesson for us--just because our parents or other ancestors lived a certain way doesn't mean that we should or must. This is a difficult point for many to deal with today. They feel compelled to remain true to the moral training and religious guidance their parents or grandparents provided them, even when their personal pursuit of truth and righteousness points them away from the path their ancestors took. Josiah did not take the easy path in life. It would have been much easier for him to simply behave wickedly like his father and grandfather did. Undoubtedly it was a challenge for him to live righteously, for in so doing his actions condemned the sinful ways of his father and grandfather. Josiah realized that he should please the Lord and not blindly follow the example of his father. He understood that he didn't have to act like his family members. Friends, have you learned that lesson?
2. YOUNG PEOPLE CAN DO A LOT IN SERVICE TO GOD.
Josiah became king of Judah when he was only eight years old! Can you imagine an eight year old being in charge? That sounds like trouble waiting to happen, doesn't it? Not in Josiah's case! According to the text we read earlier, by the time he was sixteen, he started seeking the Lord. When he was twenty, he started getting rid of the idols and all of the items related to idolatry among the Hebrew people. He was taking a stand that would not make him popular with everyone. After all, the Hebrews who were worshipping idols weren't doing it against their will--they worshipped idols because they wanted to! For a twenty year old to stand up and say, "This is wrong and should be stopped," well, that takes courage. Of course, doing that takes strength and courage at any age--whether one is young or old. Do you have the fortitude and integrity to stick up for what is right? Josiah realized that he could do a lot to serve God, even at a young age! We must never forget passages like I Timothy 4:12 and Ecclesiastes 12:1 - "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity...Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..." Young people, there are lots of things you can do for the Lord and His church, and the main thing is to be a good example in your speech, your actions, and your attitudes! Josiah was a good example and leader, in spite of his wicked influences, and you can do great things for the Lord too!
3. GOD HAS CONFIDENCE IN SOME BEFORE THEY ARE EVEN BORN.
Listen to this prophecy that was made over three hundred years before its fulfillment. I Kings 13:1,2 read - "And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, 'O altar, altar! Thus says the LORD: "Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you."'" The prophecy came to pass exactly, as we read in II Chronicles 34 earlier. God had great confidence in Josiah. Of course, God knows all things. He knew that Josiah would be faithful to Him. He knew that Josiah would choose of his own free will to serve the Lord. What about you and me? Does God have this much confidence in us? Does God know that this world will be better because you and I were a part of it?
4. LOVING THE WORD OF GOD WITH ALL OF ONE'S HEART IS IMPERATIVE.
This is clearly seen in the way Josiah reacted to it the first time he heard it. The Law had been misplaced and Hilkiah had just found it. When it was read to Josiah he knew all the laws of God that were being broken; he knew all the sins that the nation was committing against God. This caused him great sorrow; thus, "he tore his clothes" (II Chr. 34:19). II Kings 23:24,25 also describes Josiah's love for the Scriptures - "Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him." Do you love the word of God like Josiah did? Have you turned to the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might? Does it grieve you when the Bible exposes sin in your life or in the lives of those you love? It should.
5. THOSE WHO LOVE GOD'S WORD WILL LABOR TO RESTORE TRUE RELIGION.
This is really nothing more than a logical extension of the previous point. If someone really loves God's word, then they're going to do the best they can to worship and serve God in the way He expects. In Josiah's case, this meant that he had to restore the true religion that God had commanded through Moses hundreds of years earlier. For example, he had to restore the Passover. Over the years, it had been neglected and it hadn't been practiced for some time (II Kings 23:21,22). We must have the same mindset today. Sometimes when we study God's word we will find things that we are doing as an individual or as a congregation that just don't line up with God's word. When that happens, we need to restore God's true religion. We need to abandon our error and cling to God's word. That's what Josiah did, and that's what we must do in order to please God.
6. BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.
This is a lesson that is often hard to come to terms with. It would seem that if one is doing the best he can for the Lord and serving Him faithfully, then nothing bad should happen to that individual, but that is just not the way it is. II Chronicles 35:20-23 describes the events leading to Josiah's death in battle. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes men bring bad things upon themselves. Let us always remember Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." If we love God, things will all work out in the end. We will not always understand how or why, but we can rest assured that God knows what He's doing. We need to trust Him and love Him through faithful obedience. In so doing, we have nothing to worry about.
7. SOMETIMES ONE'S CHILDREN WILL NOT FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS.
This point is truly a reiteration of the first lesson stated earlier. In spite of Josiah's righteousness and His love for God's word, that love was not passed on to his son. According to Jeremiah 25:1, Jehoiakim was the son of Josiah. Jehoiakim was an evil king who didn't love God's word. In fact, he disliked it so much that he burned portions of it in a fire (Jer. 36:20ff). It is a difficult lesson to learn, but it is one all parents must come to terms with--they cannot live their children's lives for them. Parents should do everything within their power to teach their children to fear the Lord and walk in His pathways, but ultimately, the children will decide for themselves as adults whether or not they will be faithful to the Lord. They have free will to choose that which is good or bad, just like we do.
Friends, Josiah sought God while he was young, endeavoring to please Him. He was troubled with the wickedness and religious error that was running rampant in his day. He made a difference in the world as he stood opposed to such and labored to restore the truth. Josiah didn't follow his father's path of wickedness, but tragically, Josiah's son didn't follow his path of righteousness. Dear listeners, what about you? "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.