“Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 34:33)
Hearing the words of our country’s top politicians lately has left many Americans yearning for a return to Godly leadership. Unfortunately, our government officials haven’t exactly been striving for a morality that follows God’s Law. We need to continue praying for faithful leaders who will direct this nation in the way of the Lord, asking Him to send those who will reform the evils of this land.
Josiah was the kind of king that the faithful remnant had been praying for. Already at the age of sixteen, he had started down the path of a rock-star reformer. 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 is just a fun passage to read: Josiah the warrior-king, smashing the pagan altars and chopping down the false gods, crushing the wickedness of idolatry wherever he trod. The God-fearing people of Judah must have wept with joy as he led the people back to the Lord and ordered that His temple be restored. And then…they found the Book of the Law.
I’m sure Josiah had known that the people had not been doing what was right in God’s eyes, but he never imagined how utterly short they had fallen of God’s demands until now. He tore his royal clothes and immediately sent messengers to the prophetess Huldah. They returned shortly:
Josiah: “Well? What did she say?”
Shaphan: “Well, my liege, we have good news and bad news…”
Josiah: “Hmm, better hit me with the bad news first.”
Shaphan: “Huldah says that all of Judah is going to be destroyed because of the wickedness of our fathers. Jerusalem will be completely destroyed and all the people will either be killed or carried off as slaves.”
Josiah: “That’s terrible! Well, what’s the good news?”
Shaphan: “You’re going to die, so you won’t have to see how bad everything will get.”
Imagine; Josiah had put his whole heart into reforming the kingdom and turning the people back to God, only to hear that everything he’s done will be destroyed soon and his life will be taken from him. Most people would react to this news with anger, resentment, and despair. How does Josiah react? “The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord – to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:31).
Josiah doesn’t question God’s judgment. He doesn’t curse at Him for this “unfair” pronouncement of doom. He doesn’t even despair of all the good that has been done in Judah, but rather redoubles his efforts in leading the people with Godliness and humility. He celebrates the Passover with joy and festivity, and leaves the people with an imprint on their hearts of God’s mercy and love before being gathered to be with Him. Perhaps it was Josiah’s faithful example that gave the remnant the hope they would need to get through the coming ordeals of destruction and exile.
Unlike Josiah, we don’t know what the future holds for our country, our world, or even our own family. But even if we did, and even if it looked really terrible, would that be a reason to despair? Or would we be like Josiah, and rejoice with great gladness in all that the Lord has done and all that He’s promised yet to do? Would we leave a Godly example for the remnant that would follow us?
I’m not sure if Josiah knew that it wouldn’t be long before those in exile would see Cyrus deliver them out of bondage and exile; and then the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, deliver them from the bondage of sin and death as well as exile from God. But He knew that God was faithful, and he was saved from despair and despondency by his faith in God’s promises. We cling to those promises yet today, for they are our hope and salvation, and our strength in the face of dark times.
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life.” (Lamentations 3:55-58)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, hear now the cries of our nation for leaders who will faithfully guide us in Your truth. Forgive the many sins of our people and redeem our country, that we may be a city on a hill and light to all the nations of the world; to the glory of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.