Reform Is Costly.
“Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” – 2 Kings 23:25 NLT
Josiah was considered the greatest king. Those are pretty high words of praise, considering the reigns of David and Solomon. But the author of the book of 2 Kings believed Josiah set the standard for kings. He inherited a situation that was less than perfect. He became king at a time when the nation was in disarray spiritually, morally, and politically. He stepped into a very toxic environment and was expected to rule – at the tender age of eight! And by the time he was 18 years old, Josiah began to make a difference. He began by trying to repair the Temple, which had suffered from years of neglect, abuse, and plunder in order to pay tributes owed to enemies of Judah. Josiah instituted a major restoration project on the Temple. While this was going on, they discovered a scroll containing the book of the Law. This may have been the entire Pentateuch or possibly just the book of Deuteronomy, but irregardless, it contained the Law and the covenant that God had made with the people of Israel years earlier when they had left Egypt.
When Josiah heard the words contained in this scroll, he was blown away. He tore his clothes in despair, and knowing that God had to be angry with them for their neglect of and disobedience to the Law, he appealed to God. The covenant that God had made with Moses back at Mount Sinai had been conditional. God had said, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLT). Years later, Moses would reaffirm this covenant with the people, as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail. Stay on the path the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy” (Deuteronomy 5:32 NLT). But Josiah knew that the people had failed to keep the commands of God. They had lived in open rebellion to God. And Josiah had not missed the words written in the book of the Law that said, “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NLT).
So Josiah humbled himself before God. He repented. And because he did, God promised not to bring destruction on Judah during his lifetime. And as a result, Josiah began a massive reform effort to stem the tide of wickedness and rebellion in Judah. He could have easily just waited out his reign, knowing that he was safe. But he wanted to make a difference. He wanted to leave Judah in a better state than when he inherited it. He took the words of Deuteronomy 6 seriously. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT). Josiah had all the people assembled and then personally read the book of the Law to them. He reminded them of their covenant with God. Then he began to do what he could do to make a difference. And he had his work cut out for him. This was not going to be easy. It was going to cost him. He would not be popular. But he didn’t care. Just look at some of the things he did:
- He removed from the Temple all the articles used for worshiping Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of heaven.
- He did away with all the idolatrous priests.
- He removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple.
- He destroyed the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple.
- He defiled the pagan shrines.
- He defiled the altar of Topheth, where the people offered child sacrifices.
- He removed the horse statues dedicated to sun worship from the entrance to the Temple.
- He burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.
- He tore down pagan altars on the palace roof erected by his predecessors.
- He destroyed altars Manasseh had built in the Temple courtyard.
- He desecrated pagan shrines east of Jerusalem that Solomon had built.
- He had the sacred pillars smashed.
- He tore down the pagan altars at Bethel.
- He even destroyed that pagan shrines and buildings in Samaria, in the northern kingdom.
- He had the pagan priests executed on their own altars.
- Then he re-instituted the celebration of Passover.
Just take a look at that list. What a picture of the wickedness of the people of God. They were so far from being a holy nation. They were infested with idolatry. It was everywhere. They had taken unfaithfulness to a whole new level. Everywhere Josiah turned, he found altars, shrines, temples and symbols of their rebellion to God. He was inundated, but not incapacitated. He was willing to do something about it and he did. To took steps to toward positive change. And he probably made some enemies along the way. Not everyone was on board with his reforms. Not everybody agreed with what he was doing. But Josiah was going to do what God wanted. He was going to follow God’s will, not anybody else’s. Reform is costly. Obedience has a price attached to it. But for Josiah, it was worth it.
Father, too often I am unwilling to pay the price that true reform requires. I want to make petty changes that require little of me, when what I need is costly change. Give me the strength to examine my own life and see where true change needs to be made. Open my eyes to the idols in my own life so that I might remove them. Don’t let me be satisfied with surface reform. Help me to make sweeping changes that result in a life of holiness. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men