*It's a beautiful Friday here in Madison. It's supposed to be a hot one though, so stay cool wherever you are. My son Zander is really enjoying time swimming on days like this one. I don't swim for two reasons: One, the world is not quite ready for the unveiling of this beach body, and two, I swim like a dying fish. It does look inviting on days like this one, however. Well, I'll keep my swimming trunks in the dresser for now and go back into our daily look at the scriptures. Yesterday we looked at the fall of Samaria, the capital of Israel. The Israelites were led away into exile by the Assyrians. Judah and its capital Jerusalem endured a huge threat thanks to an angel of the Lord. For now, Judah is safe...for now. The saving grace for Judah, kings that did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yesterday we looked at Hezekiah, today we look at Josiah.
"Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years...He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left." (II Kings 22:1-2)
Eight years old! Do you know what I was doing at eight years of age? Well, neither do I. That was a long time ago, but I can guarantee you no one was ready to make me king. I was probably riding my bicycle, playing in the creek, shooting basketball, or playing with my Johnny West action figure. (I still miss my Johnny West and Geronimo action figures) Anyhow, back to Josiah. The important thing to remember here is that he is faithful to God. In fact, he will be portrayed in a more favorable manner than King Hezekiah. Josiah did not just do "what was right in the eyes of the Lord," he gave careful attention to the care of the temple. At the top of Josiah's list of things to do was to repair the temple.
The temple had been disgracefully neglected by kings Manasseh and Amon. The high priest Hilkiah found what appeared to be an ancient document. "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord," (II Kings 22:8) he said to Shaphan the secretary who, in return, read the book to the king.
"When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes...Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book..." (II Kings 22:11,13)
The newly discovered Book of the Law is perhaps a scroll hidden away during the reign of Manasseh. There are other possibilities. Regardless, the book is now in the hands of King Josiah who is now ready for a reformation. He is greatly troubled by what he hears read. The priest and others took the book to a prophetess named Huldah to interpret the book. We are told that she lived in "Jerusalem, in the Second District." (II Kings 22:14b) Not much is known about Huldah, but she had to have been an important figure in Jerusalem. The Second District/Quarter was on the western hill of Jerusalem. This was an area enclosed by a city wall during the reign of Hezekiah. During Hezekiah's reign the city was expanded most likely in order to accommodate refuges during the Assyrian invasion. Well, the prophetess interprets the book for them, basically saying that because "they (the people) have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods" (II Kings 22:17) disaster will befall Judah.
The king, upon hearing everything, takes action. He had all shrines to foreign deities torn down. He decreed that from then on worship could only take place in Jerusalem. And, the Passover was celebrated for the first time since the days of the judges. Josiah is now recognized as the greatest king to rule since King David: "Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did-with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses." (II Kings 23:25) So, can we say, "They had a great revival in the land of Judah?" Umm...that depends. If we are talking about revivals in which people get all excited for a week and vow to be on fire for God from then on, only to turn the thermostat off as soon as the revival is over, then perhaps so. What the king did was great and honorable. The prophetess even prophesied that he would die in peace. (paraphrased from II Kings 22:20) As for the people: "Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah...So the Lord said, 'I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city that I chose, and this temple..."(II Kings 23:26a,27)
The prophetess promised that Josiah would not see this destruction. *We will get to that in a moment. Jerusalem is to suffer the same fate as Samaria. By being "removed from Yahweh's presence" they are to be taken away into exile. Remember, the temple in Jerusalem is where God resides. Keep that in mind. Will this all happen overnight? No. In fact, if you remember, Assyria will no longer even be a superpower. Now, there are some things in the Bible that are hard to explain. As you know Josiah was a king like no other. (That is a good thing) The prophetess even declared he would die in peace. Then we read of his end.
"While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Neco faced him and killed him at Megiddo." (II Kings 23:29)
Umm...what happened here? How is it that the king who was the greatest ever (perhaps) met an end such as this? Plus, this is an anti-climatic ending to such a great story. And, one more question: Did the prophetess lie, or just get it all wrong? Now, we could sure ask another question here (I know, I keep asking questions): "Why would God allow a good king to die this way?"
Josiah will not see the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem. That much the prophetess got right. Josiah was promised that his "eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place." (II Kings 22:20b) But, there is something very interesting, not about the death of Josiah, but the place where he died. Most likely the Pharaoh was going to meet the king of Assyria to help him to curb the growing power of the Babylonians. Neco killed Josiah at Megiddo. Here, the good guy died at the hands of the bad guy. But, there's just something about that name Megiddo. Oh, Yes! Are you ready? *Warning this is good...Mount Megiddo in Hebrew is har Megiddo. It is from that word that we get the very familiar word Armageddon. In apocalyptic thought Armageddon will be the site of the last great battle between good and evil. (God will win the ultimate battle) Here, for now, good loses. But, this will not always be the case. God always gets the last word. In the end, God wins. But, for now, Josiah is dead. Of course, a new king takes the throne, and guess what? "Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king,...He did evil in the eyes of the Lord..." (II Kings 23:31a,32) I think you can see where this is headed? We will continue on Monday.
I pray you have a great weekend. God Bless! -Pastor Rick