The last two kings of Judah were pretty awful. True, Manasseh did turn to God after being captured by the Assyrians, led by hooks and bound by chains (2Chron. 33:11-12). But the vast majority of the previous two administrations were marked by a total rejection of God, worship of idols and practice of paganism. The last king, Amon, was so bad that his own servants killed him (2Chron. 33:24). Now, we see some sunlight break through the dark clouds...
Amon's son Josiah became king when his father was assassinated and the servants who killed him were put to death (2Chron. 33:25). He was just eight years old, but even at such a young age, he was a good kid.
When Josiah was 16 years old, he began to seek God. In the past few years, I have talked to many people about their ideas of teenagers and faith. The sad thing is that many youth group leaders believe that teens just need to be occupied and entertained. That there will be plenty of time to build godly character, Christian discipleship, and pursue the things of God when they're out of high school.
But look at Josiah's position. At the age of 16, he's got no church, no youth group, no fellowship, no Christian music, not even a Bible! And yet, he begins to seek God. Saints, I believe that teenagers everywhere, in church and out, have an emptiness inside of them that will be filled when they seek God. Do you have a burden to pray for them, to evangelize them, to point them in the direction where God can be found?
When Josiah was 20 years old, he began to take a position of spiritual leadership in his nation. He had sought the Lord for four years, and was convicted in his spirit that the idols and images must be removed.
Again, without the benefit of even a Bible, he knew in his Spirit what was spiritually wrong around him, and acted upon it radically.
So radical were his actions that he even burned the bones of the pagan priests upon their pagan altars. As it turns out, this was a fulfillment of a prophecy from 300 years before.
After King Solomon's death, the nation of Israel was torn apart by civil war. The king of the ten nations to the north was Jeroboam. He desperately feared that the Israelites would be drawn back to the southern kingdom when they went to the temple to worship three times a year. And so, he made two golden calved, placing one in Dan, and the other in Bethel (in the territory of Ephraim). He told the people,
1Kings 12:28 ..."It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt."
1Kings 13:1-2 Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, "O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, 'Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'"
Three hundred years later, this prophecy came to pass.
Josiah has been seeking the Lord for ten years, but only now does he order that the temple be repaired. He must have realized the house had to be purged before it could be fixed. Often, we forget this simple rule as it applies to people. We forget that a person must be saved before they can be renewed. We try to fix their lives before they're cleaned out, or, as the old saying goes, "put a dress on a pig."
Josiah knew that the temple had to be purged before it could be repaired. And so now that the place has been purged of paganism, he sends Shaw-FAWN the son of Ats-al-YAW, and Mah-as-ay-YAW, and Yo-AWKH the son of Yo-aw-KHAWZ to oversee the repairs.
Collections were made to repair the temple. The money came from the Jews throughout the land, and was given to the high priest. The high priest in turn paid the workmen, and they sub-contracted out the labor to the various trades.
It's funny how many varied opinions I heard when we began planning for our building project. There was a high percentage of people who thought that our building should be built by volunteer labor. But I had been through that before with our offices (now the Annex building). We had a 1,200 square-foot horse barn that needed to be turned into an office building.
We had a phenomenal volunteer turnout that first day - probably 45 people showed up. But as the days and weeks progressed, we had fewer and fewer. By the time the walls were framed up, there was just me and two other guys showing up each night. I finally hired out the plubming, electrical, drywall, and painting. You can imagine my response when people said, "We should build this 15,000 square foot building ourselves! We can do it with volunteer"!
No, it is perfectly Biblical for the people of God to give money, that the priests then give to experienced and qualified contractors to do the work. This is the same concept that first birthed the idea of the "offering box."
About 200 years before, during the reign of King Jehoash...
2Kings 12:9-11 ...Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid and put it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of the LORD; and the priests who guarded the threshold put in it all the money which was brought into the house of the LORD. When they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king's scribe and the high priest came up and tied it in bags and counted the money which was found in the house of the LORD. They gave the money which was weighed out into the hands of those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of the LORD; and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the LORD
While these things were going on, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the Law - the Pentateuch. The first five books of the Bible.
It had been so long since anyone had read, consulted, or lived by the Word of God that it had been completely forgotten. It seems that we have almost entered a similar age. Oh, today there is no shortage of Bibles. But there is a shortage of reading and teaching the Bible. The vast majority of churchgoers have no need to carry their Bibles anymore, for their preachers quote the Bible very little, if at all. And the occasional verse that gets read is broadcast up on the big screen so that you don't have to have a Bible at all.
Why is Calvary Chapel such a novelty in our city? Because no one else is systematically teaching through the Word of God. Why are people always calling from other cities in Wyoming asking if we can send pastors to their towns? Because no one in their area is teaching through the Bible either!
There is a famine of Bible teaching in most places. The Word of God needs to be rediscovered in the house of God. Because when it is read, the people will tear their clothes in repentance and real revival will happen.
Once King Josiah heard what God had proclaimed in His Word, he knew he and his nation were in trouble. They hadn't been walking in obedience to God's commands. And there were plenty of dire warnings about what would happen to the Jews if they didn't follow God's Word.
Josiah wanted to know where exactly they stood on God's timeline. Five guys were sent to find out what God had to say currently about the ramifications of this book historically: Khil-kee-YAW the priest, Akh-ee-KAWM the son of Shaw-FAWN, Ab-DOHN the son of Mee-KAW, Shaw-FAWN the Scribe, and Aw-saw-YAW the king's servant.
These men came to Khool-DAW the prophetess, who lived in Jerusalem. She confirmed that God's judgment was indeed coming because of the Jews' rejection of His Word. However, because King Josiah had humbled himself when he read the Word, the judgment would not happen until after his death.
The Word had radically affected Josiah, and he desperately wanted others to hear it as well. He stood before the people and read the whole thing out loud to them.
This is my own passion as well, and the substance of what has become my life's work. When I first heard the Word of God, I was cut to the core, and just like Josiah, I knew I was in trouble. I humbled myself before God in repentance. And then I started sharing what I had read. Over the next couple years, it became an all-consuming desire to tell people what was in this book. And today, ayone who will listen will get as much as they can hear!
Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
1Tim. 4:13 ...give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
2Tim. 4:2 preach the Word...
Psa. 119:2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies...
Psa. 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
Psa. 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.
Psa. 119:97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Acts 6:7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly...
Heb. 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
These Scriptures and dozens of others help to describe the intensity with which I desire people to have the Word read and explained to them.
This situation was very similar to the rediscovery of the Word that happened in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah:
Neh. 8:2-3 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
After reading the entirety of the book aloud, King Josiah made a covenant before God and the people that he would live in obedience to what he had read.
As the king, he was also able to insist that everyone in the kingdom abide by the commandments as well. Unfortunately, as we will see in the near future, most of the people did not humble themselves and genuinely repent as Josiah did.