The Faith of Josiah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, March 11, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

How hard would you be willing to work with no guaranteed tangible reward whatsoever? Most people know what their jobs pay them and know exactly what they get for any extra work that they do. If they do the work, they expect to be paid fairly. The Bible even tells us this is a good and right concept. Jesus himself said, “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). This was what he told his disciples as he was sending them out to minister. Many Christians know the quote “the worker deserves his wages," but they don’t remember the first part. Sometimes, we’re called to do work and to accept WHATEVER the reward is. It might be a million dollars, it might be nothing, or it might be something in between. Either way, the work almost always gets done before the reward is given.

This is especially true when talking about work that is right in God’s eyes, or even work that he has commanded us to do. The thing we all have to decide for ourselves is whether we are willing to do whatever is right in his eyes, no matter the cost, with the knowledge that he commanded it being the ONLY reason to do it. That’s where the rubber of faith meets the road of life. Today, we look at an unnamed hero of the faith who was willing to do what God said JUST BECAUSE he said it.

Last week, I wrote about King Hezekiah and his refusal to cower in fear to the threats and ridicule of Israel and the living God, as well as his leadership during that time. Hezekiah’s faith may have had an impact on those who knew him or heard the stories of what God did through his leadership. But two people who clearly didn’t care about his faith enough to follow in his footsteps and faith were his son and grandson. The two kings who immediately succeeded Hezekiah were his son Manasseh, and then after that, Manasseh’s son, Amon. 2 Kings 21 tells us briefly about their reigns as king, but the most important thing to know about them is that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord and worshiped idols. Hezekiah had destroyed all the idols that previous kings and generations had worshiped, but Manasseh decided it was a good idea to go through all the effort to rebuild them. Hard work and effort can be completely wasted if it’s toward ends that are not pleasing to God. Manasseh reigned for 55 years, so his detestable practices led his people into sin for a long time (v. 11). After he died, Amon simply followed in his dad’s evil and his reign only lasted two years before he was assassinated by his own officials (v. 23). Because the kingship was passed through the blood line, it had to go to Amon’s son, despite the fact that he was only 8 years old! His name was Josiah, and he’s our hero of the faith for the day.

Whether it was because Josiah wasn’t old enough to understand or enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin that his father and grandfather pursued or because someone spoke truth into his life to turn him toward God, Josiah chose to go back to the glory days of his great-grandfather Hezekiah’s reign and worship the Lord only. 2 Kings 22:2 tells us, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left." I find two things about this verse fascinating. First, it lists his father as “David” even though we know his biological father was Amon. That shows us that David was his “father” in the sense that the faith tradition which had been ignored by the previous generations began all the way back at David’s reign. Secondly, it says he didn’t turn aside to the right or to the left. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the author’s purpose for that statement, but isn’t it interesting that “right” and “left” are the two words used to characterize the intense division in our politically-crazed and agenda-driven nation right now? This one verse in the Bible ought to remind us that NEITHER side is always right in the eyes of the Lord!

I consider Josiah one of the unnamed faithful heroes in Hebrews 11 because verse 33 says that the faithful “administered justice." Now, that’s what my NIV translation says. However, I realized that another translation I look at from time to time, the NKJV, says they “worked righteousness." This is where any knowledge we can gain from the original Greek is critical. In our language, those two phrases are not as synonymous as they are in the much broader Greek language where words can meet a number of different things in English. So, I did some research in my dusty old Greek New Testament from seminary. While “administered justice” would not be wrong, it appears the more accurate representation here is “worked righteousness." This would especially be true if applied to Josiah and the work that he did.

I encourage you to read 2 Kings 22-23 to see all that King Josiah did during his reign. I’ll try to give you a brief overview. In the 18th year of his 31-year reign, he sends his secretary to the high priest at the temple of the Lord so that those working hard to repair it are fairly and honestly compensated. While his secretary is there, the high priest tells him that he has found the Book of the Law in the temple. This suggests that previous generations didn’t care to read it or follow it, and we already know that is true. The secretary takes it back to Josiah and reads it in his presence. This is the life-changing moment for Josiah. As he hears the Law of God, he can’t bear the thought of how long his throne and the people of Judah have been far from him. He recognizes that the Lord has every reason to be angry with them and seeks the Lord through a prophet about how they should respond. The prophet tells him that disaster will be brought on the nation and its people because of their disobedience, and all Josiah is promised is that he will actually die BEFORE any of the disaster happens so he doesn’t witness it. Gee, thanks Lord!

Josiah then decides to read the Book of the Law in front of the entire nation of people and calls for them to renew their covenant with God. The people do so, but then Josiah gets to work. 2 Kings 23:4-24 then tells us how Josiah systematically destroyed all of the idols of the pagan gods his people had been worshiping and even killed some of the priests who made sacrifices to those gods. One of the idols he destroyed was for the god Molech, to whom human child sacrifices were made (v. 10). Not only does Josiah destroy everything that was evil in the eyes of the Lord, but he also restarts the observance of the Passover to the Lord (v. 21), which had been commanded in Exodus 12:24-27, yet had not been observed for many generations. You see, true repentance and fear of the Lord has to do with not only eliminating the sins of commission, but also the sins of omission. If you haven’t done what God says, it’s time to start.

Make no mistake about it, the work that Josiah had to do was long and hard just to get his people back on track. I’m sure it didn’t make him happy to slaughter the unrepentant priests. I’m sure he had people ridicule or hate him for tearing down their precious statues. But he knew this was what was righteous in God’s eyes and he was committed to “working righteousness” back into the nation for which he was responsible, no matter how hard it would be. And we’d think that after everything he did, he’d be blessed and things would end well for him. But it wasn’t so. 2 Kings 23:26 tells us that God did not change his mind about bringing disaster on the nation of Judah, and then verse 29 tells us that Josiah was killed by the king of Egypt in battle. So, God kept his promise to Josiah and spared him from having to witness the destruction of his people and country. But still, it doesn’t seem to us like a fair end to Josiah’s story. He reigned 31 years, meaning he died at the age of 39. And it wasn’t like he slowly went to sleep and never woke up either. He was killed in BATTLE, so not fun at all. He received no tangible reward for his faith. Back to one of the original questions: Is doing the right thing in the eyes of the Lord enough for you? Do you need something more? It’s a question of faith and total surrender to him that only you can answer.

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