Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king. He seems ludicrously young for the weighty task of leading God’s people, and yet, Josiah proved to be a spiritual leader, unlike most of his predecessors (and descendants). He effected good, spiritual change and God commended him for it. In fact, God even spared him the pain of taking away the kingdom during his lifetime.
What made him such a spiritual leader? I think, it lay largely with how he reacted when confronted with the truth of scripture. In the 18th year of King Josiah’s reign, the priest discovers a life changing scroll – the book of the law is read before Josiah (2 Kings 22).
So, what can we learn from Josiah’s response to scripture? How should we respond to God’s word?
God’s word should move us emotionally
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. ~ 2 Kings 22:11
Now, I’m not saying that we should have a mental breakdown every time we read our Bible. But, if our hearts are not pricked, if we are not moved by the thought that we are unworthy of God’s great forgiveness, love and mercy – then the problem lies with us, not him! Scripture should change us and a part of that change is stirred by our emotions. After all, God wants our hearts!
God’s word should help me realize the need for His guidance (and not my own)
Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found… ~ 2 Kings 22:13
When confronted with our sin and brokenness where can we turn? We realize no human is enough. No one – no matter how great they preach or how much they love you can provide guidance like God can. We must seek His help first.
God’s word should humble us
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord… ~ 2 kings 22:18-19
If we do not humble ourselves, we cannot listen. If we do not humble ourselves, we cannot learn from our mistakes. And most importantly, if we do not humble ourselves, we cannot be acceptable to God.
God’s word should be shared with others
And the king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord ~ 2 Kings 23:2
If I found the cure for cancer, I would be unimaginably selfish to keep it to myself! And yet, I hold something of even greater worth in my hands – the truth of eternal life. How much greater is our responsibility to share with others what we have learned and seen for ourselves!
God’s word convicts us to renew our commitment
And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. ~ 2 Kings 23:3
Have you messed up in the past week? (Ok, today!) Welcome to humanity, my friend. If you were less than stellar in your commitment to God, you have not surprised anyone (except perhaps yourself). We all fall short of His glory.
The point though is not to throw in the towel – but to renew our commitment! Yes, we mess up. But God offers us new beginnings where we recommit ourselves to Him.
God’s word stirs us to get rid of what’s unholy (and tripping us up spiritually)
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel….
And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, he pulled down and broke in pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. ~ 2 kings 23:4, 12
It’s all well and good to recommit ourselves to the Lord – but if we don’t do something different, we will fall back into old patterns of sin. We can’t get rid of our humanity, but we all have things in our lives that we know we need to give up, in order to be better children of God. Josiah was ruthless about this. He went throughout the land, defiling altars to other gods, burning treasures and destroying special instruments. If we treated the sin and bad habits in our lives similarly we would find our lives much holier. And in turn, we would find God blessing our lives, as he blessed Josiah.
May we all seek to be as penitent and tender hearted as Josiah as we encounter God’s word.