Jeremy Sanders returns in this first of a three-part series, released weekly on Wednesdays to talk about the desperate need for the church to have a modern-day Josiah.
Imagine a nation that has utterly forsaken God and abandoned all morality. It worships at the feet of idols, sacrifices babies in the name of prosperity, defiles holy sanctuaries, tolerates homosexuality alongside places of worship, has idolatrous pastors preaching a false message, and is run by a corrupt government, wholly given to immorality. Now imagine that the country is experiencing tremendous political turmoil. Riots against the government are rampant, political intrigue is the norm, and the overthrow of the current government is not beyond imagination. Now, one might think I am describing the current state of America, and you would be forgiven for doing so. After all, the scene described could easily be America in 2020. Yet, the picture I have just painted is not modern America, but Ancient Judah, circa 640 B.C. We in America often think we are seeing the destruction of all morality, and indeed one can argue that we are moving farther along the path towards totally depravity and disintegration. Yet, the story of Judah shows us that there is always hope for revival, even if such revival proves only temporary. It gives us multiple examples on how to turn the tide of a wicked nation, and a battle plan for reviving America. There are two steps, divided into seven principles that make up the battleplan to revive a nation, all of which are demonstrated in great detail by the life of Josiah. The account serves as a rallying cry for Christians today and reminds us that even in the darkest hour, the glorious light of God can still shine through.
One could hardly find a darker time in the history of the Kingdom of Judah prior to this point in its history. It has just experienced fifty-five years of rule by its most evil and wicked king, Manasseh (2nd Kings 21:1-2). Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, the good king who had torn down the high places and reinstituted godly practices. Hezekiah’s reign had been a time of prosperity for the kingdom of Judah. The tiny nation had survived invasion and siege and had seemingly turned back to the Lord. Yet, in less than a half-century, Manasseh had led the nation into full-blown idolatry, child sacrifice, astrology, witchcraft, homosexuality, and every other form of wickedness imaginable. Indeed, we are told Israel surpassed even the wickedness of the Canaanites whom God had driven out of the promised land so many years earlier (2nd Kings 21:9). Because of such wickedness, God caused the Assyrian Kingdom, which had already subjugated the northern Kingdom of Israel, to conquer Judah. Manasseh was bound with chains and taken to Babylon (2nd Kings 21:11). Here, Manasseh repented of his sin and God-ordained his release from Babylon. The repentant king returned to Jerusalem, where he not only strengthened the cities defenses but also instituted spiritual reform across Judah. He removed the idols from the temple, repaired the Lord’s altar, and ordered the nation to worship Jehovah (2nd Chronicles 33:14-17). Yet, the people still worshiped the Lord in the high places instead of in the temple, indicating they clung to their idolatrous traditions and merely repurposed them, defying the teachings of Jehovah concerning true worship (Numbers 33:52, Leviticus 26: 27-30). This relatively short period of peace was only the calm before the storm. And the storm would appear very dark indeed.
Once Manasseh died in 642 B.C., his son Amon assumed the throne. After seeing the majority of his father’s reign devoted solely to wickedness, it is hardly surprising that Amon rejected his father’s late revival and reverted to the idolatry that had marked the majority of Manasseh’s rule. Amon was twenty-two when he began to reign (2nd Chronicles 33:21), roughly the same age as Manasseh when he assumed the sole rule of the kingdom. We are told that Amon practiced idolatry, possessed a proud spirit, and refused to repent (2nd Chronicles 33:22-23). Indeed, we are told, “Amon trespassed more and more.” (2nd Chronicles 33:23). Because of his sins, his servants conspired to overthrow him, and killed Amon after only two years of his rule. Whether these servants did so because he had reversed his father’s godly reforms, or merely to gain power for themselves is unclear. What we do know, is that the people immediately slew the disloyal servants and placed Josiah, Amon’s young, eight-year-old son, on the throne. Such an act demonstrates the people were more than content with Amon’s policies and desired his son to carry on such policies. Since Josiah was only eight, it is certain that others would rule as regents until he came of age, and also have the opportunity to influence the young king to follow in their idolatrous footsteps.
An even cursory glance readily displays the darkness facing Israel at the moment in history. They had only recently regained independence from Assyria after being overrun. Assyria was still a major power, and the fate of the northern Kingdom of Israel served as a reminder of what would happen should Assyria fully conquer Judah. The people would be scattered, pagans would settle in their lands, and the nation would lose all identity. Judah could no longer look to Israel for support; instead, pagans occupied the land now known as Samaria and these people had no affinity with Judah. To the south, Egypt was resurgent and an ally of Assyria. No help could be sought from such a nation. Judah itself was divided between those loyal to Josiah’s family and those who had killed King Amon. Morality was non-existent, idolatry rampant, child sacrifice common, homosexuality in God’s house encouraged, and the people had literally lost the Word of God. The government was run by those loyal to King Amon’s policies, and the king was merely a boy with no actual power. In other words, a close facsimile to modern America, only with less hope and a greater chance of total dissolution. Any followers of Jehovah left in Judah were probably attempting to book the next passage to Tarshish. Surely, no nation could recover from such circumstances?
Josiah: A Righteous Leader
With this setup in mind, we now are introduced to Josiah in the parallel accounts of 2nd Kings 22 and 2nd Chronicles 34. We are told that he began to reign in his eighth year, and that his mother’s name was Jedidah (Beloved), daughter of Adaiah (Jehovah has adorned Himself) of Boscath (lowland city of Judah, located near the Philistines). Whether his mother was godly or not, we are not told. Her marriage to the wicked Amon might suggest otherwise, but her name, and the name of her father, indicated some level of association with Jehovah. Names in the Bible often have great meaning concern a person’s character, but whether this association with Jehovah was actual devotion or merely cultural, is impossible to determine. Given Josiah’s future actions, some may conjure that his mother was a servant of Jehovah, but it impossible to know for sure. However, given what we are told in 2nd Chronicles 34:3, we know Josiah certainly did not receive enough godly instruction to cause the young king to serve the Lord in the first eight years of his reign. “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father”. So as a sixteen-year-old, Josiah began to seek after God. Why? We are not told the reason, but we can surmise several reasons. Someone Josiah respected must have mentored the young king and instructed him in a godly fashion. Whether this was a member of his family or a trusted counselor, we cannot know for sure. Regardless, someone must have instructed the young king. Josiah must have been taught his heritage, as he sought after “the God of David his father.” Note that Josiah identifies his father as David, not Amon, demonstrating his affinity with David’s legacy. Thus, during our introduction to Josiah, his first act is to look back to his heritage.
Step One: Value Your Godly Heritage
We must not hasten past this important aspect of Josiah’ story, as it is the first step in our battle strategy to revive a nation. Godly instruction concerning a person’s, or a nation’s Biblical heritage, is crucial to bringing about revival. Without knowing the details of a nation’s history, young people will have no affinity or desire to follow in their godly heritage. One of Josiah’s other ancestors, Solomon, tells us in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” One of the most important aspects of training children is instructing them concerning their heritage. The idea of heritage is crucial in the Bible. Take Psalm 16:5-6, “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” We see that David describes the LORD as his inheritance; an inheritance that comes from a “goodly heritage”. Such heritage needs to be valued and examined.
We know that the Lord gave the land of Israel to his people as part of their heritage, which they possessed through their lineage. “And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD” (Exodus 6:8). Heritage was a crucial part of Israel’s culture, both religiously and in everyday life. Leviticus 25:23-24 says “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.” Land was to remain within the family and not be sold permanently. By doing so, the Lord ensured families remained tied to their heritage and remember that it was God who gave them their land. Lest we think the Israelites did not take such a commandment seriously, we must remember the story of the wicked King Ahab and the vineyard of Naboth. Naboth owned a vineyard that sat next to the palace of Ahab. Ahab desired the vineyard due to its proximity and offered Naboth money or an even bigger vineyard elsewhere if he would only sell it to Ahab (1 Kings 21:1-2). Naboth’s answer is quite telling, “And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” (1 Kings 21:3). Because the Lord instructed Naboth to not forsake his heritage, Naboth refused. His courageous stance led to false accusations against his character, the loss of his property, and ultimately his death. Josiah possessed the same appreciation for his heritage, which sparked a desire to serve “the God of David his father.”
How do we invoke a similar spirit of appreciation for our own godly heritage; reviving a love for God and for the history of our great nation founded upon Biblical values? There are two key principles to remember when inculcating an appreciation for a godly heritage; training children to value their heritage, and never veering from the values of your godly heritage. Both must be constantly striven towards. The battle for children and the battle to compromise your convictions are lifelong conflicts. These two principles must be attained if the first step towards a nation’s revival is to be achieved.
Step One, Principle 1: Train Your Children to Value Your Heritage
The first principle is training up our children to value our godly heritage. And this training must be accomplished early. Waiting until a child is indoctrinated in our schools and universities is too late. Notice Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” The blessed man who delights in the law of the Lord and is planted by rivers of water. Planting is not merely throwing the seed into a barren field. It requires work; carefully burying the seed, guarding it against the hungry birds, watering and nurturing the tiny bud, digging a hole for the young plant in fertile soil, bracing from the wind it as it grows, pruning its branches of disease or weakness, before finally harvesting fruit and starting the cycle once more. It is a deliberate process. Yet, all too often we do not plant our children by God’s word. No, we throw them into the barren fields of the public-school system and then wonder why they are eaten by the birds or get blown around by the winds of Marxism and idolatry. We are shocked when they seek the bitter waters of secularism, forgetting we never properly watered them with the life-giving river of God’s Word. We act surprised when they grow wild and out of control because they have never been pruned of their bad habits. And then we wonder why no trees grow in the land to act as a brace against the scorching winds of leftist secular Marxism as they sweep across the barren landscape. Perhaps, if we taught our children their godly heritage, they would already have meaning and not be blown away when they go to college; desperately searching for meaning and purpose. The first step to reviving a nation is reminding it of its godly heritage.
Step One, Principle 2: Never Compromise Your Heritage
The second principle in this first step, and perhaps the most important principle Josiah can teach us, is the courage to never compromise our convictions. We are told that Josiah, “declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left” when serving the Lord (2nd Chronicles 34:2). In 2nd Kings 22:2, we are told that Josiah “…did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” We see that Josiah refused to cave to pressures or public opinion. As we will see, the public had been quite content with the sin in their midst. Under Manasseh, even after Josiah’s grandfather issues godly reforms, the people continued worshiping in the high places, following their hearts instead of God’s commands. The advisors who had been running the country while Josiah was a youth had not deemed it necessary to curb the evil running amok in Judah. Undoubtedly, Josiah’s actions cast light upon their failure to act, showing the shallow nature of their faith, if indeed they had faith in Jehovah. Yet, Josiah prevailed because he was determined. His entire life, he embodied the commandment given to Joshua by God before crossing the Jordan river, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:7). What an inspirational verse, especially for the many young people today desperately seeking purpose in life. Perhaps you are not surrounded by godly elders, willing to take a stand. Perhaps your church has become content in their sin, willing to sit back and not stand strong on God’s Word. Instead of being an Amon, who fell into sin and took the easy route, how much better to be a Josiah!
To follow in Josiah’s footsteps, we must actively commit to three values found in Joshua 1:7. We must be stouthearted, holding fast to the courage of our convictions. It takes a stout heart to stand against the outrage mob or those who are older and have more experience. Whether educated or not, those that stand against the Word of God are considered foolish in the Lord’s sight (Psalms 14:1), and must be opposed.
We must be strong, so we are not blown about by the first wind that howls against us, and be willing to maintain the course, even if we face obstacles or oppression. There will be those that mock and cast doubt. We must be strong if we are to successfully oppose such opposition. Compromise is not an option, compromising convictions is of the devil. The world will tempt us with compromise. It is an easy thing to do. “Find the middle ground”, “If both sides are mad at you then you are correct”, “always look to compromise” are lies that constantly lead to defeat. The path of least resistance always leads to rock bottom. If you compromise, Satan, the left, the Marxist mob, will only push harder. Take Eve as an example. When the serpent Satan comes to her and tells her that she will not die if she eats the fruit, she compromises her values. Instead of standing strong, Adam watches in silence while this occurs and then compromises his convictions, damning the entire human race to separation from God. (Genesis 3:1-19). One compromise was all it took. Eternal suffering was the end result.
Lastly, we must be willing to study. Only by the study of the Law of God can we ensure we have the stoutheartedness and strength we need to attain victory. You cannot remain steadfast in observing the Law if you do not know what the Law says. Indeed, if you cannot see the road, you cannot be sure if you turned off of it to the right or to the left. The straight gate of Christ is along the narrow way. It is a hard way, full of obstacles and temptations to take an exit to the wide road running parallel to the left or right. Only by studying the route can we be sure we stay straight until the finish line. This third value found in Joshua leads conveniently into the second step necessary to revive a nation, which we will observe in the life of Josiah.
Part two will release next Wednesday.
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