In part one Jeremy Sanders gave us an overview of the history leading up to Josiah and how Josiah began his reforms. In part two he gives us another five principles from Josiah’s life.
Step Two: Venerate Scripture
The second step to reviving a nation can be found in the next major event in King Josiah’s reign; the rediscovery, veneration, and application of God’s Word. The event takes place in Josiah’s 18th year. 2nd Chronicles seems to indicated that it was the eighteenth year of his reign, or when Josiah was twenty-six years old, although the timeline in 2nd Kings might indicate it was when he was eighteen years old (2nd Kings 22:3, 2nd Chronicles 34:8). Either way, Josiah was still a relatively young man, at least in today’s terms. The major event that defined the rest of Josiah’s reign was the simultaneous refurbishing of the temple and the discovery of God’s Word. No other act committed by Josiah was more important or had as long an effect as this act. Josiah begins by sending his scribe Shaphan (rock badger), the son of Azaliah (Jehovah has reserved or set apart), to the high priest to repair the temple, which had fallen into disrepair. When they are conducting the repairs, the high priest finds the Law (the Scriptures) and sends it to the king. Josiah hears God’s Word and tears his clothes in sadness, knowing Judah’s guilt before Israel. He humbles himself and seeks the Lord’s counsel. He acknowledges that the wrath of God abides upon Judah, and seeks the Lord’s counsel (2nd Kings 22:3-13).
There are five key principles that we can discern in this second step, but before examining them, we must quickly examine the importance of Josiah reading the Law. For the first time, not only does Josiah read the law, but the high priest also rediscovers the Law. This fact tells us something extremely important about the culture of Judah. It demonstrates just how lost Judah had become. They had lost the Word of God. We think we have it bad today? Yes, the Bible is no longer in schools and our public sector has basically rejected God’s Word. And yes, if you go in most churches today, hearing an actual sermon based in Scripture is relatively rare; the Bible has been replaced by social justice, a social gospel, the prosperity gospel, the word of faith movement, etc. But we still have the Word of God in at least some of our churches. The Bible is readily available in bookstores, shopping centers, and online. In Josiah’s reign, the Word of God had been literally LOST. It was not even openly present in the temple. For at least twelve years, if not stretching back decades into Manasseh’s reign, no one had a copy of the Scriptures. Let me repeat that statement; NO ONE HAD A COPY OF THE SCRIPTURES! Yet during Manasseh’s reign, the people had made of show of returning to God. They had incorporated Him in their worship at the high places. Yet, they did not know who He is, or of His Word. Such a sad state demonstrates that people can turn halfway to God, be “culturally Christian”, yet have no knowledge of God’s Word. We can see this predicament in our culture today. We have many “cultural Christians” with no knowledge of the Word, and no interest in actual Biblical worship. With the disappearance of God’s Word from our churches and public venues, should we really be surprised? Our culture is quickly heading for the same situation that plagued Judah; the good news is we are not there yet. There is still time to make a major course correction before it is too late.
Venerating Scripture leads to five outcomes, all of which we can see in the life of Josiah. The Word of God has five key purposes, and these principles are found throughout the Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. Conveniently, they are grouped in 2nd Timothy 3:15-16. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. We see the fivefold purpose of Scripture laid out clearly in this passage. The purposes of Scripture are: bringing the lost to salvation, establishing solid doctrine to demonstrate how to live a holy life, reproof of our errors, correction of said errors that are part of our sanctification, and lastly instruction on how to live a righteous life pleasing to God. All five of these aspects are clearly displayed in the life of Josiah, giving us a map to reviving a corrupt and lost nation.
Step Two, Principle 3: Veneration of Scripture Brings Salvation
Let us examine Josiah’s first reaction to hearing the Law of God. It is one of abject grief, shame, and repentance. He realizes that he is guilty before an Almighty God, and humbles himself before God’s judgment. “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king’s, saying, Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.” (2nd Chronicles 34:19-21)
He does not merely seek God as a means of salvation from the difficult circumstances facing Israel. No, he repents, turning Israel away from its past sins and recognizes Jehovah as Savior AND Lord. He realizes God’s ability to judge Israel for turning away from the Law. His first reaction should be our first reaction, a realization of our total depravity in the sight of God and the need for repentance. This reaction is the first purpose of Scripture, to bring sinners to salvation. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15). The purpose of God’s Word is to bring sinners to repentance, thereby giving glory and honor to God.
For one to be saved from eternal separation from the Lord, a sinner must first recognize his sin and realize that only through Christ’s death on the cross can one be saved. Just as a nation can be saved by humbling itself before God, the individual must humble himself and repent from sin. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”. (Acts 3:19) Notice that repentance comes before conversion. Salvation only occurs when a person repents of sin and acknowledges Jesus as Lord, and we see this fact clearly in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Notice, the emphasis on Jesus as “Lord”. Jesus does not just those that seek eternal life and salvation, if he did, he would have saved the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-29, Luke 18:18-23). The rich young ruler sought salvation, but would not submit to Jesus’ Lordship. Instead of welcoming the young man, Jesus seems to actively discourage him from following the Lord. Why? Because salvation is not just about eternal life and recognizing Jesus as Savior. It is about recognizing Him as Lord. Salvation does not simply end on the day of our Salvation. Salvation is a three-part process: Justification, which is the point we are declared innocent in the eyes of God (Romans 5:1 and 8:30); Sanctification, which is the process of becoming more like Christ (Hebrew 10:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:3); and Glorification, which is when we become free from the weight of the sin, become like Christ and see Him as He is (1 John 3:2, Romans 8:30). Those that think they can simply say a prayer, ask God for eternal life, and seek Jesus as Savior, are not saved and need to recognize their need for Jesus as Savior AND Lord.
So why is recognizing Jesus as Lord so important, and how does this short overview of salvation relate to reviving a nation? Because eternal salvation is an individual event. Certainly, we shall see that Josiah’s salvation causes the revival of a nation and godly leadership can at least temporarily bring revival, but sustained revival only comes when the culture changes. And culture only changes once hearts change. We saw Manasseh enact reforms that banished idolatry from the majority of Israel. But, because the culture had not changed; hearts had not elevated God to be the Lord and Master, Israel reverted to idolatry at the first opportunity. Indeed, we are told that the pagan altars Manasseh had placed in God’s house were not removed from the temple until the reign of Josiah, demonstrating that Israel’s repentance was barely even superficial. Indeed, not even the outward expressions of paganism were changed. Some revival indeed! And the culture could not change, because Israel had lost the Word of God. Only when a nation venerates the Word of God can mass revival and salvation occur. We see Josiah take this action, sparking the revival that swept across Israel and bringing salvation to the land.
Step Two, Principle 4: Venerating Scripture Ensures Sound Doctrine
The second outcome of venerating Scripture is discerning sound doctrine, which we see when Josiah seeks out God’s counsel. Doctrine is understanding the purpose and will of God. We Josiah immediately seek God’s will upon reading Scripture. He desires to know specifically what to do to appease God’s wrath. He sends a messenger to Huldah, the prophetess of God. (2 Chron 34:20-28). God speaks through her and declares judgment upon Israel. “Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched.” Because of Israel’s wickedness, judgment was coming. God is just and demands justice. Justice cries in the streets against the wicked, and Israel would soon face God’s righteous wrath.
Yet, all was not lost. Although the prophetess declares judgment on Israel, she also states that God will delay the coming judgment. Why you ask? Because Josiah humbled himself before the Lord. “Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.”
For those that believe America is lost, with no hope of revival, read this passage again carefully. Because of one man, God delayed His just judgment. What a demonstration of God’s mercy. And such a demonstration is not confined to one portion of Scripture. Paul describes this beautiful picture of God’s character in Romans 9:22-23, “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory”. So, we see that God is willing to demonstrate His mercy and endures the wicked, even though he has already “fitted to destruction” evildoers. He does this to demonstrate his power and make known his glory to those of us He has made vessels of mercy. Josiah was such a vessel. And lest we think Josiah stands alone in history, consider this account from Genesis chapter 18. Two angels come to Abraham and declare that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed due to their wickedness. Abraham pleads for them to be spared, due to the presence of his kinsman Lot in Sodom. He begs God to spare the cities if only ten righteous men still occupy the city, which God promises to do (Genesis 18:32). Now, we know the story, there are not ten righteous men in the cities, and they are destroyed by fire. Yet, the story paints a parallel picture of God’s character with the story of Josiah. God is willing to spare a city, a society, a nation, for the sake of a righteous few. If only a few good men take a stand, refusing to turn to the right hand or the left, then God is often willing to forestall judgment. Such a merciful portrait of our God should provide hope to those despairing of revival in our modern world.
Step Two, Principle 5: Venerating Scripture Leads to Reproof of Sin
The next action Josiah takes is to reprove Israel of its errors. Reproof is pointing out errors that need to be corrected. Reproof is the third principle that originates when we revere Scripture as described in 2nd Timothy 3:15-16. Venerating Scripture does not just entail positive action, it also includes a change to our previous way of life. Yes, salvation and good doctrine are wonderful, but unless they are accompanied by becoming a new creature in Christ, they are not genuine acts. Someone who refuses to purge sin from their lives should carefully examine their salvation; they will have no true spiritual growth while deliberately living in sin. No, this statement does not mean that Christians will live sinful lives. It merely means a true Christian will not live a sinful lifestyle or be defined by their sin. Temptations come, we all still stumble and fall. But we continue on the journey of Sanctification.
Consider Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Notice that some of the Corinthians were those things, past tense, but they are now washed, justified, and sanctified in name of the Lord Jesus. Notice too that Paul’s list of unrighteousness is not individual sins, but people that are defined by those lifestyles. So, a Christian who is tempted by sexual sin and willingly commits fornication can still be saved, because as a Christian, the Holy Spirit will so convict him that he must confess and repent of his sin. However, a true Christian will never succumb to a lifestyle of fornication, where his life becomes defined by such a sin. If he does so, then he was never sanctified, never justified, never washed, and thus never saved. For this reason, we can see that in both ancient Israel and the modern world, the majority of people who claim to follow God are not truly saved. They were “culturally Christian” but are defined by their sin, not by their Savior.
Josiah reproves Israel in numerous ways, taking action that demonstrates his faith. Matthew 7:16 declares, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Josiah demonstrates his fruit by purging the land of wickedness (2nd Kings 23:4-25, 2 Chron 34:33). Revival and carnality cannot coexist, for carnality corrupts all it touches. We have already seen the dangers of tolerating carnality and compromising convictions in the reigns of Manasseh and Amon; now we will see the courage it takes to stand for Scripture in the reign of Josiah.
The first action Josiah takes is to cleanse the temple. He takes out all the vessels inside the temple that were dedicated to the worship of Baal and the other idols, burning them and sweeping away the ashes from Jerusalem (2nd Kings 23:4, 6, 8, 12-15) It is fascinating the lengths Josiah goes to to purify the temple. Not only does he rid the idolatry from the temple, but he also burns it completely before getting rid of the charred ashes. Would that we cleanse our own lives in such a manner! He also destroys the altars that Manasseh had made in both courts of the temple, demonstrating an important point.
The next action Josiah takes is to kill all the idolatrous priests who had been leading Israel astray, “And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.” (2nd Kings 23:5). Notice, he kills both those priests mentioned at the beginning of the verse who burned incense at the high places at the direction of Manasseh and Amon, as well as the priests mentioned at the end of the verse who burned incense to the false deities, as well as. It is the first group I would like to highlight, as killing the pagan priests of Baal is not surprising. The first group of priests was supposedly worshiping Jehovah! Yet, they are called idolatrous, because they worshipped at the high places, combining pagan, secular practices with worship of the Lord. We are told they did so at the direction of the wicked kings, obviously choosing money, position, and worldly acclaim over obeying God.
How demonstrative this act is for us today! How many pastors have chosen the same route today? The Andy Stanley’s, J.D. Greear’s, Russell Moore’s, Jemar Tisby’s, Joyce Myers’, Kenneth Hagin’s, Todd White’s, Joel Osteen’s, and Bill Johnson’s of the modern “church” have all taken the route of these idolatrous priests, trading the glory of God’s gospel for idolatrous imitations in the form of the social gospel, critical race theory, word of faith movement, and prosperity gospel. As we see our nation and world collapse into chaos and abandon Scripture, should we be surprised that the charismatic faith has over 305 million adherents worldwide and is the fastest-growing form of “Christianity” today? Should we be surprised that the Southern Baptist Church, the largest evangelical denomination in America and once a bastion for conservative Christianity, is now bleeding members as it embraces social justice and critical race theory? Should we be surprised by the moral rot in our culture when practically every mainline denomination and the majority of churchgoers accept homosexuality and abortion as godly? To revive a nation, first, the church must be cleansed and the idolatry replaced with a godly heritage.
Once the church is cleansed, then the culture can be changed. Josiah demonstrates this fact in his actions following cleansing the temple. We are told, “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove” (2nd Kings 23:7). We can see just how wicked Israel had become by observing that the homosexuals had set up camp right next to the house of God! As observed above, such an ungodly pairing is now the normal is most American “churches”. Indeed, the sodomites have now set up camp inside the church, not merely next to it! The sin of sodomy can only be blotted out once the Church is cleansed. And this sin must be blotted out for a country to have true revival. Romans chapter one demonstrates the downward spiral of any nation that embraces such sins, and no nation is healthy until such practices are viewed with repugnance by the culture.
Next, Josiah continues his attacks against the immoral culture by destroying pagan locations and customs throughout Israel. He destroys pagan statues in the suburbs (2nd Kings 23:11), idolatrous alters in the corridors of government (2nd Kings 23:12), historical pagan places of worship (2nd Kings 23:13), and even the graves of false prophets (2nd Kings 23:16). Now, I am not advocating that similar physical destruction be carried out in the modern world, but there are important spiritual parallels. First, he cleanses the area where people live. Unless homes and families are revived, a nation will not experience actual revival. Next, he ensures the government honors God. God cannot be separated from the government. While ungodly governments can, and indeed often are used by God, they do not ensure a revived people, quite the opposite in fact. Finally, he severs the link between the people and their historical connection to idolatry. He places the correct emphasis on Israel’s godly heritage. To use the words of the modern left, Josiah “contextualized” a “problematic aspect of history” and “de-emphasized” the pagan history of Israel.
Lastly, Josiah ends one of the most abhorrent practices ever devised by man. “And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.” (2nd Kings 23:10). The practice of child sacrifice is an ancient, demonic practice, where people would burn their living babies for their temporal benefit. Lest we think we have progressed past such a diabolic practice, need I remind we have merely freshened up the practice by chemical burning and torturing children in the womb. Abortion is the modern-day take on sacrificing children to Molech. Josiah ensured such a practice ceased in Israel. Only by cleaning Israel of murdering innocents could true revival spread throughout the land.
The reproofs Josiah brought to Israel were necessary and painful. Sinners never want to be convicted of their sin, or change their ways. It is important to understand the manner in which Josiah brought about this reproof. He did not compromise with his opponents and seek the middle ground. He did not allow it to continue or give people time to adjust to the change. It was swift, it was harsh and it was unyielding. And most important of all, it started in God’s house, with those claiming to be followers of Jehovah. We cannot have true revival unless we are first willing to cleanse our churches.
Part three will run next Wednesday
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