Jeremy Sanders concludes his series on a modern Josiah.
Step 2, Principle 6: Veneration of Scripture Corrects a Nation’s Course
The joy of following the Lord as your master, instead of your slavish desires and sin, is that reproof is accompanied by genuine correction. Instead of being merely rebuked for your sins, you are given a way to correct those faulty actions and walk in newness of life. Correction, as described in 2 Timothy 3:16, is what sets us back upright on the correct path. It is the hope we have while we are in the midst of reproving and battling our sinful nature. It is the life vest tossed to the drowning man. It is not enough to just inform the man that he is drowning and needs rescue, the rescuer must also offer a means of rescue.
We see this principle in the reign of Josiah. Josiah cleansed Israel of her idolatry and rid the land of wickedness, yet did not stop at these actions. He also offered new hope for a weary country by renewing the covenant of the Lord. The story is quite fascinating. He begins by calling a national assembly of all the people. “Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD.” (2nd Chronicles 34:29-30)
There are several interesting aspects of this passage. First, Josiah gathered everyone: the elders who were government officials, all the men, all the inhabitants, and also all the priests. It was a national assembly, demonstrating that the revival encompassed everyone. He did not seek only those who were loyal to his rule or those that already served God; he gathered everyone. Next, he read “all the words of the book of the covenant”. Notice that Josiah did not hold any of God’s Word back, but faithfully read every single word. It has become fashionable in Christian circles to excuse portions of the Bible that seem at first glance to be contradictory or are not politically correct in today’s culture. Even pastors make excuses or ignore parts of Scripture, watering down the Gospel. Yet here, Josiah made no excuses. He preached the fullness of the Word.
Once Josiah had laid the foundation for reestablishing the covenant, he transitioned to correcting Israel’s course. “And the king stood in his place, 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 with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.” (2nd Chronicles 34:31-32) This beautiful passage offers insight on how to correct and revive a nation. Let’s examine the passage carefully.
Notice “the king stood in his place” meaning at the head of the people, exactly where he was supposed to stand. As the leader, Josiah was not hiding in the background or abdicating his position. Nor was he blaming the people and not taking responsibility. No, he stood at the front of the assembly. For there to be a revival, someone must take responsibility and be a leader.
Next, notice that he made a covenant “before the LORD”. He could have made the covenant before the people, as they were all standing there and could have been charged with holding Josiah accountable. But Josiah made the covenant “before the LORD” because he trusted in the Lord to hold him accountable. There is no more serious commitment than one made before the Lord.
The covenant itself was not a give and take between Josiah and God. Josiah did not say, “God, I will follow you, if you promise to bless us and give me what I want.” Instead, Josiah promised the “walk”, “keep” and “perform”; all of these verbs are actions on Josiah’s part. He made a covenant to “walk after the LORD”. To do so means to follow and not remain stagnant. It could have been easy to rest on his laurels. After all, Josiah had cleansed Israel. He had done great and wondrous works in the name of the Lord. He had completely reorganized the very culture of his nation. Yet, he recognized that sanctification is a continual process, never-ending until our glorification. Those that rest on their laurels lose not only their achievement but also their will and desire that brought them to that achievement. Reviving a nation is a continual process that does not end once the storm clouds clear. The battle is constant, and the warriors that drop their shields when they grow tired or believe the enemy has retreated will be picked off by the enemy’s missiles. And to walk on the battlefield, a Christian warrior must always be on guard. They must “keep his (God’s) commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his (Josiah’s) heart, and with all his soul”. To keep means to guard. We must guard God’s commandments because it is from these that we find our discipline and order to face the challenges of life. Should we fail, the enemy rids our minds of these commandments and we focus on our own dictates. We must guard the testimony of Scripture, that reveals to us the nature of God. Satan always seeks to discredit God and change our understanding of His nature. Then, disenchanted with our warped view of God, or perhaps forgetting our knowledge of His just nature, we either reject God completely or underestimate the critical nature of our Lord’s character. Yet, if we lived according to the statutes or principles of God’s Word, we would see the awe-inspiring view of God’s character.
Josiah did not just determine to guard God’s Word, he also sought to actively live out Godly principles. Josiah would not only pay lip service to Scripture but would, “perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book”. Too many Christians know what Scripture commands, guard it closely in their hearts, yet fail to perform its statutes. Their fruit is limited and they waste their lives not attuned to the ripe Spiritual fruit ready to be picked.
The last topic of interest from this passage is extremely important. “And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it.” What an interesting and vital phrase. Josiah included all the people, and then gave them a vested interest in reviving the nation. The people knew that “to stand to it” meant pledging their honor and lives to the service of the Lord. The people were actively participating in renewing the covenant, making them more invested, but also more accountable should they fall back into idolatry. For revival to take hold, it must become personal to the entire nation, not just a few people.
Step 2, Principle 7: Veneration of Scripture Brings Righteousness to a Nation
Venerating Scripture leads to many benefits, the last of which may be the most exciting. Instruction in righteousness (2nd Timothy 3:16) ensures the follower of Christ lives a sanctified life, growing ever closer to the Lord as a spiritually mature believer. Jesus tells us in the latter half of John 10:10 “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” He is not describing abundant life in the sense of great wealth, health or prosperity. No, we are told that such things will ultimately burn and be consumed (1st John 2:17). The abundant life comes when we obey Christ as our good Shepherd, following His commands. When we do so wholeheartedly, the results can be astounding.
Josiah’s life demonstrates the great blessings that come from venerating Scripture and following the righteous instruction of God’s Word. Josiah reinstituted the keeping of Passover, the most sacred remembrance of God’s mercy to ancient Israel. We are told in 2nd Chronicles 35:1-2, “Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LORD,”.
Before we gloss over these verses, there is one very important aspect concerning the keeping of this Passover. We see that Josiah, “set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LORD”. In other words, the priests were not the ones pushing for the Passover, it was Josiah that had to “set the priests in their charges”, meaning he had to tell them to fulfill their duties. He also had to encourage them to serve in the temple. This statement implies that the majority of the priests were still spiritually shallow. Perhaps they were immature, after all, the Law had been lost for many years, and many of the former priests had been killed for practicing idolatry. Still, it demonstrates an important facet of government. The government has two God-ordained roles in the Bible: punish evildoers and encourage righteousness (Romans 13:3). Although secular society often forgets both roles, Christians are apt to remember the first and forget the second. We see Josiah exercising this second role by encouraging the priests to fulfill their God-ordained duties. National revival is furthered when the government exercises its proper function of rewarding righteous behavior.
The next facet of Josiah’s keeping of Passover is the magnitude of the event. In 2nd Chronicles 35:7-9, we see the lengths that Josiah and his government went to ensure the Passover was a national event. “And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king’s substance. And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen. Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen.” The key takeaway from this passage is the sheer number of sacrifices provided to the people. Not just from Josiah, but also from the princes, government officials, and senior religious figures. These acts provide two key details about national revival. First, true revival is always accompanied by sacrifice. The number of animals for the Passover was not artificially limited. True revival is not tempered, it does not shirk back from sacrifice. No expense is too great. Second, these acts demonstrate that national revival requires leadership. In this case, the leadership was provided mostly by the righteous king at the head of government, with some support from the major religious figures. Revival starts slowly, in the hearts of a few redeemed men, before spreading like wildfire across a nation.
True revival results in genuine change and spectacular results. We are told that “And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (2nd Chronicles 35:18) Such was the extent of the revival that it resulted in the greatest Passover since the days of Samuel, over 400 years prior!
Results of Revival: the Legacy of Josiah
The life of Josiah shows us the influence a few good men can exercise in the fate of a nation. We often look at the rising tide of secularism and rightly conclude we are outnumbered by the ungodly. It can lead us to abandon hopes of a revival, and question if we should give into doubt, despair, and defeat. But, an examination of Josiah provides hope for the future. Josiah’s life demonstrates that God doesn’t need a great orator with the ability to sway the masses; there is no indication that Josiah possessed such ability. God doesn’t need authorities at every level of government; the majority of Josiah’s counselors during his youth were adherents of his pagan father Amon. God doesn’t need a large army to guarantee victory; Judah had just been defeated by the Assyrians during the reign of Manasseh, indicating their military might was severely lacking. No, God just needs a few good men who are willing to take a stand for true freedom, men willing to stand honorably for the truth and not turn to the left or right, men willing to face eternity and not compromise their convictions. So long as one such a man stands strong, there is always hope.
We are told of Josiah “all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.” The legacy of Josiah was a godly nation. Upon his death, we are told the entire nation mourned for the loss of their righteous king. “And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations.” Not only did the people mourn Josiah at his death, but the great prophet Jeremiah lamented the king’s death. Furthermore, the people mourned the death of Josiah years after his death, demonstrating his righteous character and just rule. The legacy of Josiah lasted years after his death, in the same vein as the legacy of his forefather David, which influenced a young Josiah to follow after the Lord.
Unfortunately, Josiah was the last good king of Israel. Even though Josiah had turned to God as a youth, his sons did not follow in his stead. They resumed idolatrous worship and fell into ruin. Less than twenty-five years after Josiah’s death, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and Judah was exiled from their home country. Even though Josiah had accomplished so much, the cultural rot accumulating from years of wickedness was impossible to correct in one lifetime. Just as the Lord has prophesized to Josiah, Judah would be judged for her sins. Yet, Josiah brought a brief respite from this judgment and gave Judah the opportunity to turn back to the Lord. Sadly, they forsook this merciful opportunity and ran towards the oncoming judgment. Would that they had continued the revival of Josiah, perhaps their judgment would have been less severe.
Stand Firm: The need for a modern Josiah
We have seen the incredible influence of one righteous man. Yes, Josiah was king and his position greatly multiplied his influence. But remember, someone must certainly have influenced Josiah to follow in the footsteps of David. Perhaps it was Josiah’s scribe, Shaphan, or maybe Josiah’s mother, Jedidah. Regardless of who, it is important to not overlook the importance of influencing the next generation. So long as one person refuses to bow the knee to Baal, there is always hope for revival.
The question is then, who will be the modern-day Josiah? Will it be you? Perhaps you are not in a position of influence. Maybe you do not think your actions matter. Certainly, not everyone can be a Josiah, but perhaps you can be a Shaphan? At the very least, do not be an Amon or a Manasseh in your sphere of influence. Fathers, do not rule your household like the idolatrous kings of Judah. Mothers, raise your children so they do not depart from their godly heritage. Perhaps you are a grandparent or someone without children. Even if you are not in a position of great authority, you never know who you can influence for Christ. David’s legacy reached down generations and hundreds of years to guide Josiah in a righteous direction. You never know how God will use you. One thing is certainly for sure, if you refuse to be used, you will never spark a revival in your country, community, family, or heart.
Revival is as crucial today as it was in the day of Josiah. The challenges facing our modern world are severe. Yet, we still have hope; the night is not as dark as the blackness facing Josiah. If we are to part the clouds and allow God’s light to shine through the darkness, we must follow the two steps and seven principles of revival practiced by Josiah. Step one is valuing our Godly heritage. To accomplish this step, we must follow two principles exercised by Josiah. First, we must ensure our children learn to value their heritage while they are young, as did the young king Josiah. The second and most important principle for revival is to never compromise our convictions. Like Josiah, we must never turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but live our entire lives devoted to the Lord.
Step two for true revival is to venerate Scripture. Only a society that holds God’s Law in high regard can experience revival. To accomplish this goal, we must understand the principles inculcated by such veneration. Venerating Scripture leads to salvation, both personally and nationally. Only trusting in Jesus to save us from sin leads to sound doctrine, the knowledge of which allows us to recognize and reprove sin. Once sin is properly slain, the sinner can be set upright and experience the fullness of a righteous life. The Bible is clear on the process, we see it repeatedly throughout Scripture. We must be willing to adopt these principles if we hope to experience similar revival in our own times. The future of our own nation sits in the balance. It is time for our own Josiah to take a stand.
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