|2 Kings 22 - 23|
Over the course of my adult life I would say that I have read the Bible from beginning to end about 8 to 10 times. I have to admit I'm a big Old Testament fan. I have always been a big history fan and that is probably what lights my fire from the Old Testament. I just love reading the stories of the kings and the prophets. The stories are new and relevant every time I read them.
Israel was the chosen people of God but at some point in their growth Israel demanded a king. Kings came and kings went throughout their history. We read that some followed God, some followed him partially leaving remnants of the false gods, and some were downright evil and seduced the people to do "more evil than the nations whom the Lord had removed."
The reality was that though they were God's people they followed him by word of mouth or the dictates of the culture, not by the written word that was given to them by Moses. This evil, and particularly the shedding of innocent blood, had caused God to declare to King Hezekiah that all of Israel would be taken into captivity. Hezekiah tore his clothes and begged God for a reprieve. The Lord granted him mercy, extended his life for 15 years but still left in place the punishment of captivity for Israel after Hezekiah's death. Hezekiah's reaction is telling of his true heart. "The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good! Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?" Hezekiah was concerned for Hezekiah, not for the nation.
Hezekiah died and Israel's kings went back to doing evil in the sight of the Lord. That is, until Josiah.
Josiah "did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." While repairing the temple, The Book was found. Josiah had a true change of heart and recognized that the nation was at risk of God's wrath. He sought the prophet as to what the nation should do. Josiah received basically the same message his great grandfather Hezekiah had received, peace for you, wrath for the generations to follow. What follows is the test of true repentance. That wasn't good enough for Josiah. He wanted to save the nation. He brought the people together and in all their hearing he read the Book of the Covenant. All the people took a stand and committed themselves to the Covenant.
Josiah and the people of Judah cleaned out Jerusalem. They removed all of the evil, tore down the high places, they did what was right in the site of the Lord. Josiah even restored the passover which had not been held since the days of the judges. Concerning Josiah the Bible says, "Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him."
As I was reading I found myself reading faster, anxious to get to the part where the Lord would recognize this true act of worship and remove his wrath. And then I read 2 Kings 23:26, "Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah...."
I couldn't believe it. I had read it numerous times before but reading it now I was stunned! God had had enough! There was no stopping His wrath. Judah would join Israel in captivity!
Of course I saw the parallel to our nation today. We have turned our back on God. Many still call this a Christian nation, but in reality are we not just following God by word of mouth and dictates of the culture and not by his Covenant Book?
America needs a Josiah! A leader that will honor God and honor His written Word. Is it to late? Will that stop the wrath of God over our nation. Honestly, I don't know. I do know that if we continue down the road of more evil, more shedding of innocent blood and a down right disrespect for God there can be no reprieve.
I also know that if individually we each become the Josiah in our own homes we will have peace and the vehicle for healing in our nation.