Upon Amon’s death, “his son Josiah became the next king” (II Kings 21:25b, NLT). He also became a breath of fresh air to all of Judah.
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king. During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David” (II Chronicles 34:1a, 3).
A teenager. A celebrity. A powerful ruler. And surely one of the wealthiest people in all Judah. And yet there was an emptiness within Josiah that wealth and fame and power and idolatry couldn’t fill. So “Josiah began to seek… God.”
As Josiah sought the Lord, he saw the awful reality of the pagan land Judah had become. So, “in the twelfth year he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images. He ordered that the altars of Baal be demolished and that the incense altars which stood above them be broken down. He also made sure that the Asherah poles, the carved idols, and the cast images were smashed and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the pagan priests on their own altars, and so he purified Judah and Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 34:3b-5).
And Josiah was only getting started. “He did the same thing in the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, and in the regions all around them. He destroyed the pagan altars and the Asherah poles, and he crushed the idols into dust. He cut down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Finally, he returned to Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 34:6-7).
A little refresher here: After Solomon’s death, Israel split into two nations – Israel and Judah. Solomon’s son Rehoboam, who could have ruled an undivided nation, ended up ruling only the Southern Kingdom of Judah, consisting mainly of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam (not of Solomon’s lineage) took over as the first of many disconnected rulers over the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Meanwhile, Judah’s rulers continued to come from the lineage of David.
Josiah was so fervent in his passion to destroy idolatry that he even went north into “the land of Israel” which had been conquered by the Assyrians years earlier when Hoshea was king of Israel and Josiah’s great-great-grandfather Ahaz was king of Judah. As was the practice of conquering armies, the majority of the people of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken into captivity and deported into various parts of the Assyrian Empire while other people groups had been brought in to settle in the ten tribes’ former territory.
The resulting mishmash of people became known as the Samaritans (or Samarians) – part Jews and part Gentiles (other people groups). Remember, Samaria was the capital city of Israel while Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah. Eventually “Samaria” referred to the entire Northern Kingdom.
Now back to Josiah. “In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple, Josiah appointed Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of Jerusalem, and Joah son of Joahaz, the royal historian, to repair the Temple of the Lord his God” (II Chronicles 34:8).
Having gotten rid of the pagan idols, Josiah now turned his attention to repairing the Temple of the God he now claimed as his own. But note what he did even before he began the repairs: “he had purified the land and the Temple.” Josiah understood that the inside had to be clean before he started worrying about the outside.
The arrogant Pharisees had all the outward trappings of religion; but inside there was no humility or repentance. No wonder Jesus said of them: “Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).
Don’t go through the motions of being a Christian. Be more concerned about your inward appearance than your outside – God sees one just as clearly as He sees the other.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates