Josiah led in major reforms to turn the people of Judah back to the Lord. Then thirteen years after the big Passover celebration that had taken place during his eighteenth year as ruler, he decided to stick his nose and his army where they didn’t belong: “King Neco of Egypt led his army up from Egypt to do battle at Carchemish on the Euphrates River… Josiah and his army marched out to fight him” (II Chronicles 35:20b).
There was only one reason for Josiah to get involved in this battle: he knew that Egypt was supporting the Assyrians against the Babylonians and that one of these two world powers was going to come out on top. Pitting his army against the Egyptian forces meant Josiah was siding with the Babylonians. Why? Should the Babylonians end up the winners, Judah would have scored points with a very powerful ally.
I can’t help but wonder if Josiah was having a midlife crisis. He’d become king at only eight years of age. Now here he was barely 39 years old and he’d already accomplished more than many men before him had managed in a lifetime. Maybe he got the urge to spice up his good and peaceful life with a little battlefield experience – who knows? Whatever the reason, he led his troops out to fight the Egyptians.
And what did Neco do? He sent Josiah a message: “What do you want with me, king of Judah? I have no quarrel with you today! I am on my way to fight another nation, and God has told me to hurry! Do not interfere with God, who is with me, or He will destroy you” (II Chronicles 35:21b, NLT).
Granted, it was odd for a pagan leader to claim he was on a mission from God. But Neco was certainly not the first pagan the Lord used to get another nation’s attention. In Habakkuk 1:12b, we read: “O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins.” God, being God, can use whom He chooses when and wherever He chooses to do whatever He chooses.
“But Josiah refused to listen to Neco, to whom God had indeed spoken, and he would not turn back” (II Chronicles 35:22a).
Why didn’t Josiah know that the Lord had spoken through Neco? Because he never asked Him. Nowhere do we read that Josiah consulted the Lord before ordering his troops to war.
Rather than heed Neco’s warning, Josiah “disguised himself and led his army into battle on the plain of Megiddo. But the enemy archers hit King Josiah with their arrows and wounded him. He cried out to his men, ‘Take me from the battle, for I am badly wounded!’” (II Chronicles 35:22b-23).
“So they lifted Josiah out of his chariot and placed him in another chariot. Then they brought him back to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried there in the royal cemetery. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him” (II Chronicles 35:24). Josiah, arguably the best king Judah ever had, cut his life short by failing to consult the Lord before launching into battle.
And why did Josiah want to fight in the first place? To score points with the Babylonians. He already had the most powerful Being in all creation on his side. He needed nothing else. He needed no one else. God was more than enough for Josiah and He’s more than enough for you, too.
“When hindrances confront us in the path of duty, we are to recognize them as vessels for faith to fill with the fullness and all-sufficiency of Jesus.” (A. B. Simpson)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates