King Josiah – an old head on young shoulders
2 Kings 22
(New Revised Standard Version)
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, ‘Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people; let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no account shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.’
The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.’ When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, ‘Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord.’ Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.’ Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.
When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah, saying, ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.’ So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her.
She declared to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place.’ They took the message back to the king.
Josiah is a fascinating character whichever way you look at him!
He was thrust into the high responsibility of kingship at the tender age of eight as a result of the assassination of his father, Amon. Stepping into the shaky footsteps of his father and his grandfather, both of whom the Bible informs us did evil in the eyes of the Lord, Josiah runs against that grain!
That detail begs a question, doesn’t it? Against the in-your-face detestable practices he must have witnessed as a young child, where did the ‘Godly’ influences come from?
A strong clue to this comes from the name of his mother, Jedidah. A literal meaning of her name means ‘beloved of God’. If we were to put that into modern speak we would say ‘God’s darling’.
Josiah had a sorrowful childhood having been introduced to violence, outrage and civil war under the reign of his evil father. But no doubt he learned valuable life lessons from his mother; lessons that included the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects of his existence.
‘God’s darling’ sought to train her son as God’s darling as well, and even at the early age of eight her labour of love was displaying sweet rewards. To those of us who sometimes lapse into thinking our young people are the church of tomorrow, instead of valuable and effective members of the church of today, then Josiah’s story provides us with some salient points!
However, Jedidah wasn’t on her own there were other Godly and goodly influences around Josiah.
His scribe, Shaphan, was head of one of the most influential families, whose sons were staunch supporters of the prophet Jeremiah. In fact, one of them, Ahikam, used his influence to save Jeremiah from death.
Hikiah, the high priest, was to become the great grand-father of Ezra.
2 Kings 22 is a very condensed account of Josiah’s achievements and his striving to bring his people back into a right relationship with God which, with the exception of his predecessor Hezekiah, had largely flown out-of-the-window since King David.
2 Chronicles 34-35 is a much more orderly and detailed history of Josiah’s reign. In 2 Kings, he just seems to spark into life eighteen years into his reign, but Chronicles provides us with three distinct stages of his reformations.
Aged just sixteen, which was eight years into his reign, he took an earnest interest into trying to know the God who King David had such a close relationship with.
Four years after that he purged his kingdom of all the altars and shrines dedicated to Asherah and Baal. And then in the eighteenth year of his reign he concentrated on repairing the Temple.
By the age of twenty-six Josiah had done an awful lot to reverse the ills of his nation!
What kind of king is Josiah? To me, he will always remind me of the king of fish – the Salmon!
Like a silver missile breaking through the surface of the waters which rage in the opposite direction, the salmon leap and dart upstream. Oblivious to the swirling opposition, the shining salmon swim against the stream.
Josiah’s message to us is that whilst the current of society’s river is flowing fast and furious, pulling downward everything in its way, it would be easy to simply yield to the flow. But God calls us to swim against the flow. It may not be easy but it will be right!
God of mystery and majesty,
free us from all that constrains imagination
and limits our dreams.
By Your Spirit,
illuminate our minds
and expand our vision
for a better world
and a safe future for all people.