By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Josiah was a king who reigned in Judah for thirty-one years. I know that sounds simple enough until you realize he began his reign when he was eight years old. I am not sure what it feels like to be the ruler of a kingdom at eight years old. I know when I was eight, that was the last thing on my mind. I was happy because we didn't get homework on the weekends. However, Josiah was in a much different position.
"Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. His mother's name was Jedidah, daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath." – 2 Kings 22:1
As we peak into his life, there are two questions to consider today. Who is Josiah in the Bible, and what can we learn from his life? It is great to learn about the characters in the Bible; however, the learning isn't complete unless you can take lessons from their experiences and apply them to your life. This is part of the reason God allows us to look at their lives in the first place. In the life of Josiah, some lessons allow us to know who he is and give us information on how we should live.
Who is Josiah?
Before we look deeper into who Josiah is, let's briefly consider the history of the kings of Israel and Judah. After David died, his son Solomon became the king of a united Israel. After Solomon's death, the kingdom was split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom was referred to as Israel and was comprised of ten tribes. The Southern Kingdom was referred to as Judah and was comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. What was most common in the succession of kings that followed David is the kings did not obey God as David did, and most of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord. This was true of many of the kings in Judah and all the kings of Israel. Not one king in Israel did right in God's sight from the time the kingdom was separated until their captivity. Judah's situation was slightly better, and Josiah was one of the kings of Judah who followed God with all his heart.
I want to share with you three lessons we can obtain from the life of Josiah. His story is told in two places in the Bible, primarily 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. When you read both accounts of his life, the details are similar but reading both gives you a complete perspective of his life.
Here are 3 lessons we can learn from Josiah in the Bible:
1. Josiah started right and finished right.
Here is the first thing the Bible tells us about Josiah and his character.
"He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David completely, not turning aside to the right or the left." – 2 Kings 22:2
I love the description we see here about Josiah's life. In this verse, a few phrases about Josiah give the foundation of who he is. As you consider them ask yourself if these things can be said of you. Here are those phrases.
- He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord
- He followed completely
- He did not turn aside to the left or right
If this was all the Bible told us about Josiah, that would be enough to chew on. What is so impressive about this young man was his dedication to following God with all his heart. He possessed this desire at eight years old, and though he lived to what we call a young age of thirty-nine, he never wavered. He didn't just start well; he finished well. Think of your own life for a moment as I am thinking of mine, and ask yourself this question. Are you on track to finish well? I know there is a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning of this journey with the Lord, but sometimes it can get stripped from us along the way. This happened to some of the other kings of Judah that started off following God but did not finish well. Josiah was not one of those. Let's make sure we are the type of Christians that will be faithful and endure to the end because this is what Josiah did.
2. Josiah's heart was tender to the Word of God.
One of the most famous stories that really point to the heart of who Josiah is in the Bible is his response when the book of the law was found and read to him. This happened when he was twenty-six years old, and here is how he responded.
"When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes." – 2 Kings 22:11
In case you are newer to the Bible, whenever someone tore their robes, that was an expression of deep sorrow. It could be mourning the loss of someone or something or mourning over sin like in Josiah's case. What a tremendous and proper response Josiah had when confronted with the truth of God's Word. It made him aware of how far off the mark he and the nation of Judah were. His response wasn't to justify or attempt to clarify; his response was to rectify. He did this by repenting. Think about your reaction when confronted with any thought, opinion, belief, or action that is contrary to what God requires in his Word? Is your reaction similar to Josiah's? I fear the church is moving in a direction where instead of being people who mourn, weep, or repent over sin, too many believers are far more comfortable trying to find an excuse or reason to stay in it. This was not Josiah's heart. Reading his story challenges my attitudes about the place I hold God's Word in my own heart. I hope it challenges you to consider the same. May we all get to the place where God's Word is the standard we live by, and we line up every aspect of our life underneath it. This is the type of person Josiah was.
3. Josiah's repentance led to reform.
I love Josiah in the Bible because his repentance led him to change his behavior. It is important to note that Josiah was already doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord because this is what the Bible tells us. Yet when confronted with God's Word, he recognized there was more need for change, leading him to repent. His repentance led him to change his ways and the nation's practices. Here are some of the things he did because of his repentance.
- He renewed the covenant by pledging to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees and led the people in doing the same
- He removed all the articles of worship to Baal, Asherah, and any other god that was in the temple and had them burned
- He removed the idolatrous priests and burned the Asherah pole
- He tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes who lived inside the Temple of the Lord
You can read the rest of what he did in 2 Kings or 2 Chronicles, but I think you get the picture. The bottom line is his repentance was not lip service. It was life service. His repentance led to a noticeable change in his life. This leads me to ask, how often do we give God lip service instead of life service? If we are going to be people of repentance, it will require tearing down some idols we have let take up residence in the temple of God in our hearts. These idols can come in all shapes and sizes, just like in Josiah's day. Let it be that whatever idol God reveals, you would repent and burn them all down.
Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
As I think about who Josiah is, there is so much more that can be said. However, I want you to leave with this thought. Josiah is proof you can remain faithful to God throughout your life, and it does not matter what is going on around you. It would be easy to think Josiah's faithfulness was because he saw it in his father, Amon. Unfortunately, his father wasn't faithful to God, and neither was his grandfather. Yet these things did not deter Josiah. This gives me hope that your circumstances and life situations don't define you; your choices do. Despite what has happened in your life, you can choose to be the same kind of person Josiah was. It does not matter who came before you or who will come after you; the decision to follow God with all your heart and be committed to him is one you make alone. Even if none go with you and you are the only one. Outside of these chapters, the Bible doesn't tell us much more about Josiah and what he accomplished during his thirty-one years as king. Perhaps the most remarkable thing he did in his life is represented by the first thing the Bible said about him. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of his life. This is who Josiah was, and let it be that we are that way, too.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/anthonyjhall
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.