by Mike Ratliff
But 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 you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:18-20)
Without a doubt, my favorite King in the Bible is Josiah. His father, Amon, was a bad king. His grandfather, Manasseh, was the worst king Judah ever had. However, his great-grandfather was Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a good king in that he remained faithful to the Lord throughout his reign. He took away the high places of idolatrous worship throughout his kingdom. He did away with Baal worship and idolatry where he found it. It has always amazed me how a good king like Hezekiah could have a total pagan for a son like Manasseh. That does not say much for Hezekiah’s parenting skills.
During Manasseh’s reign of 55 years, he reversed all the reforms his father had implemented. He sought every false god he could. He desecrated the temple with idols and false worship. He instituted child sacrifice to these false gods. The Bible says he filled the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood. He even sacrificed his own sons to these idols. The Assyrians captured and imprisoned him. While there he repented and God allowed him to come home where he died.
His son Amon became king in his place. He was just as wicked. However, he reigned only two years. His servants assassinated him. Then Josiah his son became king. When I read this part of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles it is like a breath of fresh air. While reading about that wicked father and son duo of Manasseh and Amon, I find myself getting discouraged and angry. Then Amon is killed and there is Josiah.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. (2 Kings 22:1-2)
Here is this boy king, only eight years old, who walked in the way of King David. He did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. How could a child like that be this breath of fresh air and totally opposite from his father and grandfather? We aren’t told, but someone raised this child to fear God. I suspect it was his mother. Her name is Jedidiah. She was the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. This woman was married to king Amon. We have no proof of anything in this area, but with her and her father’s names mentioned like this it appears this family may have influenced Josiah more than his father’s.
Josiah was the last good king in the Davidic line. He reigned from 640-609 B.C. Even at an early age of 16, he began to seek God.
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34:3-7)
Look at the progression. He was 8 years old when he became king. Eight years later, he begins to follow hard after God. Four years later, he is purging the land of uncleanness. Am I the only one who sees how this parallels the progression God takes us through as He cleans us up and draws us to grow in grace? God draws us to Him. Josiah began to seek God because God drew him to do so. It took four years for Him to start the cleansing of the land. He was still young. He would have been 20 years old by this time. What had he cleansed so far? Idolatry was removed. Don’t we have to start our restoration to God by going hard after Him? When we do that, doesn’t He take us through the idol destruction phase next? The problem is we think we’re done at this point. Well, we aren’t and neither is God.
After Josiah had cleansed the land, what did he do? He returned to Jerusalem. We don’t know how long this cleansing phase was. The next event we have in his life takes place six years later. It could have taken all six years to do away with the filth and purge society of the evil that had existed for decades. When Josiah was 26 years old in the eighteenth year of his reign, he called the priesthood to cleanse and repair the temple.
In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people. And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.” (2 Kings 22:3-7)
The apostasy of Manasseh and Amon had brought destruction and uncleanness to the temple. In our spiritual journey, do we have a parallel in our hearts? Yes! Those in Christ aren’t necessarily living for His glory, are they? If they aren’t, whose glory are they living for? They are living for their own glory. I know that statement may have stepped on a few toes, but it’s true. If we are not living for the glory of our savior, we are living for our own glory. What happens to our hearts when we do that? They harden don’t they? Our hearts become hard and we become full of unbelief. With that happening, all sorts of apostasy can creep in. We may not even be aware of it. However, when we do this we are simply bowing to and serving an idol in our hearts dedicated to our own glory.
When we become Spirit-led, by the grace of God, it is the culmination of a renovation project in our hearts very similar to the one Josiah had set about doing to Judah. After the cleansing of the land, he goes after the temple. In the Christian life, the temple relates to our Souls and our bodies. Our Spirits are already purged and cleansed at salvation. However, our Souls are a mess and our bodies are vessels of lust. At salvation, the Holy Spirit starts the sanctification process of our Souls right away. He will work full time to bring our Souls into submission and denial. Our hearts must become Spirit-led with our Spirit’s in predominance over our Souls resulting in our bodies no longer existing as vessels of lust. Instead, God transforms them into temples of the Holy Spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
For our bodies to be truly the temple of the Holy Spirit where there is no defilement or uncleanness, then we must present them to our Lord as living sacrifices.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
What this sacrifice does is dedicate ourselves to be holy, pure and clean before our Lord. Josiah wanted the temple in Jerusalem to be holy, pure and clean before the Lord. He had money collected and set the people to work to renovate it. We are to do the same thing with our hearts.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
For our bodies to be the holy and cleansed temple of the Holy Spirit, we must become separate from the world and matured by the renovation of our minds. This is the will of God. The change is the metamorphosis process that matures us unto Christ-likeness. What does it? The renewing of our minds is the catalyst. This means a total renovation by fasting from the things of this world as we feast on God. Josiah did the very same thing to the temple. He took out of it all the filth and worldly contamination and renovated it into a holy place that would glorify the Lord.
As Josiah’s workers rebuilt the temple, they found something wonderful. During the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, the Book of the Law had been lost. However, concurrent with the restoration of the temple, they find the Law.
While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the LORD and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. (2 Chronicles 34:14-18)
We are very fortunate to have Bibles within easy reach. However, that was not always the case. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have no access to the Word of God. I have well over a dozen Bibles in all forms. I have physical Bibles, online Bibles, and Bible software. I am very blessed. However, these Judeans did not even know the Book of the Law existed except in their traditions and legends. As you read the next passage, pay close attention to Josiah’s reaction when the scribe reads the Law of God in his presence.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and 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 fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” (2 Kings 22:11-13)
Josiah’s reaction after hearing the truth from God should be a model for us. Oh, I’m not talking about tearing your clothes. However, that symbolized something we do need to take to heart. When ancient Jews tore their clothes, it was supposed to be sign of brokenness before the Lord. It symbolized a broken heart because of a perceived affront to the holiness of God. When Josiah tore His clothes when He heard the Law being read before Him by Shaphan, his heart really did break. He humbled himself before His Lord with a broken and penitent heart.
Josiah had a tender heart. His heart was not hard. It was not full of unbelief. He knew His Lord, listened to Him and responded in brokenness to His rebuke. We must do the same. Will God cast away those who respond this way?
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
God will not cast away those who humble themselves before Him. He will stiff-arm those who do not. Josiah’s response was the outer manifestations of his inner tender heart. When God reveals Himself to us, we must respond in like manner. The Lord will do wonderful things in our hearts when we willingly become broken in His presence. He will make our tender hearts even more tender. He will smash and pulverize the hardness there as he reshapes our hearts according to His will. When He does this, we must respond by pursuing holiness and purity even more. We must seek a pure and clear conscience with God’s values fully apparent to our hearts.
The men Josiah sent to inquire of God found a prophetess named Huldah. She told them God’s truth.
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the LORD, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke 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 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 you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:14-20 Emphasis Mine)
God never changes. His response to Josiah was the truth. He said He was going to bring destruction on them, but He also showed mercy. Why was He going to bring destruction? They had broken the Mosaic Covenant. They had forsaken God. They had burned incense to other gods. This is false worship. This is idolatry. Do we do the same thing? I have taken the last few days off from writing because I was busy and did not finish in time each evening so I could write. However, I did have an hour or so each evening to watch TV. I don’t do that very often, and am very selective of what I watch. However, I was amazed how every show and commercial was set up to appeal to our bent towards self-gratification. It would be so easy to give in to these fleshly pursuits as I used to. However, I discovered my heart attempting to turn toward that nonsense. My conscience warned me each time. I knew God was speaking to me as well.
When we pursue self-gratification, we are guilty of idolatry. We are allowing devotion to something to come between God and us. We are also worshipping our idolatry of the heart. Yes, we are just as guilty of the mass idolatry as the ancient Judeans. Our idols may not be the same as theirs; however, we do worship them. We are guilty. We must repent as Josiah did. We must turn our hearts to our Lord and in all humility seek His forgiveness and cleansing. He is calling for us to surrender for He is a very gracious and loving God.
When Josiah received God’s response to his prayer, he did a wonderful thing. His tender heart broke before His Lord and he responded in complete repentance.
Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him. And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. (2 Kings 23:1-3)
This should be our response to every act of grace God grants us. When He takes us through repentance, we should respond in complete covenant renewal. When God uses us in an edifying way that glorifies Him, we should renew the covenant. We should be seriously pursing full-alignment with the blood covenant we have partaken of with our Lord Jesus Christ. Those in Christ have signed on to a blood covenant that Jesus’ death instituted. We partake of this covenant when we die to self and live for His glory. This Spirit-led walk is all about this. It isn’t about doing church. It isn’t about being religious. It’s about being exactly what God wants us to be in every area of our lives. Of course, He gives us the grace to do it all.
Don’t think for a minute Josiah did all of this by his own strength and ability. God was filling him with grace the whole time. We are obedient by His grace and for His glory. The following passage is quite long. Read it carefully and joyously. As you see each act of Josiah to cleanse the temple and the land think of each act of obedience on your part God has taken you through as you have grown in Grace. This passage could easily be titled, Josiah restores true worship. In essence, all of the tenderizing God does in our hearts does this very thing in us. We must become the cleansed and pure tenderhearted believers God wants us to be as we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the gate of the city. However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brothers. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And he broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. And he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem. And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem. Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. (2 Kings 23:4-25)
Amen, Amen, Amen he cleansed the temple and the land. When God tenderizes our hearts, He does this very thing there. He removes all the false worship and directs us to worship Him correctly. We must mortify all of the fleshly things in our hearts. We must not show mercy to any of it.
The tender heart is the heart that hears God and breaks. It responds in broken, yet bold obedience. In return, God grants repentance. This heart is growing in Christ. It is growing in grace. It is becoming Christ-like. False worship is recognized and put to death. This heart is directed towards God continuously. This heart prays continually and walks before the Lord blameless and completely for His glory. Idolatry of the heart is being torn down and its priests are running for their lives.
How do we get this tender heart? We must surrender to our Lord. We must submit completely to His Lordship. We must die to self and live for His glory. When we do this, He will reshape our heart as we fall before Him in complete brokenness. The Mature Christian is tenderhearted. The Adult-Christian is becoming tenderhearted. Why is the tender heart so important? This heart hears God and responds in obedience.
Oh my Lord God! I fall before You Lord. I humbly seek Your face. You are the living God. Worship of anything else is nothing but idolatry. Oh Lord, shatter our hearts. Mold them into the shape you desire. We surrender to You completely. We hold nothing back. Take our broken hearts and do Your will with them. All for Your GloryAmen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.