Good morning! Welcome to worship! Did you know that coming to church this morning was a very courageous thing to do? Some places in the world you’d be arrested for that. That hasn’t happen in America yet, but one day it might. Never-the-less we’ve all faced ridicule for doing the right thing or more particularly our love for Jesus and attending church.
Jesus warned us that we would face persecution for following him. He also said some won’t be able to take the heat. They’ll give in. They’ll duck their heads and pretend to go along with the crowd. It takes a lot of courage to stand against the winds of secular culture
Today we look at the story of a courageous young king by the name of Josiah who took a stand. Let me set the stage. If you remember, Saul was the first king of Israel. The people rejected God as their king and wanted a human king like everybody else.
It was a bad mistake, but sometimes God allows us to have it our way. David followed Saul on the throne of Israel and David’s son Solomon followed him. Solomon prayed for wisdom to be a good king, a prayer that pleased God, but he didn’t use the wisdom God gave him.
He had over 1000 wives and concubines. What an idiot! Many brought their pagan gods and priests with them and Israel became overrun with pagan temples and worship.
When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king he messed things up so badly that the nation was split in half. The northern half was called Israel, the southern half, Judah. Over the next 200 years, Israel, the northern half was ruled by 20 kings, all of them bad. In 700 BC the Lord brought the Assyrian army and wiped out the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom. The few that survived became known as the Samaritans.
In the south, the tribe of Judah, where Jerusalem was located, lasted 150 years longer before the Babylonians took them off to captivity. They also had 20 kings, but 6 of these were good. It was the spiritual revivals brought about by 3 of these kings that enabled Judah to survive and each of these revivals began with the rediscovery of God’s Word.
The last of the six good kings of Judah was a boy named Josiah. He became king of Judah when he was 8 years old. Josiah’s father and grandfather were incredibly wicked. They even forced pagan worship into the temple in Jerusalem. Somehow young Josiah came to know the Lord, maybe it was through his mother or a nurse or a teacher.
2 Chronicles 34 tells us that when the young king was 16 years old, he began to seek the LORD and when he was 20, he began a campaign to purge Judah and Jerusalem of all the pagan altars, shrines, and temples. That was an incredibly courageous thing to do!
Can you imagine the political, financial, cultural pressure he must have faced! How about the threats on his life! Yet, he refused to back down. When he was 26, he began to repair the temple built by Solomon 300 years earlier. During those 300 years, the temple had fallen into neglect and been taken over by demonic worship and the occult.
Young King Josiah raised money and commissioned repair men to restore the temple. One day, in the process of removing construction rubble, the workmen found a scroll buried in the debris. It wasn’t just any book. It was the Bible - the first 5 books of the Bible plus the Psalms, Proverbs and probably some of the early prophets.
They dusted it off and brought it to the king. He gathered a few of his faithful priests together and they began to read it. As they did it became apparent how far their nation had drifted from the Lord. You know what it said.
“You shall have no other gods before me” The hills around Jerusalem were covered altars and shrines to pagan gods.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” God’s precious holy personal name, “Yahweh” that the Lord had given to Moses for his people to call on him in prayer, praise, thanksgiving, had become a swear word on the lips of many people.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” The people had abandoned worship, the public reading of Scripture and prayer in favor of serving themselves.
“Honor your father and mother” There was no honor of authority only selfish narcissism.
“You shall not kill” The people attempted to solve their problems by murdering their kings, their babies, each other, and anybody else that got in their way.
“You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, lie, covet” Rather than morality, the culture had sunk into chaos, depravity, decadence.
Every time God’s people have abandoned God’s Word in their attempt to be “free”, they get just the opposite. Rather than emancipation, they find themselves slaves of their own sinful nature. And that’s what had happened in Israel and its still happening today.
But by God’s grace, God refuses to abandon us. He raises up prophets, leaders, often from people we would least expect - like an 8 year old boy king named Josiah.
Josiah wasn’t a perfect. He was a human, but like King David before him, the desire of his heart was to serve the Lord. He made it his aim to do what God laid down in his Word.
So what can we learn from this boy King who lived so many years ago? Here’s the first thing.
1. When he heard the Word of God he responded with repentance and obedience.
He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t ignore it. He didn’t justify himself or his people. When the Holy Spirit convicted his heart, he didn’t cut and run. Here’s how the Bible puts it. “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan who read it … Then Shaphan read it to the king… When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes….” 2 Kings 22:8-11
But that’s not all. The Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us of our sin just so we’ll be sorry for what we did, the Holy Spirit convicts us so that we can repent, be forgiven and change!
2. He shared what he had learned with others.
“The king called together all the elders … He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the temple… He renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD. He promised to follow the LORD and keep His commands and decrees with all his heart and soul. 2 KINGS 23:1-3
This is critical. You really don’t know what you believe until you share it, say it, own it, do it whether anyone else follows you or not.
3. The people followed Josiah’s leadership. Verse 3.
“Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” 2 Kings 23:3
Brothers and sisters - this is a very convicting to me and to our congregation. Whining about the evil that surrounds us won’t change anything. What will change the world is when the world sees us living out what we say we believe. You can’t lead someone else where you refuse to go yourself. Jesus is saying to each of us personally, “You follow me!”
4. Josiah used the power God had given him to get rid of everything he could that was evil.
The place to begin is our own house. What do you have in your in your house or life that doesn’t belong there? Maybe it’s books or videos or habits. Are you willing to throw them out? Leave them behind? Ask the Lord to help you clean house, inside and out!
I’m sure Josiah made a lot of enemies when he began his purge of the nation. When slavery was being debated here in America, almost everybody agreed it was wrong. But they said, “We can’t get rid of slavery, the economy will collapse. We’ll lose the vote. It’s just not practical!”
Politicians say, “If I stand up against the cultural trends of the day, I won’t get re-elected and then what good can I do then.” It’s taken the Lord a life time to teach me to stand up like this boy king Josiah. Compromises with evil will never change the world. But faith, honesty, integrity, honesty, and courage will. That courage only comes one place through the Word of God active in our lives.
The rest of chapter 23 lists the cleansing done by this courageous young king. His epitaph is in vs 25. “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” 2 Kings 23:25
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that said about us when we die! What will your epitaph be? It wasn’t that Josiah wasn’t perfect. He was an authentic leader who inspired others to sacrifice as he sacrificed to do what was right and the Lord blessed his efforts.
Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.”
There will always be some who will hate you because you love the Lord and obey him. I would rather be hated for the right reasons than loved for the wrong reasons. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what is right. Read the Bible, pray, trust Jesus to guide you and God will use you to change the world.