Realising God allowed the Assyrian captivity of the ten tribes of Israel because of their idolatry and disobedience, Josiah introduced a religious reformation that purged not only Judah and Jerusalem of their idols, but much of the territory of the former kingdom of Israel.
Less than a century after the ten northern Israelite tribes were taken into captivity as a result of their sins, God warned the southern kingdom of Judah, they had barely escaped the same fate because of similar transgressions (Jeremiah 3:6-11).
It was at this time of spiritual decline that a new ruler came to power in Judah. Josiah was only 8 years old when he ascended the throne. Although his father, Amon, had been an idolater Josiah “...did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David…” (2 Chronicles 34:2). In the eighth year of his reign, when he was only sixteen years old he turned to God, and just four years later at the age of just 20 he destroyed the idols and altars to Baal throughout his kingdom (2 Chronicles 34:3-7).
Josiah then concentrated on restoring the worship of the true God and began to repair the temple of God in Jerusalem, which had been allowed to fall into disrepair. During the rebuilding process, Hilkiah the priest found a scroll of the law of God (verse 14). When the scroll was read to Josiah, God opened his eyes to the sins of his countrymen and their fate if they did not repent (verses 19-21).
Huldah the prophetess confirmed the curses that would come on a nation that rejected God (verses 24-25), but also delivered a special message from God to King Josiah: “Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself... I also have heard you,... 'Surely I will gather you to your fathers… in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants'" (2 Chronicles 34:27-28).
Josiah went on to restore the festivals of God and the priests to their proper duties in the temple. These reforms and a detailed description of the observance of the first Passover after the changes he instituted are described in 2 Chronicles 35.
Then Pharaoh Necho of Egypt led his army north, up the coast of Palestine, to join forces with the weakened Assyrian kingdom against the rising power of Babylon. This was a confrontation in which the Babylonians would slaughter the Egyptians at Carchemish and gain control of the Assyrian Empire, dramatically shifting the balance of power in the region.
Josiah decided to try to block pharaoh's advance, although God may have warned him via a message from Pharaoh Necho not to interfere (2 Chronicles 35:21). Josiah appears to have relied on his own reasoning rather than seeking God’s will, as there is no record of him praying to God about this, as he had done earlier in his reign when he consulted Huldah, the prophetess.
Josiah died as a result of the wounds he received during this conflict and, as prophesied, his death at just 39 years of age, spared him from witnessing the Babylonian destruction of Judah, as a consequence of Judah once again rejecting God’s ways.
Josiah’s life contains lessons for us today. He should have consulted God before taking his army to attack the Egyptians, rather than relying on his own judgment and placing confidence in his own achievements. Success can cause a person to grow too self-dependent and confident.
We also live in precarious times and are exhorted to set the right example in our lives, as well as participating in warning others to turn from their unrighteous and hypocritical ways (Isaiah 58:1-4). Christians need to prioritise becoming spiritually prepared for the dangerous times prophesied to come at the end of this age (Luke 21:34-36).
The Good News Magazine