What a Difference You Can Make!
The prophet Jeremiah began to declare God's approaching judgment on Judah in the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign when the king was just 21 years old. Not anxious to speak words of doom and judgment to the people chosen by God, Jeremiah was told by God that He would protect His prophet no matter what. Jeremiah was faithful to God and told the people exactly what God told him to say.
A look back at Judah's history explains why Jeremiah had to prophecy as he did. Judah was the product of a national split after Solomon had ruled Israel as king and then died. His son Jeroboam went into idolatry, taking ten of the twelve tribes in Israel with him. Jeroboam set up two golden calves for the Hebrews to worship rather than their returning annually to Jerusalem as they used to do.
While the people maintained a semblance of God-worship, their hearts turned to idols like their neighbors who surrounded them. Although God sent calamity after calamity to warn the people to repent and turn back to Him, they did not 'hear' Him and continued their adulterous practices of idol worship until they went into captivity to Assyria.
However, God had other plans for Judah. Only she remained under the dominion of kings who were of the Davidic bloodline. As the kings came and went, some were better than others. Finally, Manasseh rose to the throne with a record of idolatry and evil practices that topped all his predecessors. For that great apostasy, God pronounced judgment on Judah, and it was Jeremiah's duty to declare it to the people.
When Manasseh died, his son Amon rose to power, but ruled just two years. Evil like his father, he warranted God's wrath. His own servants hated his wantonness and murdered him at age 26. Then all the conspirators against Amon were killed by his loyalists, and Josiah, his son, was crowned king when he was just eight years old. Only a boy.
At age 16 in the eighth year of his reign, Josiah began a four-year quest to find and know God for himself. Scripture does not tell us what prompted his search, but he followed his heart, just as David had done in his youth. II Chronicles 34 says that Josiah
"did right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left."
What a testimonial for a teen moving into adulthood!
Four years later at age 20 Josiah began purging Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry. Josiah took the Asherim and the carved and molten images, broke them in pieces and ground them to powder that he scattered on the graves of those who had sacrificed to the idols. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem of their idolatry.
Moving beyond Jerusalem, he went to the former northern kingdom cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon and Naphtali. After demolishing all sites of idolatry, he returned to Jerusalem. His complete purging demonstrated to the people that idols were mere objects made by human hands, and were completely destructible. What a glorification of God that was!
After the purge of the land AND the house at age 26, Josiah sent messengers to repair the house of the LORD his God. It stood neglected in Jerusalem, filled with rubbish and forsaken. When the king's emissaries arrived at the Temple, they announced their mission. Amid all the rubble, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.
The men brought the book to Josiah and read from it to the king. When Josiah heard God's words, he tore his clothes and commanded, "Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book."
Josiah recognized the breach in faithfulness to God because he heard the Word of God and knew they were in big trouble! So, he determined to rid the nation of all that opposed God and His worship, and he succeeded.
The order or progression of Josiah's actions is important here:
- First, he sought God for himself.
- Then he purged the land of idols and all forms of that worship.
- Third, he sought to repair God's Temple.
- Finally, they found the true word of God and he listened to and believed it.
Josiah first sought to know God for himself.
Then he repented from all the things he had put first in his life rather than putting God on the throne of his heart.
Third, he cleaned up his own heart, for God says we are His temple (I Corinthians 3:16).Foremost, he hid the Word of God in his heart, so he might not sin against God, but could live a holy life (Psalm 119:11).
Huldah, the priestess in the Temple, said to the messenger of Josiah,
"The land is poised for judgment. There's no fleeing it. However, the king who sent you will be spared what is coming and shall not see it happen during his lifetime because his own heart was tender toward God and he humbled himself before Him."
In so many words, as long as Josiah lived, the land and people would not see God's judgment poured out on them---because of Josiah's reverence for and obedience to God and His word.
Then Josiah assembled all the people and read the Book in their hearing. He covenanted before God to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments with all his heart and soul to perform the words of the Covenant in the Book. He also made the people take that stand with him, so that during the reign of Josiah the people did not serve idols, but only the LORD God of their fathers.
Finally, Josiah celebrated the Passover like they had not done since the days of Samuel the prophet. The people observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as well. In other words, the land of Judah observed God's feast days again. as they should have been celebrated according to the nation's covenant with God made years and years before.
It was sometime during the next year that Jeremiah declared the coming judgment on Judah for her past wickedness and idolatry. But Josiah's faithfulness to God postponed that prophecy's fulfillment during his lifetime. What a lesson for us to learn well: repentance and turning back to God by His Church can postpone the judgment of God on America if only she will listen and obey!
Friend, our life does count for more than we realize. So does our prayer life, our search for God, our obedience and faithfulness to Him and His word. A National Day of Prayer and Repentance, The Return, was convened on September 26 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was a call for all believers from all denominations to unite in prayer and repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14:
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Because The Return has been shouldn't mean that it is over ! You and I must continue to make the difference in our world and seek God's mercy from impending judgment. We must seek God's face in repentance for the idolatry in our own lives and our nation that relegates Him to less than first place! We must be the Josiahs of our present age! Join us!