THE REFORMS OF KING JOSIAH
The finest king that ruled over the Southern Kingdom of Judah was Josiah. Josiah was still a lad when he began his rule at the tender age of eight, and he reigned in Judah for thirty-one years (2 Chronicles 34:1).
Here are some dated, notable occasions in Josiah’s reign, which began in about 640 B.C:
– 8th year of his reign – “he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:3);
– 12th year of his reign – “he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem . . .” (2 Chronicles 34:3);
– 13th year of his reign – Jeremiah started his work as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:2);
– 18th year of his reign – he gave the order to repair the temple; in the process, the book of the Law of the Lord was found, and Judah kept a great Passover (2 Chronicles 34:8; 35:19).
What observations can we make about the reforms which Josiah initiated? First of all, Josiah did not borrow the idea for his reforms from his father, Amon. Amon was evil and, in fact, did his best to undo some of the positive steps which his own father had taken to bring Judah back to God (2 Chronicles 33:21-23). So, in Josiah’s case, rather than him taking over and continuing the good works of his father, he basically had to start from scratch on his own; not an easy thing to do, especially for one who started his reform movement when he was only twenty years old. To Josiah’s credit, he did not allow his father’s poor choices to hinder him from doing what was right.
As we noted, Josiah began his reforms at an early stage of his reign. And, the changes that he carried out were not minor ones. In general terms, the king “cleansed Judah and Jerusalem” and “purged the land and the temple” (2 Chronicles 34:5,8). Specifically, that included tearing down altars and destroying all idols. No doubt, such action would not make everyone happy. The reality is, righteous reforms that involve repentance rarely meet with the approval of one hundred percent of the people. Still, the reforms must begin, and they must continue as long as they are necessary. You may recall that the Lord’s prophet foretold of Josiah’s godly reforms centuries before he was even born (1 Kings 13:1,2).
Josiah’s reforms came forth from his good heart. Jehovah Himself gave this appraisal of Josiah: “. . . your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God . . .” (2 Chronicles 34:27). When the leaders of God’s people have a tender and humble spirit, great things can happen!
When Josiah carried out his reforms and made a covenant before the Lord to keep His commandments (2 Chronicles 34:31), he was not trying to impress people. He was not trying to be a man-pleasing, popular politician who only wanted to protect his job. He simply wanted to do his part in helping God’s people serve Him in the right way.
Josiah’s reforms involved Judah’s worship, including temple activities and feasts. Have you ever noticed that people often do not respond receptively when they are informed that there is something about their worship that is not appropriate? I suppose it is human nature for us to dislike change. We are comfortable doing what we do, and we are satisfied with the way we have always done things. We are happy, thank you, with things just like they are now. Why should we change? Reforms, even necessary ones, often meet with resistance. Let us be reminded, though, that it is always a healthy thing to evaluate ourselves. In the days of Malachi, some of God’s people complained that worshipping Him made them weary (Malachi 1:12,13). Could we be guilty of the same? Some in Jesus’ day drew near to God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Mark 7:6)? Could that happen to us? Some offer vain worship because of their devotion to human commands (Mark 7:7-9). Do we do that?
Making proper reforms requires courage. Josiah had it. Do you and I? Sometimes we need to make reforms in our own personal lives. This is why we “examine” and “test” ourselves, doing an honest evaluation of our spiritual status, right? (2 Corinthians 13:5). There are some families that need to make major reforms – reforms in their attitude toward material things, reforms in their choice of clothes to wear in public, and reforms in their attendance habits. At the same time, some congregations need to make sweeping reforms, too – all with the intention of doing things in such a way that the Lord is pleased.
To be honest, Josiah’s reforms apparently did not make a deep, lasting impression on the people of God. Why do we make such a conclusion? While Josiah’s reform movement is noted in 2 Kings 22,23 and 2 Chronicles 34,35, two great prophets who prophesied during the time of his reign, Zephaniah and Jeremiah, wrote extensively about the corruption of Judah without saying one single thing about Josiah’s reforms. To be effective, reforms must reach people’s hearts.
Congregations and families today need men, women, and youth who will have the heart of Josiah – tender, humble, honest, and courageous.
— Roger D. Campbell