The story of Josiah is full of drama and adventure. Most importantly, his story is about an intense passion for the honor of God and his word. Josiah knew that evil and good cannot coexist. For almost a 1,000 years Judah had tolerated false, detestable religious worship and practice.
That all ended with Josiah, the soft-hearted teenager.
Josiah was 8 years old when he became King of Judah. As Josiah grew his heart for God grew as well. In his youth, Josiah took a strong, passionate, and even shocking approach to the evil that dominated Judah. The prophetess Huldah provides insight into what drove Josiah to undertake the radical and violent steps against God’s enemies. In 2Kings 22:18-19 she said this to Josiah:
“Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.”
The word translated “responsive” in verse 19 is also translated as tender and penitent in other translations. Respected commentator Dale Ralph Davis says ‘soft’ best gets at the meaning of the Hebrew word. A heart that is ‘soft’ before God is a responsive, broken, tender heart, but it is also a heart of action. Josiah’s ‘soft’ heart for God caused the writer of 2 Kings to say this about him:
“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.” 2Kings 23:25
A soft heart usually brings images of teddy bears and warm embraces. In sharp contrast, as you read chapters 22 and 23 of 2Kings, you see a young man who is on fire for God. He destroyed shrines and the bedrooms of temple prostitutes, he burned down the altars to the false gods, executed the pagan priests, and much more. A ‘soft’ heart for God means a heart of passion and fire for the glory of his great name. Josiah’s young, soft heart brought honor to God. He was repulsed by the evil that was all around him. He didn’t compromise or take opinion polls about how to deal with the evil practices and rituals that had infected Judah. He obliterated the evil. And God was pleased with his soft heart.
I pray that God would raise up a generation of soft-hearted teenagers that love God with the same passion of Josiah. The church has been lukewarm for too long.