The story of Josiah comes as a surprise. But then, keeping us off balance is something the Bible does quite well. This is because we are reading the words of the Spirit of God. He doesn’t think like we do. He has a different perspective on life than we do. He is about holiness. We are about avoiding holiness. If your reading of the Bible has become predictable, if you are not surprised and frequently unsettled by what you read, you most likely are shielding yourself from the power of the text. The Bible is written to shake us internally. The Spirit’s words are alive and dynamic. His words are designed to take us apart, to cut deeply into the very core of our being. If you are not regularly taken apart by the word, something is missing, something is wrong. Do not settle for complacency.
We looked at the Holy Spirit’s description of Josiah’s heart when he heard the words of God read. Here again are the words of the prophetess found in Kings 22:18-19:
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.
Josiah’s actions upon hearing the word are responsive and humble. The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis echoes Dale Ralph Davis’ observation that Josiah’s heart response could be described as soft response. The passage could be translated, “your heart was soft”. The wording is said to describe Josiah’s humble response to the warnings in the rediscovered book of the law. (Volume 3; page 1117 NIDOTTE)
The significance of being soft hearted becomes instantly clear when we compare Josiah’s response to the typical response of Israel to God’s commands – that is, they were hard-hearted! How many times have you heard Israel being negatively portrayed because their hearts were hard?
Thus, a soft heart is broken, humble, penitent. But, as we see in Josiah, a heart that is soft to God is also passionate for his name. A soft heart has no room for compromise and half measures. A heart that is soft towards God is one that takes strong action to defend the holiness of God. A soft heart is an emotional heart. These are not emotions that are out of control or serving the flesh. Rather, these are the emotions of Job, who feared God and shunned evil.
Does this description of the actions of a biblically soft heart tend to remind you of a certain group of people? That’s right – passion, strong emotive responses, a strong defense against wrong actions, also describe the actions of teenagers. We see the powerful, youthful passion of Josiah on display in 2 Kings 22-23 and we see that God is pleased with Josiah.
Perhaps parents fail to encourage their children and teenagers to live with the passionate, soft heart of Josiah. Granted, we live in a time now where it is not necessary to find the grave sites of liberal, heretical teachers and dig them up. We do live in a time where the passionate love for God must be shown to people who are lost and weary. We are called to be involved in the most important search and rescue missions in of all time – spreading the gospel of Christ to a lost world, a lost neighborhood.
I will admit, teenagers living with the passion and soft heart of Josiah is scary to think about. The only thing scarier is teenagers whose hearts are hard.
Begin pleading with God to have his Spirit cut deeply into you with his word as Hebrews 4:12 describes. Then ask God to help you lead your teenagers to live with the soft heart of Josiah. I know it is scary. Do you have the courage to try?