Josiah became King of Judah when he was eight years old. Judah could not have been more of a spiritual and cultural disaster. Manasseh and his son, Amon, had just concluded 57 of the most perverse years of leadership that Judah had known. Manasseh set a new standard of wickedness during his reign and his son, Amon, picked up where his father left off. The temple of the Lord was desecrated by living quarters of the male shrine prostitutes. Provision had been made in the temple for the worship of Baal and his consort, Asherah and the starry hosts. Provision was also made throughout the land for the burning of incense Baal, Asherah, the sun and the moon, and the constellations. In valley of Ben Hinnom, infants were sacrificed in the fire to Molech the god of Ammon and Chemosh, the god of Moab. These places of vile worship and evil had spread throughout Judah. Asherah poles with their carved images of female fertility were set up in the high places. These were dark, dark times.
Amon had been king just two years when he was assassinated. Apparently, the people of the land had enough. The made his young son, Josiah, king. For whatever reason, the people chose to keep a descendent of David on the throne. Given the moral and political chaos of the day, Josiah’s ascendency to the throne can only be viewed as God keeping his promise to David that he would always have someone to rule on the throne.
By piecing together the narratives of Chronicles and Kings we see that even as a teenager, Josiah began to bring reform to a wretched and wicked land ( I am indebted, once again, to the commentaries of Dale Ralph Davis for bringing insight and clarity to the story of Josiah). When the book of the Law was finally found when Josiah was 26 years old, the prophetess Huldah gave insight into what drove Josiah to undertake the radical and violent reforms 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. Davis believes that ‘soft’ best gets at the meaning of the Hebrew word. A heart that is ‘soft’ before God is a responsive, broken, tender heart. Josiah is deeply moved and sad that at the gross sin of his fathers and of his people. Josiah’s ‘soft’ heart to 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
There is much to learn from the narrative of Josiah. For the moment, I want to focus on his responsive, tender, ‘soft’ heart. These descriptive terms are shocking to modern readers when we read of the violent actions that this ‘soft’ heart produced. Soft-heartedness conjures up images of teddy bears and gentle rebukes. In stark contrast, as you read chapters 22 and 23 of 2Kings, you see a young man who is on fire for God, whose actions are praised by God. A ‘soft’ heart for God means a heart of passion and fire for the glory of his great name. I believe it is instructive realize that Josiah’s passion began in his teenage years. It is rare to find an adult who would exhibit the passion that Josiah showed. But teenagers, they are a different breed, they are all about passion.
Do we desire to raise teenagers who live for God with the passion and fire of Josiah?
Think about it!
More to come.