Josiah became King of Judah when he was eight years old. At the time, Judah could not have been more of a spiritual and cultural disaster. Manasseh and his son, Amon, had just concluded 57 of perverse years of leadership. Manasseh set a new standard of wickedness during his reign and his son, Amon, picked up where his father left off. These were dark, dark times.
Amon had been king just two years when he was assassinated. Apparently, the people had had enough. They made his young son, Josiah, king. By combining the narratives of Chronicles and Kings we see that even as a teenager, Josiah began to bring reform to a wretched and wicked land. The prophetess Huldah provides insight into what drove Josiah to undertake the radical and violent reforms against God’s enemies. In 2 Kings 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. 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.” 2 Kings 23:25
There is much to learn from the narrative of Josiah and his soft, tender heart. These descriptive terms are shocking to modern eyes 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. It is instructive realize that Josiah’s passion began in his teenage years.
Join me in praying and preparing for soft-hearted teenagers. In the meantime, may God grant that our hearts would also become soft!