[This posting can also be found on another blog of mine, Bible 101, and is offered here as a sample of that series of posts, in case you’d like to follow that one, too.]
I hope you had a blessed Easter Sunday. While Easter is not a commanded holy day, it is the one date (month and day) for a major event that we know for sure in Jesus’ life. We know His crucifixion happened the day before Passover and we know that His resurrection happened on the the first day of the week, three days after His burial. Of course, the Scriptures record for us that Christians taught by the apostles remembered Jesus death, burial, and resurrection weekly, each first day of the week (Acts 20:7, for example); and obedient Christians even today follow that pattern. Nevertheless, it is a great opportunity for the church to proclaim loudly every year that something huge happened 2000 years ago that the world ought to seriously consider.
But it’s time to get back on track on our journey through the Bible.
The last post talked about good king Hezekiah. Today’s post will come primarily from 2 Kings 20-23 and 2 Chronicles 33-35. I hope you’ll take a little time to read through the Scriptures themselves for details we can’t go into here.
Sadly, Hezekiah’s son was not so good. Manasseh turned out to be every bit as sinful and unfaithful to the LORD as his father had been good and faithful—though in fairness, it should be mentioned that he seems to have repented at the end of life. Nevertheless, Manasseh’s son Amon followed in his father’s evil footsteps. However, after only two years, Amon’s own servants assassinated him, and Amon’s 8-year-old son, Josiah, was placed on the throne. Unlike his father and grandfather, Josiah chose to follow the LORD. He faithfully and systematically began to erase the paganism that had invaded Israel in the days of his grandfather Manasseh and restore the worship of the one true God.
An amazing discovery!
Part of the restoration of the worship of the LORD was rebuilding the Temple of God, which had fallen into significant disrepair. Money was given to Hilkiah, the high priest to conduct the repair and restoration of the Temple. Hilkiah and the other priests of the LORD set to work and while doing clean up work in some of the storage rooms of the Temple, the priests made an astonishing discovery—the book of the Law. The book of the Law had been neglected and lost for decades. The discovery was brought to the attention of king Josiah, who had the book brought in and read in front of him. Josiah’s response was shock and grief, (2 Chronicles 34:21) “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
Tapping the brakes
The answer from God was that He fully intended to punish Judah for their disobedience, but “‘Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants.’” 2 Chronicles 34:27, 28. For Josiah’s faithfulness, God was willing to “tap the brakes” on the punishment in store for Judah.
The best Passover in over 300 years
Josiah, the leaders of Judah, and the people renewed the covenant with the LORD and celebrated the Passover, a crucially important holy day to Israelites, for the first time in a really long time. The outpouring of sincerity and devotion toward the LORD was stunning; the Scripture describes it this way: “There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 35:18).
Then back to the promise
But just as God’s word had promised, the wheels of justice for Judah’s disobedience had already begun to turn. Too soon Josiah died in a battle at Meggido against Pharaoh Neco, who was heading north to join their Assyrian allies against the rising Babylonian empire. Although they initially won; four years later, the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar, decisively crushed Egypt and Assyria at Carchemish, giving rise to the great Babylonian Empire.
Josiah was deeply and sincerely mourned. His son took his place, but the kingdom of Judah was living on borrowed time. God’s promise and processes were now back on track and in play. In the space of only 11 years Babylon would invade and take captives (like Daniel). In another few years, Judah would try rebelling against Babylon and the whole city of Jerusalem, including the Temple, would be razed to the ground. More about this next time.
Something to think about…
- God keeps His good and bad promises—always.
- Consider the power of God word: power to change, power to motivate, power to save. Now, if only we’d open it up and read it. Consider what happens when it is not read.
- Josiah was a “transitional person” in his family, refusing to let a legacy of paganism and evil to dictate the choices he would make. Many of us may come from “dysfunctional” or irreligious homes with little or no moral compass; it doesn’t mean that we are locked in to that sort of behavior. We can choose differently.