Sixth in the COURAGE series
To understand the courage of Josiah, we need only read about the evils that he reversed or destroyed, that were Manasseh's legacy. These are found in 2 Kings 23:
- All the vessels in the Temple made for Baal and his host of underlings were removed, along with the grove, that was a pagan platform for worshipping Baal. These were burned in Kidron and their ashes carried further away. The grove was stamped upon to reduce it to powder.
- The idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places and in Jerusalem, worshipping Baal, the sun, moon and planets, were "put down" (eliminated).
- He broke down the houses of the sodomites that were by the house of the Lord where the women wove hangings for the grove. (vs7)
- Gates to high places and other sites of pagan worship were broken down.
- And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. (vs10) Yes, even Judah had sacrificed her children to false gods!
- He took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun and burned the chariots of the sun.
- The altars made by Ahaz and Manasseh were broken to pieces and their dust cast in the Kidron brook.
- The high places that were before Jerusalem on the right hand of the mount of corruption that Solomon had built for Ashtoreth, Chemosh and Milcom, the abominable gods of the Zidonians, Moabites and Ammonites, were defiled by Josiah; he broke in pieces the images and cut down the groves and filled these places with the bones of men.
- He broke down the altar at Bethel that Jeroboam who made Israel sin had built, stamping it to powder, burning the grove, and then taking the bones from the sepulchers there and burning them on the altar, unwittingly fulfilling a prophecy. (1 Ki 13:2)
- He did the same to the houses of the high places that were in Samaria and killed all the priests of the high places that were at the altars.
Next, he ordered that repairs be made to the Temple, and the book of the law was discovered in that process. Upon hearing it read by Shaphan the scribe, he tore his clothes! (2 Ki 22:11) (See 2 Ch 34, 35 for the order in which Josiah carried out his plans.) He asked the priest, scribe and others in his circle to inquire of the Lord concerning the words of the book. He knew God's wrath must be very great since our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of the book (2 Ki 22:13).
These men went to a woman, Huldah the prophetess. Was Jeremiah too negative for them? (See previous post) By her the Lord said,
Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again. (2 Ki 22:15-20)
Next, Josiah gathered all the elders, the prophets and priests of Judah and Jerusalem and all the people, into the temple and read to them all the words of the book of the covenant. He stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord on behalf of his subjects to walk in God's way and keep his commandments, testimonies and statutes with all their heart and all their soul, and all the people stood to the covenant (2 Ki 23:3). Was it not courageous to honor the Lord despite being assured that evil would surely fall on Judah, even after all his reforms?
And he continued with his reforms. He put away the workers with familiar spirits, the wizards and the images and idols that were seen in Judah and in Jerusalem.
He also commanded all the people, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. (2 Ki 23:21) This was the greatest passover ever celebrated; Josiah was now 26 years old. (vs 23) Nevertheless, despite his full obedience to the Word, the Lord turned not from his fierceness of his great wrath because of all of Manasseh's evil. (vs 26)
Under Manasseh, Judah had become a vassal of Assyria, so when Pharaoh Necho of Egypt attacked Carchemish, an Assyrian city, Josiah felt bound go to battle. Necho sent ambassadors to warn him not to (2 Ch 35:21), but Josiah made an error in judgment, and died from a battle wound. Jeremiah lamented for him, with all the singers. (2 Ch 35:25) Their mourning was so great that it became proverbial, as shown by Zechariah's prophecy about a later occasion for grief and lamenting (Zec 12:11) (See commentary note.)
What can protect or prevent a courageous man of action from missteps? When a man or woman is fully committed to obey and honor God, much self discipline, prayer and knowledge of God's Word are needed. At times, rapid-fire decisions must be made. Additionally, as we are in a posture of devotion, a reverie may prevent a unique prayer for guidance in EACH critical decision. Whatever our missteps, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is the final reward of courage, even should we exercise it amiss.