Monday, February 25, 2008


I love the story of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35. In the darkness of the southern kingdom, his faithfulness and reforms shine like a beacon today. He takes the throne after Amon's brief, evil reign, and more importantly, after fifty five years of Manasseh, who despite his repentance late in life lead Israel into some serious evil.

We are told early on that Josiah 'did what was right in the eyes of the Lord' and after just eight years on the throne, even though he was just a boy, he started to seek the Lord. Four years later he would begin to purge Judah and Jerusalem from all the high places, all the arena's of false worship. It's easy to picture him going on a national tour of righteous destruction as he tries to restore true religion to Judah. And then, i gets better for him...he finds the book of the law, hidden away in the temple, we can only presume under a pile of money that was being taken out, or hidden in a corner somewhere. Quite how you lose something as important (and big and heavy!) as the law probably shows on its own what sort of a state Israel was in.

Josiah's reaction to the law is telling. he reads it and realises what sort of a huge mess his country is in. He tears his clothes and his eager to see if there is anything that can be done, anything that can save his country from the curses that he reads about in Deuteronomy. And there isn't. Huldah the prophetess tells him that covenant faithlessness has gone too far, that people have sinned too much, the evil is too great. Judah is doomed. Josiah, however, will not see this horror. It's here that we really learn something of the man himself. Instead of sitting back and enjoying his reign, safe in the knowledge that he won't suffer for the sins of Israel, he gathers all the people of Jerusalem and Benjamin together, reads the law to them, and makes a covenant with them, with God. This must have been a moving day for the faithful remnant in Israel.

So what are we to make of the story as we leave it at the end of chapter 34? Josiah isn't the King promised to David, the King whose reforms will eventually mean death and Hades themselves being thrown into the lake of fire. And he meets an unnecessarily sticky end fighting a battle that isn't his in chapter 35 what are we to do with it all?

I love this chapter, because it speaks so clearly of how important the Bible is. It's the Bible that shows us in relief how much trouble we are in, as individuals, as a culture, and as a nation. Josiah learnt this from the Word, and what was his response? No philosophising, no trying to get out of it, certainly no trying to interpret what he's read in view of the times. But exactly the other way round, the right way round. This leads him to humbling repentance. And God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, far more keen to relent from the disaster that's coming, if only for a time, than Josiah ever was to ask Him for mercy.

There is nothing more urgent at the moment than for a return to God's Word. Being read, preached, obeyed, submitted to. From Christian leaders to members of the church, it's the Bible that is our main weapon. England in 2007 seems a lot like, in many ways, Judah just before the exile. So this story gives us hope. Hope that all is not lost, that God will answer the humble and repentant. Hope that the Word will do the work if we are brave enough and humble enough to let it. Hope that, although, as then, the end if surely coming, we can work here for good before it does.

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