Revivals Under The
Good Kings of Judah
Brother Archie Naismith, Maddiston, Scotland, has taught us many valuable lessons through his survey of “Revivals Under the Good Kings of Judah.” This first part of his article on Josiah is very important.
V. Josiah (1)
Hezekiah’s only son, Manasseh was twelve years old at the death of his father, and his reign of 55 years was the longest of all the rulers of Judah or Israel. By the Lord’s gracious providence, Hezekiah’s life was prolonged for 15 years. We can understand the earnestness of his petition for an extension of his days when we remember that, at the time the word of the Lord came to him through Isaiah the prophet, he had no son to succeed him. In a paean of praise Hezekiah acknowledged Jehovah’s goodness in prolonging his life. “The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day.”
Manasseh was a miscreant who led the people of Judah away from the God of their fathers, and his history makes very sad reading. But he later repented and turned to the Lord. Hezekiah was the father of a very wicked son, and the next great and good king of Judah —Josiah— was the son of a very wicked father, Amon, who reigned only two years. Josiah’s mother, Jedidah (meaning “beloved of Jehovah”) seems to have been a good woman, and her early instruction doubtless had a salutary effect in the moulding of the young king’s character, for he came to the throne at the tender age of eight years.
Josiah was the last great and good king to rule over the Southern Kingdom, and when his glorious reign of 31 years ended he was greatly mourned and lamented (2 Chron. 35:25). The four monarchs who succeeded him were not only wicked and incapable rulers but where led into captivity, first, by the Egyptian king, and later, by the king of Babylon. Then the royal dynasty faded out and Israel was left without a king.
The reign of Josiah was in the late evening of Judah’s history, about a century after the people of the Northern Kingdom were led captive by Shalmaneser of Assyria, and less than a quarter of a century before the captivity of Judah. During that period of Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Habakkuk prophesied in the land of Judah. They were the messengers of the Lord of hosts: their words and the Book of the Law of the Lord were to play an important part in the revival in Josiah’s reign, regulating its progress and ruling out what was contrary to the revealed will of God.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign (2 Chron. 34:1). This was the first great beginning in his life; he had early responsibility. Responsibility in the Christian sphere has been defined as “the ‘believer’s response to God’s ability,” and this was certainly so in the case of Josiah. It is possible to adopt one of five attitudes to responsibility. The faint-hearted shirk it, the unconcerned shelve it and leave others to shoulder it, while others again grow weary and shed it. But the ideal attitude is to share it with others who are like-minded. In the kingdom of Judah there were such kindred spirits — Hilkiah the high priest, Shaphan the scribe, Zephaniah the prophet, and a godly woman who was a prophetess and doubtless a mother in Judah, Huldah by name.
Josiah’s second beginning was his early regeneration at the age of 16, when, in the eighth year of his reign, “he began to seek after the God of David his father.” Those who are saved in childhood’s days have a full life to give to the Lord: those converted in later life can only give him a part of their days. Though surrounded by heinous idolatry and immorality, Josiah decided that his life would be given to the “living and true God” of his father David, and be spent in communion with him.
Four years after his conversion Josiah, at the age of twenty, “began to purge Judah and Jerusalem,” cleansed the temple, pulverised the images, demolished the groves, removed the horses and burnt the chariots of the sun-god, and consigned the idolatrous altars to the brook Kidron (2 Kings 23:4-12). His third great beginning was therefore early restoration and revival. Concerning the evil days during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, the kings who preceded Josiah, Rawlinson writes: “Their character may be seen by the complaints of Zephaniah (1:4-9; 3:1-4) and of Jeremiah in his earlier ministry (Jer. Chap. 3 to 12. Baal was openly worshipped in the Temple itself, which was polluted by the idolatrous emblem of Astarte. The host of heaven was adored upon the housetops. The fires of Tophet glowed in the Valley of Hinnom, and the offering of innocent children to the horrid idol of Moloch was continued. Moloch was generally recognized as a god, and sworn by. In Jerusalem, at every corner of the streets, there were images of heathen deities and altars on which incense was burnt to them. The whole country was full of high places on which Chemarim, or idol-priests, offered sacrifices.”
The course Josiah followed in this divinely-appointed purge achieved three great ends that were pleasing to God.
He Fulfilled the Divine Purpose in the purification of the people of God. He fulfilled the prediction made three centuries earlier by a man of God, as recorded in 1 Kings 13:2, in which Josiah was specially named, by burning the bones of the idolatrous priests on their altars (2 Chron. 34:5).
By breaking down the high places that were the centres of idolatrous worship, and by cleansing the Temple of God, and the city and adjoining country, the king Frustrated the Devil’s Power. Those by whom these reforms were carried out at the king’s commands are called “overseers” and “bearers of burdens.” The word in the LXX translated “overseers” is the same word that is rendered “overseers in Acts 20:28 and “bishop” (used in the singular number) in 1 Timothy 3:2. The “bearers of burdens” today are those who, like the Apostle Paul, have “the care of the churches”.
The revival in Josiah’s reign was marvellously influenced by the Scriptures found in the temple, for by their guidance the king and the people of Judah Followed Divine Principles.