Revivals Under The
Good Kings of Judah
A Great Discovery
The divine principles which Josiah followed and which made the revival during his reign so far-reaching were those prescribed in ‘the book of the law of the Lord.’ The Scriptures wonderfully influenced the king when, as a mature young man of 26, in the eighteenth year of his reign, he had struggled to eradicate the malignant disease of idolatry throughout his realm. Those doubtless comprised the books we now call the Pentateuch, probably in the form of a parchment scroll containing the original writing of Moses. This was accidentally discovered by Hilkiah the priest when he went to inspect the repairs that were being carried on and to pay the workmen their wages. Announcing his important discovery, he said, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” The Scripture portions thus brought to light had had a wonderful history and were to have an astounding effect on the king and on many of his subjects who received them and followed their precepts.
The great miracle was that THE BOOK HAD BEEN PRESERVED. It had been written at Jehovah’s command (Exodus 17:14) by the hand of Moses (Exodus 24:4). Carried in the ark of the covenant through the wilderness, the law of the Lord was to be kept ‘before the priests and Levites’ and copied by each monarch who should rule over God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 17:18, 19). The sacred scroll came into the custody of Joshua the son of Nun as he led the Israelites to conflict and conquest in the promised land (Joshua 1:8). David too had made use of it in his dying charge to Solomon, the heir to his throne (1 Kings 2:1-4). In the reign of Jehoshaphat, two and a half centuries before Josiah, the book of the law was the basis of the teaching imparted throughout all the cities of Judah by the Levites and priests. It was doubtless the same ‘testimony’ that was placed in the hand of Joash when he was crowned. Because of long disuse it had been forgotten but still remained in the house of the Lord, and in the wisdom and providence of God its rediscovery synchronised with the period of revival in the reign of Josiah.
Just as that portion of the Scriptures was thus miraculously preserved and brought to light for the use of God’s earthly people, so God’s complete revelation, inspired by the Spirit of God and printed in hundreds of languages, the Holy Bible, has been remarkably preserved from destruction and from corruption down through many centuries. The Old Testament Scriptures were collected during the period between the end of Old Testament history and the beginning of New Testament history and assigned a place in the canon of Jewish Scripture. The twenty-seven New Testament books were written and included in the sacred canon during the first three centuries of the Christian era.
THE BOOK WAS DISCOVERED at the time when the temple was being purified and repaired, and it had presumably lain there all those years hidden from sight, perhaps covered over by accumulated rubbish inside the very house of God. Herein lies a parable. Within the precincts of those places where the Bible should be constantly read and honoured, its message has been lost and its precepts ignored, its gospel neglected and its doctrines denied, by the accumulation of rubbish of various descriptions. In some places the filth and fashions of the world, in others the traditions of religion, in others human philosophies and science falsely so-called, in others again sectarian squabbles and Higher Critical twaddle, and in more recent days humanly-devised new curricula, have obscured the pure teachings of the Book of God. What a blessing will be the rediscovery of the Bible’s pure, inspired message, when the Book is ‘found’ again and all the rubbish cleared away!
One of the duties of the ruler over God’s people, prescribed before Israel had a material kingdom, was the writing of a copy of God’s law and the reading of some part of it daily, so that he might learn to serve the Lord his God with acceptance and godly fear and to obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 17:18, 19). After the finding of the scroll, THE BOOK WAS READ to the king by Shaphan the scribe at one continuous sitting. This was like ‘the breaking upon him of wholly new light’ as the reading of the entire New Testament was to many at the time of the Reformation. The effect upon the king was immediate and overpowering. His heart was tender, and he humbled himself before his God, rending his clothes and shedding tears of grief and penitence. Thus the effect of hearing and believing the Word of the Lord was threefold—a tender heart, tear-dimmed eyes and torn garments.
In these days all Christians of whatever class or creed, who can read, should possess a copy of God’s Word in their own language and read regularly from its pages. The babe in Christ, in his spiritual infancy, needs ‘the sincere milk of the Word’ that he may grow. How true are the lines of Langridge:
‘These God hath married and no man shall part,
Dust on the Bible and drought in the heart.’
After the reading of the law of the Lord, the king summoned his elders and the priests, prophets and people, and recited to the vast concourse the words of the Lord that had so moved his own heart. Then THE BOOK WAS EXPOUNDED. The public reading of the law of the Lord, accompanied by explanation and exposition, played an important part in a later revival when thousands of exiles who had returned from the lands of their captivity to Jerusalem listened to the Levites as ‘they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading’ (Nehemiah 8:8). Expository ministry of this kind is much needed in the Church of God today.
When the Icing had pledged himself ‘to perform the words of the covenant’ written in the book of the law of the Lord, all the people stood to the covenant (see 2 Kings 23:3). THE BOOK WAS OBEYED in respect to the conditions of the covenant, and the cleansing of the covenanters followed. This in turn led to the correct observance of the Passover, so that the requirements of the Lord were completely carried out in all respects. The observance of the Passover in Hezekiah’s reign had had no parallel in the three preceding centuries, since that observed by Solomon, doubtless at the commencement of worship in the Temple. Of the Passover in Josiah’s reign it is recorded that ‘there was no passover like that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept’ (2 Chronicles 35:18). Commenting on this verse, the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge says, ‘There was no passover — on purer principles, more heartily joined in by the people present, more literally or exactly consecrated, according to the law, or more religiously observed. The words do not refer to the number present, but to the manner and spirit.’
Some years ago there appeared in the magazine, Life and Liberty, under the caption ‘Josiah’s Passover and the importance of God’s Word,’ the following paragraphs:
‘What was the secret of Josiah’s success in keeping this passover feast, excelling even the feasts held in the reigns of Solomon and Hezekiah? Undoubtedly Second Chronicles tells us.
The secret lies in two words oft repeated:
‘And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of King David of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son’ (35:4).
‘And stand in the holy place according to the divisions’ (vs. 5).
‘So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses’ (vs. 6).
‘So the service was prepared…according to the king’s commandment’ (vs.10)
‘And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give according to the divisions…as it is written in the Book of Moses’ (vs.12).
‘And they roasted the passover with fire according to the ordinance’ (vs. 13 ).
‘And the singers…were in their place according to the commandment of David’ (vs.15).
Josiah’s success lay in obeying the Book and doing all according to the law of the Lord. In acting thus, Josiah has marked out the royal road to Revival.
Among those who joined the singers at the mourning for King Josiah was the young prophet, Jeremiah, who had been an eye-witness of the revival. He too was one of the few who, after the death of Josiah, during the times of his wicked successors, honoured the Book of the law of the Lord.
The lines of George Herbert, written centuries ago, may be a fitting close to the study of this revival and the part played in it by the Book of the law of the Lord:
The Bible? That’s the Book, the Book indeed,
The Book of books,
Of which who looks,
As he should do, aright, shall never need
Wish for a better light
To guide him in the night.