The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
The history of Israel recorded in 1 and 2 Kings shows how God’s people lived—and often suffered—under an ever-changing regime of rulers. Some were bad from the beginning and remained that way. Others started strong but later gave in to pride, power, or possessions. A few led faithfully and with integrity.
In a predictable cycle the nation lived under God’s blessing until an evil king came to power. Often the king corrupted the entire nation, bringing God’s judgment on his people. In time the Israelites repented of their sins and cried to God for deliverance. God restored them and the nation lived in peace and prosperity—until another evil king took the throne.
It’s hard to find the right kind of consistency among these leaders—with one notable exception. It came in the form of a young boy, the son of King Amon of Judah (who himself was an evil ruler). Amon’s brief reign ended with his assassination in the palace by his own officials (2 Kings 21:23). At his death, the crown was passed to his eight-year-old son, Josiah.
From the beginning, and unlike may of his predecessors, Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2). He led the nation in several important ways.
He led the nation in repentance. At 26 years of age, Josiah commissioned the repair of the temple. When the Book of the Law was discovered in the process, the young king expressed great remorse over the nation’s sinfulness and sought God through the prophetess Huldah. Through her God pronounced future judgment on the nation while honoring Josiah for his repentant heart (vv. 3-20).
He led the nation in reading. With so much at stake, King Josiah assembled the nation at the temple of the Lord and “read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant” (23:1, 2).
He led the nation in recommitment. “The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD. . . . Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (v. 3).
He led the nation in reform. Immediately Josiah set about righting the wrongs of his predecessors. He destroyed every idol, removed every pagan priest, and desecrated every pagan place of worship throughout the land. As a result, “all who were present in Israel [served] the LORD their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their ancestors” (2 Chronicles 34:33).
Josiah was a breath of fresh air among a stifling string of wicked kings—a ruler who started strong and finished well. “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).
We could use more leaders like him today.