Josiah Began to Reign

Sermon preached on 2 Kings 22 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 11/15/2020 in Novato, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

What a mess that King Josiah inherited. We left off last chapter in 2 Kings with two horribly wicked kings, Manasseh and then Amon. While Manasseh did have a late in life repentance and begin to make some initial reforms, in general, it was a period of great sin and wickedness for this country which was supposed to be a holy nation unto the LORD. That ended with King Amon being conspired against and assassinated. What a mess that was being left to King Josiah. And as we see in verse 1, he was only eight years old to start. Yet, by the grace of God, Josiah is remembered in history as being a great reformer king. 2 Chronicles 34 even records that from his youth he set his heart diligently on the LORD and rather early in his reign began bringing spiritual reformation to the nation. Indeed, our account here in 2 Kings chronicles some of that reformation in today’s chapter and continues to recount it in next chapter. And our account here in verse 2 gives us the wonderful summary of his faith – he is one of those few kings of Judah to be described as walking in the ways of David. Indeed, Scripture paints this reformer king as one of the greatest in Israel’s history – especially because of all the work of reformation that he did.

Let us begin first then by consider verses 3 to 7 which deal with his making repairs to the temple. That is certainly part of the overall reformation work – repairing a temple that had been in disrepair. The language here should remind you of a former albeit lesser period of reformation under King Joash. Remember, he was the son of Ahaziah and his mother was the evil daughter of Ahab named Athaliah. Remember his mother had temporarily seized control and ruled the nation for six years in Ahab-like fashion. Then the high priest Jehoiada organized a coup and had Athaliah killed and seven year old Joash came to the throne. The next thing that is recorded is how Joash worked to repair the temple. The description there back in 2 Kings 12 has so much similarity to this account. It involved the high priest collecting money in a box at the temple and then doling it out to overseers who then hire the specific workers who did the necessary repairs. This is what we see in today’s passage as well.

Making a comparison here between Josiah with his predecessor King Joash is also fitting when we think of how they were both in the aftermath of Ahab-like reigns. We already mentioned Joash’s mother Athaliah, but remember last time we saw how Josiah’s father and grandfather were said to have reigned like King Ahab. Apparently, Ahab-like reigns allowed the temple to fall into disrepair. Let me state clearly – they shouldn’t ever let the temple fall into disrepair. But we are not surprised to see that Ahab-like monarchs would let it fall into such.

Another point in today’s passage on temple repair that was also the same as back in Joash’s repairs is in verse 7. There is says that no financial accounting was asked from the workers and general contractors because they dealt honestly. That’s an interesting thought. It might raise questions of prudence and accountability today. In our modern era, I can’t imagine not having an accounting. To clarify, it’s not that there isn’t some oversight going on here. Obviously, the high priest Hilkiah is providing an oversight role. Then there are these general contractors described in verse 5 who have oversight of the various specialized workers mentioned in verse 6. But there is some notable lack of financial accounting required of them – and that is noted here as a commendable thing. Why? Because they were honest workers. They were workers of integrity. Isn’t that what is ultimately important? I’m not advocating building projects done without financial accountability. This passage isn’t really critiquing financial accounting. Rather it is commending financial integrity. Because at the end of the day, if the people doing the work aren’t honest, they can still commit fraud. If the people giving the financial accounting are deceitful, they can submit fraudulent records, they can bribe others, forge receipts, etc.

What’s the point? 1 Corinthians 4:2, “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” Let us take an application from this verse 7 that says stewardship must be faithful. Today in the church that stewardship certainly includes the upkeep of the house of God – and I speak of the church as a people. Let us not let it fall into disrepair. And it includes how we serve with our spiritual gifts to help keep the house of God in good health. Let us do so with honesty and integrity and faithfulness.

So then, I digress. Because going back to the fact that Josiah here has similarities with the past efforts by King Joash to repair the temple, there is a major difference in today’s passage. Something happens here with King Josiah that is not recorded as happening with King Joash. While they are in the temple presumably about the repair efforts, they find the Book of the Law. That leads us to our second point to consider this important find! We find this starting in verse 8. There the high priest Hilkiah finds this book, presumably while working on the temple repairs. He gives it to Shaphan, the king’s secretary, who then reads it. He then brings it to King Josiah who has it read to him.

A first question that is raised here is what book is this? To be clear, it is not entirely clear. It’s commonly thought that this was the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy itself in a few places refers to itself with this specific language of “the Book of the Law.” Also, it’s pointed out that Deuteronomy shows a great concern for having a central place of worship in the Promised Land, something which Josiah’s later reforms will include. However, it should be noted that such reasons aren’t conclusive by any means. Some have even suggested that this was the whole Pentateuch that was found. While we can’t know for sure based on the text, what should be denounced is the claim that many liberal scholars make here. Some audaciously claim that it was Deuteronomy because they believe basically that Deuteronomy was written then and there by a pro-temple faction that was against worship at the high places (and thus not by Moses). And so it is claimed that this faction manufactured and “found” a book to try to justify their positions. However, that is so utterly offensive as mere slanderous conjecture. 2 Chronicles even shows Josiah removing high places before this Book of the Law was discovered. Hezekiah before did the same thing. King Solomon initially had this concern when he built the temple in the first place. So, whatever we conclude here, such baseless slander is to be rejected.

Rather what comes out of this is that while obviously Josiah already had a good knowledge of the LORD and his laws, there was some written Word of God that had fallen into neglect. Like the temple had fallen into disrepair, some of the written word of God had fallen out of use. Notice where they find the Book of the Law. They find it in the temple. That might seem like an anticlimactic statement. But think about it. Where was this temporarily lost book of Scripture? It was there in the temple the whole time! Isn’t that where it should be? But the temple had been neglected and therefore the Word of God had been neglected.

So then, I love how we see King Josiah respond to the Word of God as it is read to him. Verse 11, he tears his clothes, showing his humility before God and how convicted he is over how the people have not been following the law. His next response is to assemble a group of representatives to go inquire of God on his behalf and on the people’s behalf. Josiah acknowledges that the people for many generations have not been following what the law required. Josiah acknowledges that this mean’s God’s wrath is against them. So, he’s concerned to know what this means and what he and the people should do. He commendably wants to inquire of the word of the Lord.

At this point we should commend Josiah’s response here. A response of humility and penitence is exactly what one should have when you find the Word of God convicting us of sin. And when you are in the wrong, you should go to the Word of God to find out what to do. That’s being shepherdable. And so, this response of Josiah commends itself to us. The Word of God will speak to us and convict us. The Word doesn’t just speak to non-Christians to call them to repent. Here it is ministering to the righteous Josiah and brings out godly sorrow and repentance. May we also be ready to grieve and turn from sin and be shepherdable when God’s Word confront us.

So then we turn to our third point for today and see how Josiah inquired of the LORD in response to the Scriptures found in the temple. We see his representatives do this via the prophetess Huldah. She lived in Jerusalem, in its Second Quarter which was an area in where the old city had been extended. Huldah proceeds to give them the Word of the Lord. Notice that the prophecy she gives can be divided up into two parts. There is a part that addresses the people and the place of Jerusalem and Judah. And there is a part that addresses Josiah specifically. This is fitting, because in verse 13 that is exactly what Josiah asked about. He asked for both himself and for all the people of the country.

So then verse 16 shows the prophecy directed toward the people and the place. It will have disaster fall upon it. Verse 19 adds that it will become a desolation and a curse. We can think of how in the law both Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 speak in terms of curse and destruction that will fall upon Israel if they turn from the LORD. And that is exactly what Huldah prophesies that the people have done. Verse 17, “Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.” The people had broken covenant with God and here he declares that the threatened covenant curses will fall upon them. Indeed that was fast approaching for the nation of Judah.

Yet the part of the prophecy directed towards Josiah is different. That’s in verse 18. He is given good news. He is spoken words of mercy. There God recognizes his humility and repentant heart. There God acknowledges his acts of contrition. There God says he will not bring this declared judgment upon the people and the place during Josiah’s days. During Josiah’s day he will know peace. He won’t personally have to go through this declared disaster upon Judah.

So then let’s pause and think about what that means for the moment. While God declared here judgment on the people and the place, they will not get that judgment as long as King Josiah is alive. In fact, despite the declared judgment, they won’t just barely get by until Josiah dies. No, King Josiah will usher in arguably the greatest period of reformation in the church and kingdom maybe ever to date. King Josiah will usher in a reformation the likes of which had been prophesied by name for some 200 years. I refer to 1 Kings 13 when a prophecy was given to King Jeroboam that one day a reformer-king named Josiah would come to undo the evils he Jeroboam had done. In next chapter, we’ll get to dive in further to see the extent of this reformation and spiritual renewal led by King Josiah. This is startling to think about. That on the one hand the doom and destruction of Judah is certain here. But because of the humble repentance of King Josiah that judgment will be stayed for a generation. And that generation will in many ways experience a very glorious period of reformation. In other words, in Josiah, Judah will know reformation and not judgment.

And so, in this third point, we’ve seen Josiah inquire of the Word of the LORD via the prophet. The reason he did this is because of the Word of the LORD that was found in the Scriptures in the temple. The Word for them spoke of judgment for sin, but also mercy for a time in King Josiah. That was a time which Josiah used to fight for reformation. This brings me again to application. If we inquire of the Word of the LORD, we know that each of us stands a guilty sinner on our own account. Our own record warrants us being a desolation and curse. Each of us have gone astray. Each had made and worshipped things as gods in our hearts that are no gods. Each of us deserve God’s wrath kindled against us – wrath that would not be quenched. If we judge ourselves on our own standards, we don’t come to this conclusion. But if we judge ourselves on God’s standards, this is the only conclusion.

Yet, there is mercy for us to be found in Josiah’s greater son, King Jesus. If we humble ourselves in repentance and look to put our hope in the greatest reformer King Jesus, we will find peace and rest and salvation from the judgment that is yet to come. And the blessing and peace and spiritual renewal we find in King Jesus will not be for just a generation. It is for eternity, in the age to come.

Indeed the desolation and curse did fall upon the people and the place of the Old Jerusalem. Yet God preserved a remnant of the church on earth and ultimately through that remnant brought King Jesus to establish a New Jerusalem and his everlasting kingdom. This is why faith is so important. The law of God declares judgment and desolation and curse upon us for our sin. The gospel of God declares blessing and peace and reformation upon us if we are in Christ Jesus. The temporary blessing God’s people found in King Josiah for a generation is a type of the blessing the entire generation of God’s elect know in King Jesus.

So then, brothers and sisters, for us who have such a hope in Christ Jesus, we are brought back to the Word of God again today. And we are brought back to the important concept of reformation. It was the case here in Josiah’s today that real reformation needs to be founded on the Word of God. That’s what was missing with what King Joash had been doing when he started repairing the temple. In fact, King Joash arrogantly later rejected the prophets who confronted him on his own sin. But here we see that reformation needs to give heed to the Word of God. That means that we need to repent and humbly make changes when the Bible calls for us to be living differently or worshipping differently than we have been.

Let us then be people of the Word. Let us not let it fall into neglect and disuse. We ought not think it sufficient to just operate what we remember about God’s Word. No, he has it written down so it can be regularly and repeatedly read and heard and heeded. In fact, like in this chapter, we know where to find the Word. We know where to find its regular reading and preaching. It’s there the whole time in the house of the LORD. Let us not neglect the house of the LORD or let it fall into disrepair. Again, I speak of the body of Christ which is the spiritual temple of the LORD. That means it is also to be the holy place where Word is not only safeguarded but it is used.

I think of the 5th membership question for us in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It starts out by asking, “Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service.” Behind that question means that you are faithful to let the house of God and the Word of God to fall into neglect. These things are for our good. They are for our ongoing reformation and sanctification. They are equipping us and fitting us for an eternity in the glorious kingdom to come when our King comes out of heaven to usher us into our eternal peace. Then we will behold with our eyes our glorious savior. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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