Knowing the Chronicler’s agenda with Judah’s kings, one suspects he would not ignore Josiah and the reforms enjoyed under his leadership. Josiah had a tender heart toward the things of God and it showed in his devotion to the book of the law of Moses, the temple, and the Passover celebration. In 2 Chronicles 34, the author recorded that even while he was a youthful king, Josiah began to seek the Lord (2 Chron 34:3). His early pursuit of God had a domino effect upon all of Judah. He removed the high places of idol worship that had been constructed throughout Judah, crushing the idols and scattering their dust over the graves of those who had defiled themselves through idolatry (2 Chron 34:4-6). Having destroyed that which had polluted the land, Josiah initiated a plan for restoring the temple to the glory it had before his grandfather Manasseh had defiled it (2 Chron 34:8). As it turned out, in the midst of temple restoration, “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses” (2 Chron 34:14). When the law was read to Josiah, the king tore his clothes in repentance (2 Chron 34:19), reflecting the humility described in Psalm 80. Josiah gathered the elders of Judah and entered into a covenant with the Lord to heed His word and worship Him alone (2 Chron 34:29-33).
The reforms Josiah undertook in 2 Chronicles 34 set the stage for the king’s leadership of the Passover celebration described in 2 Chronicles 35. Under the direction of the priests and the Levites, and in accordance with the law of Moses (2 Chron 35:12), the inhabitants of Judah observed a Passover unlike any celebration that had come before. The Chronicler wrote, “None of the kings of Israel ever observed a Passover like the one that Josiah observed with the priests, the Levites, all Judah, the Israelites who were present in Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chron 35:18). Although Josiah fell in pride before Pharaoh Neco (2 Chron 35:20-24), that the prophet Jeremiah composed a lament in the king’s honor (Jer 22:10-12) shows that Josiah was no ordinary ruler (2 Chron 35:25).
King Josiah was a man who embodied everything the Chronicler wished for his audience to embrace, especially his great reverence for the temple and the ceremonial activities of Israelite worship. The temple theme in 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a frame of reference for understanding the storyline of Scripture. Because of the significance of the temple in the development of the history of Judaism, the apostles could readily employ it as a metaphor for their audiences. But for them the temple was not constructed on a specific piece of property, restored by adding bricks and mortar. Paul, for example, wrote that the temple of God was founded upon Jesus Christ, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Their union in Christ and loving service by the Holy Spirit brought just as much honor to God as all the reforms of King Josiah’s day. To the Ephesians Paul wrote:
When Christ came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is being fitted together in Him and is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit (Eph 2:17-22).