The legacy of King Hezekiah cast a shadow over his great grandson Josiah. Like him, Josiah “did what was right in the LORD’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or to the left” (2 Kgs 22:2; see 2 Kgs 18:5-6). The author wrote of Josiah, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him” (2 Kgs 23:25).
Initially, King Josiah displayed covenant loyalty similar to King Joash in that he was concerned for the physical maintenance of the Lord’s temple (2 Kgs 22:3-7; see 2 Kgs 12:4-16). During the repairs, “Hilkiah the high priest told Shaphan the court secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the LORD’s temple,’ and he gave the book to Shaphan, who read it” (2 Kgs 22:8). Upon hearing Shaphan’s reading of the law, Josiah tore his clothes and commanded his administration to “go and inquire of the LORD for me, the people, and all Judah about the instruction in this book that has been found. For great is the LORD’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book” (2 Kgs 22:13).
Josiah’s officials visited Huldah the prophetess, who told them that the Lord’s judgment would come upon His people for the sins of the fathers (2 Kgs 22:15-17). Yet, Huldah sent the delegation back to the king with a word of encouragement for him personally informing Josiah that because he had humbled himself he would not see destruction that would come upon Judah (2 Kgs 22:19-20).
Josiah’s reforms had only begun. In 2 Kings 23, the author cataloged the king’s faithful acts. Josiah led Judah in covenant renewal (2 Kgs 23:1-3); cleansed the temple of idolatry and immorality (2 Kgs 23:4-7); defiled the high places of the land, where Israel’s priests had burned incense to pagan gods (2 Kgs 23:8-10, 13-14); defiled the place where the people had gone to sacrifice to the pagan god Molech by making their son or daughter pass through the fire (2 Kgs 23:10); tore down the pagan altars Manasseh had constructed in the Lord’s temple (2 Kgs 23:12); and initiated the most devout Passover celebration Judah had known since the days of the judges (2 Kgs 23:21-23). Despite the glory of King Josiah’s reign, the Lord did not relent from the condemnation He had issued upon Jerusalem and the temple (2 Kgs 23:26-27). While Josiah experienced none of it, the king did endure a measure of the Lord’s wrath when he rebelled against the word of God and was killed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (2 Kgs 23:28-30).
God’s word to Josiah concerning what would come for Judah demonstrates the Lord’s justice and sovereignty. The Lord stayed His judgement upon Judah during Josiah’s lifetime but the sins of the people that preceded and followed Josiah had to be dealt with according to God’s holy standards. The authors of the Old and New Testaments described God’s sovereignty over creation as a way of underscoring His sovereignty over the salvation or condemnation of His people. Since God created and sustains the universe, He is able to deliver those who turn to Him and repent. The psalmist wrote of this in Ps 146:5-6, “Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever.” During Paul’s first missionary journey, he healed a lame man in Lystra. The crowds who witnessed the miracle rushed upon Paul and Barnabas, acclaiming them as Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:8-12). Paul and Barnabas took up Ps 146:6, saying, “We are men also, with the same nature as you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 14:15).