II Kings 22-23
The conspiracy group who took out wicked Amon was desperate. Old Dr. Bob Jones taught us, “It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.” These men were desperate after the long reign of Manasseh (21:1). When his son Amon became king, and the men of power around him (his servants (23) realized that he was a clone of his father, they did the wrong thing to affect the right thing. God did not order the murder of Amon, but in His providential rule over all, He brought good out of their evil. The people, a rather broad identification, punish those who killed the king by execution (24). They proclaim his eight-year-old son, Josiah, to be king (24). This, of course, means that there was a conservative power group that mentored Josiah.
Under Manasseh, the repetitive cycle of rebellious descent into evil was set in motion and, as we saw in the previous chapter, was a headlong dive into a cesspool of diverse rebellious evils of all sorts.
The two chapters now under consideration will reflect the cycle that we observe recurring in Israel, which is also a picture of what can be observed throughout the history of Christianity. This cycle is rebellion, revival, retrenching of evil, and rebellion.
The extent of the rebellion under Manasseh is observed in the details of the revival under Josiah. His reign’s rebellious character ranged from passing his son through the fire of Molech to sanctioned male prostitution in the temple to altars to Baal in the very house of God.
Are we observing this same phenomenon in the 21st-century church? Blogger Alan Shlemon, on his blog, Stand to Reason, posted this experience.
In 2014, I attended Matthew Vines’s conference on the Bible and homosexuality. His stated goal was to “promote inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching.” The organization he started, The Reformation Project, teaches that homosexual sex and same-sex marriage are biblically permissible, and its goal to mainstream this theology into the church is overt and clear.1
The opening observations (22:2) are an epithet. They reflect the characterization of his life and reign. They tell us that the men who installed him as king were God-fearing men who mentored him to mature into a man who was right with God and who would lead this revival. They note his practice, he did right, and they note his character; he walked right.
The Revival Begins
The revival begins when Josiah is twenty-six years old. The temple has been neglected throughout the reign of his father and grandfather.
Apparently, Josiah did a restoration campaign seeking funds to rebuild the temple since he sent Shaphan with directions to utilize the funds for rebuilding (2-7). Verse seven is an interesting sidebar, “But they need not account for the money entrusted to them because they are honest in their dealings.” The situation seemed a bit like that of Jesus’ day. The leadership was corrupt, but the common man tended to be dependable. It is not unlike the 2oth century Evangelical church and the American nation. The leadership tends to be corrupt (think of tele-evangelists and clergy guilty of sexually abusing children and frequent reports of adulterous relationships. At the same time, the daily merchant or handyman can be trusted to be honest.
- The Book of the Law Found and Read
The book of the law found. Today, we might say, the master copy has been found as we uncovered it from the rubble in the temple. The high priest informs Shaphan, who in turn informs the king and reads it to the king (8-10).
As the king hears the book read, his response is that of humility and recognition that his forefathers have failed the nation. He sends the Shaphan, Hilkiah, the priest, and Asaiah, his attendant, to inquire of the Lord for him (11-13). He gives us a good model. When reading the book of God. and you realize you and the leaders before you have sinned, it is wise to seek the Lord to gain clarity on your situation (13).
They go to a woman prophetess, Huldah (14-19), who has a direct message for the king. God will be gracious in his lifetime because he has been repentant, “Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.” (20).
An interesting observation is here called for. Why Huldah? A better question is, why was there not a male prophet? There are four other female prophets noted in the Old Testament.2 It appears that the male religious leaders had wholesale capitulated to the wicked leadership of Manasseh and Amon.
- Following the Model of Moses
The language (23:1-9) is reminiscent of Exodus 19-24 and Deuteronomy 30. Josiah models his covenant renewal after that of Moses. He follows it with the systematic cleansing of the temple and the nation of the vestiges of paganism (23:8-20). What no doubt took days of intense and focused identifying of paganism’s tracks throughout Judah, Josiah commenced calling for initiating the Passover.
- Establishing the Passover
The absence of celebrating Passover marks the depth of the sin rampant in Judah. This celebration identified their existence as a physical nation. It looked back to the clan of Abraham being freed from slavery in Egypt and marked their incursion into the Promised Land and the becoming of a nation, all by God’s hand. To ignore this celebration was to ignore, no, deny God.
Oh, my friends, such is our condition when we fail to gather for the Lord’s Supper or when we do so, importing innovations not prescribed by our Savior. He modeled it for us on the night He was betrayed. Paul reiterated the model for us. And, at that celebration, we are to remember Him till He comes. Remember who He is and what He has done, and remember, He is at His Father’s right hand, and He is coming again and will affect the final cleaning out of paganism from His eternal kingdom.
- Summing Up the Revival
The writer of this record sums up the revival of Josiah in these words, “Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD” (24).
Retrenching and Rebellion
One must ask the question, why the closing message (26-35) regarding the anger of the Lord?
As I understand it, the answer is found in verse nine, which tells us, “Although the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, they ate unleavened bread with their fellow priests.”
These men went underground. They did not oppose the king; they laid low and quietly propagated their poison. When Jehoiakim came to the throne, they were ready to support his spiral back into paganism (36-37). As we read earlier, God only promised Josiah, in response to his humility and repentance, that godliness would reign during his life.
This pattern—spiral into decadence, revival, retrenching of evil, open rebellion leading to decadence—has been the mark of sin and the devil’s work since man’s fall.
Conclusion and Implementation
As believers, we should engage in personal and cooperative revival as a way of life. The New Testament calls it confession, and repentance leads to forgiveness to walk in the light as He is in the Light and live in fellowship with Him and one another (I John 1:7-10).
As Luther, Whitfield, and Moody, for example, Christians can and should be the catalyst of church revival that spills over to the state from which all citizens benefit. Nonetheless, evil will go underground and await its opportunity. The cycle will continue until Jesus returns and finally does away with Satan, the ultimate source of evil.
- https://www.str.org/w/an-assessment-of-andy-stanley-s-unconditional-conference cited 10-15-23 The rest of this blog presents a very fair evaluation of the 2023 Unconditional Conference sponsored by popular evangelical pastor, Andy Stanley.
- The label “prophetess” or “woman prophet” (něbī’āh) is attributed to five women in the Old Testament: Miriam (Exod. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), and “the prophetess” (Isa. 8:3). Its significance is clear. Miriam claims the Lord “has spoken” through her (Num. 12:2). Deborah says to Barak: “Look, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded” (Judg. 4:6). Huldah similarly uses the prophetic introductory formula: “Thus says the Lord God of Israel…” (2 Kings 22:15). Each one shows up when there was a dearth of male prophets. In the course of approximately 13 to 1500 years, there were five instances of the Lord speaking through a female prophet. It was the exception, not the rule. During the days of Elijah and Elisha, there existed the school of the prophets, rather like a seminary in our day.