Read 2 Kings 23
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.’” (John 4:21 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 87: Josiah. Josiah was one of the most important kings. It could be argued that he was was beneath only David and Solomon in importance. This is because Josiah is seen as a reformer, as someone who had the most success in bringing Judah back to a right relationship with God.
This reform started when the high priest, Hilkiah, found a scroll while clearing the treasure room of the Temple. This scroll is believed by most scholars to either be a copy of the Deuteronomy or went on to become a part of Deuteronomy, had that book already existed during the time period. Either way, this scroll magically appears in the Temple where no one, evidently, had ever seen it before. It is, when one thinks of it, kind of odd that a sacred scroll was left “hidden” in the treasure room; however, that will be dealt with later.
According to the story, Hilkiah brought the scroll to Josiah’s attention. The king sent Hilkiah and other leaders to consult with the prophetess Huldah, who told him that indeed God was going to allow the curses mentioned in the scroll to befall Jerusalem, and all of Judah, as a result of their sins; however, she also assured that this would not take place during King’s reign due to his humility.
This word from the prophetess, according to the Chronicler, sparked a fire within Josiah, who had the entire scroll read to the people. He then set into place new rules. There could only ever be one place to worship: the Temple. All foreign idols and shrines were to be destroyed. In fact, Josiah had all areas of worship (outside of the Temple of Jerusalem) destroyed, even if they were to Yahweh. Thus, Josiah centralized worship and mandated that the Jerusalem Temple was the ONLY place that God could be properly worshiped. This had NEVER been the case prior to Josiah.
He didn’t just reform Judah either, but he had his troops march up into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had their places of worship destroyed and their high priests put to death. In fact, he exumed the graves of religious leaders who were already dead and had their bodies burned on the pagan altars. Nice, right?
Josiah is seen as one of the greatest kings of Judah’s history. His unwavering zeal for God has been recorded and endured the test of time; however, it must be acknowledged that this opinion of Josiah comes from those who wrote his history. These were people who were in favor of his reforms. Surely, his methods of reform were sometimes questionable and there had to be people who saw him as a power hungry tyrannt who wanted nothing more than to bring all of the tithes and wealth into Jerusalem (through making the Temple the only place one could worship).
What’s more, it is certainly “fishy” that a scroll miraculously appears in the Temple where it had never been seen before. It is not impossible that such a find happened; however, it is suspect at the very least, and seems improbable. Many scholars conjecture that Josiah had the scroll created in order to lend Scriptural authority to his reform agenda. If it was God’s will for this to be done, who could then rightfully argue with the king?
That begs the question, was it God’s will that all worship be centralized in one place? Was God upset with people worshiping (so long as they were worshiping the one, true God of Israel) up in Samaria (aka Northern Israel)? Was this reform agenda completely God’s will, or was Josiah seeking more power and control. Perhaps it was a combination of those two things? One thing is for sure, Josiah’s descendent, Jesus of Nazareth, pushed back against the centralized worship policy when discussing who he was to a woman at a well in Samaria.
Have you ever gotten over zealous in your religious beliefs? Have you ever gone too far in pushing your religious agenda? Have you ever burned others with your attempt to show them the “love” of God? We cannot be sure, one way or the other, as to whether Josiah falls in this category; however, I find it unlikely that God would want dead corpses exumed and burned at the very least. Let us learn from this. Even when God is calling us to bring reform into the world around, that does not mean God wishes for us to overzealously abuse our authority in doing so.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Wisdom without faith is dead. Faith without wisdom is deadly.”
Lord, grant us the wisdom to know when we are going to far to carry out our faith. Amen.