The Narrative Lectionary this week points us to Josiah’s reform in 2 Kings 22:1-20, 23:1-3; and the Gospel text Luke 24:30-32. I am concluding my series on Prayers for Spiritual Awakening this week with this exceptionally amazing story.
Josiah was one of the “good kings” who we find too seldom in the litany of the kings of Judah and Israel. As a King of Judah he follows two evil kings, Manassah (grandfather) and Amon (father). Josiah becomes king at the age of 8 by circumstance of his father’s untimely death at the hands of his servants (at the age of 24). Young Josiah was next in line and the text offers a great testimony about him:
He 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 the left.2 Kings 22:2, CSB
In the next verse we read about a grown 26 year old king who demonstrates some great qualities. He has some spiritual interest in repairing the Lord’s temple. 2 Chronicles 34 relates that he became interested in seeking the Lord when he was 16 years old; into his twenties he began to act upon his spiritual insights. In our text, Josiah shows wisdom as he has, in his employ, men who work hard and who have earned his trust. He requires no accounting as he offers silver to the ones who are overseeing and working to repair the damage.
During this repair, Hilkiah the high priest discovered the book of law. It is a testimony to the downfall of Judah that they have fallen so far that the very law of God was a forgotten and lost relic, unknown to the contemporary generation. When the book was read in the presence of the king, it sparked an immediate response. The king tore his clothes and sent the court secretary to find out what the Lord would require of him.
A small entourage of the high priest, secretary, and servants visited a prophetess named Huldah who lived in Jerusalem. The prophetess informed them that their land was on the brink of disaster because of idolatry. She also sent a message of grace to the king:
Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard …and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard … I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. your eyes will not see all the disaster that I am bringing on this place.”2 Kings 22:19-20, CSB
The first three verses of chapter 23 follow up with Josiah’s commitment to keep the comands of the Lord with “all his heart and with all his soul”. The people he led agreed to follow this commitment. Our text ends here, but Joiah’s story is not over. Josiah goes about demolishing all indications of idolatry and observing the Lord’s Passover for the first time in many years.
Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.2 Kings 23:25, CSB
Josiah’s reign would come to an end when Pharaoh Neco aligned with the king of Assyria and killed him at Megiddo. He was buried in his own tomb. Two of his children followed as kings. Neither of them were ‘good kings’ and both of them had relatively short reigns under the ruthless power and influence of Neco.
The Luke 24 text is the end of the story of the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. The connection is that when the word of the Lord was read before them, their hearts were burning.
Since my focus has been on spiritual awakening this month, this text certainly brings a dramatic conclusion to those thoughts. At the root of Josiah’s revival is something the Lord acknowledged: Because your heart was tender... it really does all come down to the heart. According to THIS WEBPAGE there are at least 50 descriptions of the heart in the Bible.
Josiah’s reign occurs between the reigns of wicked kings and is a bright spot that doesn’t last long. I think that’s a poignant reminder for us to be faithful now and to do all we can to influence the future believers with whom we have influence. It is, always, about the heart. In my sermon I believe I will focus on that how to have a heart tender to God’s will. We can never afford to allow the callousness of the world cause our hearts to be calloused to the influence of His Spirit.
You’re invited to join in the conversation and sharing of resources of many ministers who are working on the text this week in my Facebook group called Narrative Lectionarians.