Summary: Kings of Judah, Pt. 10: "Josiah"
The greatest chess player of all time is arguably Gary Kasparov. He was the world’s youngest-ever champion at the age of 22 and was the undisputed king the last two decades. The enigmatic and charismatic Russian Jew was known for holding his own against IBM supercomputers that could process up to 3 million chess moves per second.
Kasparov, however, shocked the world in 2005 when he announced his retirement at the young age of 41. He said part of the reasons he was retiring because he saw no real goals left to accomplish in his professional chess career.
Bushinsky, one of the IBM supercomputer programmers who met with Kasparov a month, said, Kasparov’s resignation “was in the cards.” He explained, “Like Michael Jordan, he achieved all his goals.”
How does one improve when there are no mountains to conquer and giants to battle? How about when you have been there and done that at a very young age?
Two of the eight good southern kings – Joash and Amaziah were so disgraced before God and in the Scriptures that they never made it to Jesus’ genealogy, even while bad kings were listed there. Joash killed the prophet Zechariah, his cousin and the son of his uncle by marriage, good prophet and high priest Jehoiada (2 Chron 24:20-22). Amaziah (2 Chron 25:14-15) gave credit to idols after God gave him an unexpected victory over Edom. Three were above average but short of excellence, including Asa - bitterness, Uzziah - pride and Hezekiah – naiveté, all with a bad ending. The three godliest kings out of the eight good kings of Judah all begin with a J – Jehoshaphat, Jotham, and Josiah. Out of these three, Josiah’s story is the brightest.
Josiah, the last good king of Judah, was one of the most righteous king who ever lived. In fact, he is arguably the cleanest and most helpful king in Judah’s history. God spared him from seeing the exile that would occur to his immediate generation.
What make a person truly great in God’s eyes? Is it turning to Him when you get into trouble? Is it helping people when they ask? The answer might surprise you, as it surprised me!
Your Attitude, Not Age, Counts in God’ Eyes
34:1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. 3 In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images. 4 Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles, the idols and the images. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6 In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, 7 he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
A father who was frustrated and upset with his son’s grades at school attempted to get his 14-year old son to study for a test to pull up his grades. So he told his son in no uncertain terms the story of Abraham Lincoln, saying: “Son, when Abraham Lincoln was your age, he had a job and he walked 14 miles in the snow to get to school and every night, he came home and studied and did his homework, reading books by the light of the fire, for the next day.”
To this his son replied, “Dad, when Abraham Lincoln was your age, he was President of the United States of America.”
As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!”
When kids his age were going to school, Josiah was required to act like an adult. If anyone had reasons to moan about his or her childhood, Josiah had more. The last verse of the previous chapter reads that his father King Amon was assassinated and therefore he was put on the throne at a tender age of eight (2 Chron 33:25). One can safely say that he did not have much of a childhood. He did not get to know his father and was afraid he would be next target and victim. However, he showed teenagers and adults a thing or two about responsibility. At sixteen years of age, in the eighth year of his reign (v 3), he had a spiritual conversion and had a personal relationship with God. At about the midpoint of his teenage years and the time to cause problems, challenge authorities and create havoc, he turned to God, got serious with Him, and explored ways to serve Him. He was not the only good king comparable to King David - so were Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 17:4) and Hezekiah (2 Ki 18:3), but he was the only one who did not turn right or left, which means he had a consistent, determined and outstanding walk with God all the days of his life. This “right and left hand” expression occurs in a few other texts. Concrete examples of this usage include Moses’ request for permission from Edom to stay on the main road, not turning right or left, which was rejected, (Deut 2:27), Balaam’s donkey standing in a narrow place, not turning right or left, when she saw the angel of the Lord (Num 22:26), cows carrying the ark of the Lord going straight and keeping on the road toward its destination (1 Sam 6:12), and the hot and relentless pursuit of enemies in wartime (2 Sam 2:19).