Summary: True revival comes when there is: 1. A call to prayer. 2. A reemergence of God’s Word. 3. A sense of conviction and true repentance.
Josiah: When Reform Is Not Enough
The story of Josiah, King of Judah, is one of the most unusual in the Old Testament in many ways. He was only eight years old when he took the throne. He is one of the last kings to reign before the nation was overrun by the Babylonians. Josiah’s father and grandfather were evil kings, but in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, he decided to repair and restore the Temple of the Lord. The Temple was in a disastrous state, and it symbolized the calamitous spiritual condition of the people. Let me just list some of the things, recorded in 2 Kings 23, that Josiah had to do to in order to clean out the Temple area and repair the Temple itself. He had to have the priests remove all the articles and altars dedicated to pagan gods, including Baal and Asherah, which means there was child sacrifice taking place there in the Temple area. Josiah had to remove all the pagan priests that now served in the Temple. Homosexual male prostitutes had actually set up their quarters in the Temple. Other rooms in the Temple were occupied by women making religious objects for the goddess Asherah. Josiah had to remove the chariots and images of horses that past kings had dedicated to the sun. He had to rid Jerusalem of the mediums and spiritists. He told the people to get rid of their personal household gods. He tore down the high places all over the land of Judah and Israel where people worshiped pagan gods and offered human sacrifices.
Is it any wonder that God was bringing the nation to an end? Then another shocking thing happened as the priests were cleaning out the Temple. A scroll was found. And not just any scroll — it was the Torah, the book of the law — the Scriptures of the Jewish people. In following the practices of the world and worshiping pagan gods, the people had first ignored and then lost the Word of God. It was buried under a pile of debris somewhere in the Temple. Hilkiah the priest gave the scroll to the king’s secretary. The king had the scroll read to him, and when it was read, he tore his robes, because he knew the people had broken every command in the book of the law, and the judgments pronounced in the law were sure to follow. So Josiah extended his reforms from just removing the pagan altars and repulsive religious practices from the Temple. He restored the worship of the true God, and had the people return to the religious feasts and rituals which were a part of their history. The Scripture tells us that Passover was observed in Israel for the first time since the days of the judges. None of the other kings of Israel or Judah had celebrated the Passover. Great reforms were taking place.
But something seems to be missing in the story. The people are told to turn back to the Lord, and begin once again to observe the holy days and religious rituals of their faith, but they are never told to repent for all the things they had done. He does not tell them to seek God with all their hearts, only to follow the rituals and feasts from their past history. The priests read the law to the people, but it does not have the effect of convincing them that they have sinned, or causing them to grieve over their sin. There is no concern about how they have sinned against God. There are no tears of repentance. They begin to observe the feast of Passover, but it is mostly out of respect for Josiah, the king, who tells them to do it. The Bible says, “The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord — to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:31). The Bible says, “Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it” (2 Chronicles 34:32). It goes on to say, “So at that time the entire service of the Lord was carried out for the celebration of the Passover and the offering of burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord, as King Josiah had ordered” (2 Chronicles 35:16). Josiah is faithful to do this, but it doesn’t seem to translate into the hearts of the people. Josiah is a great king, a great reformer and a great man of God. The Bible says, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did” (2 Kings 23:25).