Summary: The reign of Josiah gives us cause for concern today. But it also offers hope if we will turn to the Lord
Where do We go from Here?
The Scripture we read this morning tells us of a young king Called Josiah. He was only eight years old when he became king. The text we just read happened when Josiah was 26 years of age. Let us look further into the background of this remarkable event.
The Impending Judgment of God
The Lord God was very angry against the Jewish nation. Josiahfs grandfather, Manasseh, was the most wicked ruler that Judah had ever had. The fact that he reigned 55 years as king meant that two entire generations had been influenced by this evil ruler. Only the eldest of the people of Judah could even remember the godly king Hezekiah and the great deliverance God had granted the Jewish people from the Assyrians.
This same king Manasseh was only twelve when he became king. From Scripture we read that Hezekiah was about to die and pleaded with God who granted him fifteen years more life. The Scripture also states that this same Hezekiah did not return the benefit which was given him. A simple case of arithmetic states that this Manasseh would have never been born if these fifteen years had not been granted.
When Hezekiah was confronted by Isaiah the prophet who foretold the Babylonian captivity of Israel, Hezekiah was only concerned for his generation. He thought it was OK, just as long as it didnft happen on his watch. Imagine a young son observing his fatherfs lack of concern and diligence. There was no intercessory prayer. There was no care to raise the future king in the fear of the Lord.
Hezekiah knew he was going to die after 15 years. What did he do with Manasseh? Obviously, not enough. Manasseh became far more evil than his father had been good. He filled all of Jerusalem with innocent blood. He placed a statue of Baal in the temple of God in Jerusalem. He worshipped the stars of heaven. In fact, he did everything that God had removed the ten tribes of Israel for committing. God was so angry that He was determined to remove Judah from their land and lead them captive to Babylon. As a foretaste of this, He allowed Manasseh to be captured and led away captive. Manasseh did repent after a sort, and God released him from captivity. And although he undid some of the damage he had created, the nation of Judah was in spiritual ruin when Manasseh died. His son Amon followed in his fatherfs evil ways. After two years, Amon was murdered and his eight year old son took the throne.
The Grace of God Shown
In the young king Josiah, one sees the grace of God at work. The Bible says that this child king grew up seeking the way of the Lord God of Israel. Even though God was angry with Judah, especially with the shedding of innocent blood, God gave Judah one more chance. God showed grace to the nation.
How was Godfs grace shown? In one sense it was shown directly by Godfs preparing the young Josiahfs heart to be receptive to Him. When one thinks of the direct action of Godfs grace, we think of Josiahfs contemporary, the prophet Jeremiah whom the Lord also called as a boy, even from his motherfs womb. Another example of this direct act of grace is in John Wesley. When John was young, the parsonage at Epworth where his father was pasturing caught on fire. Everyone got out but John. Everyone thought he was burned up in the fire. But at the last possible second, John was rescued. As he recalls it, he was a brand plucked from the fire. God had a work for young John to do, so He spared him. This is the direct act of grace.
But there was another means of grace shown in Johnfs life, namely a godly mother who taught him to pray and seek God, to read the Scripture, and to live right. This is the grace of God applied indirectly. Yes it is still Godfs grace, even though it came through the work of someone else. But who can bestow grace unless grace had been bestowed on them. It does show our responsibility to be open to Godfs grace working through us.
In Josiahfs case, he was too young to rule outright. In these cases, he would be assigned tutors to help him rule until he was mature enough to rule in his own right. Who were Josiahfs tutors? Some of them must have been godly men and women who helped prepare the young boyfs heart to turn to the Lord God as much as Manassehfs tutors inclined that king to wickedness. One should never underestimate the example of a godly life or the terrible effects or a wicked life on others.