August 29, 2023
“Josiah also removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord.”
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“Josiah also removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord. Josiah did the same things to them that he had done at Bethel. He slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and he burned human bones on the altars. Then he returned to Jerusalem. The king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the Passover of the Lord your God as written in the book of the covenant.’ No such Passover had ever been kept from the time of the judges who judged Israel through the entire time of the kings of Israel and Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was observed to the Lord in Jerusalem. In addition, Josiah removed the mediums, the spiritists, household idols, images, and all the detestable things that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem. He did this in order to carry out the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the Lord’s temple. Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.” 2 Kings 23:19-25 (HCSB)
Let’s recap Josiah’s reign. He was installed as Judah’s king at age eight, too young to have been negatively affected by his father’s idolatry. Righteous priests taught Josiah to value worship and believe in God “as a child,” something Jesus exhorts us to do. (Mark 10:15; Matthew 18:3; Luke 18:17) At age 26, Josiah begins repairing the temple, worn down by years of idolatrous worship and neglect. As the workers are repairing the temple, Hilkiah, the priest, finds the Book of the Law. When God’s Word is read to Josiah, he realizes the seriousness of Israel’s spiritual condition. The temple didn’t just need a new coat of paint; it needed a coat of armor! In response, Josiah begins a campaign of tearing down the “high places,” temples, and shrines of idolatry. More than just demolishing buildings, Josiah puts to death pagan priests in an effort to rid Judah of idolatry completely. For Josiah’s efforts, the Lord commends him. No other king has exemplified Deuteronomy 6:1-7 like Josiah.
One problem: You can tear down the pagan “high places” from atop the hills, but you cannot destroy the high places in the heart. Even though Josiah swept the nation clean and idolatry became a capital offense, the people still chose to be idolatrous in private, in their hearts. So, despite all the smoke rising from the burning pagan shrines and altars, a fire is being stoked in heaven. God’s judgment upon Judah is imminent, and their bend towards idolatry snaps back into place when the next king takes the throne. It is not enough to turn away from our sin; we must turn toward God and pursue Him! Revival must permeate the hearts of the people, not just their laws. A nation can’t sustain greatness unless its people choose the Lord’s greatness.
“In spite of all that, the Lord did not turn from the fury of His great burning anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had provoked Him with. For the Lord had said, ‘I will also remove Judah from My sight just as I have removed Israel. I will reject this city Jerusalem, that I have chosen, and the temple about which I said ‘My name will be there.’” 2 Kings 23:26-27 (HCSB)