This young king Josiah has opened the book of the Law and discovered the ways Israel has been failing the Lord.  He determines to make the way right in his reign at least.

Thousands of years later we read the same words and see the same need in our world.  I have read this word many times, and now I am seeing parts of it as if it were new to me.  Taking a few lines at a time and considering the context of previous events brings this all to life.  This was the demonstration of man’s inability to measure up to the perfection of God.  It will also provide the ultimate deliverance that we still need today.

And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.  And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.  And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.  2 Kings 23:1-3

In modern times men read, learn, and commit to serve to gain credentials of leadership.  These are works of man intended to earn a better life.  God will demonstrate that we need a higher education because we are unable to earn our own way.  But these ancient leaders did the best they could with what they had knowledge of.

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.  And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.  And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.  And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.  And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city.  2 Kings 23:4-8

In the twentieth century men used their best abilities to build a safer ship.  The owners, builders, and crew were the best qualified of their day.  They made choices that placed their great ship Titanic on a collision course with destiny.  They knew the laws and wisdom of safe navigation, but chose to omit some safety steps along the way.  Our ancient leaders here have not achieved perfection of worship, as the priests of the high places were not submitted to the commandments of the Lord.  King Josiah did continue his obedient changes though.

Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.  And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.  And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.  And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.  And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.  And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.  2 Kings 23:9-14

Even the idolatry going back to Solomon were destroyed in this reformation effort.  Not even dead sinners were spared as he destroyed their graves.  And the priests of the high places were apprehended in his purge too.  For our twentieth century ship, it may have been like the band striking up a hymn, “Nearer my God to Thee”.  We remember our need when we see it getting close.

Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place,  and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.  And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.  Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.  And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.  And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.  And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.  2 Kings 23:15-20

The bones of men are burning into the night, like the coal fired boilers of a great steel ship racing into the night of the North Atlantic.  The captain’s word is law, and the lawgiver of Israel has given us orders to obey as well. 

And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.  Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;  But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.  Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.  And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.  2 Kings 23:21-25

There was no king like him before, as Josiah destroyed the mistakes of all of his predecessors.  David’s murder, Solomon’s idolatry, and the division of the kingdom were all burning to drive their destiny ahead.  King Josiah was truly obedient as much as mortal man can be, but sin is a mistake that has an unavoidable price.  Sin is a part of the nature of the best of men.  The great Titanic was not able to respond to the call of the helm to turn.  It drove on towards the hammering shudder of destruction in its collision.

Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.  And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.  Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?  2 Kings 23:26-28

King Josiah made a choice that would be his end.  A war between two enemies of Israel interested him, and he got involved.  The captain of the Titanic had ignored iceberg warnings and common sense.  The owners chose to send too few lifeboats for the number of souls aboard.  The crew and passengers were beginning to discover the cold reality ahead of them.

In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.  And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.  2 Kings 23:29-30

Josiah has made an alliance with the Assyrians that gets him killed.  His son will replace him but the Egyptians will reward the evil of Jehoahaz with leg bands and chains. 

Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.  And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.  2 Kings 23:31-33

Now the Egyptians make Josiah’s other son Eliakim.  They change his name, perhaps to remind him of his servitude to Egypt. 

And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.  And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, to give it unto Pharaohnechoh.  Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.  2 Kings 23:34-37

Jehoiakim gets only eleven years to do his evil reign.  He sent more gold to Egypt, which makes me wonder how much gold they had before all these kingdoms began raiding the till.  It is all downhill for Judah from here on into captivity.  Don’t despair, because there are great things to be done during this captivity.  God chastises his children, but he does not destroy them.

The captain and designer of the Titanic went down with their ship too.  We may think that such bad decisions are in the past, but are they?  Did NASA administrators ignore warnings from their engineers that destroyed two Space Shuttles and their crews?  Years ago I read about Canadians having huge troubles caused by adjustable rate mortgages.  They reformed their laws while we were beginning to try the same mistakes.  If we do not read the news and learn from history, are we expecting a better end?

The problems of our modern world are not from engineering or political leadership.  Our lack is from spiritual leadership.  We are still trying to do good deeds to earn our hope for eternal life.  “Religion” is displacing faith in Jesus, who alone can redeem our bad choices.  Without his guidance we are burning men’s bones in the boilers of our own cold destruction.