Take your Bibles and turn with me this week to 2 Chronicles chapter 34. This is our final message in the series “The Day of the Lord” from the Minor Prophet Zephaniah, but we have finished with the text in the Book of Zephaniah. If you remember the first message in the series is titled “The Days of Josiah” and in that message we looked at verse 1 of chapter 1 of Zephaniah and examined the background and context leading up to the ministry of the Minor Prophet who was the cousin of King Josiah. Both Josiah and Zephaniah were descendants of godly King Hezekiah. Now we are going to look at “The Ways of Josiah” and see how the ministry of Zephaniah affected his reign in the Land of Judah and even after. What changed as a result of the message proclaimed by the prophet to the King and to the people of Judah as they were facing certain judgment? This week we will be looking at the historical accounts of the reign of Josiah from 2 Chronicles 34:1-7 and 2 Kings 22 and 23. We will be able to see the stages of reform and revival that happened at different times in Josiah’s life and reign.
In 2 Chronicles 34:1-2 (and the verses are the same as 2 Kings 22:1-2) we are introduced to Josiah’s Right Walk with the Lord.
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
We know from the history we have already studied that Josiah became king after some turmoil in the land. There were wicked kings, assassinations, and finally Josiah was crowned at the tender young age of 8 years old. He was the rightful heir, a descendant of Hezekiah, and as we will learn, the first righteous king since Hezekiah. And as we noted in our first sermon in the series, Josiah ascended to the Throne of Judah in 640 BC and he reigned for 31 years until 609 BC.
We learn about Josiah that even as a young boy it says that “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” He was pleasing to the Lord. He was a man, even as a boy, after God’s own heart! He purposed to do what was right in God’s sight.
This would have been an accomplishment even for an older king, for a mature man. How much more so for a boy? And as we look at the description given we see in verse 3, “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images.”
He began to reign at 8. At 16 he was not just following, but pursuing God and instigating reformation throughout Judah. Now when you think of most 16 year olds, do you think of young people determined to follow the Lord, not turning to the right or left, not deviating in their dedication to do what is right no matter what the cost, no matter what the reaction of their friends, no matter the consequence? Well that is the expectation that we should have, isn’t it? As we rear them in the fear and admonition of the Lord we should do so with an expectation that our children will walk in righteousness. We should not be surprised when young people do what is right.
However, there is a societal expectation, a worldly model, that tells us that young people are expected to rebel and test the boundaries and push the limits. In fact there is a belief that until you have not rebelled and sowed wild oats, you will eventually. No one can reach adulthood it seems without veering wildly off course. Then again, adulthood seems to be further and further into the future doesn’t it? For the generations of today it seems that their 20 year olds are a lot younger than the 20 year olds of my generation.
Now, it is true that we are born sinners. That Josiah was just as much as sinner as any of us. We are born into depravity – not that we are as sinful as we could be, but our whole being is tainted by the stain and reign of sin from conception. By nature we are born enemies of God, with a bent to rebel and run the other way. But this is what we know according to Scripture, as we know the Lord and as our children know the Lord there is no expectation in the Word of God that teenagers or any other age should rebel against authority.
Anyone who does not know the Lord and who is not taught self-discipline, and to walk in the Spirit, and to pursue holiness then you will certainly not live as you ought to live according to God’s Word. You see, there is no age limit, there is no expiration date for the application of the Word by the power of the Spirit to our lives and the lives of our children. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb, and Abraham and Sarah conceived and bore Isaac when he was 100 and she was 90. For God, who has put “eternity in their hearts” as He tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “nothing is impossible” (Luke 18:27). Age is not a factor and God is not bound by time. So our expectations should be governed by the power and ability of God, and not by the limitations of being born with a sinful, fallen nature.
As we teach our children and instruct them from the Word of God, they will learn, they are able to walk in righteousness and holiness, they will bear the fruit of self-control, and they will prove that God can and does use young people throughout history to accomplish His purposes. Josiah is a great example. So is Samuel, and Joseph, and David, and Daniel, and even Jesus at age 12 in the Temple teaching the teachers.
What is astounding here with Josiah is that from the age of 8 to 16 he was following the Lord and His Word but not actively pursuing growth in grace and obedience. And he at this point did not even have the Book of the Law – it was buried and hidden in the Temple. But what did he have? The prophets. The revealed Word of God proclaimed by Jeremiah. And he heard and obeyed and listened to godly counselors and he did was right in obedience and faithfulness.
“He did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” Too often God’s people are accused of doing what is right in their own eyes, right? But here, Josiah, from age 8 to 16, is doing what is right in the eyes of God. What a testimony, both to his obedience and to God’s faithfulness to His people, even though they were sinful and hard hearted. God gave sinful, stiff-necked, idolatrous Judah a righteous king. What grace!