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Once the Temple was cleansed and restored and the people had renewed the Covenant, now as a final step of reformation, he reinstituted right worship through the keeping of Passover. It says in verse 21,
“21 Then the king commanded all the people, saying, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was held before the Lord in Jerusalem. 24 Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, 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.
Josiah went as far as he had to go, further than ALL the Kings of Israel, further than any since the times of the Judges, in order to bring the people into obedience to the Word of God. And it all boiled down to this – to the right worship of God as He had prescribed in His Word.
This was the greatest national revival in the history of Judah. This was greater than the defeat of the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel with Elijah. In fact, in Jesus’ day there are references to certain times of the year that there are lamentations offered on the anniversary of death of King Josiah! The people so revered what he had done and so respected the thoroughness of his reforms in bringing back the right worship of God that Josiah is still remembered today for his faithfulness and obedience to the Lord and His Word.
To close then, verse 25. We have seen Josiah’s Right Walk. We have seen Josiah’s Removal of Wickedness. We have seen Josiah’s Response to the Word. We have seen Josiah’s Restoration of Worship. Now just before the Scriptures give the account of his death we read this. 2 Kings 23:25,
“Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.”
What does the Bible tell us about Josiah? He was the godliest King that Israel or Judah ever had. Think about that. Think about David, a man after God’s own heart. Think about Solomon who gave us Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, the wisest man other than Christ on the earth. Think about Hezekiah, who pleased God and was favored with 15 extra years of life. And there are other kings who we are told did what was right in the sight of the Lord. But then we read about Josiah. There was no one like him. None of the kings before him; none of the kings after him. And look at the description about how he lived. He “turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses.”
In other words, he was obedient, and that means the Bible says that Josiah loved the Lord His God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might. This is what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, and here we have just read in the Bible an account of a man who obeyed that command! He was more devoted to God than any before or after him.
What made the difference?
He heard the Word of God and he responded with a humble, contrite heart. He was grieved over the sin of his people. He knew that he, as king, was responsible to lead them in righteousness.
For Zephaniah to prophesy and to warn the people. For Josiah to hear the Word of the Lord through the prophet and to begin to reform and work for 10 years at tearing down the idols all over the land. And after 10 years to find and hear the Book of the Law. To see how serious the problem of sin was. For him to tear his clothes, to repent, to weep, to hear God’s Word and to heed it. He renewed the Covenant, restored worship, and reinstituted Passover. He remained righteous. He persevered. He endured to the end, and was saved. There was no king like Josiah.
When we see the judgments that Zephaniah proclaimed coming to pass in 586 BC, a generation after Josiah, when we see the exile in Babylon, we see faithful young men, like Daniel and his friends, who followed in the example of a faithful young boy who became King and reigned in righteousness. And it was the Word of God, preached, read, heard, and obeyed that made Josiah a king like no other.