This is what the Bible says about Josiah: “He did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left” (1 Kings 22:2). When Josiah was a young man, he made his own choice about who he was going to follow. You see, King David wasn’t Josiah’s immediate father, he was more like Josiah’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Josiah’s father wasn’t a good king like David. He was a terrible king, an evil king. And Josiah’s grandfather? Just as bad. In fact, there hadn’t been very many good kings in Jerusalem. I bet there were people who didn’t expect very much of King Josiah. They probably thought he would be a Good-for-Nothing like his father and his father’s father. But they were wrong. Even though Josiah didn’t come from the “perfect family,” even though his dad thought God was a waste of time, Josiah chose for himself to follow God.
Out of that decision to follow God, Josiah made another decision: to restore the Temple, God’s house. So he gathered workers (and paid them fairly, which kings weren’t often very good at doing) and began cleaning and fixing up the Temple. It needed a lot of work because it had been neglected for years, and while they were cleaning, they found a scroll. Well a scroll in the Temple probably isn’t a grocery list, and sure enough, when they dusted it off and opened it up, they discovered it was the Scroll; it was God’s Word. Can you imagine? They lost the Bible. You see, back then they didn’t have Bibles in their homes like we do; when they lost it they couldn’t just go to the store and pick up another one like we can. There was only one copy… and they lost it. Can you imagine no one having a Bible anywhere!? All they knew about the Bible and about God was what was passed on by word of mouth. So anyway, when the priest found that Scroll, it was a big deal.
So they brought the Scroll to the king and read it to him. And when Josiah heard the Word of God read to him, he tore his expensive, kingly robes. We might think that’s strange, but in Josiah’s culture, tearing your outer garment was a sign of sadness and repentance. It was a public (communally-oriented) crying out to God. Josiah was deeply saddened because he knew that because God created everything God knows how everything works best, and God had given instructions to his people about how to live, but the people were ignoring God, saying, We think our way is better. We know you created the world and everything, but we don’t really think you know what you’re talking about; we don’t think you really care about us. But because God does really love us, he won’t force us to choose his way, even though his way is best. Eventually, God will let us have our own way, even when our choices are going to hurt us. And Josiah knew this too so he was probably pretty scared as well as sad. This is what the words in the Scroll said, and Josiah knew that if something didn’t change, God might let the people have their way—and the consequences of going their own way too.
So he said to the priest, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (13).
So the priest went to the prophet Huldah (prophets were men and women God used to speak to his people—remember, they only had one Bible and it only had 5 books in it, not like the 66 books in our Bibles today), and this is what Huldah said: “Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was tender [and responsive] and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I [had] spoken… and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I truly have heard you, declares the LORD'” (18-19 mixture of NIV and NASB). After God said this, God promised to take care of King Josiah and his people for as long as Josiah lived. (When Josiah died, the people–mostly–forgot about the promise they are about to make, and started going their own way again instead of God’s way; and God eventually had to let them go their own way, even though their way led them back into captivity.)
So when Josiah heard this, this is what he did. He gathered all the people in his kingdom—old people, young people, women, men, priests, elders, everybody—and he read to them from God’s Word so they could know what it says. Then he walked over to the pillar—the thing that keeps the whole building from crashing in on itself, as if to say, God is like this pillar; he’s the One who keeps everything from crashing in on us—“Josiah stood by the pillar and made a covenant [or a promise] before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments… with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant” (23:3).
Stay tuned for Part 3.