I have always found it interesting that young people are often the initiators of revivals. A short perusal of revival history bears that out. The story of Josiah is perhaps the earliest of those accounts. In 2 Chronicles 34 we have recorded one of the most remarkable revivals in the nation of Israel.
Josiah became king at the age of eight years old. For the first several years of his reign he was simply a figure head, under the tutelage of advisors. However, by the age of 16 he began to assert leadership over Judah. The kind of leadership Judah needed most- spiritual leadership. Over a ten year time span, Josiah lead the people of Judah on a journey of spiritual renewal that was unprecedented in the life of God’s people. There were four steps along the journey that lead to this revival.
1. Josiah Reached Out to God
All that we know about how Josiah’s spiritual journey began is found in this simple statement, “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David…” (2 Chronicles 34:3). Josiah had grown up in the palace where his father, Amon, had been a very wicked king. II Chronicles 33:23 says, “…he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt.” So where did Josiah learn of God? We don’t know. Perhaps he had someone close to him that taught him about the true God of Israel, but really we don’t know. All we know is that when he was 16 years old, he began to seek God. As the Lord says of Josiah later, in 2 Chronicles 34:27, his heart was “tender” and “humble.” Josiah was a wholehearted seeker after God!
The first step in spiritual renewal, whether it is personal or corporate, is to humbly seek to know God. We must seek him with sincerity and a tenderness of heart. God has a wonderful promise for those who will seek to know him- “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
2. Josiah Removed Anything and Everything Sinful
The second step along the path of leading Judah to revival was to remove anything and everything sinful. The sincerity of Josiah’s heart to please God was unparalleled. There was nothing the now 20 year old king was willing to tolerate, if it was displeasing to the Lord. For years the nation of Israel had worshiped idols. It was ingrained into their life and culture. Yet, as Josiah sought God, he was lead to understand that idolatry was an abomination to the Lord. At risk of upsetting the ebb and flow of life in Judah, at risk of destroying their cultural systems, he set out to remove every idol from the land (I would encourage you to read 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 here.). Josiah did what anyone who is seriously seeking spiritual renewal would do- he dealt seriously with sin. Consider the extent to which he went to rid Israel of its idols. First, he tore down all of the idols. Then, he pulverized them into dust and sprinkled them over the graves of those who had worshipped them. Finally, he took the bones of the priests who had presided over the idol worship and burned them on their very on altars. He did not stop until every idol had been torn down!
What an example for us to follow if we desire spiritual renewal! Sin must be dealt with seriously! Like Josiah we must go to the far reaches of our hearts, tearing down every idol that exalts itself above God. We cannot afford to stop short. We cannot risk only tearing down some idols, but leaving others standing. They must all be torn down, pulverized! We cannot stop until the Spirit assures us that our hearts are undivided in love toward him.
3. Josiah Restored True Worship
With false worship removed, the Lord then lead Josiah in restoring true worship. At 26 years of age, Josiah commissioned the remodeling of the Temple (2 Chronicles 34:8). The removal of the idols from the land was only half of the equation. If true worship was not restored it would leave the opportunity open for the people to turn right back to the foreign gods. It would be like Jesus said concerning the return of an unclean spirit, “…the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Matthew 12:45). The work of renewal had to be completed, and that required the restoration of the true worship of God.
In John 4:23-24, Jesus instructs us on the proper worship of God. He tells us, “…those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Because God is a Spirit he is not confined to a particular place. As Acts 7:48 says, “The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands….” Instead, the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer- “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9). Our bodies now become the temple of the Holy Spirit, he rules and reigns within us, leading us to walk in truth, thereby making every act we do an act of worship to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is the true worship for which God is seeking and we must offer (John 4:23).
4. Josiah Recommitted His Nation to the Lord
In the process of restoring the Temple, the Book of the Law was found. This was was the original copy from Moses of Deuteronomy 28-31. In these chapters, God restates the law to Israel and details the punishment for disobedience. Shaphan the scribe, reported to Josiah that the book had been found and read it to him. After hearing the Book of the Law read, Josiah was gripped by the depth of Judah’s disobedience. His tender heart was broken over his nations sinfulness. Once he had light from God’s Word concerning his will and commandments, he moved immediately to lead his people in a wholehearted recommitment of themselves to the Lord and his commandments. Now, at 26 years of age, we read, “ Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 34:31-32).
Renewal must be sealed with a commitment to serve the Lord and walk in obedience to his Word. Our path must be fixed from here forward. As Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of the famed missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, once wrote in her diary, “Lord, I have said the eternal Yes. Let me never, having put my hand to the plough, look back. Make straight the way of the Cross before me. Give me love, that there may be no room for a wayward thought or step.”
2 Chronicles 34 ends by saying, “Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers” (v. 33). In other words, this is how Josiah, the young king with a sincere and tender heart for God, lead his nation in spiritual renewal.
What are some steps you have taken to find spiritual renewal in your own life? Leave your comments below
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All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.