Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.
I. HIS EARLY ACCESSION. "Josiah ['Whom Jehovah heals'] was eight years old when he began to reign" (ver. 1). Manasseh, Uzziah, and Joash had been twelve, sixteen, and seven respectively when they ascended the throne. Generally speaking, it is perilous to have greatness thrust upon one at too early an age; sometimes premature responsibility calls forth capacities that might otherwise have continued latent. Edward VI., who assumed the crown of England in his tenth year, Charles IX., who was of the same age when he was raised to the throne of France, and Kang Hi (A.D. 1661), who became Emperor of China in his seventh year, were examples of the truth here stated.
II. HIS FERVENT RELIGION. Josiah's piety was:
1. Ancestral. If his father Amen was not a good man, but the opposite - an insensate idolater and a hardened trangressor (2 Chronicles 33:22, 23) - his mother Jedidah, "Beloved," the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath (2 Kings 22:1), may have been a good woman, who, like Eunice of later times (2 Timothy 1:5), nurtured her son in the fear of Jehovah. Besides, as that son was six years of age before Manasseh died, he may have received from his aged grandfather such instructions as disposed him to the choice of the true religion of Jehovah. In any case, in him was reproduced the piety of the best sovereigns that had preceded him - in particular of Hezekiah, Jotham, Jehoshaphat, and David.
2. Early. "In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father" (ver. 3). Youthful piety, of which Scripture furnishes numerous examples - Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26), Abijah (1 Kings 14:13), Obadiah (1 Kings 18:12), John (Luke 1:80), Jesus (Luke 2:52), Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) - while beautiful in all, is specially attractive in princes. King Edward VI., besides being a good linguist, "had a particular regard for the Holy Scriptures" (Bishop Burnet). That religion which begins in youth is most likely to be permanent, and certain to be most useful. Christ commends religion to the young (Matthew 6:33).
(1) Earnest and active, not merely nominal and formal: "He began to seek after the God of David his father," which meant that he inquired after and practised the rites and commandments of the true religion.
(2) Humble and obedient, not proud and self-willed: "He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father" (ver. 2), in so far, i.e., as he walked in the ways of Jehovah.
(3) Persevering and thorough, not intermittent and incomplete: "He turned not aside to the right hand or to the left" (ver. 2).
III. HIS ZEALOUS REFORMATION. I. The period of it. Beginning in his twelfth year of reign, i.e. the twentieth of his life, and terminating in his eighteenth year of reign, or the twenty-sixth of his life, it occupied six years in all (vers. 3, 8).
2. The scene of it.
(1) Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom. Reformations, like charity, should begin at home. Many would reform others who have no heart to reform themselves (Song of Solomon 1:6).
(2) Judah, of which Jerusalem was the capital. Though "beginning at Jerusalem," Josiah's reformation should not end there. A good king will give his first thoughts to the improvement of himself; his second, to the improvement of his capital, where his court sits and whence his laws proceed; his third, to the improvement of his land and people; his fourth, to the improvement of cities, empires, nations beyond, as far as lies within his power.
(3) The cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, in their ruins round about. A good. king will extend his influence as widely as possible, and in particular strive to be helpful to those peoples in his vicinity that are less enlightened or more necessitous than himself.
3. The manner of it. With "The violence - probably hinted at in the phrase, with their axes" (ver. 6, margin). "The reformation executed by the king was earnestly intended; it was thorough, it was comprehensive; but it was above everything violent" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:237). This appears more distinctly from 2 Kings (2 Kings 23:4-20). But the extirpation of religious, no more than of political abuses, can be carried out without a degree of harshness. Privileged iniquity in Church or in state is always difficult to dislodge.
4. The extent of it. Judah, Jerusalem, and the Israelitish cities already mentioned were purged from high places, Asherim, images and altars (vers. 3-7). Particularly
(1) the altars of the Baalim were broken down in the young king's presence, the sun-images above them being hewn down at his command (ver. 4);
(2) the Asherim or "pillars and trees of Asherah" (Keil), with the graven and molten images connected with the impure worship of Astarte, were broken in pieces, and their dust (after burning) strewn upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them (ver. 4) - the Book of Kings speaking of the removal of the Asherah from the house of the Lord, and the destruction of the houses of the infamous women who wove tents for the idol (2 Kings 23:6, 7); and
(3) the bones of the priests who had sacrificed at the heathen shrines having first been exhumed from their graves, were burnt upon the altars at which the priests had ministered before these were destroyed.
1. The beauty of early piety.
2. The excellence of Christian zeal.
3. The difficulty of executing reformations. - W.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign.
Monday Club Sermons.I. THE POSSIBILITY OF YOUTHFUL RESPONSIBILITY. Other children besides Josiah have been called to the cares of a kingdom. Manasseh commenced to reign at twelve, Joash was seven, Uzziah sixteen; Henry III and Edward VI of England were both nine; four of the Scottish kings, James II, III, IV, and V, ascended the throne when children. Of the French kings, Louis I. began to reign at sixteen, Louis IX at eleven, Louis XIII at nine, Charles VI at eleven, Charles IX at ten; Louis XIV, inheriting the kingdom at five, assumed full control by his own force of character at thirteen. Charles I of Spain, better known as Charles V of Germany, became king at sixteen; Charles II at fourteen, seizing the kingdom from an ill-governing regency which had existed since his fourth year.
II. EARLY PIETY IS POSSIBLE AND DESIRABLE. When does the period of moral accountability begin? We cannot fix it definitely. But this much is certain: whenever the child can intelligently choose this or that because it is right or wrong, then has moral accountability commenced, and the child can be a Christian.
III. THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD ADVISERS. Josiah was but a boy, and yet around him were spiritual Titans — Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah.
IV. THE ENERGY OF YOUTHFUL PIETY.
V. THE INFLUENCE OF THE SURROUNDING ATMOSPHERE ON PIETY. We must be watchful against irreligious influences.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
I. HIS DISADVANTAGES.
1. His extreme youth.
2. The degeneracy of the times. He ascended the throne in a dark age.
3. He was the son of a bad father.
II. WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION OF HIS PIETY? It may have been largely due to the quiet but all-powerful influence of a good mother. But there are wonders of grace often wrought in the lives of the children of wicked men which you cannot explain.
III. THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS PIETY. He "walked in the ways of David his father." Four hundred years separated Josiah from David. Thank God, there are seasons, even in degenerate times, when the old purity of things is restored, when the grand old faith is received and lived over again, and when the heroism of those who are gone comes back like a new inspiration to young lives. "Ah! he is an old-fashioned young man: he lives behind the age; he ought to have been living in the time of David, for he has quite adopted his ancient ways," exclaimed some young men of the period. All the conceited striplings of the day would join in the chorus, "Poor Josiah, he does not move with the age. He is an eccentric young fellow, very puritanic in his notions, and sings psalms as if he lived in the days of old King David." My young friends, a true man likes to be old-fashioned sometimes. It is noble to move with the age when the age is going forward; but it is grand to remain with the past when the age in which we live retrogrades from ancient purity and ancient faith. When there is no spiritual vigour or moral fibre in our day, it is well to stick to the old days when there were strength and fibre in religion and morals. Do not be afraid of the charge of being old-fashioned. It is cheaply made, and is often meaningless, save as it is the highest possible compliment. Be in the company of the world's best and noblest men: never mind whether they live to-day, or whether they lived eighteen hundred years ago, or even more.
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