The king commanded all the people, "Keep the Passover of the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant."
I. THE GREAT PASSOVER.
1. A seal of the covenant. This great year of reformation began with a covenant, and ended with a Passover. The ceremonies of the occasion are fully described in 2 Chronicles 35. The Passover in the Old Testament was in some respects very much what the Lord's Supper is in the New, It took the people back to the origin of their history, revived vivid memories of the deliverance from Egypt, and ratified their engagement to be the Lord's. It reminded of the past, set a seal upon the present, and gave a pledge for the future. The Christian sacrament seals God's promises to the believer, and, at the same time, seals the believer's covenant with God. It establishes, nourishes, and strengthens the life received in the new birth.
2. An historic celebration. "Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel," etc. A true religious awakening shows itself
(1) in increased interest in God's ordinances;
(2) in stricter fidelity in observing them; and
(3) in joyful alacrity in taking advantage of them.
II. FIDELITY TO MOSES.
1. Cleansing away the concomitants of idolatry. Together with the idols, Josiah cleansed out of the land the tribes of wizards, necromancers, soothsayers, etc., who found their profit in the ignorance and superstition of the people. Where Bible religion returns, Sanity returns. The hideous specters begotten of fear and superstition vanish. Josiah further carefully eradicated any remaining traces of idol-worship that could be "spied."
2. Pre-eminent fidelity. In these deeds, and by his whole course as a reformer, Josiah earned for himself the distinction of being the most faithful king that had yet reigned. He and Hezekiah stand out pre-eminent the one for trust in God (2 Kings 18:5), the other for fidelity to the Law of Moses. "Like unto him was there no king before him," etc. Like gems, each of which has its special beauty and excels in its own kind, these two kings shine above all the rest. Only one character exhibits all spiritual excellences in perfection.
III. ISRAEL'S SIN YET UNPARDONED.
1. God's unappeased anger. "Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath," etc. The sole reason of this was that, notwithstanding the zealous Josiah's reforms, the people had not in heart turned from their great sins. The spirit of Manasseh still lived in them. They were unchanged in heart, and, with favoring circumstances, were as ready to break out into idolatry as ever. The outward face of things was improved as regards religion, but social injustice and private morals were as bad as ever. Hence the Lord could not, and would not, turn from his wrath. It is real, not lip, repentance that God requires to turn away his auger from us. We see:
(1) The posthumous influence of evil. "One sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecclesiastes 9:18). Manasseh's deeds lived after him. His repentance could not recall the mischief they had done to the nation. They went working on after his decease, propagating and multiplying their influence, till the nation was destroyed.
(2) The righteousness of individuals cannot save an unrighteous people. Not even though these righteous persons are high in rank, are deeply concerned for the revival of religion, and labor with all their hearts to stem the tide of corruption. Their piety and prayers may delay judgment, but if impenitence is persisted in, they cannot finally avert it (cf. Jeremiah 15:1, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people").
2. God's unshaken purpose. "I will remove Judah also out of my sight," etc. Terrible is the severity of God when his forbearance is exhausted. Moral laws are inexorable. If the spiritual conditions, by which only a change could be effected, are wanting, they work on till the sinner is utterly destroyed. - J.O.
And the King went up into the house of the Lord.
1. Because that duty had become an extraordinary one, through the long neglect of it.
2. And the other reason was, because they were desirous to hear the Word of the Lord. These were indeed two good reasons for this solemn assembly of all the people in the Lord's house. But what a terrible lesson does it read to us! We read of a wonderful deliverance of His people by Almighty God out of the hands of their enemies, when to the eye of man their situation was utterly hopeless. We should expect that this would have awakened them, especially as God had performed it on their turning back, under the pious Hezekiah, from their false gods to the true and living God; yet here, in the third generation from that time, we find the altars and temples of the false gods up again, and the Word of God lost, not only out of the hearts, but of the very sight and ears of the people. Once again, however, and, alas! for the last, time, both the temple and that Word were restored under the care of the pious Josiah; and the people of God once again, and for the last time, showed themselves as the people of God. Such is the example before us; the example of a people, too, in whose place we are standing, being grafted in as a wild olive, in place of the branches which had been broken off because of unbelief. And their example is our example, as we have been told by St. Paul. Let us review, then, some of the plainest applications of this example.(1) St. Paul warns us, saying, "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them" (1 Corinthians 10:7). But it may he said that we are not in the least danger of being idolaters. We are thoroughly convinced of its besotted folly and desperate wickedness. But then, there are always two things to all our dealings with God, — there is the spirit, and there is the deed; and the deed depends upon the spirit for its quality, as the fruit depends upon the nature of the tree for its kind. Although, therefore, we bow not down before the work of our own hands, putting it in the place of God, we may bow down before the work of our own hearts, and put that in the place of God. And this idolatry may go on while the other is scorned and mocked at. For what is the worship of God? Is it not in lifting up the thoughts and affections of the heart unto God on His throne in heaven, and acknowledging Him as our maker and continual keeper? Thus God is the first and last object of the heart; but an idol is a thing of this world, put in the place of God. Oh how is the heart in its devotion to the things of this world full of images, which it worships, in the place of the Maker of this world and all therein, with the kiss of affection, with the bowing of the spirit, with the adoration of the soul! But of one image only will God allow in the heart for worship, and not reckon it idolatry; in one image will He allow Himself to be honoured, and in one only; and what is that? It is the image of Himself. But how shall we possibly have the image of God, whom no man hath seen, neither can see, in our hearts? He hath given us this image of Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom St. Paul says, "that He is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15); "the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3); and who says concerning Himself, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9); if, therefore He shall be dwelling in our hearts by faith, then we have there the image of God, and we are worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. And this, therefore, is necessary to our worship, the keeping His image there, not letting the things of this world to take its place, but looking upon Him crucified by crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts; looking upon Him dead, by our death urge sin; looking upon Him as risen again, by our new life unto righteousness; looking upon Him ascended into heaven, by setting the affections on things above; looking on Him as coming again, through the denial of all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and in the blessed hope of His glorious appearing. To this worship we have all been called, and to this all must turn from the vain idols of worldly desires.(2) That the Word of God should be lost out of the hands and hearts of idolaters, who can wonder? It expressly forbids idolatry of every kind, both within and without the heart: it says, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve"; and it is full from beginning to end of severe rebuke and awful threats against all that are holding the truth in unrighteousness, knowing that the Lord God is a jealous God, that will not share His honour with another, and yet preferring to his worship and service the devotion to the world, and the service of the flesh. And the first token of sincere repentance is now, as it was in the days of Josiah: men go up to the house of the Lord to hear the Word of God; they go to His house in the place of the public assembly of His people; they go to His house in the inner chamber of their hearts; for then being bent on amendment, they desire reproof, they wish to forsake the wrong way for the right, they long to understand the will of God that they may do it; to hear His sentence upon sin, that they may justly dread and abhor it; to listen to His promise of pardon, that they may lay fast hold of it; to hear the call to repentance, that they may instantly and sincerely obey it; thus the Word which was before full only of rebuke, now abounds to them wire consolation; that which smote their consciences now soothes them.
(R. W. Evans, B. D.)
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