2 Kings 23:4
Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests second in rank, and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal, Asherah, and all the host of heaven. And he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel.
Sermons
Josiah's Great ReformationJ. Orr 2 Kings 23:1-14
Good Aims and Bad MethodsD. Thomas 2 Kings 23:1-25
A Revival of ReligionC. Leach, D. D.2 Kings 23:1-28
Good Aims and Bad MethodsDavid Thomas, D. D.2 Kings 23:1-28


And the king sent, etc. Did the world ever contain a people more morally corrupt than that of the Jews? When we mark them journeying in the wilderness forty years, a more murmuring, disorderly, rebellious set of men where else could we discover? When settled in Palestine, a "land flowing with milk and honey" we find them committing every crime of which humanity is capable - adulteries, suicides, murders, ruthless wars, gross idolatries, their priests impostors, their kings bloody tyrants. Even David, who is praised the most, was guilty of debauchery, falsehood, and blood. They were a nation steeped in depravity. They were "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears;" they did "always resist the Holy Ghost" (see Acts 7:51). No doubt there was always a true "Church of God" within the nation (1 Kings 19:18); but to call the whole nation "the Jewish Church" is a misnomer, and far from a harmless one. It has encouraged Christian nations to fashion their communities after the Jewish model instead of after the Christian one. The verses I have selected record and illustrate good aims and bad methods.

I. GOOD AIMS. Josiah's aims, as here presented, were confessedly high, noble, and good. I offer two remarks concerning his purposes as presented in these verses.

1. To reduce his people to a loyal obedience to Heaven. His aim was to sweep every vestige of religious error and moral crime from his dominion. Truly, what more laudable purpose could any man have than this, to crush all evil within his domain, to crush it not only in its form but in its essence? This was indeed the great end of Christ's mission to the world. He came "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

2. Generated within him by the discovery of the Divine will. Somehow or other, as was seen in the last chapter, the book of the Law which was to regulate the lives of the Jewish people had been lost in the temple, lost probably for many years, but Hilkiah the high priest had just discovered it, and Josiah becomes acquainted with its contents. What is the result? He is seized with the burning conviction that the whole nation is gone wrong, and forthwith he seeks to flash the same conviction into the souls of his people. "And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant." Thus sprang his noble purpose. It was not a capricious whim or the outcome of a sudden and fitful impulse; it was rooted in an enlightened conviction. A noble purpose must be righteously founded.

II. BAD METHODS. Real good work requires not only a good purpose, but a good method also. Saul sought to honor the God of his fathers, and this was good; but his method, viz. that of persecuting the Christians, was bad. How did Josiah now seek to realize his purpose to sweep idolatry from the face of his country? Not by argument, suasion, and moral influence, but by brute force and violence (vers. 4-28). "All the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove" (ver. 4), that is, all the apparatus for idol-worship, these he ordered to be burnt outside Jerusalem, "in the fields of Kidron." He "stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites" (vers. 6, 7). He also "brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men" (ver. 14). Moreover, "he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them" (ver. 20). In this way, the way of force and violence, he essayed to work out his grand purpose. I offer two remarks concerning his method.

1. It was unphilosophic. Moral evils cannot be put down by force; coercion cannot travel to a man's soul. The fiercest wind, the most vivid lightnings, cannot reach the moral Elijah in his cave. The "still small voice" alone can touch him, and bring him out to light and truth. After all this, were the people less idolatrous? Before Josiah was cold in his grave idolatry was as rife as ever. You may destroy to-day all heathen temples and priests on the face of the earth, but in doing this you have done nothing towards quenching the spirit of idolatry - that will remain as rampant as ever; phoenix-like, it will rise with new vitality and vigor from the ashes into which material fires have consumed its temples, its books, and its feasts. Ay, and you might destroy all the monastic orders and theological tomes of the Roman Catholic Church, and leave the spirit of popery as strong, nay, stronger than ever. Truth alone can conquer error, love alone can conquer wrath, right alone can conquer wrong.

2. It was mischievous. The evil was not extinguished; it burnt with fiercer flame. Persecution has always propagated the opinions it has sought to crush. The crucified Malefactor became the moral Conqueror and Commander of the people. Violence begets violence, anger begets anger, war begets war. "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword." - D.T.







And like unto him there was no king before him.
This and the previous chapter show us the influence of a godly sovereign. This prince at the age of twenty-six begins to repair the house of God. This leads to the discovery of the long-lost book of the law. At once Josiah obeys its teaching. He consults Huldah, and receives the Lord's message. Finding himself exempted from vengeance on account of his repentance, he endeavours to lead his people to obtain the same exemption, and for this purpose institutes a thorough national reformation. This, we read, consisted of

(1)purifying the temple of idolatrous vessels;

(2)putting down all idolatrous teachers;

(3)defiling all idol altars throughout the land;

(4)keeping the Passover in a solemn manner. From this we may learn —

I. THAT PERSONAL REFORMATION SPRINGS FROM A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S WORD APPLIED TO THE HEART BY FAITH. It was this that influenced Josiah (Psalm 119:130). "The entrance of Thy word giveth light" (Acts 17:11, 12). "Therefore many believed."

II. THAT TRUE PERSONAL REFORMATION CONSISTS OF DOING AND UNDOING.

1. Undoing old associations, by —(1) Looking sin in the face, and comparing ourselves with our pattern, by the light of God's written Word (Philippians 2:5, etc.).(2) Cleansing the temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:16) of all that defiles.(3) Giving up all people, practices, and places which tempt to sin; e.g. cards, novels, balls, etc.: let each conscience decide for itself.

2. Doing, by —(1) Entering into a solemn covenant with God to obey Him, etc.; confirmation.(2) Publicly, as well as privately, keeping His commandments and wishes; Holy Communion.

III. THAT PERSONAL REFORMATION HAS RESULTS:

1. Comfort and peace to those who carry it out. For thirty years Josiah's reign was a peaceful and happy one to himself. So soul-reformation brings peace to the believer.

2. A blessing, though it may be only a temporary one, to those who, even outwardly, take part in it. The punishment pronounced upon the land was deferred (2 Kings 22:20) till after Josiah's death, and a believer brings blessings on those around him.

3. The fulfilment of God's word (ver. 16 and Isaiah 5:11). The Christian rejoices in the fulfilment of Matthew 11:28-30. But notice two warnings:

1. No personal reformation can be effected without the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8, etc.; Zechariah 4:6).

2. Personal piety cannot stop national punishment (of. Zechariah 3:2). Josiah has a grand epitaph written over him (ver. 25) by the finger of God. May much be ours!

(J. W. Mills, M. A.)12

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