King Josiah and the Story of a Forgotten Book
2 Chronicles 34, 35
The pagan altars are torn down and removed from the temple.
T WAS HOUSE-CLEANING
time in the temple of the Lord. Many years had passed since this building had been repaired by the boy king, Joash, and during those long years the temple had been much neglected.
It had even been mistreated, for one king had set up altars for the idol of Baal right in the courts of the Lord's house. Now that king was dead, and his grandson, Josiah, was ruling the people of Judah. And because Josiah was trying to do right he had given the command that God's house should be repaired and made ready for the proper kind of worship.
Many skillful workmen were hired to help repair the temple. And the heathen altars were torn out of the temple courts and carried outside the city, where they were burned with fire. While this work was going on, the high priest was setting things in order in the rooms of the temple. And there, hidden away beneath some rubbish, he found a strange book.
This strange book proved to be the same as one Moses had written before he died. It was called the Book of the Law, for in it Moses had written the words of the law, which God gave to the Israelites.
And Moses had commanded that the book should be read in the hearing of all the people once every seven years. But now many years had passed by since the book had been read. And during those years the book had been entirely forgotten.
The high priest carefully removed the dust from this precious book and called for a servant of King Josiah. Shaphan, the servant, came quickly, and the high priest told him to carry the book of the King.
Now, Josiah had never heard the words of God's law before this time. He asked his servant to read aloud from the book, and Shaphan read about God's promise to bless the people if they should serve him faithfully. Then he continued to read, and Josiah heard about God's promise to punish the people if they should forsake him and turn to worship idols. Josiah was alarmed. He knew the people had disobeyed God's law, and he feared the awful punishments, which God promised to send upon them. He tore his clothes and wept bitter tears. Then he sent servants to a woman named Huldah, who was a prophetess, to ask her about God's plan to punish the people for their great sins.
Huldah told the servants that God would surely sent all the great punishments upon the people just as he had promised to do if they should forsake his law and worship idols. But because Josiah, the king, had humbled his heart and had wept tears of sorrow for their sins, Huldah said that God would not let the punishments come upon the land during his lifetime.
Josiah did not try to forget about the words of God's law. He wanted all his people to hear them, too. So he called for a great meeting at Jerusalem, and when the people came together he read to them out of the book. Then he promised God to keep that law and to serve God with all his heart. He commanded his people to keep the law, too. And they obeyed their King.
Afterwards Josiah prepared to keep the Passover Feast, which the Israelites were commanded in God's law to keep once every year. He assembled the people from every part of the land, and when they came together he gave from his own flocks many lambs for the Passover supper. And the people rejoiced together, and kept the Feast for seven days. Not since the days of the prophet Samuel had there been such a great Passover Feast as this one.
Josiah ruled the people for thirty-one years. He began to rule when he was only a child, eight years old. Of course some older men had charge of the important affairs of the kingdom until he grew to manhood. But Josiah longed to be a good king when he was only a boy. And at the age of sixteen he began to seek God earnestly, and God helped him to rule wisely.
At the end of Josiah's good reign the king of Egypt went out to fight against the Assyrian king, and he marched through the land of Judah. Josiah have him pass through the country so he called out his army and prepared to fight against him.
Now the king of Egypt did not wish to fight against Josiah, and he sent word for Josiah to return home from the battle-field; but Josiah would not go. He dressed himself in the clothes of a common soldier and went out to battle anyway.
And in the midst of the fight he was shot by an archer and wounded so severely that his servants brought him back to Jerusalem in a chariot.
Soon afterwards he died, and the people buried him among the honorable kings of Judah. The prophet of God wept for him, because he knew that Josiah was the last king who would ever try to keep the words that Moses wrote in the Book of the Law.
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