He was the leader of a nation at 8 years old. His administration was characterized by a fear of God that not only drove his personal life but transformed the nation under his rule. The lessons to be learned from his life are so important that God chose to record them twice in Scripture. His name was Josiah and you can read about him in II Kings 22 and II Chronicles 34. Josiah was one of the most godly kings Israel ever had the blessing of knowing. His story has some lessons that would serve us well today.
If godly Josiah could come back from the grave and speak to us today, what would he have to say to us? Of course we can only speculate, but some things about his example are so clear that I’ll risk drawing some conclusions.
First, I think Josiah would tell us that we can rise above the failures of previous generations. Josiah was the son of Amon and the grandson of Manasseh, two of the most rotten eggs ever to disgrace a throne. Manasseh repented of his abominations late in life but Amon did not. He was so vile that God tolerated him as king of Israel for only two years before he was assassinated by his own servants. Yet Josiah turned to God with his whole heart at age 16 and never turned away.
That’s good news to the young people in our homes today. For a couple of generations, the love of the American church has waxed cold and we have become very much like the pagan society around us. Our cultural institutions have become contaminated with godless philosophies and the church has largely been silent. Yet I have watched the home schooling movement grow from a tiny smattering of families across the country to the mega-movement it is thirty years later, and our kids are different. They are often accused of not “fitting in,” and we should be thankful for that. Followers fit in, leaders stand out. Leaders are what we need if we would see revival in our day as Josiah did in his.
Josiah would tell us that people can take responsibility at a young age. Today we’re used to seeing children remain childish into the season of life when they should be adults. In early America, people were carving their homes out of a wilderness and raising their own children at an age when you and I were still in high school. Now a lot of people come home from college after graduation and let Mom and Dad pay their bills just as before. Josiah would think this strange. So would George Washington. He had graduated from the university and was head surveyor for Culpepper County in Virginian when he was seventeen.
Josiah would tell us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth. He set the example at 16 by seeking God for himself. His faith was not that of his father. His father was a notorious sinner. But Josiah gave his heart to God with no fatherly example and surrounded by a society so backslidden that even the priests couldn’t lay their hands on a copy of Scripture. Josiah would have little patience with teenagers who think they have nothing to do but play silly computer games. He believed there was a holy God who expected his gift of life to be taken seriously.
I think Josiah would also tell our young people to take a bold stand for the one true God. At age 20 Josiah went on a holy rampage against false worship. He swept across the land like a tornado, destroying the high places of pagan worship, smashing the idols, grinding the pieces to powder. He executed the priests of Baal and burned their bones on his abominable altars before reducing the altars to rubble. He cleaned up Dodge. There was no such thing as “pluralism” to Josiah. There was one true God and he would tolerate no cheap imitations. May God give our sons and daughters the wisdom to hold the modern worship of pluralism in contempt and stand strong for truth.
Josiah would tell us to restore real worship. He was 26 when he ordered the rebuilding of the temple. In the process, the lost Book of the Law was found and taken to the young king. When Josiah read the Law, he evidently realized fully just how awful was the national sin of Israel and he tore his robes in anguish. Then he had the Law read in the hearing of all the people, with special attention to the leadership. The result was nationwide revival. II Chronicles 34:33 tells us that Israel stayed true to God as long as Josiah lived.
Josiah would encourage our young people to embrace worthy traditions. Some traditions are just long standing habits, but many have great value to succeeding generations. Josiah revived the practice of the Passover, the celebration of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God had ordained that feast to remind the Israelites of the mighty works God had done for them as a nation. Those who know the true history of America are aware that God worked mightily to bring our nation to birth, intervening many times in ways far too unlikely to be natural coincidence. The fact that George Washington survived a battle with four bullet holes in his coat and bullet fragments in his hair is one example of many. No wonder John Adams said that the 4th day of July should be celebrated as a sacred holiday. Charles Darwin has taught us diligently that the new form of a thing is always an improvement, but Josiah would join our founding fathers in exhorting us to return to the old paths.
I think one lesson Josiah would drive home to the young people of today is that they should make every day count for eternity. Josiah died in battle at the age of 39. He had accomplished a remarkable work in the changes he had made in his country, but it came to an end unexpectedly early. His early death reminds us that our time is limited. Youth is no guarantee of time to waste. I believe Josiah would say to our sons and daughters, “Start living your life NOW. Take responsibility early. Stop playing your way through life and get to work changing the world around you. Your nation needs revival and that is your job, not somebody else’s. Give your whole heart to God and others will be influenced by your example. Live every day as if it were your last, because someday, and possible much sooner than you think, it will be.
The only clear hope for America is growing up in our homes right now. God grant that we are teaching our sons and daughters what Josiah would teach them: Give it all to God. Make a difference. Make every moment bear fruit for eternity. And when your time is up, go out fighting.