We come upon the death of Josiah who was one of the most faithful kings of Judah of all time. But, keep in mind his age. He began reigning in Jerusalem when he was only 8 years old. When he was 26 he began the reformations and he continued with them throughout his time. Not only were reformations done in Jerusalem, but he also required that the people keep the passover.
It is an interesting way in which Josiah dies. He goes to battle against the King of Egypt. Notice that the king of Egypt says that he was sent into battle by God, and that he was not going against Judah. He told Josiah to keep out of the battle because they had nothing against Judah. But Josiah went into battle and as a result was killed. Jeremiah is mentioned as the prophet who was around at that time and offered up a lament for Josiah.
We once again find ourselves in a place where God raises up a righteous ruler but then once he dies there is a strong possibility that the next ruler is not going to be someone that follows God's commands and will bring back the idols that were not of benefit to Judah. Let's see what happens, but I'm guessing the cycle continues.
The more things change the more they stay the same. Josiah is an awesome king. He does not turn from the left or the right from following God. He eliminates all the idols, all the people who were worshipping the idols, and all the places where the idols were worshipped. He spends money in order to get the temple back up to snuff and in a state where people are able to understand that this is now our priority. We are the people of God and this is where we have to place our trust and our priorities.
Doesn't this event remind us of our daily lives over time? We forget often what God can do for us. We fall back into thinking that we have to do all things for ourselves. We then have an awakening, we put things back in order, God takes over again, and then something happens, or just life and time happens, and we forget again. It isn't necessarily a conscious decision on our part to turn our back on God, we just find ourselves as time marches on in a position where we realize that God is very, very distant from us. Time for a revival.
Josiah is that king who brings the people of Israel to a revival. He tears his clothes when he hears the newly discovered book of the law because he is able to see how far they have gotten from the Word of God. He requires the people to turn to the Lord if they are going to be citizens of the Judah. All of his days he does not turn away from God.
We find a bit of a redemption story with the next king. The son of Hezekiah was Manasseh and he began reigning when he was 12 and he ruled for 55 years. That was a long time! We see that at the beginning of his reign he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He put back all of the things that his father had torn down which were used to worship false gods and idols. He even made an idol and placed it in the temple. Things were really going poorly.
As a result of how bad things were Manasseh and Judah was overrun by Assyria and the king was taken into captivity into Babylon. This is where we find Psalm 137 where those going into captivity were required to sing a song of Israel, but how could they sing in a foreign land? It was a time of great sadness and tragedy in the life of the people of God, and it all came about because of the king who was unfaithful to God. Manasseh himself was taken bound into Babylon.
But then he has his come to Jesus moment and realizes how far away he had strayed from where God wanted him to be. He prays to God for forgiveness, and God actually does forgive. He is given the chance for a do-over and he takes advantage of it. When he returns to Jerusalem he throws outside of the city all of the idols that had been present there. He makes sure that he turned a new leaf in his life. That lasts until his son takes over, Amon.
Yeah, Amon doesn't last long, just two years, and he was so bad that the people of Jerusalem killed him and put his son into power, that would be Josiah. Let's see how he does.
Hezekiah is faced with probably his most severe challenge as King. He is confronted with the armies of Assyria and they close up Jerusalem in order to wait out the siege. As they are holed up in Jerusalem the King of Assyria, Sennacherib, basically begins to trash talk Hezekiah and the people of Judah. He tells them that they have invaded so many other lands and put aside so many of the other gods of the other lands that what makes them think that their god is going to do anything. He also criticizes Hezekiah for tearing down all of the high places for the other gods because that then left them exposed completely. He was hoping to put fear in the heart of the general population so that they would rebel against Hezekiah. Yeah, not so much.
As a result of Hezekiah's faithfulness and his words of encouragement which you find in vs.7, the people stand firm. After a while Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, yes, the same Isaiah we read about in the Bible, you know the son of Amoz, prayed that God would drive out the Assyrians. As time passes all of the top warriors of the Assyrians were cut off and when the king gets home his kids kill him. Kind of a random end to it all, but I guess the moral of the story is don't mess with God and certainly don't trash talk God. God tends to win out. Elijah and the prophets of Baal is another example of where God normally wins the trash talking.
I have to say something about Hezekiah's tunnel which is mentioned here in this chapter. It is one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences you can be on when you go to Israel. You are literally walking under the city of Jerusalem in shin deep water and it feels a bit like the walls are caving in you as you walk in the darkness. You can imagine what it would have been like to go build that tunnel. You can still see the chisel marks on the ceiling. Amazing what they were able to accomplish.
This is an account of a revival in the land of Judah, the southern kingdom, which also had an affect on the surrounding lands as well. What the people of Judah and those surrounding Judah did, was first go out into their own lands and tear down those places that had been used for idol worship. You can see in vs.1 that people banded together and went out together to tear these places down, then they went home to their own properties. The assumption is that at their own properties they then did the same thing.
Revivals must begin with the tearing down of that which inhibits the right and true worship of God. I am sure that there were economic interests involved, but I'm guessing that they were able to pivot to cover the new regime pretty well. As a result of the revival the people of Judah responded in overwhelming fashion, and in a way that surprised the priests and those who reigned in Judah. There were piles and "heaps" of overflow of gifts for the priests. Hezekiah orders that stone chambers be built in order to store the left overs.
This was all a result of the tithes that were being brought in from the people surrounding Jerusalem and in all of Judah and beyond. Without a doubt Hezekiah was an effective leader and was able to motivate the people to not only walk closer with God, but also to take actions on a daily basis that reflected their newfound devotion to God. Tithing is a reflection of a people who love the Lord and are willing to trust that God will provide. Everything Hezekiah did he prospered in.
Even if you don't know exactly what you are doing and if you don't have everything exactly right, it is still important to praise the Lord. This is what we find here with King Hezekiah who is really trying to rally the people to worship God in the best way possible. He calls on all of the surrounding nations and the surrounding tribes of Israel to come into Jerusalem and worship the Lord on the Passover. It had not been done correctly in decades. Many of those who received the messenger mocked the message and did not take seriously this attempt by the King to bring them closer to God. We are doing just fine.
But those who came were still in great number. If you were going to worship in the temple you had to be ritually clean in order to enter. Well, that wasn't necessarily followed by the people because they simply were out of practice and did not know what it took in order to be ritually clean. Hezekiah asks the Levites, all of the priests to pray for the people so that God would know that they were at least trying, even if they didn't get everything right. At least they were trying to follow.
God, of course, blesses them and the time is so significant, this week together of being blessed and sanctified before the Lord, that they decided to extend it another week. As we read in vs.26 that this was a singular event: "there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem." Hezekiah is finally doing what all of the kings before him should have done.
What a change you can experience from one king to the next. I do not mean in administrations, but I guess that applies as well, but I do mean in kings as Hezekiah not only did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but he does so just as David had done. That is a big deal. In the very first year of his reign, in the very first month, his number one priority was to get the temple back in working order. It had been used by Ahaz as a place for offerings to foreign divinities and things were just a mess in there. It had to be reconsecrated. Where does he get his motivation to do this in the name of the Lord?
Look at who his grandfather was. Look at vs.1, we read that his mom is Abijah who was the daughter of Zechariah. Remember Zechariah? He was one of the prophets and we find a book of the Bible called after him. So his mom is probably the one who gives him the marching orders on what he needed to do first, which was put the house of the Lord back in order.
He is not satisfied with just cleaning up the temple a little bit. He demands that the people of God make a new covenant with God just so that his fierce anger would turn away from them. We read in vs.35 and following that the service of the house of the Lord was restored. As a result of that restoration the people and Hezekiah rejoiced because of what God had done for them. Then it leaves us with this little morsel: for the thing had come about suddenly.
We find in Scripture and in life that things can come about suddenly. Normally when something happens suddenly it is something immensely negative. But here we see a sudden transition to the people and the leader turning to God in a way that was genuine and long lasting. Well, at least lasting as long as this leader is in place.
Ahaz was a bad, bad man and an even worse king. We read about how he immediately moved away from the ways of the Lord and we read in detail about some of the things that he did which might surprise us. He began by making cast images of baals, the god of the times and made offerings for those same baals as well.
But then we read in vs.3 something even more heinous than we could imagine. It states that he made his sons "pass through fire". That means that he actually conducted human sacrifices of his own sons in order to appease and please these false gods that now consumed him and his way of being. He was a mess and he was a disaster for Judah right at a time when Judah had experienced great prosperity under his father.
As a result of his apostasy Judah was handed over to the king of Aram who took the people of Judah into captivity, this first captivity that took place under the prophet Isaiah, while he was still prophesying. Then the northerners, the Israelites, they came and invaded as well. This was actually a bit of a problem so God came and told them off, the northerners, and they left and did not take the people and the booty that they had originally planned on taking.
In the middle of all this Ahaz asked for help from the king of Assyria, the sworn enemy to the people of God, and instead of coming to help, he came and conquered and took over Judah. You read in vs.19 that the Lord brought Judah low because of king Ahaz. In fact, the worse things got, we read in vs.22, the more faithless he was to the Lord. In every city in Judah he made high places to all of the foreign gods. He didn't get the honor of being buried with the other kings. Not a good king. Hezekiah is next. Let's see how he does.
A short but sweet chapter on the reign of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, the previous king. We read that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. I mean he really did what was right in the sight of the Lord which included not invading the house of the Lord. I guess this means that he also didn't get the added benefit of a little breakout of leprosy on your face. So that is positive. He defeats the Ammonites and they pay him a tax for years to come. He rebuilds some of the towers and the walls of the Temple, and so that puts him in the good graces of God.
But notice that even though you have a king who is following the way of the Lord, vs. 2 tells us that the people still followed corrupt practices. You can't force people to do that is right even if you lead them in ways that are right. People will not always follow the example set by their leader, especially if it is a good example. Now, more often than not, the people would follow a bad example of their leader.
It is neat to see the overlap of the prophets with these kings. We find both Zechariah and Isaiah mentioned in this chapter, and they are prophets that we know and with whom we are familiar. So Uzziah takes over for his father after his father was killed. He begins his rule when he is 16. Can you imagine the US with a president who is 16 years old? We read in vs.4 that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. The reason for this is because Zechariah was guiding and directing him in the way of the Lord. God makes him prosper as long as he seeks the Lord.
We read about his military conquests and of his rebuilding of the walls and the towers and the cisterns and all of the success that he has. But then over time we read in vs. 16 that when he became strong he became proud. This pride manifested itself by going into the temple and thinking that he didn't need the presence of the priests in order to give of a sacrifice. The priests gathered together and told him to leave, and he became angry, but then leprosy began to break out on his face and he decided to leave.
Nothing like a little leprosy breaking out on your face to make you realize that you probably shouldn't do something that is against God's will. What would happen if each of us had a little leprosy break out on our face when we went against God's will? This world would probably be a better place if that were to happen.