Josiah makes a clean sweep of all the land. He removes even the idols that Jeroboam set up in the beginning of the divided kingdom. NO MORE IDOLS!
After hearing the words of the Lord, Josiah takes up the task of restoring the people to the Lord. He doesn’t just order them not to engage in idolatry but he brings them together so they can make the decision themselves.
Josiah’s eyes are open. He has seen Israel’s sin. Not just the ‘Northern kingdom of Israel’ but ALL God’s people of the nation He called to Himself. ALL Israel is guilty of putting other gods in His place. Of running after idols and gods made of wood and stone. The Book of the Law that was found clearly showed this to Josiah. Now he calls for the people to gather so they too can hear the truth.
Everyone was called to assemble. “All the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him. And the king went up to the House of the Lord and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great” (verses 1b-2a).
Josiah wanted EVERYONE to participate. NO ONE was excluded. None were exempt.
When everyone was assembled at the house of the Lord Josiah read them the Book of the Law. He didn’t leave out anything. He started at the beginning and didn’t stop until he reached the end.
Josiah led the way for the people. He stood before the whole congregation “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 his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (verse 3a).
THEN he turned to the people to get their reactions.
I can hear him echoing the words of Joshua; “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). He probably included verbiage about the gods they were currently serving or who their fathers recently had served.
The people chose to serve the Lord. They joined Josiah in the covenant he had made. “And all the people joined in the covenant” (verse 3b).
NOW the work began.
The whole land had been stained with the sin of idolatry. Altars were erected everywhere, including in the very house that belonged to God. It was time to cleanse that stain from the land. Josiah started with the small things first. The vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the hosts of heaven that were in the Temple were the first to go. These could be carried out in the hands of the priests. These were probably bowls, pots, vases and such things. They were gathered outside Jerusalem and burned in the fields of Kidron. Their ashes were carried to Bethel.
Next Josiah decommissioned all the priests who had offered sacrifices to foreign gods. They would no longer be needed as their gods were NOT welcome in the land any longer.
The idols themselves were next on Josiah’s list. Josiah began with the Asherah that was inside the House of the Lord. He took out all his anger on it. He burned it, beat its ashes to dust and then scattered that dust on the graves of the common people. There was nothing left of this representation when Josiah was done.
He turned to the places where the ‘servants’ of the false gods worked; starting with the ones in the Temple itself. The houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the House of the Lord were toppled and their ‘occupants’ both male and female were cast out.
Once the House of the Lord was emptied of these things Josiah turned his attention to the rest of the land. NO altar of a foreign god or even alternate alters were safe from this cleansing. Even the ones that predated the split of Israel. He started with the newer ones but made his way to the original altars Solomon built for his wives.
Josiah didn’t just pull down the altars, but he defiled them. Some he pulled down, broke into pieces, beat them to dust and then cast the dust of them into the brook. Others he scattered bones of the dead on them. None were left intact. There would be NO resuming service on the altars set up during Israel’s sin. Even the altar Jeroboam made, the golden calf, was ground to dust.
Josiah didn’t end his campaign where the boundaries of his kingdom lay. He went even to Samaria and pulled down the high places and altars there. This was the heart of what once was the northern kingdom of Israel. They had already been judged by God for their sins.
In his zeal for defiling the altars, Josiah looked for available graves to surrender their bones and lay on the altars. While ‘gathering supplies’ Josiah came across the graves of two great prophets. I’m not certain who they were but I would not be surprised to learn that one of them was Elisha’s. Josiah spared their graves as they were great men of God who had spoken of the very acts Josiah was engaging in.
The last thing on the list was doing away with the priests of the false gods, PERMENANTLY. They became the sacrifices on their own altars.
We are not told how long this cleaning process took but Josiah didn’t rest until it was ALL done. He stayed on the ‘war path’ until the very last task was completed. “Then he returned to Jerusalem” (verse 20b).
This is how God works in our lives to help us deal with our issues. He starts with the little things. The things we can lay our hands on. The bottle, the pipe, the (you name it). Then He goes for the things that surround it and support it. He doesn’t stop until He also digs up the roots. It is NEVER a quick and seldom and easy process but unless the roots are removed the sin can grow back.
This reminds me of dealing with blackberry bushes around my property. We used to have TONS of them but I have systematically been taking them down. Goats helped with the first big bank of them. After they ate the berries, leaves and branches my son-in-law dug up the roots. No longer have any berries in that area. But there are other areas where I cut out the bushes but wasn’t able to get all the roots. I fight with new growth each season. Some seasons and some areas I keep on top of them but other areas they have taken over again. I have also learned that I can accidentally start a whole new patch of them by not being thorough with my clean up. ANY leaves or stems left can re root. I have some new ‘battle grounds’ to prove this. Also dried up branches pose their own kind of dangers. Their thorns are MUCH stronger than live bushes.
All sin is like this. The hardest ones to get rid of are the hidden sins that masquerade as something ‘not really that bad’. God says to root it out; ALL of it before it ruins you. He promises to help in this process if we allow Him to. And I will tell you this as straight as I can; without HIS help it is an IMPOSSIBLE task. Let Him send you some ‘goats’ to get you started and a ‘son-in-law’ to come beside you. They can’t do all the work for you but they can sure give you a helping start. Josiah wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the ‘clean sweep’ of the land without help from those around him. He led the way but he had to have the people’s help to do the work. And God did the work on their hearts first to make them Josiah’s ‘goats’.
But just like my blackberry battle, the people had to continue the work in their own lives after the ‘excitement’ wore off. The battle is life-long. And it is WORTH IT.
Father God, thank You for sending me help when I need it; even when I don’t know it yet. Thank You that Your Holy Spirit is ALWAYS there with me, battling the ‘roots’ of sin. Thank You that You NEVER give up on me, no matter how long it takes for me to get the last of the roots out. I wonder if I ever will get the last of the roots. If not, I trust You will be battling with me until my last breath. Until the moment I see Your face and my battles are no more.
I want to join with Josiah is his vow. To stand before You and make a covenant before the You, to walk after You and to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes with all my heart and all my soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in Your word. I’m not following the Law handed down to Moses exactly as written but the Spirit contained within it that Jesus called me to. I give You my heart, and I give You my soul. Have Your way in me.