Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 31 2019 - 2 Kings 23:1-30 – Josiah's reforms

After God had given the law to Moses, including the Ten Commandments, "Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 24:4). He then "took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.’" (24:7).

In 2 Kings, the book found in the temple is also called "the Book of the Covenant." This could have been the same in content as the Book of the Covenant Moses read to the Israelites – i.e. the Law of God recorded in Exodus 20-23. But some scholars think Josiah's book might have been Deuteronomy – Moses' retelling of the Law to Israel before they entered the Promised Land. Whatever the case, this Book of the Covenant clearly recorded the Laws which God had given to his covenant people.

Josiah assembled the leaders of the people and read out the contents of the book. The king then took the lead as he "renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord." He vowed "to follow the Lord and keep his commands … with all his heart and all his soul" (23:3). All of the gathered leaders then followed the king's example and "pledged themselves to the covenant".

Josiah then set about implementing the commands of God. He ordered the removal of all idolatrous images from the temple, commanding that they be burned. He "did away with" all the priests who had been involved in idolatrous worship. We also read that he "tore down the quarters of the male shrine-prostitutes that were in the temple of the Lord" (v.7). Temple prostitutes, male and female, were used in Baal worship. Baal was thought to be the god of fertility and Baal worshipers thought that sexual activity in the god's temple would persuade him to bless their land with good harvests. This revolting idea had even been introduced into the temple of the Lord.

Josiah then set about implementing his reforms throughout the land of Judah. He got rid of the shrines on the high places and desecrated them so that they would not be rebuilt. He desecrated Topheth which was a place where people offered their children as a sacrifice to the god Molek. He also "got rid of the mediums and spiritists … and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem" (v.24). These revolting idolatrous practices had corrupted the people of God.

Then, having implemented these reforms in accordance with the Law of God, he called all the people to "celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant" (v.21). So the people celebrated how the Lord their God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and how he had now brought them out of slavery to idols. We read, "Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed" (v.22). It was a time of great rejoicing.

But the Lord's fierce anger over the corruptions during the reign of Manasseh was not utterly turned away. He declared, "I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, 'My Name shall be there'" (v.27).

We also have been redeemed from the slavery of sin and prospect of judgment through the Lord Jesus Christ – a redemption which we celebrate as we remember his sacrifice for us in our transformed Passover of communion. Christ calls us to hear his voice and follow him. He calls us to be ruthless in ridding our own lives of all those idols which would lead us away from him. He calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

Father God, we thank you for our great salvation in the Lord Jesus. Help us by your Spirit to root out of our lives all those things that turn our hearts away from full devotion to you. Help us to live by every word that you have spoken that you might be glorified in all we think and say and do, and that you might not turn your face away from us.

Peter Misselbrook