One of the most godly kings of Judah was a man named Josiah. A prophet foretold of him to king Jeroboam, “…Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you (the altar Jeroboam built) he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you” (1 Kings 13:2).
Josiah was indeed born. “But the people of the land slew them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of Judah made Josiah his son king in his stead. Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem…. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (2 Kings 21:26 – 22:1a, 2).
There was no more godly leader and caretaker of God’s people and Law than Josiah. He devoted himself to the way of the Lord. When he authorized the restoration of the temple and the book of the Law was found within and read to him, he rent his clothes in anguish of spirit. He sent for word from the prophetess Huldah concerning the fate of Judah for all their transgressions. Her words were dire: Judah’s doom was sealed. But for Josiah she prophesied, “But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words you have heard — because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against its inhabitants…and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place” (2 Kings 22:18. 19a, 20-21a.).
Josiah set about completely restoring the way of the Lord. “Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (2 Kings 23:24). He held the greatest Passover since “the days of Samuel the prophet” (2 Chronicles 35:18).
It was written of him, “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” What a powerful testimony to his character, so godly, so devoted.
There is everything to love about Josiah. I wish I were a hundredth the man of God he was. I do not count myself worthy to loose the latchet of his sandal, to borrow a phrase. He was, indeed, one “of whom the world was not worthy.”
Yet as fabulous a person as he was, he made a fatal error. He got caught up in politics. At the time, Judah was a vassal of Assyria, still a powerful empire and entity. When Josiah heard that Pharaoh Necho was coming through the land to wage war against Assyria, he went out to face him in battle. Necho sent messengers to Josiah warning him to step aside: “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you” (2 Chronicles 35:21).
Josiah didn’t listen. “Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo. And archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am seriously wounded” (2 Chronicles 35:22-23). He died and was buried.
We are not told why Josiah was so determined to oppose Necho. Perhaps he felt loyalty to the king of Assyria. Perhaps this was God’s way of ending his life quickly, in a blaze of glory. All we can know is that a political affiliation with Assyria brought him low.
The lesson for us is this: All the good things we can do for the Lord, all the ways we can lead souls to Christ, all the efforts of preaching, teaching, leading, nurturing, caring for, comforting, rebuking, people in and out of the church; with getting on with the work of God, can be frustrated. We can prematurely end our career as God’s man or woman if we get caught up in the madness of the loyalties of politics.
The world lost a great man and king in Josiah. He died too soon and too young. So much more he might have done for the Lord, but he, for a moment, took his eyes off the ball, the prize, to look toward some earth-bound experiment.
Christian, we are too few and too outnumbered to be losing touch with what is needed most in this world – us, active in the work of the Lord, undistracted, focused on the prize of winning souls to Christ. Let us not let politics do us in.