“Just as he had done at Bethel, Josiah removed all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built in the towns of Samaria and that had aroused the Lord’s anger. Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
The king gave this order to all the people: ‘Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ 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. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” (II Kings 23:19-25 NIV)
In the sporting world, it is known as “cleaning house.” When the owner decides the team is headed in the wrong direction and big changes need to be made, he gets rid of all his coaching staff and brings in new leadership. He cleans house. In Josiah’s time, he became king of Judah after the 50-year rule of his father, Manasseh. His father was the worst king in the history of Judah. He turned away from the Lord and mandated idol worship, even in the Temple of the Lord! For 50 years, he indoctrinated the people into the evil practices of their idolatrous neighbors.
A few years after Josiah became king, the Book of the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was found in the Temple. Manasseh’s influential rule had made God’s Word irrelevant in Judean culture and the scrolls containing the first five books of our Bible were put aside and, eventually, forgotten. Josiah read the Word and was grief-stricken by how far his nation had moved away from the Lord. He decided to clean house. He ordered the removal and destruction of all idols set up in the Temple and throughout Judah. He also ordered the deaths of all the pagan priests who led the people in idolatrous worship. He literally got rid of everything associated with idolatry in his country, and led his people back to worshipping the Lord.
I am sure it was a temptation for Josiah to compromise instead of being so radical. He could have removed the most obvious abominations, the idol worship in the Temple, but left the rest so as not to disrupt everything. We are not told, but I wonder if this wasn’t some of the advice he was given by his advisors. Politically, it may have been better for him to make compromises, especially with a culture so entrenched in idolatry.
I think there is a lesson to be learned from Josiah. I have seen believers countless times compromise on the things in their lives. They listen to the voices that tell them they can have it both ways. They can date or marry an unbeliever and it won’t matter as long as they love each other. They can party heavy late in the week into the weekend and still worship God on Sunday morning. They can love money, sports, or technology to the point of idolatry and still be a follower of Jesus.
Like Josiah, we need to realize that worship of the Lord must always be the first priority of our lives. There can be no compromise, no matter how wonderful, fun, or exciting something or someone is. The Lord is very clear: “You will have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Today, think about your life. Is there anything in your life that you value more than the Lord? A relationship? A sport or activity? A sin that you just don’t want to give up? If so, it’s time to clean house. Time to get rid of those idols in your life. Humble yourself before the Lord. Confess your sin and return to the Lord. Then let the celebration begin!
© Jim Musser 2013