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Josiah: God’s Extreme Renovation
Life Lessons from the Old Testament Sermon Series
2 Kings 22-23



Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—August 30, 2009

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

As we come to the end of the summer with the Labor Day weekend next week, we also come to the end of our Summer Sermon Series on Life Lessons from the Old Testament.  In our journey this summer through these Old Testament events and encounters with these Old Testament characters, we have had both positive examples we should follow, and negative examples we should not.  As Paul says in Romans, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

This morning we close this series with one of the very best, most positive examples from the entire Old Testament, King Josiah.  After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was split into Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  The books of Kings and Chronicles record the sad tale of those several centuries of decline, as the Lord’s chosen people fell more and more away from him and into the evil ways of the pagan world around them. 

What is said about Josiah’s father Amon is very typical for nearly all the faithless kings in those years: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. . .  He worshiped idols . . . and bowed down to them.  He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in the way of the Lord.”

In sharp contrast to his unfaithful father, today’s Old Testament Reading tells us how Josiah was faithful to the Lord, like his great ancestor, King David: “Josiah was eight years old when he became king . . .  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.”

How do you explain that out of this morass of evil arises one of the most godly men of the Old Testament?   Because Josiah was only eight years old when he became king, some have suggested that he was entrusted to the high priest to be raised and educated, similar to the prophet Samuel, who was raised in the temple by the high priest.  Or, perhaps Josiah’s mother Jedidah was faithful to the Lord and it was she who raised her son in the true faith.  Something must have happened to Josiah, because the book of 2nd Chronicles tells us, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David.” 

That is the first life lesson we learn from Josiah.  Assuming that the difference in Josiah’s life was indeed that he was raised and educated in the faith either under his mother or the high priest, the outcome of Josiah’s life is an example for all parents to do for your own children as Paul says in Ephesians, “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  As we begin a new year of Midweek School this week and Sunday School with Rally Day in two weeks, the example of Josiah is a good reminder of the enormous difference being brought up in the faith will make in the lives of your children.  “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David.”

Josiah’s training and instruction in the Lord comes to a climax ten year’s later, in today’s Old Testament Reading, when he is 26 years old.  He orders the Temple of the Lord, which had fallen into disrepair, to be rebuilt.  In the process, the Book of the Law is discovered and brought to him.  This was probably all or part of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses.

“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. . .  ‘Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

That is the second life lesson we learn from Josiah: Turn to the Lord in sincere repentance.  For, like the ancient people of God, we too often fall away and go astray, walking instead in the sinful ways of the world.  There’s a confession of sins in the Book of Common Prayer that puts it this way: “Almighty and most merciful Father, we have wandered and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.  We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against your holy laws.  We have left undone those things that we ought to have done; and we have done those things that we ought not . . .”

“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. . .”  In ancient times, and throughout the Bible, tearing one’s robes as Josiah does was a sign of sincere sorrow and repentance.  It is a form of confession, for it symbolizes standing before God like Adam and Eve, naked in our sins.  As the hymn “Rock of Ages” says, “Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace.”

Tearing one’s robes as Josiah does is a plea to God to be spiritually clothed by him in the glorious robe of righteousness that only he can give, an image used often in the New Testament.  Paul says in Galatians, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  The book of Revelation says of those in heaven, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Another hymn puts it this way: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness . . . clothed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

The Book of Common Prayer continues, “We acknowledge and confess the grievous sins and wickedness which we have so often committed by thought, word and deed. . .  But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us sinners.  Spare those who confess their faults.  Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you fall away and go astray, follow the example of Josiah, and turn to the Lord in sincere repentance.  Tear off the tattered robes of your sins and receive the robe of Christ’s righteousness, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Then the king called together . . . all the people . . .  He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. . .  and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul.”

That is the third life lesson we learn from Josiah:  Read and study and find direction for your life from God’s Word.  As we begin a new year of Midweek Bible Study this week and Sunday morning Adult Bible Class with Rally Day in two weeks, the example of Josiah is a good reminder to be in the Word.   In Bible study, here in worship, in personal devotions, like Josiah be in the Word.

“The king ordered . . . remove[d] from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah . . .  He burned them outside Jerusalem . . .  He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places . . .  He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. . .”

That is the fourth life lesson we learn from Josiah: Give your life an extreme renovation.  Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”  You may have heard in the news about another church body voting recently to condone a sinful way of life.  But, just as the worship of idols and the true God could not coexist side-by-side in the ancient Temple of God, an unrepentant sinful life and true faith cannot coexist side-by-side in you, the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul puts it this way in Romans, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. . .  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . .  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life, and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  For sin shall not be your master.”

Like Josiah with the ancient Temple, give your life an extreme renovation.  As the Book of Common Prayer concludes, “And grant, O most merciful Father, for [Christ’s] sake, that we may live a disciplined, righteous and godly life, to the glory of your holy name.” 

“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.’ Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout 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.”

That is the fifth life lesson we learn from Josiah: Come and worship the Lord.  As today’s Introit says, “  I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’  How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house.”

“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.”  Follow in your life the life lessons of Josiah:

Just as Josiah was apparently raised and educated in the faith and it made all the difference in his life, do for your own children as Paul says in Ephesians, “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Just as Josiah tore his robes in sorrow, when you fall away and go astray turn to the Lord in sincere repentance, tear off the tattered robes of your sins and be clothed with the robe of Christ righteousness.

Just as Josiah “called together . . . all the people . . .  [and] read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord,” read and study and find direction for your life from God’s Word.

Just as Josiah cleansed the ancient Temple of God of detestable idols, give your life an extreme renovation, for “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.”

Just as Josiah “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,’” come and worship 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.”    Like Josiah, turn to the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Amen.

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