King Josiah was a defiler. He defiled the “high places” where the priests had burned incense to false gods. He “defiled Tophet, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnon, that no one might burn his son or daughter as an offering to Molech.”
This all happened because King Josiah, as related in 2 Kings 22-23, humbled himself before God when the newly discovered “book of the law” [of Moses] was read to him. Josiah’s predecessors on the throne had abandoned the law of Moses, along with the whole nation, and he wondered if the warnings and punishments written in the Law would be carried out because of their infidelity.
So Josiah sought the council of the Prophetess Huldah, who confirmed that God would indeed punish Judah, even to the destruction of the Temple, but as for Josiah the King, “‘because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord … I have also heard you,’ says the Lord.” So God promised Josiah that he would die in peace and would not see in his lifetime all the evil that would come upon Judah later.
Josiah didn’t relax at that point, enjoying his personal salvation. Even though he knew the future of Judah was doomed, he nonetheless took pains to share the words of the Law with the leaders and with the people, making a covenant to be faithful to the Lord. He carried out a great reform, and destroyed–defiled–all the idols and altars to other gods held sacred in the land and re-instituted the observance of the Passover. Why did he do this? To change God’s mind? The Bible does not give his motive; we can only assume he wanted to be faithful regardless of the future. “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.”
The writer goes on to say, “Still, the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath because of all the provocations….”
Josiah did the right thing, period, regardless of how events would play out in the next generation. Yet it may be that he influenced others who would keep the flame of faith alive, even in exile, so that it could be brought back to the Holy Land later and kept alive.
Readers who feel that the culture is lost, past the point of no return may be right. BUT the lesson is that we must continue to bear witness today, stay faithful today, regardless of the times. And part of that witness is not merely to use words, but to show by our actions the love of God in Christ Jesus for all mankind. “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world,” said our Lord Jesus. We remain faithful because it is right; and it gives the next generation something to pass on, even in hard times. And we must be courageous enough to defy the sacred taboos of the prevailing idolatrous culture, with good cheer… Josiah must have been thinking, “God is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” And obeyed. Today.