By Chris Martin
Have you ever done everything that’s been asked of you, but things still didn’t seem to work out the way you thought they would? You did everything you could to solve a problem, but despite your best efforts, you simply couldn’t do enough to fix what was broken. King Josiah faced such a situation, but before we get into that, we have to set the stage a bit.
Following Hezekiah and his relatively righteous rule came his son and grandson, Manasseh and Amon. Both Manasseh and Amon did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. Neither of them could come close to matching the faithfulness of Hezekiah. Manasseh committed idolatry worse than other nations around Judah, and God promised that disaster would follow Judah as a result. Then, his son Amon didn’t do much better. He also forgot God and followed in his father Manasseh’s footsteps, worshiping idols instead of Yahweh, and in the end, he was killed by his servants. Both men continued to drive Judah deeper and deeper into sinful idolatry.
The evil that had run amok throughout their reigns could not be undone by the succeeding king. After their catastrophic reigns came a king the likes of which Judah had not seen since David. Josiah, son of Amon, took over after his father’s death, and he ruled with more righteousness than even Hezekiah had three generations before him. Scripture tells us, “He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left” (2 Kings 22:2).
This pronouncement of Josiah’s righteousness calls to mind the requirements for a king laid out in the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 17 (vv.14–20). Speaking of a righteous king’s need to study and meditate on the Law, verse 20 says, “Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue reigning many years in Israel.” Josiah fits that description.
King Josiah was righteous like King Hezekiah generations before him, though, just like his ancestor, Josiah wasn’t perfect by any means. As king, Josiah stayed on the straight and narrow path and was not distracted by idols or evil worship practices like his unfaithful predecessors. By all accounts, Josiah did everything in his power to restore Judah to Yahweh and right the wrongs that had been perpetuated for generations before him.
But it wasn’t enough. Not even this righteous king could repair the fractured relationship between Yahweh and Judah. Josiah was eventually killed by a foreign king, and Judah was still driven into exile. How frustrating it must have been to do everything “right,” relatively speaking, and yet still not see your goals fulfilled!
Judah, like the whole world, did not simply need a king who would stay on the path of righteousness. They needed the King who had created the path of righteousness and who would walk it perfectly on their behalf. Jesus Christ is the ultimate King of Judah and of the whole world. The Father “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is the true King, who not only leads us in the ways of righteousness, but more importantly, has made us righteous before God, once and for always.
Written by Chris Martin