Today’s readings are 2 Kings 23 and Joel 2.
This devotional is about 2 Kings 23.
The phrase, “Too little, too late” is a cliché that is self-explanatory. If you don’t pay your electric bill for months, then try to hand over $5 when someone comes to turn off your power, you are living the cliché.
Josiah’s reforms came too little to avoid God’s judgment on Judah (v. 25). Josiah cannot, however, be charged with doing “too little.” Verse 25 says, “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.” Josiah was a true reformer, a devoted servant of God who did everything in his power to live according to God’s law and lead God’s nation according to that law. The list of things that Josiah had to do in this chapter to excavate idolatry from Judah is incredible. Consider:
v. 4: He ordered the removal “from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem....” (v. 4 c-d). v. 5: “He did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places....” v. 6: “He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there.” v. 7a: “He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the Lord....” v. 7b: He also tore down “the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah.” v. 8b: Josiah “desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense....” v. 10: “He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.” v. 11a: “He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun.” v. 11c: “Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” v. 12: “He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz....”
[You get the idea. This list keeps going through 20, then more reforms are mentioned in verses 24-25.]
This list shows us how deeply rooted idolatry was in Judah, the land where 8 good kings reigned after Solomon. All of this work followed publicly reading God’s word (v. 2d) which, amazingly, had been lost for years in God’s own temple. After reading God’s word, Josiah led his nation to re-affirm their commitment to the covenant described in God’s word (v. 3). The actions he took in this chapter were acts of obedience that flowed from the covenant renewal he and the people of Judah pledged themselves to.
Have you ever made a commitment to God to (1) start tithing (2) stop sinning in some way (3) start reading his word daily and praying or to do something else? Commitments are great; they are often part of growing in grace. But once the commitment has been made, we have to show up and do the work of rooting out the old sins and idols and habits. If you’re like me, you’ve made many decisions before the Lord that you never followed through on. Why not? Because making the decision to repent feels like reformation; it isn’t. It is just the beginning of change, not the end.
What commitment to the Lord needs to be carried out in your life? Do the thorough acts of obedience described in this chapter encourage you to make some changes in your own life?