Monday, September 16, 2019

Evil Kings, Repentance, and a Last Opportunity

"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" (2 Kings 23:25).

The worst king Judah ever had was Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah. No sooner had he come to the throne than he undid all the reforms Hezekiah had initiated. He openly practiced witchcraft and, as a sorcerer-king, sponsored every form of idolatry known to the ancient world, including child sacrifice. He reigned for 55 years, and during that time the nation became thoroughly steeped in idolatry.

Manasseh was followed by his son Amon, who was so despicable that he was killed after two years by the officials of the palace. His son, Josiah, came to the throne at the age of eight. God reached into this depraved family and converted Josiah, so that when he was 18, Josiah instituted the most sweeping reform in the history of Judah.

Josiah began rebuilding the temple, and shortly thereafter the priests brought to his attention a moldy book they had found in a side room. It was the book of the Law, either Deuteronomy or perhaps all five of the books of Moses. Josiah read it and realized that his reformation had to be far more thorough than he had originally envisioned. Following the dictates of God’s holy law, and with the prophet Jeremiah as an adviser, Josiah destroyed all the idols and the high places where the Lord was falsely worshiped. He slew all the idolatrous priests. He caused the temple to be cleansed according to the rituals of Leviticus and led the nation in a covenant renewal.

This was Judah’s last chance. Sadly, the nation as a whole only cooperated outwardly with Josiah’s reforms; there was no whole-hearted repentance. The idols were broken on the hills, but not in the hearts. Thus, “the LORD did not turn away from the heat of His fierce anger, which burned against Judah” (2 Kings 23:26).

God mercifully called Josiah home to Himself. The four kings who followed him each reigned for short periods of time and each willingly cooperated with the idolatrous hearts of the people and rejected the Lord. Since the people wanted to live as pagans, God put them under the pagan rule of Babylon and sold them into captivity.

Half-hearted repentance can be a deadly thing because it “heals the people slightly.” Our Reformation forefathers sometimes called for a “root and branch” reformation. Take a look at your own life and at your local church in the light of this truth. Has your reformation been thorough? What specific change of direction might you yet put into effect?