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Josiah's Decision

NOTE: This column was originally published in Saworship.com.

By Richard Zowie

Without naming names, there have been celebrities and athletes in the news lately who have had various scrapes with the law. Instead of having the courage to take responsibility for their actions, they choose instead to blame their mistakes on various things: a lousy childhood, a traumatic experience, a deprivation of a pleasureful activity for too long, the pressure of fame, and on and on. The list could go on for so long that I’d have to briefly rename this column “My Million Shekels” to try to cover it all.

These arguments are, obviously, ludicrous. I know of a man, a quiet, ultra-unassuming man who grew up in a physically- and emotionally-abusive home. With this type of upbringing, “Phillip” had all the reasons in the world to turn into an abusive parent toward his own children. And yet, all three of Phillip’s kids tell me the same thing: except for some well-deserved spankings, their father never laid a hand on them.

Phillip is a stellar example that, despite the lousy hand of cards life often deals out, we don’t have to sink down to the level of those who mistreated us. He reminds me a lot of King Josiah of Judah in the Old Testament. The story of this king can be found both in II Kings 21-23 and II Chronicles 33-35. Both Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh and father Amon were horribly wicked men. Manasseh repented and reconciled with God at the end of his own life. However, II Kings 21 tells us that Amon (who likely was influenced by his father’s ungodliness) was as evil and was murdered by his own servants.

Josiah became king at eight, inheriting a country where his father had been murdered and where his father’s loyalists had killed — in ostensible retribution — his father’s murderers. Even children of this age can learn quite a bit through what they see and hear, and Josiah had every opportunity to become an ungodly man.

He didn’t. The writer of II Kings, echoing the description of II Chronicles, wrote in 22:2 that Josiah “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” Opportunities to be ungodly abounded in both directions, but Josiah purposed to keep his eyes on God and press forward. Josiah immediately set about living for God and seeking out His will.

The passage says that by the fourth year of his reign, this young king went about ridding Judah of the ungodliness that had plagued the country for years. He tore down the altars honoring false gods, ridded the country of the priests of these gods and forbade the worship of Molech. (People offered sacrifices to this idol by placing their young children into the red-hot arms of the idol; the children burned to death).

In a move that would certainly be politically incorrect by today’s standards, Josiah also tore down the dwellings of sodomites. These dwellings were next to the house of the LORD and must’ve stricken Josiah as especially sacrilegious.

During his reign, Josiah worked to rebuild the temple. During the building process, somebody discovered the Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament, and it contains the Mosaic Law in which God gave his commandments and various laws to Israel. The laws were read, and what Josiah heard caused him to rend his garments in anguish. He led his nation in a spiritual revival that included the reinstitution of the Passover. II Kings 23:22 says that there hadn’t been such a Passover like this since the days before Judges, a span of several hundred years.

Josiah’s persistence to be a godly king amazes me. It’s possible that godly priests influenced him to live for the Lord, but Josiah still had the choice to make — live for the Lord or follow in the well-trodden footsteps of evil that his father and grandfather had followed? Despite all the temptations and appeals of sin, Josiah chose to do what was right.

Interestingly, Josiah holds a place of honor in history, ironically, with his ungodly father and grandfather. Matthew 1:10-11 tells us that Josiah was an ancestor of Jesus Christ through his legal father, Joseph.

People are born every day in the world under terrible circumstances. Some are the children of criminals or drug users. Some grow up in single parent homes due to one parent leaving. Some grow up abused while others have parents who live completely godless lifestyles. Josiah shows us that despite the environments we grow up in, we do have a choice and we can make the decision to live for the Lord. We are more than conquerors through Christ!

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