My king died today in battle. He was thirty-nine years old. Never has there been a king like King Josiah in the history of the Jewish people. He turned to God with all his heart, and obeyed the laws of Moses. Josiah was born into a country being destroyed by corruption. His father led the chaos until his staff murdered him. Then Josiah was crowned king, a little eight year old boy. For another eight years he was scarcely seen. Only God knows how our country Judah survived.
When Josiah was sixteen, I started working with him. He knew me as Shaphan, his secretary. One day he said to me. "I have been singing songs by King David. The words tell me that David talked to God and was guided by Him. I want to know God and how He has worked in our history."
For the next four years Josiah was in training and surrounded by a deteriorating country. Even his home, the palace, had foreign idols on its roof. He studied Jewish history with the court historian and Hilkiah, the high priest. No copies of the Mosaic Laws were available, but Hilkiah shared what he had been taught. Josiah was determined to be a responsible king. With God's help, he was convinced that he could be.
At age twenty he began publicly leading Judah. He was not hesitant; he knew he must lead his nation to stop the worship of foreign idols. God's first commandment to the Jews had been, "Do not worship any other gods besides me." The second commandment had been, "Do not make idols of any kind."
Josiah led the work of destroying all the paraphernalia related to idol worship. Thousands of idols had been placed in homes, at city entrances, and along the roads. Those idols were demolished. God's temple had been dedicated for people to worship God. Now it had idols inside and outside, even housing for male prostitution. The idols and housing were destroyed. The altar, where children had been sacrificed in fire to please gods, was no more. The people of Judah were challenged to seek God.
When Josiah was twenty-six, Hilkiah, the High Priest, burst into the palace and announced, "I have found a copy of the Book of the Law, which God gave to Moses! Never before have I seen one. I found this one in the Temple treasury."
King Josiah said, "Read it to me." Hilkiah read speeches given by Moses, reminding the people of their rebellion against God and the consequences. Moses encouraged the people to renew their promise to love God and obey His commandments.
As we listened to Hilkiah, we realized that we were not obeying God's commandments. We could expect God's judgment.
King Josiah ripped his clothing and cried in despair. He ordered Hilkiah, "Go to the Temple and pray to God. Ask Him about these words. We have not been obeying them. Ask for me and all the people in Judah."
Hilkiah met with Huldah, a godly woman prophet. She said, "This is God's message: 'Go to the man who sent you. Tell him that Judah's people will be destroyed, because they have abandoned me and worshipped false gods. King of Judah, since you have humbled yourself, I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died.'"
When King Josiah heard the message, he sent word to his people. "Come to Jerusalem. We must meet." When they gathered, he read the Book of the Law to them. They pledged to keep God's commandments with their hearts.
From then until Josiah died, today, in the year 609 B.C., the people of Judah did not turn from God.