REPENTANCE AND RENEWAL
Lord, may I be truly repentant for my sins and amend my life.
Read 2 KINGS 23:1–25
Josiah Renews the Covenant
23 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
4 The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 6 He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. 7 He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the Lord, the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah.
8 Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the gateway at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which was on the left of the city gate. 9 Although the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, they ate unleavened bread with their fellow priests.
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. 11 He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court[a] near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.
12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon. 14 Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.
15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things.
17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”
The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”
18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.
19 Just as he had done at Bethel, Josiah removed all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built in the towns of Samaria and that had aroused the Lord’s anger. 20 Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. 25 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.
a 2 Kings 23:11 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with… malice and wickedness, but with… sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7–8).
We sometimes hear public figures give apologies that fall short of true repentance. Many minimize the wrongness of their actions as “an error in judgment” or “a mistake.” Often the word “sorry” simply means regret over the consequences of sin rather than actual repentance. Josiah’s attitude and actions, however, demonstrate true repentance: a turning to the Lord and away from sin, whether consequences remain or are taken away. Unlike Hezekiah, who was only too happy to relax knowing that disaster would not happen during his lifetime (2 Kings 20:19,20), Josiah does not stay idle.
Josiah’s deeds reveal the key ingredients of renewal: a clear understanding of God’s requirements (set out in his Word) and commitment to obedience (1–3), followed by an uncompromising attitude towards sin (4–20,24). Priests who wrongly used alternative shrines to worship God are not allowed to serve in the Jerusalem Temple, though they are not excluded from the community (9). Our churches should ensure that Christians who do not follow sound biblical teaching are not in positions of leadership where they can lead others astray. The elimination of idolatrous priests (20) is shocking for us, but it was the only known way in that culture to ensure permanent change (cf. Elijah’s slaying of the prophets of Baal; 1 Kings 18:40). We are not to imitate this directly, but to remember the importance of not leaving a back door for sin to return.
Finally, Judah celebrates Passover (21–23), the reminder of God delivering them from slavery in Egypt and the foundation of their relationship with him. As Christians, we too remember our Passover Lamb, whose death on the cross brought us salvation. Whatever we do to renew or strengthen our relationship with God, our driving force throughout must be his amazing grace that found us first.
Pray for our churches, for true repentance and renewal that is founded on God’s grace.
Lord, may we turn from sin and turn toward You.