With the idols removed, the temple restored, the Word of God rediscovered, the covenant renewed and the Ark returned to the sanctuary Judah was now in a position to celebrate a Passover; something which had been neglected for over half a century.
This was a time for a fresh start and a new beginning. How gracious God is in forgiving and renewing; therein there is hope for us all because ‘oft we forsake him and wander away’.
Josiah was determined to return the people to the old paths, which were God’s ways, after years of neglect. But before the Passover could be enjoyed there were some final preparations that must be made. Josiah is characterised as a man with a meticulous eye for detail. Nothing was done in half measures, he gave his whole heart to his kingdom and this work of spiritual reform. He took his duties seriously.
Yet, there was a note of urgency about Josiah’s work in this chapter. Time was short for the nation as judgement was looming and he perhaps sensed that his days were drawing to an end also. He certainly acted as a man who must do his utmost because he believed that time is short. So must we all, as Christ Himself said, ‘The night cometh’.
And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son. And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the families of the fathers of your brethren the people, and after the division of the families of the Levites. So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.2nd Chronicles 35:4-6
This counsel was addressed to the Levites, the priestly class, who had brought in the Ark of the Covenant to the sanctuary. Before they could minister to the people they had to offer a sacrifice for themselves, that they might be prepared. He was reminding them of their own sinfulness, and need of cleansing.
Likewise, those who do God’s Work must take heed to their own spirits and care for the garden of their own souls. In the New Testament this is emphasised often:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.Acts 20:28
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.1st Timothy 4:13-16
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.1st Timothy 9:26-27
And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king’s substance. And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen. Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen.2nd Chronicles 35:7-9
For this great Passover there was a necessity for sacrifices, thousands of sacrifices. Josiah led the way in providing 30,000 from his flocks of sheep and goats and 3,000 from his herds of cattle. The princes followed the example of their king by donating 2,600 small cattle and 300 hundred oxen. The leaders among the Levites also provided 5,000 small cattle and 500 oxen. From the King to the princes and the priests , the provision was made for this remarkable event.
The blessing of the great Passover was dependent upon this sacrificial giving. Likewise, if we are to enjoy the blessing of God upon our lives we must be willing to sacrifice to the Lord;
With our time:
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.Ephesians 5:16
With our substance:
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.1 Corinthians 16:2
With our bodies, which is inclusive of our talents and abilities:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Romans 12:1-2
But especially with our hearts:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.Matthew 22:37
All of this practical preparation, however, is also illustrative of the failure of Old Testament worship. Thousands of beasts were slaughtered, yet more offerings must be presented because the work was never accomplished. As sin was constant, so the sacrifices were continual. Every sacrifice was a constant reminder of sin. The cries of the animals as they felt the knife, the blood flowing, the smell of death and of burning carcasses was a reminder of the enormity of sin, the nastiness of sin and the need for reconciliation with God through the shedding of blood.
Ultimately, however, all this work and sacrifice pointed to the one great sacrifice for sin at Calvary, a place which highlights our depravity and need as nowhere else does. As Christ cried ‘It is Finished’, the work of sacrificing was done with – sin was finally atoned.
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.Hebrews 9:24-28
So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their courses, according to the king’s commandment.2nd Chronicles 35:10
King Josiah remained rigidly faithful to the Law of Moses and to the procedures established by David and Solomon. His commandments were compliant with the revealed will of God. Everything was performed and accomplished according to these commandments. The submission was complete and the obedience was wholehearted.
Jesus Christ as our Lord requires total devotion and the Scriptures require absolute obedience. It is not for us to question the will of God but to do His will.
The reformation and revival in Josiah’s day was absolutely dependent upon a King and a nation who held nothing back but who were captivated by the sweetness of the will of God.
This was what set Josiah’s reformation apart from Hezekiah, his great-father’s work. Hezekiah was forced to accept certain irregularities but Josiah’s work was more thorough, as the following contrasting verses illustrate:
For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one.2 Chronicles 30:18
And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son.2nd Chronicles 35:4
The worldly mindset considers freedom to be the ability to believe and act according to the whims of one’s mind and heart. The idea of being obedient, compliant and submissive to God and His Word is considered to be slavery, the very opposite of freedom. The Christian, however, sees things differently. We are only free because we serve. Our freedom is based upon our devotion to another. The worldly man is a slave to his sinful instincts which are destructive. The Christian, on the other hand, enjoys the freedom that is in Christ, that we are saved to serve. Ultimately we serve someone; Satan or Christ , God or sin. And our Saviour is a good master.
This paradox of being free, happy and purposeful through our submission to Christ lies at the heart of the Christian experience. Paul frequently describes himself as servant, which was a bond servant or slave Jesus Christ. His life was bound up in his Saviour:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20
Therefore the Christian life is the quest for greater submission because therein lies the secret of our happiness and blessing. It is the resistance to self and temptation and a daily surrender to God and His will.
George Matheson was a 19th Century Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian, author and hymn writer. He suffered from permanent blindness, yet by faith he saw Christ clearly. His great hymn ‘Make me a Captive’, captures the great yearning of every Christian soul, for complete submission. Accepting his blindness with all the incapacity that attended his deprivation, he learned to accept the perfection of God’s will in all of its parts. No words written by mortals define the paradox of Christianity so lucidly.
Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life's alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.
My heart is weak and poor
Until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure,
It varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
Till thou hast wrought its chain;
Enslave it with thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.
My pow'r is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve;
It lacks the needed fire to glow,
It lacks the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
Until itself be driv'n;
Its flag can only be unfurled
When thou shalt breathe from heav'n.
My will is not my own
Till thou hast made it thine;
If it would reach a monarch's throne,
It must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife
When on thy bosom it has leant,
And found in thee its life.