A Good King Dies, 2nd Chronicles 35: 20-27 (Josiah 9)

Although Josiah had reigned for thirty years he was still a young man at the age of thirty-eight. Throughout his monarchy he had focused almost exclusively upon the spiritual state of his Kingdom, the influence of which had extended throughout all the twelve tribes of Israel, in a manner that had not been felt since Solomon.

For eighteen years his reformation had built towards the reinstating of the Passover. For the following twelve years there was a period of consolidation.

Nevertheless, a dark shadow loomed like Churchill’s black dog. Rather than a spirit of depression, however, this was the certain judgement that must be inflicted upon Judah for her many sins during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. Josiah could be content in that God had promised that he would not experience this judgement but with a broken heart he knew that his children and grandchildren would experience it. He also knew that he must be removed before the stroke fell. Therefore Josiah spent these years of blessing under the shadow of death itself. Now in the providence of God, the time had come when a good King must die; the thirtieth year had arrived.

1: A Clash of Nations

This was the year 609BC. There had been a change in international politics brought about by a shift in the balance of power that existed between nations. Through his reign Josiah had been blessed with peace. The threats to national independence which his great grandfather, Hezekiah, and his grandfather, Manasseh, experienced as a result of Assyrian aggression had not re-emerged for more than a generation. The waning influence of Assyria in the east had enabled Josiah to focus his efforts upon the spiritual state of his nation.

Change, however, was beginning to happen. Josiah would have heard the news of Babylon’s sacking of mighty Nineveh , the Assyrian capital, in 612BC with interest and concern. A new super-power was rising in the east.

In this cauldron of international politics nations and empires were vying for power and influence. Alliances were being formed and wars were waged against a backdrop of growing Babylonian power. Assyria was continuing in a much weakened capacity in the region, in reality was on this very year about to vanish from the stage of history. The Egyptians in North Africa were on the move also, endeavouring to get involved in this new world order.

Sandwiched between Egypt to the north and the Assyrians to the north and the Babylonians to the north east was this tiny nation of Judah governed by King Josiah. Necho, the Egyptian ruler, was therefore moving his troops through Judah, intending to fight the Assyrian army at the River Euphrates. Therefore Judah were unintentionally involved in this year, which which change the world for generations to come.

Behind all of this course of events, was God, who set teeth up one king while deposing another. At the same time His will won’t be thwarted as He accomplishes His grand design. Judgement was on the horizon and this year 609BC, would bring Judah’s tragic destiny one step closer.

The history of the world teaches us that no nation is an island, completely insulated from international affairs. The two twentieth wars which shaped our present were global catastrophes which affected every nation on earth. One year can change the world forever, just as 609BC did. As 1914 and 1939 were defining moments in our past so there will be defining moments in the twenty-first century.

The capacity of the two military superpowers to bring destruction on a scale never before seen is sobering. In these past two days Russian media outlets were boasting of the capacity of its new inter-continental supersonic missiles, nicknamed Satan 2 by NATO, to destroy all of England. At the same time NATO’s advanced Trident submarine threat, especially can attack Russia from anywhere in the world at a distance of 7,000 miles. The war in Ukraine, with Moscow endeavouring to widen its sphere of influence and the proxy war as the USA and its allies arm Ukraine can produced this nuclear sabre rattling, something never witnessed before since the end of the Cold War. There is a sense this year, that the world is rapidly changing post pandemic.

These changing international circumstances will affect our nation, of this we can be sure. What we are equally certain of, however, is that God is orchestrating all events. We are sobered by the thought that dwell in a nation, which is part of a western world that is ripe for judgement, just like Josiah’s Judah.

Yet we know, however, that God is over-ruling with an eye upon His Church, His blessed bride. We cannot say that there won’t be a nuclear holocaust. We are certain, though, that such a nuclear holocaust will not end the world as this will only occur when Christ returns in power and glory.

Through changing events, that at times may appear to threaten humanity, when society will become fearful and poor there will be a growing role for the Church of Christ offering hope; because there is no other hope apart from the Gospel. Our priority must be to realise snd grasp our mission for good in a world of chaos; in a society which is a collision course with the wrath of God.

2: Faithful to the Last

Some are critical of Josiah’s involvement in the conflict, that led to his death. Even the King of Egypt pleaded with him to draw back and permit him to pass through the territory unhindered. Josiah refused to desist, and so the two armies met in what would be Josiah’s final act at Megiddo.

Located to the north west of Jerusalem in an area between modern day Tel-Aviv and Haifa, Megiddo was firmly within Josiah’s boundary. He firmly believed that Israel’s boundary was his to defend as his divine birthright. To permit the Egyptians to pass unchecked would have been to surrender national sovereignty to another. Whether Egypt or Assyria were victorious would have made Judah a vassal state. Therefore he did what he believed to be his only option, stand and fight.

As it materialised ; this was to be the divinely ordained means of removing Josiah and bringing judgement day closer. In fact; the removal of a godly young King was in itself an act of judgement.

Elisha recognised the dangers of losing God’s servants as Elijah was carried into heaven. Crying “My Father, My Father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof”, he recognised that the Lord’s servant was the spiritual strength of the nation. His removal was a calamity. In like fashion, the death of Josiah was a catastrophe, a judgement in itself.

In the mid to late 19th Century Baptist Union in England gradually became infected with liberal theology which undermined the credibility and authority of the Word of God. Few of those who were being swayed by rye German rationalistic schools of thought would be drawn into public debate. The influence was subtle but dangerous. It would become known as the Downgrade Controversy. One man was prepared to risk all and expose this falsehood. He was CH Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. In this battle of truth he lost many friends, including young men he had trained for ministry at his own expense. His congregation remained loyal their beloved Pastor to the last, but the Speke century broke Spurgeon’s heart and hastened his death at fifty-six years of age. No-one influenced Victorian London for good quite like the ‘Prince of Preachers ‘ but like Josiah he died in the battle. His removal at an age that seemed to promise more was inevitably a judgement upon an evangelical movement which was willingly embracing the curse of apostasy.

3: The Weeping Prophet

And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations.

2nd Chronicles 35:25

Jeremiah led the mourning of the spiritual heart of the nation. His ministry too would be affected by the King’s death as Judah entered into one last final phase of wickedness prior to the Babylonian onslaught. These were dark and tragic days for the faithful people of God.

As a result of Josiah’s reforms, however, a remnant was gathered together and prepared for the dark days of judgement. The days were difficult and tragic but the end was not yet.

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