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.
—2 Kings 23:25
One way we can see for ourselves that Josiah was a good leader and man of God is how he responded when the priest reported the prophet’s devastating words. He did not banish the priest and kill the prophet. He did not shift blame to someone else. He did not declare himself the real victim.
We needn’t look far to find leaders who believe themselves beyond critique, who only allow compliments and praise to pass through their ears and into their minds and hearts, who make life impossible for any who speak against them. But not Josiah. He heard the judgement, gathered the people, read the Law for all to hear, and renewed the nation’s covenant before God.
He did not merely initiate change in their hearts. Josiah removed the idols from the temple, and from all over the nation. He destroyed the places where children were sacrificed in fire and all the places where people were used and abused in the name of worship.
But Josiah’s son and grandson did not follow in his footsteps. They returned to the ways of evil—and remember, this is not abstract evil. This is mixing worship and “god’s will” with murder and violence and assault, all in the name of seeking comfort and wealth.
We begin to see why the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the new High Priest. We humans slip, again and again, back to worshipping our own gain even if it requires violence against others to achieve. Hebrews implores the reader with words that feel all-too applicable to us: we should be mature enough to be teachers of Jesus’ way by now, but instead we still need to be fed baby’s milk. We aren’t even ready for the solid foods of God’s teaching. Only when we have learned to tell the difference between good and evil will we be ready for solid food.
It is so easy to see the plank in another’s eye. I’m sure we can readily see the evil and violence others are doing in our nation. But what about us? What about the evil and violence American Evangelical Christians are promoting and benefiting from? Can we, like Josiah, allow our hearts to be torn and make actual, tangible changes to the way we live? Are we followers of Jesus okay being comfortable in a society where others suffer? Will we allow Jesus to open our eyes, growing from milk-drinkers to solid-food-eaters?
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Questions for reflection and discussion: Are you ready for solid spiritual food or still needing milk? Are you following our society’s way of fear and violence in hopes of achieving something for yourself and your family, or Jesus’ way of loving and caring for all people, friend and enemy alike—even if it costs you?