“Josiah was eight years old when he became king…he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or left.” (2 Chronicles 34:1, 2)
One of the most important lessons for Christian leaders to learn is that no matter how dark our times, God can revive the church and change our world. The cause of the Gospel is never lost. The Bible reveals that on many occasions in the past the Lord has stepped into situations that not only seemed bleak, but also appeared to be completely hopeless.
Consider the case of King Josiah (640-609BC). He was the son of King Manasseh who had reigned over Judah for 55 years. Manasseh’s reign had been devastating for the cause of true religion. His term of office had been marked by widespread apostasy and irreligion. Could Judah ever recover? This is where the story of Josiah’s life becomes important because it reminds us that God can renew His work in the midst of the years.
The subject of renewal is something that should be of deep interest to us. In some Christian circles today it is unfashionable to talk about ‘revival’ or ‘renewal’, despite it being a prominent theme in Scripture. This is sad because at a time when the churches seem to be losing lots of ground within the culture, Christian people seem to express little interest in the subject. Why this is so? I suspect that it’s due to two main causes: first, it seems that evangelicals have a strong conviction that organised activities such as missions, campaigns, conventions will suffice of themselves to turn around the situation. Then, second, one of the dominant views about the end-times within evangelicalism in the last fifty years has been that the world situation is only getting worse and there is nothing we can do except to wait for Christ’s return. Taken together, these two views imply that we neither need revival, and that it’s irrelevant anyway.
However, the story of Josiah suggests otherwise. The Chronicler tells us that he became king at the age of eight and determined, even at that young age, to follow in the tradition of Israel’s greatest king, David. This reminds us that the Spirit was working in the heart of a young boy. Although a child, he had enough moral sense and high-mindedness to know that his father’s example was a discredit to the family. As a boy, he decided in his heart to be a righteous man.
Then, eight years later, we learn that as a young teenager he began to seek the Lord. For over a decade the Spirit moved on his heart and helped him to undertake a reformation of sorts, unguided by the Scriptures. It was not until he was 26 that he read the Bible and was deeply humbled by it. He spent the next thirteen years working to fulfil his vision of making God the true sovereign of the land. He gave strong leadership and carried the people with him.
The story of Josiah’s conversion is an important one for us to remember. It reminds us that God can turn around the spiritual fortunes of a nation in the most unpromising of times, and that He does it in a way that confounds normal human wisdom. God raised up the most unlikely of individuals to spearhead a powerful, spiritual renewal movement. He awakened the heart of a little boy in a household that was known for its unbelief and moral corruption. This highlights the importance of our ministry to young children. There may be Josiahs in our midst.