Do you think anyone 300 years ago knew you would one day be born? No? Yet this really did happen for a little boy named Josiah who lived long ago. About 300 years before Josiah was born and became the king of Judah, a man of God prophesied of Josiah’s birth, even telling what kind of king Josiah would be. (See 1 Kings 13:1-2.)
Years before Josiah was born, the kingdom of Judah was ruled by an evil king named Manasseh. Manasseh worshipped false gods and killed innocent men, women, boys and girls. He was so bad that God promised judgment would come upon the kingdom. When people heard the news of this coming judgment, their ears tingled from fright. Unfortunately, Manasseh’s evil ways caused great trouble for his son and grandson—Amon and Josiah. (See 2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-10.)
At some point in Manasseh’s reign, his heart was turned toward the Lord. The Bible says: “And when he was in affliction, he sought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers…” For the rest of his life and rule, he faithfully served God and did what was right. He worshipped the Lord and became a much better king. This change in Manasseh’s life took place before Josiah was born; therefore, Josiah would have only known his grandfather during the years he faithfully served the Lord. Sadly, Manasseh died when Josiah was about six years old. (See 2 Chronicles 33:11-20.)
When Josiah’s grandfather (Manasseh) died, Josiah’s dad (Amon) became king. Amon was a really bad king. Instead of learning from Manasseh’s good example in his last days, Amon chose to follow the bad behavior of his father’s earlier years. Amon was so bad that his own servants thought of a plan to kill him. Fortunately, Amon only served as the king of Judah for two short years. (See 2 Kings 21:19-26; 2 Chronicles 33:21-25.)
During Josiah’s early years, he must have been really confused. He saw his grandfather love and serve the Lord. Yet, he also saw his father do some really mean and terrible things. He surely remembered hearing his grandfather tell stories about how God had changed his life and made him a better and kind man. Yet, he also listened as his dad said horrible things about God. This must have been very confusing and sad, too, since both his grandfather and father died before Josiah celebrated his ninth birthday.
Josiah was just a young boy. He should have been living out the joys of being a child. He should have been playing with his friends and enjoying the beauties of a caring and loving home. However, he was most likely deprived of most of these simple pleasures. There were certainly nights when Josiah found himself alone and cried himself to sleep. Surely, young Josiah wondered from time to time why all the other children had both grandfathers and dads and he had neither. Josiah lacked many important relationships; however, he did have what mattered most. In spite of his losses, he still had the God of his grandfather, the God of Judah, the God of the Bible.
With all the loss of loved ones and sacrifice of childhood, Josiah must have looked for purpose in life. He was just a boy. What could he possibly do? He could be king!
Although little is known about the early days of Josiah’s reign, the rest of his life shows that even as a child he must have been a good and wise king. Although Josiah was king, he likely had some godly people help him while he was still young, in much the same way that good Christian parents help their children today.
As Josiah grew older, he had to make his own decisions. Would he choose to be mean and ungodly like his father’s example? Or would he serve the God that changed his grandfather’s life?
Even with all the difficulties and challenges Josiah experienced as a child, he chose to serve the Lord. When Josiah was sixteen years old, he personally sought the Lord. However, Josiah was not the only one seeking the Lord at this time. When Josiah was nineteen years old, the Lord also began to speak to a young prophet named Jeremiah. These two young men, along with another prophet named Zephaniah, would be the last hope for the kingdom of Judah. Truly, Josiah was doing God’s work. (See 2 Chronicles 33:4; Jeremiah 1:1-2; Zephaniah 1:1.)
As Josiah learned more about how to please the Lord, he would do the Lord’s work of making Judah a better place. As a result of his godly example, people loved and served the Lord. (See 2 Chronicles 34:4-7.)
At age twenty-six, Josiah had quite the scare. He directed the people to clean up and repair God’s house, the temple. As the workers were doing so, they found a copy of God’s word. What a wonderful treasure! However, as God’s words were read, Josiah heard of God’s decree to judge his kingdom (Judah) for all the bad things that they had done in the past. This news made Josiah very afraid! (See 2 Kings 22:3-11; 2 Chronicles 34:8-19.)
Josiah feared the Lord and loved Him, too. The last thing Josiah wanted to do was upset the Lord. When he heard that judgment was coming, Josiah wanted to know what God wanted him to do as king. This pleased God! In fact, God was so pleased with Josiah’s tender heart that God promised to wait until Josiah died before He would bring judgment upon the kingdom. (See 2 Kings 22:12-20; 2 Chronicles 34:20-28.)
Josiah must have been greatly relieved to hear the news that God was pleased with him. Yet, he went right to work telling the people in his kingdom that judgment was soon coming from the Lord. He told the people that they needed to live for the Lord and to please Him in all that they did. He cleaned the house of God and removed from the kingdom everything that displeased the Lord in any way. (See 2 Kings 23:1-15; 2 Chronicles 34:29-33.)
As Josiah was doing God’s work, he noticed a cemetery where evil priests had been buried. Three hundred years earlier, God’s prophet had already prophesied what Josiah was about to do in that cemetery. Josiah had the bones of these evil men dug up and burned to demonstrate God’s displeasure with their evil ways. After this, Josiah saw another cemetery marker and asked who was buried there. The men told him that it was the burial place of the man of God who had prophesied of Josiah so many years earlier. In order to honour the man of God, Josiah told the men to leave that burial place alone. (See2 Kings 23:16 with 1 Kings 13:1-2; 2 Kings 23:17-18.)
As soon as Josiah finished his mission, he commanded the people to keep a feast to the Lord and to worship the Lord according to God’s law. Never before had there been such a wonderful feast as this one held by Josiah. Truly Josiah loved the Lord unlike any that had ever lived before him. (See 2 Kings 23:19-25; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19.)
As everything seemed to be going well for the beloved king, Josiah unwisely started a war with Egypt. During the battle, an archer shot an arrow and wounded King Josiah. Josiah’s men brought him back to Jerusalem, the capital of his kingdom. That is where Josiah died. His death greatly saddened his people. He was much loved! In fact, the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed a lamentation (an expression of great sadness) about the life of Josiah, and many singers sang songs of his greatness. Josiah faithfully served as king of Judah for thirty-one years. (See 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.)
The troubles that harmed the kingdom of Judah were brought about by the bad example and ungodly leadership of king Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather. Yet, the change God made in Manasseh’s life also ultimately spared Josiah from experiencing those same troubles. If you know a changed person with a bad past, consider Manasseh’s changed life as an example of the blessings that can follow. Never think that others are unworthy of God’s love or beyond God’s power to change for His glory. God is surely the God of second chances. (See 2 Kings 23:26-27.)
Josiah faithfully served God as the king of Judah. While God most likely will never call you to be a king like Josiah, He has something in mind for each and every person to do for Him. You may ask, “What can I do for Him?” You may think, “I am only a child.” If God can use an eight-year-old boy to sit upon the throne of a kingdom, surely He can use you today! Josiah made the choice to serve the God Who had changed his grandfather, and that choice changed a nation. Maybe God wants to use you in a mighty way, too. Will you be the next Josiah for this generation?