II Kings 23 records one of the greatest revivals in human history – an entire nation turned from sin to God. Much has been written, spoken and preached about revival over the past decades as the world has become ever more godless. Perhaps it is time to look at what actually worked.
The background is fairly clear. The southern kingdom of Judah was in its death throes. The previous king named Manasseh had driven the Jewish people into the bulls eye of God’s judgment with his utter depravity and idolatry. One would find it hard to imagine that they could thumb their collective noses at God any more blatantly. The word provoke or provocation is found 21 times in II Kings – clearly God is not happy.
When all seemed doomed, God raised up a boy who was willing to obey him. What did King Josiah have or demonstrate that led to revival when others before him were unsuccessful?
1) Strong leadership – II Kings 23 records King Josiah commanding, reading, casting out idols, casting down altars, burning things, throwing down things – in other words he was hands on, in front of the people, showing them how things were to be done. Josiah did not send flunkies to do the work – he dug into the job himself.
2) Belief in the word of God – when a copy of the law was found and read before the king, he simply believed what God said. He sought out further information from the prophetess Huldah and believed what God had to say through her. Josiah did not bargain with God or negotiate the terms of judgment – he accepted fully what God said, believing that he and his nation deserved what was most surely coming. Four times in chapter 23 it says the Jews did “as it was written” in the law of God. God honored their belief and obedience and blessed them with a mercy, joy, freedom and a passover feast unlike anything held in the previous 800 years! (23:22)
3) Promotion of the word of God – Josiah made sure that everyone else heard what God had to say. In II Kings 23:2 the king gathered ALL of the people together: small and great, young and old. The law was read before all the people. Ignorance of God’s word is the sure path to suffering the judgments of God’s word. He reminded everyone that a covenant had been made many years before and had been broken and that God’s wrath was inevitable.
4) Reaffirmation of the word of God – it is not good enough to ride the coat tails of a previous generation. Each of us must reaffirm our belief and adherence to the written word of God. Josiah made a covenant to obey what God said and led the nation to “stand” to this covenant with him in II Kings 22:3. Revival will start with a few, but to truly revive it must include the many.
5) Repentance in action – the remainder of the chapter shows the king and his people actively rooting out sin in their midst. Things were cut down, thrown down, burnt, ground to powder, broken down, put down and thrown out. Revival is impossible if there is still dirt in the house! The vessels God uses must be clean. II Tim. 2:20-21 states this fact – the following verses describe the actions needed to put this fact into action!
6) No sacred cows can survive – Judah was full of sentimentalities & sacred cows that had to go if revival was to genuinely come and stave off the judgment of God. All the altars and idols of previous kings were considered abominations – not art and cultural relics to be preserved in museums. The sodomites who hung out next to the temple had to go – political correctness is irrelevant in a revival! Many a revival chokes about here as a person encounters something in their life that has too strong a stranglehold to be released and cast away.
7) Tender and humble hearts – read II Kings 22:19. Another great revival verse oft quoted, but rarely obeyed is II Chron. 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall HUMBLE THEMSELVES, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” What about you?