I taught Sunday school for many years. Honestly, my love for the Bible came from researching and studying various stories so that I could teach them to the kids. One of these stories that I still remember teaching to the kids is about King Josiah. His story is found in 2 Kings 22-23. He assumed the throne at eight years old—how crazy is that!? Despite his young age, the Bible tells us that he had an unmatched passion for God.
Israel had, of course, fallen back into idolatry, erecting altars for all sorts of different gods instead of worshiping the one true God. Josiah had it in his heart to repair the temple of God and, in the process of doing so, the book of the Law was discovered. Josiah had never heard the words of the Law before and was heartbroken when he heard them read aloud. Though a prophetess made it clear that Israel was still about to enter into a period of God’s intense judgment, that didn’t dissuade Josiah from making sweeping changes in the nation.
Read 2 Kings 23 when you have a moment—Josiah destroyed a lot of idols. It was destructive, violent, and pretty gruesome. But he was that fervent for the Lord. He was, unlike so many other kings that came before him, unwilling to compromise in this regard. He wasn’t about to allow idolatry to stand in his nation—he was king and he was unashamed about following God’s voice.
Here’s how the Bible describes Josiah:
“Before him [Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” 2 Kings 23:25 (ESV)
What a description! We have such reverence for King David, but according to this verse, Josiah pursued God even more fervently than David. Josiah was more passionate about destroying the strongholds in the nation of Israel. He was precise in his excision of idolatry, where David let some idol worship continue in the nation. Josiah was relentless in his passionate pursuit of purity.
Josiah did the hard heart work of removing the idols in his own life so then he could help destroy the idols of a nation.
Idolatry in the church today doesn’t always look like worshiping a rock or a statue, it’s usually a lot more subtle. We can worship a way of doing things, a person, or our own preferences. We can worship the act of worshipping. We can worship the act of assembling as the church. We can make idols out of the very things that are supposed to draw us closer to God.
It’s like when I write, speak, or create things for God without God—that’s an act of idolatry. How crazy is that?! Things that look good can actually come from an idolatrous place in my own heart—Lord have mercy! I can fall into the trap of loving my ideas over him. I can value my voice over his own. I can worship my perception of God instead of who he truly is. (Ouch!)
Idolatry, as I have said before, is insidious. It is sneaky, subtle, and vile. It can quickly spread and overtake our hearts and our lives. And rooting out idolatry is painful, heartbreaking, and unpopular. It requires bravery, conviction, and devotion to God.
Reading through Josiah’s story, I’m reminded once again that we don’t do this on our own. We can have the strength to destroy the idols in our lives because of God. His presence, his passion, and his Spirit can empower us to take the courageous actions necessary. Josiah didn’t destroy Israel’s idols because he would be popular, but because he feared God over man. His passion for God overwhelmed and overshadowed every decision and, because of that, an entire nation was changed.
While I doubt any of us are kings (if you are, that’s amazing!), we all are important parts of the body of Christ. Each of us has a vital function to play and I believe that as we become more courageous in killing the idolatry in our own lives, it will strengthen the body and others will be compelled to do the same.
Let’s be relentless in our pursuit of God and ruthless in the tearing down of idols in our own lives.
What stands out to you in the story of Josiah?
How have you experienced idolatry in your own life?
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