Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. – 2 Kings 22:1-2
Can you imagine what it must be like to become a King when you are only eight years old? To wear a crown, sit on a throne, make big decisions, command an army? That’s what happened to Josiah. He became King at a time of international turmoil and warfare. His country, Judah, was a little nation, all that was left of Israel; and it was sandwiched between the mighty empires of Egypt and Babylon.
Some children might have allowed this to go to their heads; others might died of fright, and allowed their advisors and generals to push them around. But not Josiah. As a teenager, when he was 16, he came to love God, and as soon as he was 20 he took charge, and a began a great work of reformation. The people of Judah had stopped worshipping the true God, and worshipped false gods: Josiah gave orders that this had to stop. The great temple in Jerusalem, where the Lord was worshipped, had been neglected and allowed to fall into ruin. Josiah couldn’t bear to see this, so he gave orders to repair it. Then, while the temple was being repaired, the workers found a very old book, that everyone had forgotten about: the Law of God, part of the Bible, probably what we call the book of Deuteronomy. When Josiah read it, he was horrified, as he realised how badly Judah had disobeyed God, and so he committed himself and his people to obeying God.
It wasn’t as if Josiah came from a family that loved God and taught him to read the Bible. His grandfather, King Manasseh was an evil depraved man, who hated the Lord, worshipped false gods, and even sacrificed one of his children to them. His father, King Amon, was just as bad, but was assasinated after only two years on the throne. Josiah did not have a good start in life. But as a child and a teenager, he loved God and his law, and obeyed them.
We sometimes think that children and young people have no place in church, because they won’t listen, or behave, or be interested. So we segregate them into their own groups, or if they are in church try to distract them, until, we think, they are old enough. God thinks differently. He chose a child to be the king of his people: and that child loved God, and loved his worship, and loved his word. Should we want less for our children? Especially if they have a better start than Josiah, growing up in a Christian family where they are taught to love God and read his word and worship with his people. The children of Christian families are disciples, not little pagans: and we should expect them to be able to worship him, and understand and obey his word.
One of Josiah’s descendants was also a King. When he was only 12 years old, he loved God’s house so much that he couldn’t be dragged away from it, and his knowledge of God’s word was so great, that he could stump all the experts. His name was Jesus: and he is the pattern for all of us, children and adults, to follow.
You can read Josiah’s story in 2 Kings 22-23 (pages 302-304 in the church Bibles) and 2 Chronicles 34-35 (pages 358-360). We will think more about it in the Family Service on Sunday morning.