4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5 And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. 6 And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.
This chapter tells of Josiah's reforms: It's not enough to remind the people of the law and confess the nation's sins. King Josiah does not stop there. He goes on to destroy the symbols and trappings and places of false worship, and cast out the false priests. When we are dealing with such upside-down bad habits (i.e., cults) that reform is necessary, power will be needed to forcefully overturn and destroy the systems that enable those habits. Josiah shows great courage in the face of the entrenched culture. There is no failure of nerve here on his part, as there was in the previous kings like Solomon who went with the flow when people within his family and inner circle strayed from God. Reading the Torah (biblical law) is necessary, but so is doing it, even when destructive power must be wielded.
Even though we are not likely to face the kind of idolatry that plagued Josiah’s kingdom, we can still learn a lesson from his reforms. When we encounter a bad practice on the job that has become culturally accepted, we need to forcefully destroy all the symbols and tools of that culture. Crush, burn and dump the ashes far away. Send the false priests packing. But first, pray for discernment, of course, and be sure we are seeing accurately. Josiah did this also before beginning his reforms [2 Kings 22:11-20]. Josiah shows leadership here in his use of force, because the situation demanded it. He made tough decisions and didn’t lose his nerve.
Lord, grant us wisdom, we pray. Guide us in paths of righteousness for your sake [Psalm 23:3].
© Bruce D. Baker 2013