No King Like Him

I’ve never written a blurb for the back of a book. There’s good reason for this: I am not famous enough to help anyone sell their books and I am not really an expert on anything in particular. My understanding is that authors and publishers want those blurbs to come from people more well known than the author, people who will make readers stand up and pay attention. If we see someone we trust and respect encourage us to read a certain book, we’re much more likely to pay attention.

Which is why we ought to pay attention to the way God singles out and commends a few people in Scripture. When the Creator of the Universe calls you greater than all those born of women, like Jesus did of John (Lk. 7:28), we should take a much closer look. 

In our church’s Old Testament reading this week, we came across another similar blurb from God:

Before him 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

The king in question is young Josiah. Here, God gives him praise and honor not given to any other king in the entire Scriptures. Consider that! Even David and Solomon, heroes of the faith, don’t compare to Josiah in their relationship to the Lord.

What was it that gained such high praise from God? Josiah’s turning to the Lord. Or, to put it another way, his repentance. It was Josiah’s total and passionate commitment to repentance that earned him such praise from God. Knowing that we often use the language of repentance without the substance, God shines the brightest possible light on Josiah so that we would learn what true repentance looks like. Consider what Josiah teaches us about truly turning from sin.

Repentance begins with hearing the Word of God. Josiah was 26 when Hilkiah found God’s law in the temple and Shaphan read it to the young king (2 Kgs. 22:10). Although Josiah was a respectable man already, this was the point of brokenness before the Lord. True repentance begins with a conviction of sin against God’s law, not just a general sense of shame.

Repentance doesn’t make excuses. Unlike so many of our politicians, Josiah didn’t make a speech blaming the nation’s sins on past kings (2 Kgs. 22:11). Although he recognized those past sins led to the current time of judgment, he sought the Lord without excuse, agreeing that God was just to judge (Ps. 51:4) and taking responsibility to make wrong things right.

Repentance is a covenant. Josiah called the elders and people together, leading them through the same hearing and brokenness he had experienced. And then they made a covenant to God, a solemn, renewing vow to follow the Lord wholeheartedly (2 Kgs. 23:3). Their repentance went far beyond feeling really bad about their sin; rather, their sorrow was a springboard for new and deeper obedience.

Repentance is a thorough violence against sin. After the covenant ceremony, life didn’t just return to normal. No, the work was only beginning. The temple was cleansed of relics and other idols. The unfaithful priests were stripped of their positions. The Asherah was removed, burned, beaten to dust, and scattered over the graves of the unfaithful. Whorehouses were brought crashing to the ground. Local places of idolatry (“high places”) were hunted down and broken in pieces; the worst one, Topheth, where Israel had sacrificed their own children, was defiled to the point of uselessness. Horses and chariots that were worshiped as part of the sun god’s worship were removed from the temple. Altars that past kings had built in various places were broken and crushed into dust. Even the bones of the unfaithful were exhumed and burned on their own altars. The point is this: repentance is violence against sin. Have we been using the words of repentance without putting to death the sins of the flesh? (Rom. 8:13)

Repentance leads to worship. As Josiah led the nation away from their idolatry, he also led them to the Lord. He immediately called for the Passover to be kept, for the first time in many generations (2 Kgs. 23:21-22). And so repentance will include a growing, violent hatred of sin and a growing, passionate worship of God. Repentance that doesn’t lead to worship is likely motivated by personal concern rather than a concern for God’s glory.

It was repentance that made the Spirit honor Josiah. True, thorough, violent, passionate repentance. May God help you and me to repent like this!

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8 Comments

  1. Chris Cole September 30, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    You would also need better grammar. For example, “to help anyone sell their books” mixes the singular and the plural. The proper formula would be “to help anyone sell HIS (or “his or her”) books.” And “people more well known” should be “people better-known.” “More well”? Really? The biblical truths expressed would be better-received couched in literate language.

    • Lynne September 30, 2015 at 11:39 am #

      Actually, “more well known” is fine grammar, employing a comparative adverb, and “anyone sell their” is sadly becoming acceptable because of the reticence to use “his” as a possessive pronoun for both genders. Brother Jared’s point that repentance is not for sissies is communicated clearly and poignantly here. “May God help you and me to repent like this!” Yes, I need God’s help. Thanks for this, Jared! What you lay out here is very humbling to me. When was the last time that I repented like this?

    • Kyle Borg September 30, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      Technically…even though the “mixing” of the singular and plural is often criticized it also has a long history of usage (e.g. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Thackeray, and Chesterton). So, even if Jared errs, he errs in good (and literate) company! Though the English has no dedicated singular personal pronoun of an indeterminate gender because “his” is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun, it has become common place to substitute the third-person plural pronouns for a nonstandard singular. Not that Jared needs defending 😉

    • Jared Olivetti September 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks Chris. I’m always glad to learn more about grammar. My mother, who’s a professional writer, would probably also cringe at the same things you noticed! 🙂

    • Jared Olivetti October 1, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Chris, I normally don’t take time for these things, but you might be glad to learn that I scored an “English Professor” on this internet quiz:

      http://bitecharge.com/play/basicenglish?sess=r1#r3

      😉

  2. Derek Vester September 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    What do you make of 2 Kings 18:5?

    • Jared Olivetti September 30, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

      Hi Derek – great question and observation.

      My take is that Josiah is being commended by the Lord most specifically for his turning / repenting (which is what that verse mentions specifically) and Hezekiah is being commended in 18:5 most specifically for his trusting in the Lord…which is born out by the stories Scripture relates about Hezekiah trusting the Lord through illness and attack.

      If I could expand what i wrote above, I could (should?) be more specific about that for which Josiah was commended above the other kings of Judah & Israel. He is our hero of repentance, while Hezekiah is our hero of trust. Something like that.

      Thanks again for pointing that out and helping me be more clear and careful.

      • Derek Vester September 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

        Thanks for the reply. Those are all great observations. I always enjoy your posts.

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