Rising From Spiritual Defeat – Step Three

(2 Kings 23:1-14; Judges 1:22-36)

What Israel failed to force out of the land they had to live with. The ungodly residents of the land, with their idol worship, immorality, violence, injustice, sacrifice of the children to false gods, and their worship of the sun, moon and stars soon infiltrated Israel until even in the very temple of the Lord there were objects of worship for false gods and immorality. Israel had been completely corrupted by what they had failed to rid themselves of. What they left in the land was what they finally ended up living with, and it defeated them and brought them into spiritual defeat.

What Josiah had to contend with and cleanse out of the land, by way of renewing the covenant with God was stuff that had accumulated from the earliest days of Israel’s compromising up to the death of his wicked father, king Amon (2 Kings 21:19-22). First he had to deal with the historical failure of Israel to cleanse the land of the culture of the original inhabitants in the days of Joshua. The book of judges records the catastrophic spiritual failure of Israel as a result. By Josiah’s day it had reached a zenith. Israel was now routinely worshipping the gods of the original inhabitants, and combining elements of that worship into the worship of God. Secondly, Josiah had to deal with the historical, and yet more recent failure of previous kings, notably Solomon, who built temples and raised altars for the vile gods of the Moabites and Sidonians! Thirdly, he had to deal with the daily intrusion of the false worship and vile culture of the world around him into the temple of God itself. There were the articles used to worship Baal and Asherah (male and female fertility gods), and the stars in the temple, as well as the quarters for male shine prostitutes, the Asherah pole, the weaving stations for Asherah, the horses and chariots built in honor of the (Egyptian) sun god, and the altars on the roof for the worship of the heavenly constellations! Some of these things were relatively new innovations, and others were as old as their Egyptian slavery, (the worship of the sun and Solomon’s temples to the vile gods of their neighbors).

The practices of worshipping the idols and false gods of Canaan went back centuries, and had never been fully cleansed from the land or from Israel. Although Israel had arisen from defeat many times to experience victory and revival, because these things were never really cleansed from their culture and thinking, they resurfaced again and again to bring them into moral and spiritual defeat. It wasn’t until Josiah underwent a spiritual awakening as the result of finding the book of the law (the covenant) in the temple, that he realized that the revival he was experiencing would fail unless he cleansed the land of the vileness of spiritual compromise and wickedness.

So Josiah set out on one of the most extensive campaigns of spiritual cleansing in Israel’s history. He ranged throughout the land destroying and desecrating the worship sites of the vile gods of the land (2 Kings 23). He deposed the priests of these gods who had served often with royal approval (House, P. R. (2001). Vol. 8: 1, 2 Kings (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers). However, this campaign began after Josiah had come under conviction and renewed his covenant with God. It was part of the follow through, arising from the deliverance of God and the spiritual renewal of the nation (cf. 2 Kings 23:1-3). In chapter 22 we see how Josiah’s from the earliest days was stirred up to seek after God, and how he ordered the rebuilding of the temple and Israel’s spiritual value system and worship. He arose from defeat as a result of personal confession, prayer and renewal by God. He then began to attend to the devotional practices and life of the nation, to reinstitute their service of God! But this was not enough. When he recognized that that there was spiritual contamination in the field of Israel’s devotion to God, he set about cleansing it away! if he did not it would be sure to bring him right back down into defeat and failure! Josiah’s reforms were merely returning to what God had warned Israel to do in the first place, purge the land of the idols and pagan worship. This is why they were to thoroughly drive out the original inhabitants in the first place; it was a total cultural and spiritual cleansing.

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