Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left (2 Kings 22:1–2, esv).
Spiritual awakenings and great revivals often begin when one person wakes up. Almost always, these stories highlight one individual who was uniquely convicted and transformed by the Lord. You can never predict who will hear God’s call or the way He might change history with that life—and young Josiah is an excellent example.
Josiah became king of Judah when he was just eight years old. He had a godly great-grandfather, King Hezekiah, whom he never knew. But his grandfather Manasseh ruled for 55 years of such unchecked evil that God’s holy patience reached its limit. It took an army to bring Manasseh to his knees in repentance. However, the lessons weren’t passed on, and under his son, Amon, evil continued to reign—and increase.
But with Josiah came a 180 degree change in leadership. Second Kings 22:2 tells us he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Standing in the gap between God’s holiness and his people’s wickedness, young Josiah launched a lifelong crusade to take care of God’s business in Israel. His mission was clear: to turn back to God and turn God’s people with him.
Then something incredible happened. As Josiah’s team rehabbed the temple, which had been neglected for generations, they found the scrolls of Moses’ books buried in obscurity and trash (2 Kings 22). At age twenty-six, Josiah heard the Scriptures read for the first time, and the message brought him to his knees. He had never known that God had written down His instructions. He hadn’t seen the recorded promises of warning and blessing based on obedience. Now his heart was exposed to God’s Word, and it convicted him to the core.
Josiah recognized the gravity of the situation; they were sitting on a time bomb. He said, “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book” (2 Kings 22:13). The clock had been ticking the whole time God’s Word was buried, and judgment was closer than they realized.
When people wake up spiritually, they become radically different, and their surroundings are unavoidably disrupted. As a man before God and a king before his nation, Josiah committed to lead his people to change their thinking and living. He recognized that some things had to go, repented of how his nation had walked away from God, and led his people in returning to the Lord.
Josiah’s repentance changed history. God saw the tenderness and humility of Josiah and had compassion on him and his generation. In His holiness, God could not overlook the evil that had been done, but He held back the clock so this repentant generation would not experience the consequences.
Spiritual awakening begins with a profound awareness of God’s awesome holiness on one side, our absolute sinfulness on the other, and our complete inability to bridge the chasm between the two. Only Jesus Christ can cover the gap. Revival always starts with the Father’s reaching down to us—not in a trickle of blessing, but in a deluge of mercy through the forgiveness of His Son, which covers our past and welcomes us to begin again.
If you have any doubts about your own spiritual condition, ask the Lord to open your heart and mind to His holiness. Through Josiah’s personal repentance, God awakened a whole nation. His divine wake-up call goes forth with every generation. Make sure you’re listening.
Lord, You can accomplish mighty things through even one heart that’s tender to Your voice. Unlike Josiah, I have open access to Your Word—what a gift! Please don’t let me take Your Word for granted or let my heart grow hard through rebellion or familiarity. Would You convict me of any and all sin in my life and grant me the gift of repentance? Like Josiah, I want to do what is “right in the eyes of the Lord” and walk in Your ways. I pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus, amen.