One of the joys of reading is that with a good imagination and a good author, you can step back in time and live an important event in history. So, with at least half of those requirements met, let us enter the time machine of our mind, and close our eyes, and flash back to…the biggest revival of all time. No, I’m not speaking of Billy Graham, Madison Square Garden, 1957. Not even Jonah, Ninevah, 862 BC. Would you believe the biggest revival of all time was…Josiah, 624 BC.
Your first thought was, “Who’s he?” My proof for this claim is in II Kings 23:25:
Now before him (Josiah) there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.
Yes, he led the Israelites in the greatest revival of their entire history. And he was only 26 when he did it. It all came about by coincidence, when Josiah sent his scribe to the high priest to get some money to pay for temple repairs. The priest found a Bible (the 5 books of Moses) instead. When the king asked him for a reading, it had quite an effect—Josiah tore his clothes, and announced in a panicked voice, “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” I suspect the high priest had just read Deuteronomy 31:16-17:
And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured.
So reading the Bible lit a Holy Spirit fire under Josiah, and it was read to the people, and they wanted to repent, also, and they all focused on a mission—to clean house. They grabbed idols to Baal and Astoreth that were in the Lord’s temple, dragged them out and burned them. They removed their idol-priests, and they removed the sodomizers and prostitutes (whose “duties” were performed in religious rituals, in the house of the Lord, no less!). He also defiled these high places, some of which were built by Solomon! He executed all the priests of the high places and defiled their bodies. Then he had a passover, a passover that was so fragrant to the Lord that, as the writer says, “Surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah.”
BUT…God had been intent on destroying Israel from the time of Josiah’s grandfather, and after all this revival, He hadn’t changed His mind! Twenty-four years after Josiah’s death, Israel was wiped off the map, as earlier predicted. Babylon carried them all away.
The big questions are, “Why is God so unforgiving? How is it different this time?” The simple answer is, look at what Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, had done. There were other evil kings, of course, but this man was worse than they. Manasseh’s notoriety was what he did in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, the place where the Israelites actually burned their children to death for the god Molech. What Manasseh did that was unforgivably evil was making this a regular occurrence. He offered his own sons as sacrifices, to “set an example.” He even set a carved image, an idol, in the house of God. As II Chronicles summarizes:
So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.
This valley is noteworthy in another way: We get the word, Gehenna, from it. Gehenna, as any Bible scholar knows, is translated “hell” in Scripture. Jesus used the term 11 times, speaking of ultimate judgment upon the wicked. One of His more interesting pronouncements was Matthew 23:29-33:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. Consequently, you bear witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of GEHENNA (“hell”).
It’s also interesting that the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, even in the time of Jesus, was still full of dead people’s bones, the unclaimed bodies of criminals that had been executed. Jesus had, two verses earlier, called the scribes and Pharisees, “whitewashed tombs…full of dead men’s bones.” Thus they were Gehenna, just dead men’s bones; they were hell.
But let me get back to my point. Manasseh’s—and Israel’s–sacrifice of their children was so horribly evil that God wouldn’t turn from His fierce anger, even in the face of the greatest revival of history. That brings a question to my mind:
What does that say about America today?
Look at how our people complacently allow abortions to continue, after decades of education and debate. In other words, the American people are familiar with what’s going on—but they’re not enraged enough about it to get the law reversed. To compare with Josiah’s day, are not abortions a form of infanticide, only worse? In our case, we hunt down an innocent baby before it has even come out of the womb. Our microscopic images and medical technology prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that’s a living, different human being. Now and then, we even perform operations in-utero so that we may save the life of the fetus. Yet we complacently compartmentalize killing other infants in other wombs. Yes, the children of Israel offered them as sacrifices to their idols—but don’t we do the same in America? If, in fact, most abortions are performed on perfectly healthy infants, then why do we do it? For convenience. To avoid embarrassment. A baby is an obstacle to some world-worshiping goal. The fact that we’re willing to allow the killing of human life shows we worship an idol, an idol that is more important than a human life, more important than obeying God’s clear command: “Thou shalt not kill.”
If, then, we do the same unspeakable sin as the Israelites, and even worse, how shall we escape destruction?
If even a revival did not save them, how would it save us?