After Solomon, Israel is split into ten tribes (Israel) and two tribes (Judah) consisting of Judah and Benjamin. During this time there are only two kings who are LEADERS.
Hezekiah is king of Judah when Israel goes into bondage.
"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him." (II Kings 18:3-5)
In an earlier post, we covered how God's Will was for Hezekiah to die before having a son...and Hezekiah's justice allowed him to pray to live longer and have a son (Manasseh) who is the cause of Judah going into bondage.
"Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day." (II Kings 21:11-15)
The CAUSE of Judah going into bondage under a heathen king was Manasseh. After Manasseh, Amon reigns for two years. Then Josiah becomes king. He is the other LEADER.
"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." (II Kings 22:2)
The rest of II Kings 22 explains how the book of the law was found and read to Josiah. He rents his clothes and commands the priest:
"Go ye, enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us." (II Kings 22:13)
The reply from God:
"Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent they clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place." (II Kings 22:19-20)
Josiah and Judah get spared bondage until after Josiah is dead. Notice again, God referenced the heart when he measured and valued the king. Josiah showed what was in his heart with the rest of his reign.
"And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile." (II Kings 23:13)
Josiah is the ONLY king who carried out God's hundreds of years old command He gave to Solomon! Solomon never took down the high places that God judged him for in I Kings 11:33! Back to Josiah...
"And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." (II Kings 23:25)
Josiah turned to God with all his heart, soul, and might! Until Jesus establishes His kingdom, Josiah is the greatest king that ever lived. Why don't people say Josiah was the greatest king? Solomon had a lot of material things. What do we as a society value? Isn't esteeming Solomon proof one values the HAVE over the ARE?
(Notice, I Kings 15:5 says David did what was right except "only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite". II Kings 20:13 says Hezekiah showed visitors from the king of Babylon all the precious things in his house. I don't see ANYWHERE in the Bible where it says Josiah did one thing wrong as king.)
Jehoiakim was the last king of Judah.
"In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon." (II Kings 24:1-4)
Jehoiakim disobeyed the words of the prophets by going against Nebuchadnezzar. God said through Jeremiah:
"The Lord said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction." (Jeremiah 15:11)
From everything we've seen this week, it is possible that God did this by selecting a king whose heart was able to be softened to take Israel into bondage.
Let's conclude this week's series by taking a big step back and looking at the Bible from the beginning until this point with regards to LEADERS...
God intended to lead people directly. In the Garden of Eden, He led Adam and Eve. Throughout Genesis, He led the patriarch. Israel eventually went under a heathen king (Pharaoh). God led them out from under Pharaoh. God led them through His Word and used "judges" to enforce justice both inside and outside of Israel. The people wanted a king. They wanted to be led by a person. They wanted to be like the other nations because our flesh tends to side with physical numbers instead of spiritual truth. God gives them a king, BUT He wants the king to LEAD by His commandments. ONLY three kings (David, Hezekiah, and Josiah) are able to do this. God then decides that if the people aren't going to TRUELY be led by God, they may as well go under a heathen king. After all, God would be allowing hypocrisy to rule if He continued to let a nation that wasn't following Him APPEAR to follow Him. Again, Justice is determining that if the people don't want to live according to God's commands, then they may as well have a heathen king.
However, God gives them over to Nebuchadnezzar, a king with a soft heart. If God had given them over to a king with a vicious heart, that king may have wiped out Israel. (The softening of Nebuchadnezzar's heart can be seen in Daniel chapters 1-4. Daniel is my favorite book. I have study notes on Daniel and have shared them in the past with those who want them. E-mail me if you would like a copy.) The Old Testament ends with prophecies that God's Temple will ceased to be used before the Messiah comes.
So, the Old Testament documents a progression: from God personally leading people, to God's Word leading people, to people using God's Word to lead people, to God's Word not being used. It is at this point the Bible presents the GREATEST LEADER to ever walk the earth. We will look at this LEADER next week...