We have here an account of the further advances which Josiah made towards the reformation of his kingdom upon the hearing of the law read and the receipt of the message God sent him by the prophetess. Happy the people that had such a king; for here we find that, 1. They were well taught. He did not go about to force them to do their duty, till he had first instructed them in it. He called all the people together, great and small, young and old, rich and poor, high and low. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear the words of the book of the covenant; for they are all concerned in those words. To put an honour upon the service, and to engage attention the more, though there were priests and Levites present, the king himself read the book to the people (2 Chron. 34:30), and he read it, no doubt, in such a manner as to show that he was himself affected with it, which would be a means of affecting the hearers. 2. They were well fixed. The articles of agreement between God and Israel being read, that they might intelligently covenant with God, both king and people with great solemnity did as it were subscribe the articles. The king in his place covenanted to keep God’s commandments with all his heart and soul, according to what was written in the book (2 Chron. 34:31), and urged the people to declare their consent likewise to this covenant, and solemnly to promise that they would faithfully perform, fulfil, and keep, all and every thing that was on their part to be done, according to this covenant: this they did; they could not for shame do otherwise. He caused all that were present to stand to it (2 Chron. 34:32), and made them all to serve, even to serve the Lord their God (2 Chron. 34:33), to do it and to make a business of it. He did all he could to bring them to it—to serve, even to serve; the repetition denotes that this was the only thing his heart was set on; he aimed at nothing else in what he did but to engage them to God and their duty. 3. They were well tended, were honest with good looking to. All his days they departed not from following the Lord; he kept them, with much ado, from running into idolatry again. All his days were days of restraint upon them; but this intimated that there was in them a bent to backslide, a strong inclination to idolatry. Many of them wanted nothing but to have him out of the way, and then they would have their high places and their images up again. And therefore we find that in the days of Josiah (Jer. 3:6) God charged it upon treacherous Judah that she had not returned to him with all her heart, but feignedly (2 Chron. 34:10), nay, had played the harlot (2 Chron. 34:8) and thereby had even justified backsliding Israel, 2 Chron. 34:11. In the twenty-third year of this reign, four or five years after this, they had gone on to provoke God to anger with the works of their hands (Jer. 25:3-7); and, which is very observable, it is from the beginning of Josiah’s reformation, his twelfth or thirteenth year, that the iniquity of the house of Judah, which brought ruin upon them, and which the prophet was to bear lying on his right side, was dated (Ezek. 4:6), for thence to the destruction of Jerusalem was just forty years. Josiah was sincere in what he did, but the generality of the people were averse to it and hankered after their idols still; so that the reformation, though well designed and well prosecuted by the prince, had little or no effect upon the people. It was with reluctancy that they parted with their idols; still they were in heart joined to them, and wished for them again. This God saw, and therefore from that time, when one would have thought the foundations had been laid for a perpetual security and peace, from that very time did the decree go forth for their destruction. Nothing hastens the ruin of a people nor ripens them for it more than the baffling of hopeful attempts for reformation and a hypocritical return to God. Be not deceived, God is not mocked.
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