This morning I read about King Josiah in my time alone with the Lord. Josiah was a godly king who decided to follow the Lord like David his many times over great grandfather. What is fascinating about this is that at the time Judah did not have a copy of the Scriptures from which to learn about the Lord. Yet Josiah went about seeking God the best he could at the time. That led him to have the temple restored and repaired. It was during that renovation of the temple area that one of the priests found a copy of God’s revelation of Himself – what we call the Word of God. When this happened it quickly rose up the ranks until Josiah Himself was able to hear God’s Word, maybe for the first time. His reaction to God’s Word was priceless and very instructive for us today.
Josiah, according to God’s own rendition of this event, responded with a tender and broken heart as he listened to God’s Word. Scripture tells us that he tore his robes in grief and wept before the Lord. Here is what God sent the prophetess Huldah to say to Josiah concerning that event.
But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus you will say to him, 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard, "Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD. 2 Chronicles 34:26-27 (NASB)
Josiah responded to God’s Word with a tender heart. He did not respond with pride or arrogance against God – and neither did he reject God’s Word outright as he heard it. Scripture says that he humbled himself – tore his robes – and wept before God. When Josiah heard the Word he knew that Judah was in serious trouble for their rebellion against the Lord. They had disregarded God’s Law and had chosen horrific levels of disobedience to God. He knew from the words that were read to him that God did not think lightly of this rebellion and sin. In fact his own thoughts were that God’s wrath was upon them. I want to take a few minutes and reflect on Josiah’s tender heart – and how we should aspire to have one much like his.
Josiah took God’s Word as a Word from God. That may seem a little redundant at first – but it is one of the signs that someone has a tender heart. Too often today there is not a respect for God’s Word. We’ve seen too much written and heard too much said that denigrates God’s Word. Too many people have the attitude that they can pick and choose what they want to be His Word – be authoritative in their lives – and then set the parts they don’t like to the side. That would have been easy for Josiah to do. He could have thought that it wasn’t his fault that things had deteriorated so badly. That was his father’s and grandfather’s doing. He just inherited this mess. He could have argued that he was just hearing the Word for the first time – and that God shouldn’t hold him accountable for everything he just heard. Josiah did not take any of those routes – because his heart was already tender toward God.
He wanted to hear God – and know Him and His will. The moment such things were made known to him – he wanted to submit to it. That is the heart which is tender toward God. He acknowledged that God was the One in authority and that His place was surrender and submission to His will – another mark of those with tender hearts toward God.
Josiah also responded with distress and brokenness to what he learned about the Lord. A king’s robe distinguished him from everyone else in the kingdom. This was a royal robe – and yet his first response was to tear that robe and grieve the situation that his and his kingdom’s rebellion had caused. His concern was to embrace humility and a truly broken and repentant heart before the God he and his kingdom had offended. Repentance, instant repentance, and brokenness are a sign of a tender heart before God. David did not care about his position and authority – because he knew that an infinitely more important authority had been scorned. His place was in broken, weeping repentance before God.
Finally we see that David was not just concerned about what God had said through His Word – but he wanted desperately to know what God was saying NOW. He immediately sent representatives to the only known ones who could answer that question – Jeremiah and Huldah, who were the only prophets in that area at the time. Neither of these two had that great of a place within the kingdom. Huldah lived in the third quarter of Jerusalem – which was a much poorer section of the city. Her position was a common one – and yet Josiah recognized her heart for God and gift as a prophetess. Josiah wanted to know what he needed to do to remedy this situation. How could he lead Judah to return to God? This is another sign of a tender heart. The tenderhearted man or woman wants to know God right now – and lives to see Him honored and glorified.
Huldah did not have a very encouraging message for Josiah. Judgment was coming and Josiah would not be able to stop it. He himself would be gathered to his people in peace – but the kingdom of Judah was going to be judged. What I find fascinating is that even with this diagnosis Josiah still sought God and did what was right and best for Judah. He returned to God with a passion and desire that was unrivaled. He not only turned to God, but endeavored to lead Judah to do the same. His life was a labor to see God’s people repent and return to Him. This is what the tenderhearted live for in their lives. Their greatest longing is for God to work not just in their hearts, but also in the lives of others as they turn to Him as well.
The more I read of this tenderhearted man of God, the more I desired that same kind of work in my own heart. The more I thought about the marks of that heart – the more I saw where I lacked it in my own. Oh to be a man of God who is so tender-hearted toward the Word, toward the honor and glory of God, toward any manifestation of sin in myself or among God’s people. Oh to be a man of God who responds with a broken heart, a tear-stained face, and a life turned wholly toward God. Oh to be among a congregation of people who embrace the same things as together we seek God’s face and favor in the midst of a generation that has turned from the Lord so hard and so completely.
My prayers, dearest saints, is that this will be true of me as your pastor and of each of us as we walk in these days. Josiah is not just a great example of a tender heart – but is also a wonderful example of how we should respond in a time of darkness to seeing our sins and the sins of our culture in the light of God’s Word. May He grant us that honorable work of broken hearts, tear-stained altars of prayer, and repentant, pliable, surrendered, submissive lives passionately pursuing Him. May we seek Him first, seek to see His favor return to His church, and hopefully see a revival in our church, city, state, and land.