Dear Radio Friends,
Before ending our series of broadcasts with a consideration of a few godly women in the New Testament, we want to return to one more faithful woman in the Old Testament. This is the mother of king Josiah. Josiah was the last good king to reign in Judah. We learn of him and his mother in II Kings 22:1-2. We read there that “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. 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.” These verses give a wonderful testimony of this young king: he “walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” What is striking is that this is said of a king that ruled shortly before the demise and fall of Judah. We will need to examine the prophecy of the prophet Zephaniah, who was a contemporary of Josiah, to learn more of the evil times during which Josiah lived. This prophet has much to say about this—and that, in connection with the lives of God’s few remaining elect people that lived in these times.
The two books of Kings record something that the books of Chronicles do not. They give us the names of the mothers of the kings of Judah. This is not unique to the passage we consider today, therefore. We could use any number of different names of mothers to exemplify what we examine today. But we have chosen the name Jedidah, mother of good king Josiah. We have chosen the name of this godly woman to reveal that God still worked in the hearts of His people in an age when corruption abounded. For this reason, we hope that the name Jedidah will stand among the other women of faith that we have considered up to this point. Together with her name, we will answer the question why the books of the Kings chose to record the names of mothers. The mothers of both the good kings and the evil are mentioned. Why? This will reveal the character and faith of Jedidah.
I. Evil Times
To understand the work of God’s grace in the heart of Josiah we need to examine the times into which he was born. A case can certainly be made that Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, was the worst of all the kings to reign in Judah. What I mean by worst is the most evil. It is true that God worked repentance in the heart of this king at the close of his life, but this did not change what he had done during the fifty-five years of his rule. In II Kings 21:9 we read that Manasseh seduced the people of Judah to do more evil than did the nations whom God destroyed before them. Manasseh worshiped Baal by building altars in the high places around Jerusalem. Such high places were also built throughout the land of Judah. Two altars were built in the temple of God itself to serve the host of heaven, that is, the sun, moon, and stars. In the Valley of Hinnom, just outside of Jerusalem, a large altar was built to serve Molech, the God of the Ammorites. There people took their sons and daughters and burned them in sacrifice to this pagan god. Manasseh did the same with his son. Round about Jerusalem altars were also built in high places to worship Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom. The people of Judah therefore had become worse than all the heathen nations that had lived in the land before her. They had their own individual gods whom they served. But the people of Judah were worshiping not just one but all of their gods. Further, Manasseh and the people of Judah observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards. Just outside the temple gates brothels were built for sodomy and fornication.
The prophet Zephaniah declares in Zephaniah 1:12 that Judah had been reduced to a nation that settled on their lees: that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will He do evil. What this means is simply that, from the king to the lowliest of servants, no one showed any concern about what God’s Word had warned them. They were not worried about destruction. They did not care about God’s blessing. To them Jehovah could just as well not exist. He was harmless. He had done nothing up to this point, because in their minds he was a non-entity. Blessing? God would not do them good if they behaved a certain way. He would not bless them nor curse them because he was not God! So, who cares how we live? We will serve ourselves.
But the reality was this: just because God was withholding His judgment upon Judah did not mean He was not angry with them. God’s curse now lay upon Judah. There was no turning Him back from His intent to destroy this nation. Yes, Josiah would seek God with all his heart, as we will find, but this would not turn God from the destruction that He was going to level against Judah. Zephaniah pronounces destruction on Judah in the first chapter of his prophecy. “The day of the Lord is near,” he declared, “a day of wrath. The blood of the people shall be poured out as dust and their flesh as the dung!” The nation of Judah had set its course. God sovereignly directed her in that course. It would end in the utter destruction of her land and its people. Such were the evil times into which Josiah was born. But again, these evil times serve to reveal the glory of God’s grace in the heart and life of Jedidah and her son Josiah. Josiah’s mother was born into a family who yet remained faithful to the cause of Jehovah.
You see, in Judah there were still those who looked for redemption. There were still those who, despite all the horrible sin that surrounded them in every corner, placed their hope in God. Zephaniah addressed these few in Zephaniah 3:12, 13: “I will also leave in the midst of (Judah) an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” Notice, Zephaniah refers to these faithful few as a remnant. A remnant is a leftover, a scrap, or a fragment of something. If my family eats a bowl of vegetables but leaves a little at the bottom of the bowl, then it is a remnant or leftover. God’s people are referred to by Zephaniah as a leftover. Whereas the cause of God was as a full bowl of vegetables, now there were left in Judah only a fragment of believers. The true church, the elect church found within the confines of Judah, this church institute of the Old Testament was small. There were faithful priests yet who tried to hold to the old ways. There were still those outside of the city of Jerusalem that yet followed the ways of Jehovah. There were even those within Jerusalem and even within the royal house that remained true to the cause of Jehovah. But they were few. Judah had gone the way of apostasy and sin, becoming guilty of all the abominations of the heathen. But the amazing part of all this is that the upper class of people honestly believed that this was progress in their religious development. They did not assess what was going on in a negative way. They believed that their faith was more tolerant of others and what they believed. All of this was done in the name of religion. All of this was good, positive development, so it was thought.
Over against this stood the God-fearing remnant who continued to practice their faith. In courage and hope these few elect continued to exist in the midst of blatant infidelity and worldliness. But they were numbered among those who were devotees to a religious cult. They were ostracized and persecuted for their faith. They were afflicted and poor. From a human point of view it seemed as if the true church of Christ, these few believers, were about to disappear. How often, in the history of the church, the true church, that is, the body of elect believers, is as a besieged city.
In these last days in which believers today find themselves, the same can be said. The false church grows in its affluence and its power. But it is immersed in worldliness and infidelity. It has accepted into its arms the pagan religions of this world, while looking with contempt on the true church and those few saints striving to remain faithful to God’s Word. How often that faithful remnant of Christ’s church hears today that they are a cult, radicals, extremists who are guilty of hate. Religious tolerance is the order of the day in the Christian church at large. The faithful who will not compromise are despised and rejected.
Into this kind of situation Josiah was born—a king whose influence was of great measure, but to no avail in the reformation of the church. But let us examine closely the truth of Gods’ Word found in the verses we consider.
II. A Godly Mother
As we mentioned earlier, that Josiah’s mother is named here in verse 1 is not a unique situation. The book of the Kings does this with many of the king’s mothers. But there is a reason why this book names the mothers of the kings. Queen mothers are mentioned in connection with the kings because of the tremendous amount of influence they exerted over their sons. We see this in Jezebel and Athaliah, wicked queens who had a tremendous influence on their husbands and sons. The kings were far too busy with the matters of state to spend time in the instruction and care of their sons. Much of this was left up to their wives. The mother of the next king therefore is mentioned because she was the one who trained her son. Jedidah is identified for us as the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. That is all the Bible teaches us about her. Her name does not stand out among the women of God in the Bible who feared God. There are no great tales told of her and her faith. She is merely mentioned one time in Scripture, right here, and that as the mother of Josiah. She was born to a man named Adaiah. Of him too nothing is known except that he was from the village of Boscath. This means that Jedidah was born into a family of moderate means who lived in the lowlands of Judah. These lowlands skirted the border of the Philistines and was made up of mountains on the east and scattered plains on the west. Jedidah was therefore of the tribe of Judah. Many times kings married wives that were from foreign, pagan nations. Perhaps Jedidah’s husband, King Amon, did the same, but one of his wives was this woman from a place in Judah that was free from the intrigue and sins that were so prevalent in Jerusalem. She spent her childhood in Boscath.
That Jedidah was a God-fearing woman is evident from a number of facts. First of all, her son Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign. He was a little boy who had no experience or even the maturity to rule over a kingdom. He had to have certain men who were his regents help him in his rule. But we can be sure that Josiah’s mother had much to do with his early reign as a child as well. Jedidah was the queen mother. We can be sure she had influence not only on Josiah’s rule but more especially on his training both before and after his ascent to the throne. And she trained Josiah well. Josiah in verse 2 of II Kings 22 receives the distinct honor in Scripture, along with only Hezekiah, of walking in the way of David without swerving one way or another. II Kings chapters 22 and 23 reveal just how godly a king Josiah was. He loved Jehovah with his heart and soul. He instituted reforms in Judah that would have changed the whole course of the nation had not the people already in their hearts departed so far from the Lord.
We say that Jedidah was a woman of faith, in the second place, because God used her to work in the heart of her son. God is a God of means. He uses godly parents to train their children in His ways in order to preserve His church from one generation to the next. We need to bear that in mind as parents of the church. Godly children, believing children, do not simply fall from the sky. We may not assume that, despite the way we live as parents, even if our goals and desires are set on the things of this world and we neglect the instruction of our children, that somehow, some way, they automatically are going to love and fear God. We may not assume that the church will do what we fail to do as parents in our homes. God uses the means of God-fearing parents, parents who are devoted to God and His ways, parents who take the nurture of their children seriously, to preserve in their generations children who love and fear Him.
The training of our children: our instruction, our example, our discipline—all this is used of God to shape and mold our children for their place in the church. And God most often—not always, we realize—works salvation in the hearts of children by means of godly parents. This is why we say that Jedidah must have taken seriously her calling as a woman of faith to instruct her son in the fear of God’s name. Look at the sins of Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh! Horrible, horrible sins! The same was true of the sins of Josiah’s own father, Amon! Amon’s own servants conspired against him and killed him. It was a good thing the people of Judah killed those conspirators in order to make sure that an heir of David would sit on the throne. But Josiah was a little boy—a little boy born into the very wicked household of the former kings. Look at Josiah’s ancestry—the worst kings ever to have ruled Judah. Where then was Josiah trained in godliness? At the feet of his own mother, who carefully hid her little boy from the sins going on in the palace. A mother who guarded and protected him from the debauchery and immorality that filled the temple and palace halls. And further, who taught her son well in the precepts of Jehovah.
Already when Josiah was a little boy, the Spirit had taken up His abode in his heart. The instruction that was given him by his mother met with faith in his little heart. As Josiah grew, the Word of God took root in his heart by God’s grace. In this way God worked in him the faith of his mother rather than the corruption found in the hearts of his grandfather and father. The life of Christ began to reveal itself in Josiah’s life already when he was at the age of 16. He began to take bold stands against the corruption that was rampant in the nation of Judah. By the age of 20 he began to purge Judah of the idolatry and sodomy that pervaded Jerusalem. He even went so far as to enter into the tribes of the northern kingdom and purge them of their idolatry. He killed the priests of Baal and those who dealt with witchcraft and enchantments. In short, all the sins in which Manasseh had caused Judah to walk, Josiah purged. He conducted a thorough reform of the land—not just Jerusalem but the entire land. He held again the Passover feast, which had not been celebrated since the time of Hezekiah. He instituted the worship of Jehovah again and cleansed the temple from the idols and their altars that had been erected there.
But for all of this, he merely postponed the demise of Judah. Through the mouth of Hulda, a prophetess at that time, God spoke judgment on Judah for her sin. It was too late in her history to turn back God’s anger against her. But because of Josiah’s fearless purging of Judah, he would not himself see the destruction of the land.
The people of Judah obeyed all the reforms made by Josiah and by the faithful remnant of God’s people who stood with him. But the problem was that his reforms did nothing to change the hearts of the people of Judah. The nation was made up mostly of unbelievers who simply went through the outward motions of Josiah’s reform. They did everything that was required of them, but there was no faith in their hearts. They served God only in a formal sense—nothing more. As soon as Josiah died, therefore, the people of Judah returned to their old ways. The Old Testament letter of the law cannot effect real reform. Only the Spirit’s working in the heart of God’s children can do that.
III. A Remnant Preserved
Such was the Spirit that worked in the heart of Josiah. Such was the Spirit that worked in the heart of Jedidah. Such was the Spirit that worked in the hearts of the elect remnant left in Judah. Do you see the difference, dear listener? Do you see the difference between those in the church who simply serve God outwardly because, well, it is the thing to do, and those who serve God because the Spirit has worked in them a deep appreciation for the salvation they have been freely given from their sin? Still others worship a god that is not the God of the Scriptures. Their god allows them to live in all the sins of this wicked world with no retribution. There is no seeking after Jehovah God as the glorious God who has done great things.
But in the church God has His elect remnant, those few who seek Him with all their heart. These were preserved by God through the reign of Josiah—an elect remnant according to grace. Of these Jedidah was a fit representative—a mother who did not cave in to the sins of the palace and of her husband.
God preserved unto Himself a people even though Judah was on the eve of destruction. So also the end of time. God will purge His church through judgment. The wicked in the church He will destroy. Consume them in His anger. But God will always preserve a people unto Himself. He will use godly fathers and mothers who diligently instruct their children in the fear of His name.
God grant His church parents who take that calling seriously. May they follow the godly example of Jedidah.