Josiah vs Jehoiakim: The SBC’s Decision for 2022 and Beyond (Part 1)

In one sense, it can certainly be thought monotonous to write more about the state of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet, those of us who believe in the importance of conservative institutions, and are committed to the authority, sufficiency, clarity, and necessity of the Scriptures feel compelled to continue to carry on this battle if you will for the heart and soul of the SBC. This brings us to today’s post.

Numerous individuals have sounded the alarm over the past few years about the SBC’s departure from the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Still, two main groups have undoubtedly championed the cause as of late: Founders Ministries and the Conservative Baptist Network. I don’t mean to suggest these groups have “rediscovered” the Bible, but I cannot help but draw an analogy from the life of King Josiah.

The Story

I am sure you are aware of the story. During the 7th Century B.C., young King Josiah became ruler of Judah. During the 18th year of his reign, as he was repairing the Temple, his men rediscovered the Book of the Law of Yahweh. Commentators argue that this was either the Pentateuch or perhaps only the Book of Deuteronomy.[1]

Regardless, Shaphan, the king’s secretary, read the contents of this Book before Josiah. The words of Yahweh cut the king deeply, and he tore his clothes in humble repentance. Additionally, Josiah gathered the people of Judah, both great and small. He had them hear from the words of this Book and led the people in a renovation of worship and service to God according to the standards of the Book.

The Significance

There is a lot that the people of God as a whole and the Southern Baptist Convention particularly can learn from the story of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34. Not the least of which is the reality that God wrote a Book.

While we may not be sure if this rediscovered Book was the entire Pentateuch or just a portion of it, it is still significant to note that the word “Book” is used 10x in 2 Chronicles 34.

No, this wasn’t a leather-bound copy of the 1611 KJV. Most likely, this was less of a “Book” as we think of the term and more of a scroll. But still, here’s the truth: Yahweh divinely breathed through holy men to put ink on paper in such a way that what they wrote is not “their” Book, but His.

Our Triune God used men to write us a Book that we may feast our eyes on His infallible Words; that we might hear His Words so that our hearts might be changed. We are held accountable for knowing this Book, and great things can happen in the lives of God’s people when they get in this Book both individually and corporately.

Charles Simeon once said, “It is scarcely to be conceived how great a benefit has arisen to the Christian cause from the invention of printing. The Word of God is that whereby the work of salvation is principally carried on in the souls of men: and the multiplying of copies of Holy Scriptures, in such a form as to be conveniently portable, and at such a price as to be within the reach of the poor, has tended more than any other thing to keep alive the interests of religion, both in the hearts of individuals and in the community at large…”

Oh, how sad to have lived in the 7th Century BC! Not everyone can read, and there are no copies of God’s Word to be found. And then one day, while repairing the Temple, there it is. How precious and wonderful! God’s breathed out Word that the people of Judah could take up and read. And read it, they did. And heed it they did.

But in another sense, what a travesty to live in the 21st Century A.D.! There is, basically, unhindered, unrestricted access to God’s Word in America. It’s in stores, on phones, online…But it is not prized.

It is as though the Bible is hiding from us in plain sight. It is God’s Book. And yet, in too many homes, it lies closed. Husbands and wives do not read it together. Parents do not read it to their children. For many, it is simply not read daily.

It’s not that people in America and even our churches can’t read or don’t have time. It’s that they don’t want to. This describes evangelicalism at large. But this has also crept into our beloved SBC.

I do not know who is and who is not reading the Bible. But I do know that we seem far more concerned as whole that the world is watching us rather than the fact that God wrote a Book for us to trust, obey, learn from, and follow.

Bible Power for Bible People

Another thing we learn from the life of Josiah: When God’s people take God’s Book seriously, great things happen. This gives me great hope and excitement in preaching the Word – not because there is power in me or any other preacher. Rather, there is power in the Word of God.

3 things we see in 2 Chronicles 34 when God’s people take God’s Book seriously:

Repentance

First, we see repentance (see 2 Chronicles 34:19, 26-27). Why do Southern Baptists need to return to the Book? Because we need to rend our hearts before God. Because when we read the Book with intent on seeking God, He will be found.

And through His Book, God will expose our laziness. Our pride. Our excuses. Our idolatry. Our captivation with the world. Our lust to be loved by the world. Our need for loving our church family more. Our need for loving the lost more. And God will lead us in repentance through the very words of His Book

Reformation

Secondly, we see reformation in 2 Chronicles 34:29-33. How do you know if repentance is genuine? When repentance is real, reformation will follow. 2 Chronicles 34:31–32 says,

31 And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this Book. 32 Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.

Josiah determined to live according to the Book. There was a reformation in life. God’s Word bears the highest authority over how we are to live before Him. Further, it gives us a sufficient word on living a life well-pleasing to Him. There is nothing we need to know about God that is not found in His Book. There is nothing we need to know about living in faithful service to Him that is not in His Book. Praise God for His sufficient Word!

There was also a reformation in worship. Josiah saw in God’s Word the importance of the Passover. He, therefore, did what was necessary to worship God according to God’s standards and 2 Chronicles 35:18 says, “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

God’s Word carries the highest authority for how we are to worship Him. Further, it gives us a sufficient word on how to worship Him! That is, all that we need to know about worshiping God rightly in spirit and in truth is found in His Book.

Revival

Finally, following repentance and reformation, we see revival in Judah in 2 Chronicles 34. What I mean by revival is that God moved in a special way through Holy Spirit through His Word to bring Judah back to Himself. God used one young king to lead an awakening among His people and all by means of rediscovering His Book.

The Passover, if you remember, was the great reminder of God’s deliverance of His people in the Exodus. There was revival in Judah because the people hungered for God.

It’s not my point to create a formula here, but this truth cannot be denied: Our hope for revival is tied to how seriously we take God’s Book.

Not every king of Judah responded like Josiah when confronted with God’s Word. In Part 2, we will examine the response of Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, and consider more pointedly the choice before Southern Baptists at this hour.


[1] See, for example, Richard L. Pratt Jr., 1 and 2 Chronicles: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 676–677.