God Receives the People’s Repentance

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Leader Guide ESV, Unit 15, Session 2
© 2019 LifeWay Christian Resources, Permission granted to reproduce and distribute within the license agreement with purchaser. Edited by Rev. Lex DeLong, M.A., Feb. 2023.
Summary and Goal
The kingdom of Judah had been led into sin and rebellion by her unfaithful kings. The book of the Law had been lost, and the people had become idol-worshipers. But young King Josiah sought to honor God, so we see him on a great adventure of destroying idols throughout the land. Yet when Josiah came face to face with the holiness of God revealed through the accidental discovery of God’s Word, he repented and led his people to do the same. After Josiah’s repentance, he restored the worship of God and greatly influenced his culture. Josiah found his purpose in the worship of God through his repentance. This is the key to discovering our purpose as well. It’s through the darkness of repentance that we begin to live fully in God’s light.
Session Outline
++Repentance involves removing and destroying idols (2 Chron. 34:1-7).
++Repentance involves restoring and resuming worship (2 Chron. 34:8-11).
++Repentance involves recovering and obeying God’s Word (2 Chron. 34:14-15,18-21).
Background Passage: 2 Chronicles 29–35
Session in a Sentence
God desires that people repent of their sin and turn to Him in worship and obedience.
++God desires that we turn from sin’s lies and slavery, return to Him as the only rescue, and live in His light.
Christ Connection
Josiah was a good king whom God used to lead the people back to Him, but he was not the perfect king that the people needed. Jesus is the righteous King of kings who brings us to God by paying our sin penalty and giving us His righteousness.
Missional Application
Because we have been forgiven in Christ and have been credited with His righteousness, we are able to turn from all sin and cast aside all else that hinders our worship of the one true King. Although we will not fully attain more, or even as much as Paul did, but like him, this is what we are to “press on” to (Phil. 3:12).
Philippians 3:12 NASB
12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
P. 85 DDG about Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming was experimenting with bacteria that cause staph infections. He left a Petri dish uncovered, and it became contaminated with mold spores. The bacteria grew all over the plate except in the area where the mold had formed. This was Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin, which would later be mass-produced for use in World War II and go on to save countless lives from bacterial infection. 1
Say: Penicillin is still saving people. However, it doesn’t have the power to really save. No matter how we cut it, one day our lives will fail us despite modern medicine, and we will go either to heaven or hell.
Summarize: King Josiah makes an accidental discovery that does have the power to really save.
When Josiah came face to face with the holiness of God revealed through the accidental discovery of God’s word, he repented and led his people to do the same.
After Josiah’s repentance, he restored the worship of God and greatly influenced his culture.
Josiah found his purpose in the worship of God through his repentance. This is the key to discovering our purpose as well.
It’s through the darkness of what drives us to repentance that we begin to look for and turn to living fully in God’s light.

Point 1: Repentance involves removing and destroying idols (2 Chron. 34:1-7).

Read: Ask a volunteer to read 2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (DDG p. 86).
1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 4 And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 7 he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
DDG (p. 86) Josiah was a model of repentance and reform for believers, mentioning the three elements of his life that should encourage us to follow his model.
King Josiah served as a godly leader to his people and made tremendous reforms for his land. We can always hope and pray for our leaders to do the same.
We also can look at Josiah’s life and apply his example of repentance and reform to our own areas of dominion, namely, the context of our own lives.
Josiah’s repentance defied his context:
++Josiah’s Age did not stop him from having a significant impact for the LORD
++Josiah’s History did not disable him from serving the LORD in fantastic ways
++Josiah’s Community didn’t hold him back from doing what was right for the LORD
· 1) Josiah’s Age did not stop him from having a significant impact for the LORD:Josiah was only sixteen when he committed his way to the Lord, and twenty when he started implementing reform in his territory. God can call people of any age, young or old, to repentance and send them on a journey for His glory.
· 2) Josiah’s History did not disable him from serving the LORD in fantastic ways:Josiah wasn’t raised with the example of a repentant father. He was the son and grandson of terrible kings who bent their knees to false gods. So more than likely, Josiah’s first religion was one of idolatry, but he became a worshiper of the Lord. As with Josiah, we must recognize that our history and our past don’t determine our future; repentance and living by faith do.
· 3) Josiah’s Community didn’t hold him back from doing what was right for the LORD: Josiah’s first responsibility was for his own repentance. Second, as king, he was to lead his people in repentance, first by example and then by action. He couldn’t force a heart change in his community, but he could do as much as possible through his influence to turn them from idols and toward the Lord. We don’t have a kingdom to rule, but we do have a community of people we can influence through our faithful words and actions.
How can personal repentance of sin influence an entire community of people?
(demonstrates to others that your life is based on priorities unique from the world’s; repentance often serves as a passive indictment on the sins of the world; living in the light of God’s grace should be beautiful and attractive to those who dwell in the darkness of sin)
Second paragraph, DDG (p. 86)
Josiah had a great opportunity to honor God as king. He easily could have been overwhelmed, but instead, we see him boldly assault the evil he saw within his sphere of influence.
Josiah waged war against the evil in his kingdom because he was humble and repentant before God. Lasting reform only comes from true repentance.
· Josiah tore down the altars of Baal, ripped apart the Asherah poles, executed the priests to these false gods, and defiled their altars; he did so throughout Judah and also in the former territory of Israel (2 Kings 23:4-20).
· Many try to attack evil, idolatry, and sin in their own lives with the brute force of human willpower, but these attempts will leave us disappointed and tired. We are too weak to effect lasting change in ourselves. Whether it is pornography reigning on our computers, pride lurking in our hearts, or tempers flaring in our homes, the only way to tear down the idols of our hearts is through true repentance.
· Jesus’ first sermons were about repentance (Matt. 4:17), and His last words before He ascended into heaven were about repentance (Luke 24:47). Jesus’ followers took note, and they all went out and preached that people should repent (Mark 6:12; Acts 2:38).
Repentance is key for responding to the grace of the gospel; it is key for godly living.
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 86)
Repentance: A response to God’s gracious call to salvation. It includes a genuine sorrow for one’s sin, a turning away from one’s sin toward Christ, and a life that reflects lasting change and transformation.
Essential Doctrine “Repentance” is:
A response to God’s gracious call to salvation. It includes a genuine sorrow for one’s sin (Luke 5:1-11), a turning away from one’s sin toward Christ (Acts 26:15-20), and a life that reflects lasting change and transformation (Ps. 119:57-60). It is the human counterpart to God’s work of regeneration; in other words, the human side of our conversion.
That is that Divine/Human cooperative that explains such other doctrines as Inspiration of Scripture, Sanctification of the believer, holiness, and especially Salvation.
Since repentance is a product of the divine/human cooperative, when embraced and exercised, it produces restoration and true worship.

Point 2: Repentance involves restoring and resuming worship (2 Chron. 34:8-11).

Read 2 Chronicles 34:8-11 (DDG p. 87).
8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord. And the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11 They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for binders and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin.
DDG (p. 87)
Josiah, in his eighteenth year of ruling over Judah, was merely twenty-six years old. He set his heart on honoring the temple of God, following in the steps of the good kings before him: David, Asa, Joash, and Hezekiah. The next step on his mission to weed out all idolatry and evil from his kingdom required God’s temple coming to life once again.
· If you go to modern-day Israel, there is no temple on the landscape, only a retaining wall. Instead, you see the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine. It is exquisite in size and design, but the temple built by Solomon would have, by far, superseded it.
· The Bible describes Solomon’s temple building as 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high (1 Kings 6:2). Its interior design would rival some of our finest modern-day professional buildings. Solomon’s direction and resources matched this vision. The same could be said of Josiah as he led his people to repair this ornate temple for the Lord.
Why do you think that the temple so vital for the cleansing of God’s people and His promised land?
(the temple represented God’s presence among the people in the land; the temple was God’s appointed place for sacrifices to be made for the atonement of the people’s sins; the temple helped to unify the people in their worship of the one true God; the construction and upkeep of the temple was a command of God that the people were to obey)
Listen carefully to this next, deeply theological statement. Are you ready?
You don’t have to advertise a wildfire.
You see it coming. You feel its heat. You sense its energy and its smoke, where it’s been and where it’s going. And you realize there is little if anything that you can do to stop it or change it.
Josiah had become a wildfire, not by some self-actualization principles. Instead, he had experienced repentance and the love of God, which fueled his passion for God’s glory.
True passion for God is an unstoppable force.
DDG (p. 87) Josiah’s passion and fire for God’s glory overflowed to others through his leadership to restore the temple.
In the same way, the passion of Christians for God’s glory should overflow to other believers and draw non-believers to worship our Savior.
Josiah had become a wildfire, fueled by his passion for God’s glory, and his calling overflowed to others as he got them involved in the good work he was doing.
Josiah enlisted a team of people to restore the worship at the temple: leaders, Levites, carpenters, builders, and more. This was always the purpose of God’s kings—to lead God’s people in worship and obedience to the Lord their God. So too with Christians.
· What we see in Josiah’s reforms is what we see in the early church as well. The early Christians were contagious, and their gospel message spread like wildfire, not because the people were burdened with responsibility but because they had tasted and known God’s love and forgiveness (Acts 2:41-47).
· When our hearts burn with God’s love, others will see and take note. Conversely, when believers fail to live with the purpose of worshiping God through their various gifts, and calling others to worship Him along with them, they become bored with their faith and it appears boring to others.
One cannot be bored when viewing and living life like Josiah.
DDG (p. 87)
Rhetorical question: How do you view the fire in your heart for repentance, faith, and obedience?
The fire in our hearts roars or smolders based on our heart for repentance, faith, and obedience.
Let me give you four benefits to turning your heart towards God:
Four benefits to turning your heart towards God:
++The Lord stokes the fire of those who pray for His help.
++The Lord draws near to those who repent and turn to Him
++The Lord blesses those who step out in faith
++The Lord strengthens those who obey His Word.
That last truth leads us to our next point...

Point 3: Repentance involves recovering and obeying God’s Word (2 Chron. 34:14-15,18-21).

Read 2 Chronicles 34:14-15,18-21 (DDG p. 88).
14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.
18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king.
19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
DDG (p. 88) Remember the penicillin talked about when we first started?
Penicillin was a life-changing discovery, but some bacteria have become resistant to it. With all human discoveries and inventions, humankind and its inventions will always be limited.
On the other hand, God’s power is unlimited, and His Word will accomplish what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11). In this case, it convicted the heart of King Josiah over the sins of his people.
· Josiah’s lack of knowledge about the book of the law is a mystery, as some of his ancestors had relied on the teaching of this book during their own reigns, namely, David, Jehoshaphat, Amaziah, and Hezekiah (1 Chron. 16:40; 2 Chron. 17:7-9; 25:4; 31:3). This might demonstrate just how consuming the idolatry of the surrounding nations had become in Judah. Never underestimate the influence of the world around you or minimize the importance of acknowledging God, “…in all your ways,” (Prov. 3:6).
· With this lineage of understanding that the book of the law did exist and that it was worth following, we must infer that knowledge of this book had fallen so far from the minds of the people during Manasseh’s and Amon’s evil reigns that it had slipped between the cracks, perhaps literally.
· When the book of the law was found, however, its power became evident once again. When the book was read to King Josiah, he didn’t frame it to commemorate his new renovation project—he tore his clothes because the words cut through him like a sharp sword.
Without answering, ask yourself:
How personal do you really take God’s Word?
Josiah experienced God’s power and holiness as they jumped off the pages of Hilkiah’s discovery.
That same power and holiness can be experienced every time we open our Bibles today.
May we never let His Word fall between the cracks of our lives.
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “The worlds greatest dust storm would come if everyone in the world that owned a Bible took it off their shelves all at the same time and dusted them off to read.”
Rhetorically Ask:
When was the last time God’s Word overwhelmed you with its truth and power?
DDG (p. 88)
Josiah was terrified upon hearing God’s word in the book of the law because he understood the wrath of God against Judah’s sin and disobedience of His word. Six centuries later, the very embodiment of the Word of God would be sent to earth, but curiously, He was not sent to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). Josiah feared God’s wrath for his people’s disobedience and repented; Jesus came to die on a cross so God’s wrath would fall on Him and repentant people would be saved.
Voices from Church History
“Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ … Thus without the Scripture, which has Jesus Christ alone for its object, we know nothing, and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of God and in our own nature.” 2 –Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
· Jesus—the Word (John 1:1,14)—is the Creator of all. He is the Sustainer of all life. He is the light to all of humanity that the darkness of this world cannot overcome. The source of power behind the word of God’s law that created such an overwhelming reaction in Josiah put on skin and became a Man who obeyed God’s law perfectly so He could die in the place of and save sinners who failed to obey God’s law.
God’s grace is available to every one who repents and believes. Josiah would be in awe of the Word made flesh. May we be in awe as well so we might proclaim to the world the great grace of our God in Jesus Christ.
What are some ways we should respond to the Word made flesh for us?
(with repentance and faith in Him; with joy and gratitude for the salvation He bought for us with His death; with awe and praise that the Creator would take upon Himself creation to love and serve His rebel creatures; with humble and glad obedience to His commands; with praise and proclamation of His gospel to the world in need of a Savior)
My Mission
In this passage of Scripture, we see a small speck of history played out. We can hail King Josiah as a great reformer. Certainly he was a gifted leader. But our real takeaway from this man was his repentance, his personal turning away from evil things and moving toward the light.
Repentance for salvation is a one-time act, but for a fully engaged, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, repentance must happen again and again.
In his repentance, Josiah attempted to restore the temple, but that temple still crumbled. We have a greater temple through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because God longs to dwell with His people, He came to us in His Son and, through faith, has sealed us with His Spirit. We are now God’s temple, and nothing can separate us from His love. This gospel story of relentless love is what draws us back into repentance and faithful living again and again.
Because we have been forgiven in Christ and have been credited with His righteousness, we seek to turn from all sin and cast aside all else that hinders our worship of the one true King.
· What step of repentance and faith do you need to take in light of God’s wrath against sin and God’s grace in Christ?
· How can your group/church create a loving and caring environment that encourages, rather than stifles, confession of sin and the grace of forgiveness?
· How will you, with boldness from the Holy Spirit, share the good news of Jesus and call someone to repentance and faith?
Voices from Church History
“The two great graces essential to a saint in this life, are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven. Faith and repentance preserve the spiritual life—as heat and water preserve the physical life.” 3 –Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)
Close in prayer:
1. Siang Yong Tan and Yvonne Tatsumura, “Alexander Fleming (1881-1955): Discoverer of penicillin,” Singapore Medical Journal (July 2015): 366-67, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4520913.
2. Blaise Pascal, Pensées, trans. W. F. Trotter, ed. Anthony Uyl (Woodstock, Ontario, Canada: Devoted Publishing, 2018), 93.
3. Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Charles River Editors, 2018) [eBook].
4. J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003) [Wordsearch].
5. Andrew E. Hill, “1 & 2 Chronicles,” in The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015) [Wordsearch].
6. Winfried Corduan, “1, 2 Chronicles,” in CSB Study Bible (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2017), 690, n. 34:8; n. 34:9-11.
7. Havilah Dharamraj, “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 535.
8. Nupanga Weanzana, “1 and 2 Chronicles,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 529.
9. Dan Gentry Kent, “2 Chronicles,” in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary, eds. Catherine Clark Kroeger, Mary J. Evans, and Elizabeth Kroeger Elliot (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011) [Wordsearch].
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