1 Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto Yahweh in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.

As a result of finding the book of the law, Josiah kept a great passover in Jerusalem-the greatest and most solemn passover since the days of Samuel.

Did the people, who flocked joyfully to that celebration, realize that this was the end? They had received and taken for granted God's forbearance and mercy for so long. But this passover was terribly ominous in its seeming peacefulness and sense of endless blessing.

God had always been there to welcome and to forgive, whenever Israel tired of sin and its consequences. But this passover was different, as time was soon to prove. It was the final burst of divine glory and witness before the long Gentile night closed down upon them. They partook of this feast all unheeding that they were on the brink of the chasm into which they were soon to be cast.

The providential finding of the book of the law, the provision of a righteous king and a faithful prophet, and this great passover-all these combined to make God's last manifestation of mercy to them before their impending national destruction. But all this had no permanent effect.

They seemed very enthusiastic and sincere while Josiah lived, but it was all on the surface. He did not reach to the transforming of their hearts. They were still just ordinary human people, like the countless millions that have come and gone. Though there was a great show of piety, they failed completely to make contact with the spirit of life.

Bro Growcott - Jeremiah, prophet of judgement

2 And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of Yahweh,

Preparing for the Passover

Everything about this Passover was marked by an intense spirit of careful preparation. 15 The king had fully absorbed the standard of the great reformers who had gone before him, for they had always sought to return the nation to the purity of their original worship.

Josiah was no different, for he urged the priests and Levites to organise themselves in their original courses set down by both David 16 and Solomon. 17 Even the standard of preparation he required reflected David's spirit from the past. 18 But there was an even older commandment the king was anxious to keep, for he wished to observe the feast after the manner, and in strict accordance with what he had just heard read in the book of the law.

An attitude of diligent preparation was essential for the large undertaking Josiah had in mind, for he envisaged a national passover festival where the faithful from both Judah and Israel could be present.

'That law required the Passover to be observed at even, but concluded by daybreak, so that nothing of the passover meal might remain "all night until the morning". 19

Before the temple was built, each family kept this statute by taking and preparing their own lamb, but under the temple arrangements, the passover lambs were prepared by the priests.

So large, however, was the congregation that Josiah had assembled, 20 that, for each family to participate within the time permitted, the priests needed to be thoroughly organised, in slaying, roasting and distributing the lambs, 21 and the Levites needed to assist so that everything might be accomplished speedily, running in their haste to fulfil their tasks. 22

Josiah's instruction to the Levites included a surprising request to return the ark. If the Levites, however, were to put the ark into the house, it had clearly been removed. But who had removed it? Why was it taken? And where had it been?

Perhaps Josiah himself had ordered its removal during the time of his temple repairs. But it was equally possible that it been taken by faithful brethren during the terrible apostasy of Manasseh and Amon, whose corruption had extended to placing idolatrous images in the temple, and perhaps even within the Most Holy. 23

Those of the House of Asaph who had sung before the ark would certainly be among those whose spirit would have been to guard it from such desecration at all costs. Their relationship with the faithful sons of Kohath who bore the ark might well have ensured its safe carriage to a secure place during such a time of evil. 24 Now Josiah exhorted them to return the ark to its rightful abode.

It seemed unusual for Josiah to insist on the ark's return as a matter of priority before the Passover was held. Surely the feast, kept family by family, could have occurred whether the ark was present in the sanctuary or not. But there was a purpose in the king's request, a reason why he was so anxious for the ark to be back in the temple. The book of the law stipulated that Passover was to be kept

"in the place which Yahweh shall choose to place his name there". 25

That place was not just Jerusalem in general, but the temple in particular, and the proof that Yahweh had put His name there was the ark's residing in the sanctuary. 26 How carefully had Josiah heard "the word of Yahweh by the hand of Moses", as read to him by Shaphan. Not only must this Passover be kept in Jerusalem, but the ark must be back in the house which Solomon had built.

15 Note the use of this key word "prepare" (kuwn) seven times (2 Chronicles 35:4,6,10,14x2,15,16).

16 1 Chronicles 23:2-6.

17 2 Chronicles 8:14.

18 1 Chronicles 22:3,5,14; 29:2,3.

19 This was the express provision for the observance of Passover set down in the "book of the law" (Deuteronomy 16:4,6,7).

20 Josiah personally gave thirty thousand lambs for those that were at this Passover (2 Chronicles 35:7).

21 That the priests were organised in relation to the "families of the people" (2 Chronicles 35:5,12) indicated their responsibility to prepare the passover lambs for every family, besides other offerings which were also offered on that day.

22 The language of urgency (2 Chronicles 35:13-15) indicates that Josiah had understood the strict time limits of the law.

23 2 Chronicles 33:7,15,22,23.

24 The curious command "put the holy ark in the house"... it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders" (2 Chronicles 35:3), refers to the original charge of its carriage, which the sons of Kohath held of old (Numbers 7:9).

The wording however, does not seem to read as a request from Josiah simply to return the ark from storage, but rather a plea that the Levites might recover it from its hiding place, where they had secreted it, possibly before Josiah's own reign.

25 Deuteronomy 16:2,6.

26 Note these words of Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:10,11,20) and their connection with Josiah's request:

"Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build" (35:3).

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 8

18 And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The king's reference to the temple which Solomon had built recalled that special moment when the ark was carried into the oracle. 27 Whatever had since caused the ark to be removed, Josiah saw this moment of its return as an opportunity to bring the nation back to the day of the temple's dedication, to relive its joy, and to rediscover its meaning.

Suddenly, then, the ark was restored to its appointed place, resting in the Holy of Holies, and immediately the House of Asaph stood to sing before it with all their might. This was their destiny, for had not their family led the song on that auspicious day in Solomon's time? 28

Josiah sought their presence, and in a heartbeat the House of Asaph were there. No other singers were recorded as being in attendance. 29 Only this household would be remembered in the chronicle of this day. These knew their station. These kept their office. These were in their place.

They were there at the commandment of the king, but not simply because of his request, for nothing could have stopped them from being there on that day. 'We are ready' was their household cry. But then, they were always ready for this most wonderful of all duties. This was their chance, their opportunity, their privilege to minister before the ark with the singing of their psalm.

But those who sang at Josiah's Passover were the great grandsons of those who sang at Hezekiah's, for another century of time had passed. During that period, some of the House of Asaph lived and died without ever having sung before the ark, their highest ideal never being realised. Others had waited all their lives for this one moment to sing.

Now the chance of a lifetime had come, and they sang with such fervency as to strain every fibre of their being. There were tears of joy as their hymn arose. Voices trembled with the wonder of it all. The discipline of faithful practice, even in dark times, now had its fulfilment in an outpouring of public praise that stirred the heart of the king and the faithful alike.

Rising higher and higher, the voices of the singers reached their climax in the song of songs that every generation of their family had known and loved:

"0 give thanks unto Yahweh; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."

They in their time would taste the truth of these words, as every faithful generation of their family had, and in that moment of awareness they felt the heritage of their calling.

This was the last time that scripture would report the presence of the ark of God among His people. There was a special poignancy for the House of Asaph that they should be there on this day. They would recount to later generations, as a mark of honour, that their song before the ark was one of the reasons why this Passover excelled all others in its fervent dedication. 30

There would certainly never be another to match it, for even now events were sweeping the nation towards the outcome which Huldah the prophetess had described in such chilling detail, events which would soon overtake even good King Josiah himself.

27 2 Chronicles 5:7-9.

28 2 Chronicles 5:12.

29 The king had requested all the Levites to stand in their courses (2 Chronicles 35:4,10), but only one course of singers was identified as having done so - the House of Asaph v15

30 2 Chronicles 35:18.

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph

25 And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations.

What caused Josiah to go out against the host of Egypt? And to persist in joining battle with Pharaoh, even when the latter warned him away and assured him he had no quarrel with him? It is very hard to fathom.

The record strongly gives the impression that God was warning Josiah through Pharaoh. This too is very strange, but perhaps in keeping with the circumstances.

We wonder why such a man as Josiah would not seek counsel of God before setting out to defeat a great empire. But there are other cases of very good men neglecting to follow divine guidance in matters of great importance, and while well meaning, bringing themselves and others much trouble. The incident seems to come under the heading of a tragic mistake, rather than a sin.

Pharaoh had entered God's land, though just to pass through, and Josiah, strong in faith, went out to oppose the invader. But God did not desire him at that time to set out to conquer his mighty neighbor. The defeat of Egypt by Judah did not fit into God's purpose. So apparently the time had come for Josiah to be removed, so that the determined course of history could proceed. The evil was not to come in his day.

It is recorded that Jeremiah lamented for Josiah. Well he might, for he above all would realize that with Josiah's death the last curtain fell on the happiness and well being of Judah. The nation now had 23 appointed years of existence left, and they were to be a terrible 23 years.

The most prominent part of Jeremiah's ministry would now begin. We know little of his life up to this time. But now he finds himself at increasing variance with his nation and its rulers, as they plunged down the path of destruction.

All Josiah's reforms and arrangements were soon swept away.

Bro Growcott - Jeremiah, Prophet of judgement