The Josiah Effect

How many of you know the biblical story of Josiah? Josiah was the 16th king of Judea and the main detail that the Bible tells us about him is the religious reform he wrought in his kingdom. According to the text, the High Priest at that time found a Torah scroll in the Temple and he passed it on to be read before the king. Josiah was appalled by the things he heard, that the teachings of his God had been forgotten by him and by his people. He heard that a great disaster stood before all who defied the Lord. Josiah tore his clothes and ordered a public reading of the book, the shattering of idols and repentance. We see this motif repeated more than once in the Bible, it is a constant cycle of obedience-heresy-repentance and once again obedience, and on and on it goes.

And now, if I may, I will shift to the Church. Today, probably more than any period in the past, Believers research and discover the Hebrew roots of their faith. In the Internet age, when information passes through at the speed of light and the Scriptures are no longer just the lot of the religious elite, it is possible to reevaluate issues that have been raised in the past – “The BIBLE is one piece, the Old and the New Testament together. So what do we do with the Torah and is it relevant to us today?” Many find a positive answer to this question and the number of those Believers is only growing.

In this way, like Josiah, more and more Believers “tear their clothes” and return to the Torah. “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” (II Kings 22:13)

But such behavior is repugnant, both from the Christian community that looks at them ‘crookedly’ and from the Jewish community, which does not understand where this ‘strange bird’ comes from; “If they so want to keep the commandments – they should convert!” I heard one such individual say.

The people who are Israel, are the people who are the Believers of today. As the apostle Paul puts it – the Gentiles have been grafted in, receiving nourishment from the root – the Jews. So we’re talking about one God, for one people, with one Law. “And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” (Romans 11:17)

When Jews started to come to the Lord in large numbers, many came to realize that they don’t have to abandon their Jewish lifestyle. Their faith in Jesus doesn’t in any way jeopardize their identity, but quite the contrary – it enriches it! In like manner, Gentiles have come to understand that Torah is not chipping away at their faith, but indeed enriches it.

Jesus referred the following passages to the Jewish leaders of His day: “Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.”” (Isaiah 29:13) But can this passage also be applied to some Christians today? I’m sure it can. Many Believers of young and old challenge the Christian traditions and their origins, choosing instead to begin pursuing a more ancient way of worship.

At this point I would like to address a concern of mine, because I have heard of it happening to some; that when they start seeing value in the commandments of the Torah, they get vertigo and lose focus of the Gospel. Some become so obsessed with keeping the Law, that it becomes religion again. The Good News is good, because of our inability to keep the commandments, and because of God’s mercy and sacrifice for us. So if you choose to walk this path, never forget to keep your eyes glued on the Messiah and remember that as much that the Law is good, only He is the source of your salvation.

In conclusion, just as King Josiah rediscovered the commandments of God, so have many Believers in Israel, America and around the world. The commandments are good and holy and are to be kept by all Believers. We shouldn’t forget, however, to put the Law of God in context of the times we are living in. Celebrate the feasts in light of the Messiah and look for rest in Yeshua on our Sabbaths. He fulfilled the Law in a way we can never hope to achieve, but following His footsteps with love, knowing we are forgiven, is a great way of provoking the Jews to jealousy. Till one day “all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”” (Romans:11-26-27)

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Arthur Schwartzman grew up in Israel. After spending several years in the Israeli military with an air defense unit, Arthur became a Believer, after reading the New Testament. In 2015, he published his first book. He has had numerous articles and information pieces published throughout the years, ranging from politics and faith to cultural issues. He also writes fiction under a pen name.