While reading the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22 and 23, I had a fresh revelation about the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Bible states that King Josiah reigned over Judah at Jerusalem from age 8 until age 39. Assassination at age 39 caught my attention because that was also Dr. King’s age when he was killed.
God told Josiah that he would remove Judah from his presence and reject Jerusalem and the temple because the people preferred to worship gods rather than the living God.
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did-with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kgs 23:25).
Even though God was pleased with Josiah, he allowed his enemy to kill him after he had reigned for 31 years. Would you consider being struck down in battle by an evil ruler a blessing? I’m sure Josiah trusted God for protection when he marched out to meet the king of Egypt. But the enemy killed God’s servant. Why? Death was a way of being shielded from pending disaster! Prior to his final battle, God’s word to Josiah was: “Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place” (2 Kgs 22:20). Wow!
After all the reforms good king Josiah had made, God took him to his final resting place at age 39. In spite of Josiah’s zealous efforts to correct the wrongs of a nation that had provoked God’s fierce anger, the Lord said, “I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘There shall my Name be.'”(2 Kgs 23:27).
Josiah had a chance to celebrate some milestones before his death. Then God allowed Josiah’s sons to succeed him knowing they would perform evil deeds to undo all the good their father had done. The evil sons were allowed to reign only for a season, but long enough to set in motion the downfall of a nation. Jehoahaz reigned three months and Jehoiakim reigned as a figurehead under the control of the king of Egypt who had assassinated his father and taken his brother into exile. The quest for leadership is no small matter.
God was provoked to anger and nothing, not even the prayers of his intercessors, made him turn away from doing all he said he would do to punish Judah. Yet, it was through death that God spared King Josiah the heartbreak of seeing Judah decline under the wicked leadership of his sons. Josiah had been forewarned that he would die and be buried in peace (2 Kg 22:20). And so it was (2 Kg 23:30). I just don’t understand why God decided on a violent death rather than dying peacefully while asleep.
Dr. King, like Josiah, lived long enough to celebrate some milestones. But God must have decided that Dr. King did not need to see the undoing of the civil rights laws that had been achieved through hard-fought battles of the many who marched, bled and died.
My study of death at 39 revealed that history has a way of repeating itself. May God bless us all and may God bless America.
Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr!