Here is the fifteenth in a series of Bible studies that presents the Bible as being on the side of pacifism. This essay, “Sometimes Repentance Isn’t Enough”, takes up the story of Judah’s “boy king,” Josiah. Josiah follows a long line of corrupt kings characterized by injustice and idolatry. During his kingship, the scroll of the Law is discovered in the dusty corners of the Temple. When it is read to Josiah, he realizes its importance, repents, and seeks to reform Judah in line with the demands of Torah.
Josiah meets with some success, but ends up killed on the battlefield with the task uncompleted. His successor moves the nation back on the track of corruption and within a few years Judah’s temple and king’s palace lie in ruins.
The failure of Josiah’s reform shows just how far Israel had moved from the expectations of Torah, and marks the end of the nation-state as the possible channel for God’s work of blessing all the families of the earth. From now on, it is God’s people in faith communities separate from state domination that fuel the outworking of the promise.
Josiah’s main accomplishment, in the end, was to recognize the Law scroll for what it was and to bring back into the community this essential resource. When the nation-state falls, Torah provides the orienting point that enables the people of the promise to sustain their identity.