There are twelve distinct things I find in II Kings 23 in reference to the removal of idols – it is a very thorough destruction that magnifies the tenacity and commitment of this king to bring his nation back to God. He left no stone left unturned. The following twelve points are taken from II Kings 23:4-20
1) Josiah commanded the priests to cleanse the temple.
2) Josiah deposed all the idolatrous priests that the kings had ordained to burn incense in the cities of Judah (vs. 5).
3) Josiah burned the Asherah from the temple, beat it to dust, and cast it upon the graves of the common people (vs. 6).
4) Josiah broke down the houses of the male prostitutes that were in the temple (vs. 7).
5) He defiled all the high places from Geba to Beersheba. (vs. 8).
6) He defiled Topheth so that no one would sacrifice (burn) his son or daughter as an offering to Molech (vs. 10).
7) He removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun (at the entrance of the temple), and he burned the chariots with fire (vs. 11).
8) Broke to pieces the altars of Ahaz and Manasseh (vs. 12).
9) He defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem and to the south of the mount of corruption which Solomon had built (vs. 13).
10) He filled the broken altars with the bones of men (vs. 14).
11) Josiah pulled down the altar at Bethel. He also took the priests’ bones from nearby tombs and burned them on the altar (vs. 15-16).
12) Josiah did in all the cities of Samaria (Israel) what he had done in Bethel. He killed all the priests that were on the high places and burned the bones of men on the altars. Then, he returned to Jerusalem (vs. 19-20).
Josiah’s removal of idolatry gives us a picture of what is required for restoration. We are a people in need of restoration. We live in an age and culture that is plagued with very dark and pervasive sin. And although it may be easy to think that Josiah has little to do with us today, he actually gives us the first step toward our own restoration. We must at all costs remove our idols. This is the required first step for us as a nation. Restoration will never come until we do just that. You might say you do not have a little “Budda” at your house that you worship, but that is not really where our idols are. Our idols are in our hearts. And the fact is all idols start in the heart. When we study Israel and all their idol worship, what we find is the physical manifestation of where their hearts were. It really is the same for us. We just don’t see our idols for what they are.
In talking about the application of removing idols, I think we must pay attention to what Josiah did. If we consider all the ways in which he deposed and demolished idolatry, we can see a progression. He first cleansed the temple; there were several steps in the process. Then we see that Josiah went through the kingdom destroying idols, and from the there he destroyed the idols set up by kings. And we should realize that the idols set up by Solomon had been there for over 300 years. And the last progression is the pinnacle of Josiah’s mission, the burning of the bones of the priests. And I think we must consider that the first thing God always does is deal with his people. It was no accident that the first four things Josiah did had to do with cleansing the temple and priests. If you are a Christian, you are part of God’s house, his temple. To destroy the idols of our land we must first destroy the idols in the church among God’s people. We must start with “us”. Reformation can come to a person, the church, or a nation, but it requires us to burn away the idols in our lives. We can’t skip to the Passover feast. We must start by removing the “images” in our lives. Burn down the high places in your soul, grind it to powder. We must do this first before we can ever repair and restore God’s house.