Another tidbit from Josiah’s Reform. After Josiah “heard the words of the Law he tore his robe,” i.e., he repented (2 Chron. 34:19). When he sends Huldah to inquire of the LORD the message she receives is this (2 Chron. 34:24-28):
24 ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people–all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ 26 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 27 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. 28 Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’
Here’s a nation that had been without the Law for decades and they’re still held accountable for their actions. The same consequences apply even though they weren’t aware of them. Conversely, Josiah, who had also been without the Law, reacted appropriately when confronted with it and was rewarded with blessing rather than curse. So one wonders how Judah could be held accountable to the Law when the Law was lost to them? I think Paul addresses this kind of question in Romans 1:18-25 when he says:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.
Even apart from the book of the Law God has made himself known so that all men are without excuse for their wickedness and rejection of God. Judah knew enough to try and substitute idols for the true God; they “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,” and for that they were held accountable, as we will be.