Josiah is still in the process of putting things right when a treasure beyond measure is found. It is the Book of the Law; God’s words to His people.
Imagine possessing the written words of the people on this earth who love you more than anything! Their words inspire you to new heights, they comfort you when you are weary, they guide you when you feel lost and they correct you when you need a kick in the butt. You would cherish this collection of words, wisdom. You would be devastated if they were lost.
But what if, over time, you forgot about all these words held. You started looking for your inspiration and comfort from other sources. As a result, your life began a slow decline that you didn’t even notice. Years go by before you see the changes. Until one day you come across the collection of precious wisdom.
At first you are intrigued by your find. You don’t even remember all this collection contains. As you revisit the words contained, something in your heart breaks. It is the cold stone wall that has encased you since losing these precious pieces. Memories come flooding back of all the times these words had impacted your life. You see clearly the difference of where you once were and where you now stand. Your heart breaks even further at the knowledge of all the missed opportunities and pitfalls you could have avoided if only you had kept the words close to you.
With GREAT DETERMINATION you renew your commitment to letting these words lead and guide your life. You clean up all the messes left behind from your own wandering and start anew. And you want to share their wealth of knowledge with EVERYONE around you!
Josiah was about to have that same experience 100 fold. The words that are found this day are the very words of God. Creator of ALL the universe. Lover of your soul. Exalted Father of the nations.
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Josiah has been on the throne for 18 years. During this time he has committed his life to the Lord, gone throughout the land ridding it of ALL its idols and high places, and cleansed the Temple of the Lord. He has done all he knows to do in order to bring the people back in line with their God. He is happy with the progress but he still feels as though something is missing.
He stands near the altar as the priests are offering the morning sacrifice. His heart is on his Lord but something catches his attention. It is a brick as it tumbles from its precarious place in the wall. It is precarious because those around it are loose. Their mortar having crumbled over time. His thoughts begin to fill with concerns of how many other things are coming undone in the House of his God. He quickly redirects his attentions back to the sacrifice being offered. Right now is the Lord’s time. He will attend to this new concern AFTER he has honored his God.
The sacrifice complete, Josiah summons the priest to his side.
“Walk with me” instructs Josiah. The two set off to the site that caught Josiah’s attention. When they reach the place of the fallen brick Josiah reaches out his hand to touch the wall. His fingers encounter crumbling mortar and loose stones.
“How long has this been like this” he asks.
“I do not know my king. I hadn’t noticed this spot before.”
“Is this the only place where decay has set in?”
The priest thinks for a few minutes before giving his reply. “No my king. There are leaks within some of the inner chambers, loose stones in several places on the southern wall, and pavement stones that have risen or fallen with the passage of time. Some of the doors don’t fit properly either.”
“Why has no one informed me of these things” demands Josiah.
“It is just something we have learned to live with my lord.”
“Well I won’t live with it! This is the House of the Lord, the most holy place in all the world. It should NEVER fall in such disrepair. I vow to address these issues this very day.”
Josiah and the priest parted company. Josiah made his way to his throne room. As he walked he gave instructions to his personal guard.
“Summon Shaphan, Maaseiah, and Joah to appear before me right away.”
The guard stayed with Josiah until he reached the throne room and was safely inside. He handed the duty of watching over his king to his second and then rushed off to complete the king’s command.
Shaphan was Josiah’s secretary, Maaseiah was the governor of the city and Joah was Josiah’s recorder. These men were Josiah’s trusted officials. The guard had little trouble locating all three men. His message to each was the same; “The king commands your appearance before him.”
All three men made their way to the king’s throne room and arrived at about the same time. Together they are led before Josiah where they wait for their king to speak.
Josiah’s face betrays the distress he is feeling at seeing the state of the Temple. “I have been to the House of the Lord this morning and discovered it is in disrepair. This will NOT stand. This is the House of our God and should be treated with the utmost care. I am angry with myself for not noticing its condition before now.”
The three men stand quiet as Josiah shakes his head at his own blindness. He has not yet presented them with a question so they continue to wait.
“It is time to see to the needs of our Lord. This is obviously going to be an enormous task as there is a long history of neglect. What are your thoughts on addressing this need?”
Finally, a question. Josiah’s men are ready to brainstorm with him.
Joah is the first to speak. “I have in the records that King Hezekiah reinstituted the tithe. During his reign there was so much gathered that there was a surplus. It was stored away for the care of the Temple. It has been rumored that there may still be some money remaining.”
Josiah’s eyes widen in surprise. “And these funds escaped the notice of Amon and Manasseh?”
“I cannot be certain my king but it may be so. The Levites hid the money that belonged to the Lord so it could not be used for evil.”
“Go at once and find if this is true. Bring me back word as soon as you have established the facts.”
All three men quickly leave the throne room in search of the funds taken in during the reign of Hezekiah. They go to the leader of the Levites, as it was their task to keep charge of the tithes brought in. It was also their job to distribute it for the work needing done.
“The king wants to repair the House of the Lord. King Hezekiah set your fathers in charge of watching over the money brought into the Temple for this purpose. The king required an accounting of the funds that remain.”
The Levite smiles. “This is indeed a good day for the Lord. My fathers have guarded the remaining funds from the time of King Hezekiah with great secrecy. We have also seen the renewed love of the people being poured out to their God through the people bringing their tithes to the Lord since Josiah began taking down the high places and breaking up the altars. There is much gathered for the work of the Temple.”
The four men discuss the amount and location of these dedicated funds. Once the facts are established, Shaphan brings word back to the king.
“We have indeed established that there are substantial remaining funds from the time of King Hezekiah. We have also been informed that the people are bringing in their tithe currently and this is also being kept in hopes of this day’s events.”
“This is indeed good news. The people are remembering their God. See to it that the repairs begin immediately. There will be no lack for whatever is not covered by the tithe, I will make up from my own possessions.”
“It will be done as you command.”
Shaphan rejoins the kings other advisors commissioned with this task. While he was with the king, the other men retrieved a ledger displaying the total of the funds. They and the Levite go directly to Hilkiah, the chief priest.
“King Josiah commands that work begin on the Temple this day to restore it completely.”
“This will take significant funds. Is the king willing to incur the costs himself?”
“He need not bear the full burden. The funds have been waiting until the proper time to be disclosed for this very task” answers the Levite. “Here is an accounting of what is available.”
Shapham adds the kings own words. “The king has also guaranteed that he will personally make up any lack from his own possessions.”
Hilkiah is overjoyed at this news. “The Lord has graciously provided for the work of His own house. It will be as he commands.”
Word is sent out for every stone mason, carpenter, craftsman, or able bodied laborer in need of hire to report to the Temple. By the end of the day teams were established with skilled men in place to oversee all the work. Each team was overseen by one of the heads of the Levites. Even the Levites whose responsibility it was to play the musical instruments were in a place of oversight. They directed all who were the heavy muscle for the task. Those who would carry the beams and stones and any other items of great weight to and from the Temple. They were also given the tasks of clearing the debris and damaged structures so that the work of restoration could begin.
In the storehouse where the money had been safely hidden away there were other items that had been included for their protection while Judah’s kings sought other gods. Hilkiah uncovers the greatest of these things himself. In the corner of the storehouse under an ordinary burlap bag lay another bag of red velvet. As soon as the burlap bag was lifted Hilkiah’s breath caught in his chest. He could scarcely believe his eyes. Carefully he reaches out to touch the velvet bag. It’s gold braid and stitching slightly worn where the years of repeated opening and closing had left their mark. The marks of use, of searching the content hidden within to share with the people.
Hilkiah uttered a silent prayer that what he believed was contained within this velvet covering was intact and indeed present. Carefully Hilkiah lifts the bag. It is heavy. This is a good sign. Hilkiah places it on a nearby table and carefully opens the bag. He reaches inside and pulls from it a scroll wrapped on two ornate dowels, bound with a scarlet cord. The scroll itself is made of animal skin and in excellent repair. Hilkiah loosens the cord and unrolls the scroll enough to satisfy himself that he has indeed found the Book of the Law handed down to Moses. He knows this may not actually be the original book but, with the care with which it was preserved, he is certain it is a complete copy of the words of the Lord. What a find!
“Shaphan!” calls Hilkiah.
Shaphan hears Hilkiah’s cry and comes quickly to his side. The urgency in the high priest’s voice cut through the distractions of work Shaphan was engaged in. The high priest does not look like he is in distress when Shaphan arrives. He notices the high priest’s eyes are fixed on an object before him. He looks down at the table the high priest stands before. Upon it is a scroll of some age. “What is this” asks Shaphan.
With a voice laced with reverence Hilkiah announces his find. “I have found the Book of the Law in the House of the Lord” (verse 15b).
Shaphan stared wide eyed at the scroll rolled out on the table. He could barely breathe. “This must be brought to the king” he whispers.
Hilkiah nods his head. Carefully he rerolls the scroll and ties it again with the scarlet cord and slips it again into the velvet bag. He picks it up and hands it reverently to Shaphan. “Take this to the king.”
Shaphan eyes go wide. “You should be the one to bring it to him, not me!”
“No, you are his closest advisor. In truth, his friend. You should be the one to share this with him.”
Shaphan nods his head. “I will see to it that he knows of this.”
Shaphan carried the bag into the palace and waited at the entrance to the throne room. He waited until the Josiah noticed him and called him forward. “How goes the progress?”
“All that was committed to your servants they are doing. They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen” (verse 17). Shaphan straightens himself a little further before continuing. ‘“Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’ (verse 18b). May I read from it my king?”
“Please” replied Josiah. He was curious what book Hilkiah had thought important enough to send to him.
Shaphan began in a subdued but steady voice. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2)…”When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you” (Deuteronomy 4:25-27). Shaphan’s voice rose in strength as he spoke the very fate of Israel and Judah at the moment.
Josiah recognized the words of the Lord immediately and his soul began to burn within him. It burned with a consuming fire at the words that pronounced the very details of all that had befallen Israel. He also recognized how precariously Judah hung in the balance. They too had sinned grievously against the Lord. They too had erected idols and bowed down to foreign gods. Josiah felt the burning anger of the Lord rising up in judgment of his people, even himself. He had neglected to read and follow the Laws of the Lord.
As Shaphan continues in his reading an anguished cry erupts from Josiah. He leaps from his throne as if propelled by an unseen hand, tears his clothes and falls on his face. He is broken. Shaphan falls silent as Josiah’s sobs fill the room.
“I am undone!” he cries out towards Heaven. “We are a perverse people. What is to become of us? We deserve destruction.”
Shaphan sent word, through Josiah’s servant Asaiah, for Hilkiah to come quickly. “The king has heard the words of the Lord and has need of you.”
Hilkiah arrived quickly as he was waiting nearby. He knew the king would recognize the Book of the Law when Shaphan presented it. Attending Hilkiah was Abdon, the son of Micah. Ahikam, Shaphan’s son, had run with Asaiah to bring Hilkiah to the king. The five men bore witness to the king’s despair. They bowed themselves to the ground around their king waited silently for his pain to subside.
Josiah raised his face from the floor and sat back on his knees. The men offering him support mirrored his movements. Finally Josiah spoke. In a voice choked with pain he issued his plea.
“Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that have been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book” (verse 21).
Hikliah nods his head in acceptance of the task. “It will be done my lord.”
The five men rise together to be about their mission. Josiah remains where he is. He has not the strength to rise nor the courage to sit upon his throne. “What is to become of this people? Is it too late?” wonders Josiah.
(to be continued)
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I LOVE how God waits until the right time to do something special. The Book of the Law had apparently been in the Temple for some time but no one had found it. It wasn’t time yet. The previous kings would not have been moved as Josiah was. Hezekiah may have been but then the Book of the Law would be vulnerable to Manasseh and Amon. God let it be found at just the right moment. He still does this today. He knows when we are ready to receive something new and He patiently waits for that moment of opportunity.
Thank You Father for taking me on Your lap and sharing Your stories. I’m SO glad Judah had Josiah. His heart was for You and for Your people. We could sure use some leaders like him today. But You always bring us just what we need at the moment we need it. “Hold tight and trust Me.” That is exactly what Josiah would do too.