The BEST find ever was made in the Temple. The Book of the Law. Its discovery sparked a true revival in Judah.
While getting ready for restoration of the Temple, the Book of the Law was found. It had been MANY years since it was read or followed. In it God commanded each new king to make a copy of it and keep it with him to consult on every matter. It was to be his guidebook in caring for the people. We know the last two kings didn’t follow this statute and it is probable that MANY before them didn’t either.
Can you imagine unearthing such an important find? What must it have been like for these men to come face to face with God’s word after it was missing for so long? It would be like a man dying of thirst finding a spring of fresh water. It rivaled a barren woman being presented with a child of her own; Sarah or Hannah.
But it wasn’t even something they knew they were missing until it was found. The reaction of Josiah leads me to believe he wasn’t living up to the Law before it was found. He recognized how far short he and the nation had fallen. It produced in him profound grief. I don’t doubt that he loved the Lord and did what he knew in serving Him. Still his best efforts without instruction fell far short; personally and as a king over the nation that held the Lord’s name.
Talk about an ‘ah ha’ moment! Was Shaphan the first to read it? Did Hilkiah read it before passing it off to him? How did Shaphan not lead with this discovery when he came to the king? I don’t know if I could have gone about ‘business as usual’ like he did in the beginning.
“Hilkiah the priest has given me a book” (verse 10b). Talk about playing it cool.
I can almost see the scene that day.
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“What book? Where was it found?”
“It is a very special book that was found in the Temple of the Lord while he was looking for funds to pass onto the repair men.”
Josiah’s face holds both curiosity and hope. He had heard stories of old about how the Lord’s word had been written down by Moses but he had never seen such writings in his lifetime.
“Please read it aloud” breathes Josiah.
Shaphan begins carefully to read from the first scroll. As he moves through the readings his voice takes on strength. His cadence and tenor bring out the life written on the parchment.
Josiah’s heart moves with Shaphan’s voice. It soars in places and plummets in others. The Book speaks of the miracles the Lord performed for the people; the plagues that freed Israel from Egypt, parting the Red Sea, mana in the wilderness, water from a rock and many more. It also speaks of the stubbornness of the people’s hearts; complaining about the food, grumbling about direction, engaging with other nations’ gods and so much more.
But the words that hit him hardest were the words of the Law the Lord had given the people. Josiah KNEW they had failed to live up to the Lord’s standards. The first command of the Lord was to have no other gods but Him. Josiah KNEW everyone in his nation had missed that point. For proof all he had to do was look around him. He could still see the evidence on every hill, even in the Temple itself. And when Shephan reached the conclusion where God spelled out the blessings for obeying and the curses for disobedience Josiah’s hear broke!
Josiah fell to his knees, cried out, and tore his robe.
“I am undone!” he wept with tears streaming down his face.
After several minutes of weeping Josiah gathered his strength. He HAD to know what the Lord would do regarding his people’s sin. Josiah turned to Shaepah.
Shephan had remained silent as Josiah wept. His heart had already been broken when he read the Book of the Law when he first got it. This was why he had brought it to the king. He saw Judah’s sin too.
“Assemble Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam your son, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, Assiah my servant and yourself. Have everyone appear before me right away.”
Shephan bowed and left to gather those the king had commanded. In short order all stood before Josiah.
“Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (verse 13).
The five men accept this task with all seriousness and urgency. Hilkiah was not the least bit distressed that Josiah didn’t turn to him to inquire of the Lord. He recognized that even the Levites had fallen FAR from the standards the Lord had set. They needed to seek out one that the Lord was currently speaking with. The people had to have an answer that was without a doubt the voice of the Lord.
There was a woman in Jerusalem who was a prophetess. Her name was Huldah. She spoke the words of the Lord with consistency. She was the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. This tie to the Temple is how Hilkiah knew of her. She would be the one they sought out.
Hilkiah led the way to the home of Huldah which was in the Second Quarter of Jerusalem. He calls out as they reach her gate. Hudlah appears in the doorway right away.
“Mistress Hudlah, the king has sent us to inquire of the Lord through you.”
Hudlah leads the men to a table already prepared for company. She was obviously expecting someone. As soon as everyone was seated Hudlah got right down to business.
“The Lord told me you would come. He gave me a word for the king. ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken Me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitant, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place”’ (verses 15-20).”
The men were thrilled to bring this word back to their king. They held nothing back as they repeated the words Hudlah had delivered to them from the Lord.
(to be continued)
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Do not shun correction. Josiah probably felt he was doing good until he was confronted with God’s standard. Instead of throwing his hands up in despair he sought the Lord even harder. How many years had he heard from the priests that things were ‘alright’? How many times had he walked right past the high places or ignored the things of Baal inside the Temple? Did his heart wonder at these things or were they part of his everyday life where he didn’t even notice them? Was there a time he noticed them? When his heart knew something was amiss? I believe that God prompted the repair of the Temple for just this purpose. He put His word where those who truly searched would find it. And then He waited. He waited for them to either accept the truth or reject all knowledge.
Josiah could have told Shaphan to re-hide the Book of the Law. He could have turned deaf ears as it was being read to him. But God brought out His words at just the right time and to just the right men. They will see to it that Judah listens to the Lord. Josiah will see this through. Unfortunately the damage has already been done and a price has been fixed.
Father God, thank You that I have access to Your word all the time. There are gems within it that I stumble on, just as Hilkiah did, and my life changes again. I know I have not exhausted the learning there is among Your scriptures. I never will; of that I’m certain. I look forward to those times. Not because they are all enjoyable but because they are profitable. They bring me closer to You. They address sin I have overlooked. They challenge me to grow in You. And they prove to me You love me. You don’t discipline other people’s children; you discipline your own. This proves that I am YOUR child.