Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.
She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 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: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore 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.’”
So they took her answer back to the king.
2 Kings 22.14-20
‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…’ Huldah was a faithful prophet unafraid to speak God’s word without fear or favour and the word to be taken back to the king was very clear, frightening at one level yet glorious at another.
Judah was to be judged on the basis of their obedience to the Law that God had set out years earlier. The fact that it had been ‘lost’ was not an excuse. The form of that judgement was ‘disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read’, for God, being all righteous, has to judge sin and disobedience but he is also the God who ‘will have mercy on whom he will have mercy and compassion on whom he will have compassion’ Exodus 33.19b and Josiah finds this to be true.
On hearing the Book of the Law read to him, his heart was responsive and he humbled himself before the LORD and he received the gracious promise that the judgement, although inevitable, would not fall on him and the people during his lifetime. This respite enabled him restore the proper acknowledgement and worship of God in the land.
It was a root and branch reformation recorded in chapter 23 which we will think about in more detail next week but for today it is good for us to reflect on the fact that God does not change. He requires of us obedience and faithfulness and wholeheartedness which Judah failed to bring as they were seduced by the gods of the nations around them. The same temptations come at us from many directions and we are all too easily lured away from what God requires of us. But as it was for Josiah, mercy and respite from judgement are available. For Josiah and Judah it was short-lived. For us it is forever if we are in Christ.
What a glorious truth!