Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
2 Kings 22.8-13
Josiah’s desire to see the name and presence of God once again at the centre of the life of Judah results in the Book of the Law being found and this is the catalyst for the great reforms that followed which we will come to in the next couple of days.
For today though we reflect on three things that, to this writer at least, challenge our current situation in the west.
- It may be simplistic to put it this way but the fact that the Book had to be ‘found’ drives home the grievous truth that it had been ‘lost’. Years of rule by Manasseh and Amon had caused this foundation document to be removed from government of the land.
- There were still men who recognised the Book of the Law when they found it and opened its pages. The knowledge of God and his laws were not totally obliterated in the land.
- Josiah, under the guidance of his counsellors, had had his heart prepared to recognise, and act on, what was put before him by Shapan the secretary.
In our day, to all intents and purposes the Bible (the Book of the Law and much more for our blessing, for we live post the Cross) has effectively been ‘lost’ from public life. God’s plans and purposes for mankind are either ignored or ‘adapted’ to fit in with the culture of the day and so we are living in a post-Christian society even though our Monarchy is deeply rooted at a spiritual level as exemplified by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the promises made at her Coronation. We should be concerned at what her death will bring in this regard.
However the knowledge of God and his laws are not totally obliterated for, in spite of what official statistics say about the state of the Church, there is growth as men and women hear and respond to the gospel. We should be praying that more and more will recognise that what we have in the Bible is indeed the ‘very word of God.’
It seems unlikely that Josiah’s action on having the Book of the Law read to him will be emulated in the Monarchy or in Government (although with God all things are possible). However we need to pray that those who are seen as prominent (although in the eyes of the majority, irrelevant) as church leaders, will take the words which they should know so well at face value and call the nation to repentance.
There have been many ‘reformations’ like that of Josiah’s throughout history. May those of us who know, love and seek to obey the Book of the Law in all its glorious scope and its message of salvation pray, that before it is too late, it may be placed at the centre of or national consciousness once again.