2 Kings 22.1-13.
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”
8 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. 9 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.” 10 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.
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 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: 13 “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.”
I have a heart for the unsung heroes off scripture, often some great characters we don’t hear about much in Church either, but perhaps we should do!
I am looking at King Josiah, a young guy who becomes King of Judah (Israel and Judah have split into separate Kingdoms by this point) when he is just eight years old, a very young age to have such great responsibility thrust upon him. Interestingly we say at how young footballers are to have wealth and fame thrust upon them and they can’t cope, here we have a young guy who could have let the title of King go to his head, he could have let his teenage hormones get a bit carried away, after-all it does seem to be a family weakness both David and Solomon (his ancestors) could control their lusts, rather their lusts controlled them.
Anyway, this lad becomes King at an early age, yet is one of the few Kings of Judah who do the right thing in the eyes of the Lord.
Sometimes I think we are unduly harsh on young people, we forget that Jesus called us to have a child-like faith, and we seem to think with regards to stuff like teaching and ministry that there is a junior version of the Holy Spirit, yet clearly their isn’t!
Cris Rogers (vicary scholarly dude who runs one of the HTB Church plants) reckons that the disciples might have actually been teenagers, we know Mary may well have been 14 or 15, Jeremiah told God he was too young to be used as a prophet, which suggests he was young, Samuel first heard the audible voice of God in the temple when he was a child, Timothy was told not to let anyone look down on him because he was young and I think that the brave and Godly defiance of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigeo to the King makes me think these guys were idealists, “The God we serve is able to save us and if he doesn’t we’re still not going to bow down to your poxy statue, so go on then throw us into their firey Furness grandad” -okay that’s not an exact quote from the book of Daniel, but I think it makes the point that the Church I believe sometimes forgets that young people are just as much (maybe more so) Godly ambassadors for Christ on a tough front-line and often serve him with great courage, authenticity and integrity… and yet they too often are ignored in our Churches.
Anyway, he is left a terrible legacy, people are worship idols, the temple is getting dilapidated, and sound biblical teaching had dried up, so much so that the book of the law (the Torah, the most holy scripture for the Jewish people) had been lost.
Imagine going into a Church and there not being a single bible, nor anyone who really knew what it said, it would be shocking.
Yet this is what happened here in this time in Judah…
In fact I fear it is happening again, Biblical knowledge is pretty poor in many of our Churches… even shockingly in some of our theological collges there are scarily few Biblical modules on the sylabus.
Yet before we start eye rollings and finger pointing, I wonder if we lost our Bible how quickly we would notice it was missing?!
Anyway, the book of the law is found and brought to King Josiah, who hears God’s standards for life lived God’s way, and he is deeply challenged and convicted (and bear in mind this is a good King) so much so that he rips his robes. (A deep symbol of repentance and mourning), this wasn’t a slightly sheepish embarrassed grin when he was caught having fallen short of God’s Holy standard, this was a heart wrenching devastation and a deep cry of repentance and a begging for forgiveness.
What do we do when we realise our lives don’t match God’s standards, are we bothered? Or do we, like King Josiah come back to God desperate for forgiveness, deeply sorry for the hurt we have cause God (and possibly those around us).
You, might be saying, hey Andy, this is Old Testament, you are forgetting about grace, God’s all fluffy and nice now (and there is truth in this as our God is incredibly merciful, overwhelmingly loving, beautifully tender, phenomenally compassionate and forgiveness is guaranteed because of Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice) but we forget that God is a Holy God, and sometimes I fear as western Christians we can sometimes engage in what I call cheep grace, and pseudo-repentance, we forget that the Anglican absolution says “Almighty God who forgives all those who TRULY repent”, and the word repent literally means a full 180 degree turn, literally meaning ‘turn your life around’.
So, a challenge to us to be people of the word, getting stuck into our Bibles, not being ignorant of what God’s word says to us, let him speak to our souls. And when we feel the convicting touch of the Lord through the reading of his word, let’s be people of action, that keep on chasing after Christ, living life his way.
The problem is too often in our culture rather than changing ourselves, we try to change the Bible to make it fit our world view… To often as adults we get too clever by half, and manage to neatly talk ourselves out of those awkward bits when scripture challenges us and comes too close into those areas where change might become a bit uncomfortable.
Normally when someone talks about King Josiah finding the book of the law in the temple, someone reminds us of the words of Jesus about having God’s law written not on tablets of stone, but on our hearts… and so this is true, God’s Spirit is within us, and the new testament image of temple is ourselves, our bodies… So a question could be asked, have we ‘lost God’ in our lives?
Scripture warns us (repeatedly actually): “Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts”.
Are we living our lives listening out to the spirits voice? His guiding and directing? Or have we let other things shout louder, other “wisdom” confuse us, different things that distract us…
A challenge, to hear the voice of God today in our lives, to hear his voice and to respond with obedience -like King Josiah- repenting of what shouldn’t have been, and living a new life God’s way.
So when we think of Josiah, a young King who could have gone off the rails but didn’t, a King who found the book of the law because of his love for the temple, who read it and was challenged by it, who repented and called the nation to return to God and his ways. A real unsung hero of scripture… But the challenge is for us to be like him.