In the eighteenth year of King Josiah’s reign in Judah, he initiates a project to renovate and repair the temple of the Lord. In the midst of this project, we are given a glimpse into the reality of how far the nation had fallen as we are told that the high priest "found the Book of the Law" during renovations to the temple in Jerusalem.
What does it say about the people as a whole when their high priest stumbles upon the very book that he is supposed to be obeying and teaching to the people?
Were there no other copies of God's Law on hand?
And if this was the only copy, how had it been treated so carelessly as to have been misplaced?
It is fairly clear from the narrative account that the content and instruction found in God's Law were new to the high priest and King Josiah. Again, this is a strong testament to how far from God's Word God’s people had fallen.
Now, King Josiah was the great-grandson of King Hezekiah who had led the nation in a great reformation just a few generations before. Therefore, many might find it difficult to understand how a nation could fall into such a depth of biblical ignorance in such a short amount of time.
How could a nation go from the fruits of reformation to the utter forgetfulness of God’s Word in just a few generations?
However, the history of our own nation testifies to how quickly a people can become ignorant of the truth of God’s Word. We live in an era of unprecedented biblical illiteracy and ignorance among the church in this nation. The truth of the matter is that God’s people have proven over and over again that they are never more than a generation or two away from careless abandonment of God’s Word and casual apathy towards essential Christian doctrine.
As horrible as it may seem to hear how the nation of Judah had carelessly neglected the Word of God, how much greater is our neglect in an age where the full revelation of God’s Word is readily available and always just one-click away?
In the words of Matthew Henry,
“The abundance of Bibles we possess aggravates our national sins; for what greater contempt of God can we show, than to refuse to read his word when put into our hands, or, reading it, not to believe and obey it?”
As we read Josiah's response to the rediscovery of God's Word, we see that despite already receiving the prophetic news that God was going to bring certain disaster upon the nation for their idolatry and wickedness, Josiah still continues in his duty as a servant of God to spur reformation and revival throughout the land over which he still has an influence. This leads us to draw three big observations and some applications for our own time from this account of Josiah — the reforming King of Judah.
Josiah walked and talked obedience to God despite the inevitable outcome.
Josiah was told that God’s judgment against the nation for its idolatry and wickedness could not be prevented, but Josiah didn’t use that as an excuse to remain complacent concerning his role and responsibilities in reforming the nation. The ship may have been sinking, but Josiah was determined to uphold his duties on board as long as the ship was still above water. It is not of any profit whatsoever to worry about what the future holds; it is simply our duty and responsibility to daily trust God and obey His Word. No matter what the future holds for our nation, faithfulness is our duty right now. We need to be asking ourselves, "What is my specific responsibility in working for reformation and revival among my own sphere of influence?
Josiah purified the land of its contamination with idols.
In order to seek restoration for the people’s relationship with God, Josiah swept the nation clean of the various things that had led them astray. What are the idols that we have erected in our own lives that are contaminating our relationship with our God? What gets in the way of our wholehearted worship of God alone? Is it our career? Is it our favorite sports team or hobby? Is it our favorite television show? Is it our spouse? Is it our children? Is it the opinions of others? Is it our own image, status and popularity? Many of us need to undertake a massive purification in our own lives in order to get back to wholehearted worship of the only One we should be worshipping.
Josiah re-instituted the Passover celebration which had been neglected and forgotten.
When we fail to acknowledge what God has so graciously accomplished for us in the past, we set ourselves up for forgetting Him in the future. Josiah’s commitment and faithfulness to God led him to do something that even David and Hezekiah didn’t institute during their lifetime and reigns over the nation. Remembering, recalling and retelling the grace and greatness of our God fans the flame of revival and lays the only foundation on which reformation can firmly stand. What routines and disciplines have we instituted in our own lives to help us remain focused on the faithfulness and promises of God?
As we read about the rediscovery of “the Book of the Law”, may we ask ourselves the obvious question:
“Where are our Bibles?”
Do we have them front and center teaching, correcting, training and shaping our lives on a daily basis? Or do we continually find them forgotten, neglected and in need of rediscovery? Josiah and the people of Judah provide us with a valuable lesson from human history — the condition of a man's Bible is a testament to the condition of a man's heart.