by William J. Stewart
During the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, Shaphan the scribe was sent to the house of the LORD, where he was to inquire about the money available for repairs to the temple. It appears the temple was not the only thing in Judah that was run down—their faith also must have been depleted. At the temple, Hilkiah the high priest handed a book to Shaphan, saying, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8).
It cannot be determined with certainty what “book of the Law of the LORD” Hilkiah found. Was it the original document or was it a copy?
If it was the original, it had been taken out of the ark of covenant where it was supposed to be kept (Deuteronomy 31:24-26). If Hilkiah found a copy of the law, and it was shocking to him, then indeed—that is disturbing! If we walk into a church building, we shouldn’t be shocked to see Bibles lying here and there. Printed documents were not as readily available in ancient times as they are today, but we should expect that there was a copy of God’s law at the temple.
Whether it was a copy or the original is not as important as the reaction to the document. After Shaphan read it, he took it to the king and read it to him. We read, “…it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11).
What troubled the king so much that he tore his clothing? Having heard the words of the law of the LORD, he knew that the nation had not kept the law of God. He sent a host of men, saying:
Go, inquire of the LORD for me, 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 aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us (2 Kings 22:13)
Josiah was right. Great wrath was stored up for the people of Judah, destruction was on the horizon for them. Josiah was concerned about the sins of their fathers, and rightly so, for they had been wicked. The sins of Manasseh, his grandfather would be largely responsible for the fall of Judah (2 Kings 21:9, 11; 23:26; 24:3).
When the men sent by the king to inquire of the LORD returned, the great justice of God is seen. Though the nation would be destroyed, it would not take place in Josiah’s time. God said:
…because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD … 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 calamity which I bring on this place (2 Kings 22:19-20)
Josiah would eventually die in a battle which he’d have done well to stay clear from (2 Chronicles 35:21), but he passed from this life with this epitaph:
Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor after him did any arise like him (2 Kings 23:25).
So, what does Josiah’s experience with the lost book of the LORD have to do with you? There are many folks today who are much like Josiah’s contemporaries. In Josiah’s day, the book of the Law was lost both physically and in practice. Today, it is not lost physically, for there are copies of it on just about every bookshelf in our land. However it is a lost book when it comes to the hearts of men. Though the instruction to do good is readily available, the hearts of men are set upon evil.
Thus, a day of wrath has been appointed (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; etc.). We, like Josiah can avoid the devastation of that day. The key is for us to have a tender and humble heart, like Josiah. The word of God changed him, being mixed with faith and a desire to please God.
Friend, won’t you be sure to find the book of the Law of the LORD? Discover the truths of the Bible; submit your heart to His will. He desires all men to be saved. Obey the Lord, so that by His grace and mercy, you may stand in the day of judgment.