Thursday, March 18, 2010


In 2 Kings 22, King Josiah has been ruling Judah since he was eight years old. He did the best he could to follow God, "He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right." 2 Kings 22:2 When he was twenty-six, he sent his secretary to the Temple to check how much money had been placed in the coffers there for its upkeep. The money must have been out of sight, perhaps back in one of the storerooms, because when the High Priest searched, instead he found the Book of God's Revelation (most likely the books of Moses or just the book of Deuteronomy). The book hadn't been seen for some time, because Josiah was stunned by its appearance.

When the king heard what was written in the book, God's Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king's personal aide. He ordered them all: "Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found! God's anger must be burning furiously against us—our ancestors haven't obeyed a thing written in this book, followed none of the instructions directed to us." 2 Kings 22:11-13

Solomon was a good king during the beginning of his reign, but he married several foreign women and built altars to their gods. God had instructed Saul, then David, and again Solomon, that the king should read His Word daily, keep it close to his heart, and if the king kept that promise, the country would have peace and prosperity. Instead Israel quickly split into two countries after the death of Solomon, and both Judah and Israel faced almost constant war, because of the sins of its kings.

In the two hundred years between Solomon and Josiah, there were fourteen kings (counting both of them) over Judah. Each king led the nation not just in military and executive decisions, but religiously as well. When the king went astray and began following idols, so did the people. Each evil king led the people just a little farther down the road to destruction.

Jehoram built pagan shrines in the mountains. Ahaziah worshiped Baal, built a temple to it and filled its temple with idols and a priest. Joash initially destroyed that temple, but then took up with a cult of sex goddesses and abandoned the Temple of God, even killing a priest who opposed him in it. Amaziah adopted the gods of Edom. Uzziah arrogantly tried burning the incense himself, putting himself over the priests. Ahaz cast metal figurines for worshiping Baal and passed his sons through the fire (this means he either sacrificed his firstborn son in the fire to the god Molech or passed the infant through the fire as a symbolic sacrifice). He joined in the sex and religion shrines established in the villages.

It's obvious that in the midst of all of this wanton idolatry, the Revelation of God was lost, packed away in the Temple where it wouldn't bother the kings with guilt. There were a few good kings who reconsecrated the Temple and destroyed most of the idols and shrines. They did their best, but without the Word of God, they didn't really know just how deeply the sin was entrenched in Judah.

When Josiah was faced with God's Word, he could clearly see how terribly he and the people had been sinning. Confronted with evidence of their complete and utter ruin, he called the people of Israel together and ordered them to cleanse themselves. He destroyed every shrine in the entire country, even some in Israel. He held the first Passover festival the Jewish people had celebrated since Solomon was King.

Christians who have newly come to Jesus often experience similar guilt. Reading the Bible and listening to sermons, they are forced to acknowledge that while we thought we were good people living good lives, we were doing nothing of the sort. Once exposed the God's Word, we see our lives in a completely different light, one that doesn't exactly allow us to shine. Reading His Word also requires a response from us. We can't just read it and remain unchanged, and it makes us want to share our discovery with everyone we know and love.

Just like the Israelites who first heard God's Word from Moses, at the beginning of our faith walk we cheer for joy and promise that we will follow it eternally. But then something happens, maybe someone comes into our lives. Whatever it is, we compromise what we know is wrong on a small sin (we don't even call it a sin, maybe it's a little white lie, nothing big), and because we've done so, we've created a new threshold for sin in our lives. Sin has to register just a little higher on our heart's scale to qualify as true sin. And so we slide, allowing another little sin in, and the bar raises (or lowers, depending on your perspective) again. Just like the Israelites with their sex and religion shrines, we allow sin into our lives on a regular basis without even acknowledging it as sin.

Paul says in Romans 6:20 This makes it clear, doesn't it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it's clear enough, isn't it, that we're sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God's revelation doesn't put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else's sin.
I never quite understood this verse before. Why is it that knowing about the Law suddenly made me guilty of sin? After reading Josiah's reaction to reading the Law it all made sense. We live our lives the way we think best. Most of us do our best not to hurt others and to do good, but when we see the Word for the first time, we see our guilt, because our good is nowhere near God's Good. Those who never look into the Word may live in a way that the rest of the world considers good. They may do many good things, but unless they have read the Word, they don't know Good, and that determines where they will spend eternity.

Spending the last three weeks immersed in the Bible has made me desire to rend my clothing in despair and want to shout to the world what I have learned. I am guilty. I have not lived according to the Word, but now I am placing it in my heart. I will read it daily and meditate on it, even when it shows my guilt, so that I may know His Good and do it where I am able.