II CHRONICLES 34:19-21: “And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: How do I respond to God’s Word when I read it? Do I read it with an open heart or with a guarded heart? Am I brought to a place of repentance and change, or do I try to justify my actions or compartmentalize God’s truth? These are all important and critical questions to ask. They speak volumes to our culture and volumes to my heart.
The history of the Kings of Judah, like Israel, resembled a roller coaster ride. Each nation went from one or two godly kings, to one or two ungodly kings, and so on. Just because one king was godly, it was not a guarantee that his son would follow in his footsteps. Hezekiah was a godly king, but his son Manasseh was an ungodly king, until Manasseh humbled himself and repented in the last days of his life. Manasseh’s son Amon behaved even more wickedly than his father, and forsook all the reforms that his father instituted after his repentance. When Amon was killed, his son Josiah began to rule Judah at the age of 8. Josiah became a very godly king. Yet, there was one thing all these kings had in common – they were all navigating through life relying solely on what they had learned through tradition. The Book of the Covenant had been lost and forgotten. They were in essence shooting from the hip!
When Josiah gave instructions to repair the Temple, and while they were cleaning and working on the Temple, Hilkiah the Priest found the Book of the Covenant. Hilkiah reported this to Shaphan, the secretary, and the book was brought to the king. When King Josiah asked the book to be read, and as he listened to the words of the Covenant, he tore his clothes in an act of humility and repentance. Why did he do that? Even though Josiah had led reforms in Judah, he did not realize how far he and the Nation of Judah had veered off course in following the Lord – until he heard the words of the Book of the Covenant given through Moses.
What is the significance of this for me today? It is a sobering reminder on how easy it is to drift away from the will of God while doing “godly” things. I can continue with all the duties and responsibilities of “church” and “piety” – but if I neglect the Word of God, I am driving with my eyes off the road. Recently my wife and I were in a minor car accident. What caused it? Simply looking to the left for 2 seconds and then – “bam” – we hit the back of a truck that had suddenly stopped. This is the reality of life when I take my eyes off the Word of God – for any length of time!
The second significance it holds for me is a reminder of what the proper response should be when I read God’s Word. As a believer in Christ, I am free from the condemnation and guilt of sin, and the accusations of the devil. However, I must always be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the working of godly sorrow in my life. Let’s be honest, if we are not drawn to repentance each and every time we open the Book – we are not reading it with the proper response. When we approach pure light, and we are still dealing with darkness in our lives, we must deal with the darkness. Josiah knew this was true. He humbly repented. He humbly called upon the name of the Lord. And he obediently called the Nation of Judah to return to the Covenant of Jaweh! Josiah exemplifies the proper response for my heart when I read and meditate upon God’s Word.
Lord, give me a tender, open, and humble heart when I read Your Word. Guard my heart from the accusations and condemnation of the devil, and of my flesh – but always lead me to conviction and godly sorrow through the Holy Spirit so that I might find continual forgiveness, cleansing, perspective, and strength! In Jesus Name!