2 Kings 22 – Week Twelve
I’ve had a driver’s license for 40 years and it’s been 40 years since I’ve read the manual on driving laws. I recently took a defensive driver course to save a bit on our auto insurance and I was quite surprised at the things I learned and the things I had forgotten. I read that driver’s manual a long time ago for one reason: to pass a test so that I could get a license. Once I passed the test, I didn’t really care to go back and re-read it. I’m still driving and yet, there have been things I’ve done wrong all these years simply because I didn’t know better or I had forgotten. That’s the thing about laws, rules, restrictions, etc. Unless we keep ourselves familiarized with them, we don’t know them, or we tend to forget them or make them up or mold them to our liking.
If you’ve been with us the past few weeks, you know that the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians. The Israelites were taken captive and spread throughout many regions. The Southern Kingdom is still hanging on. Last week, King Hezekiah, a man who was loyal to the Lord and trusted the Lord demonstrated for us exactly the right response when troubles arise. He grieved for the wrongdoings, and he humbled himself. He went to the Lord in prayer and sought wise counsel.
King Hezekiah was a good man and a good king. His son, though, was a different story. 2 Kings 21:1 ISV “Manasseh began to reign at the age of twelve, and he reigned for 55 years in Jerusalem. His mother was named Hephzibah. 2 He did what the Lord considered to be evil, following the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord had expelled in full view of the people of Israel.”
The high places that King Hezekiah had destroyed, King Manasseh had rebuilt. He also made sure the altars for Baal went back up and the Asherah poles were put back in place. This King Manasseh is so evil that not only was he orchestrating the rebuilding of all these altars for pagan gods, but he actually was also bold enough to use the Temple, God’s Temple for placement of these altars. 2 Kings 21:4 GNT “He built pagan altars in the Temple, the place that the Lord had said was where he should be worshiped. 5 In the two courtyards of the Temple he built altars for the worship of the stars.” That would be like finding Buddha statues in our church. It’s incomprehensible, isn’t it?
King Manasseh dies at the age of 67 and his son, Amon takes the crown. But he wasn’t any better. 2 Kings 21:20 GNT “Like his father Manasseh, he sinned against the Lord; 21 he imitated his father’s actions, and he worshiped the idols that his father had worshiped. 22 He rejected the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and disobeyed the Lord’s commands.”
King Amon served only two years before he was assassinated by his servants. Then his eight-year-old son was named king. Josiah was his name. 2 Kings 22:2 HCSB “He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left.”
Josiah is merely 8 years old at this point and he has inherited a mess! His father had been king since he was six and before that, Josiah’s grandfather would have worn the crown. Josiah may or may not have been aware of the evilness that existed in his father and grandfather, but somehow, Josiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight. Josiah wasn’t afraid to be different from the other men in his family.
2 Chronicles 34 fills in details of his earlier years. “3 In the eighth year that Josiah was king, while he was still very young, he began to worship the God of his ancestor King David. Four years later he began to destroy the pagan places of worship, the symbols of the goddess Asherah, and all the other idols. 4 Under his direction the altars where Baal was worshiped were smashed, and the incense altars near them were torn down. They ground to dust the images of Asherah and all the other idols and then scattered the dust on the graves of the people who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the pagan priests on the altars where they had worshiped. By doing all this, he made Judah and Jerusalem ritually clean again.”
At the age of 16, Josiah begins to worship God. He goes to destroy places of pagan worship when he’s 20. This was a big deal. Josiah is attempting to wipe the slate clean so that the Israelites will repent and return to God. Do you want to know something cool, though? Nearly 300 years before Josiah was even born, he was named and his actions were prophesized. 1 Kings 13:1 TLB “As Jeroboam approached the altar to burn incense to the golden calf idol, a prophet of the Lord from Judah walked up to him. 2 Then, at the Lord’s command, the prophet shouted, “O altar, the Lord says that a child named Josiah shall be born into the family line of David, and he shall sacrifice upon you the priests from the shrines on the hills who come here to burn incense; and men’s bones shall be burned upon you.” Josiah’s actions were no accident; they were pre-determined by God.
When he is 26, in his 18th year of being king, Josiah sends his secretary to see the high priest at the temple. King Josiah wants the temple to be repaired. Between the evil kings that have reigned and the neglect of the Israelites, the Temple is not in good shape. King Josiah wants the high priest to take the monies that have been collected from the Israelites and get the Temple back the way it needs to be. This is very similar to King Joash, the seven-year-old king who also ordered that the Temple be restored.
During the reconstruction and repairing, of the Temple, a treasure is uncovered. 2 Kings 22:8 TLB “One day Hilkiah the High Priest went to Shaphan the secretary and exclaimed, “I have discovered a scroll in the Temple, with God’s laws written on it!”
He gave the scroll to Shaphan to read. 9-10 When Shaphan reported to the king about the progress of the repairs at the Temple, he also mentioned the scroll found by Hilkiah. Then Shaphan read it to the king. 11 When the king heard what was written in it, he tore his clothes in terror.”
In hearing God’s laws read aloud, King Josiah responds in a most dramatic way. He tears his clothes. We talked about this last week in that the tearing of clothes was a sign of grief, mourning, anger, or distress. We don’t have to guess what King Josiah is feeling because Scripture says he tore his clothes in terror. He’s terrified. The king then gathers a small group and commands that they “ask the Lord, “What shall we do? For we have not been following the instructions of this book: you must be very angry with us, for neither we nor our ancestors have followed your commands.” (2 Kings 22:13 TLB)
There’s an urgency felt by Josiah. He doesn’t gather a committee to discuss their options. He doesn’t say, “Well, that’s probably something we need to address at some point in the near future.” No! “When Josiah heard the actual words of God from the scroll, he realized how far the people had strayed and the consequences of continued disobedience. Thus, he tore his clothes.”[i]
That’s what happens when we don’t consult God’s Word on a regular basis. When we don’t read the Bible on our own, we can easily stray from what God commands. I wonder at times if we neglect our Bible reading more than we realize. Do we not read it on a regular basis because we assume that we have a pretty good idea as to what God wants from us? We may read devotions or other books that use the Bible as a reference, but are we frequently seeking God’s Word directly? Don’t get me wrong, I love devotion books. But I believe that the main source of Biblical nutrition should be the Word of God. Devotion books and other types of spiritual literature should be seasonings, not the main course.
I think about that scroll being “found”. If something is found, it usually means it was either lost, misplaced, forgotten, or hidden. 2 Chronicles 34:14 HCSB gives us insight as to the value and authenticity of what was found. “When they brought out the money that had been deposited in the LORD’s temple, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses.” Whether or not this was the actual original or a copy, I don’t think we know. But it is indicated that what was found was written by Moses, himself. Likewise, I don’t believe that anyone can say with certainty the who, the when, the why, and how that scroll or book came to be hidden away like it was.
There are a few schools of thought on this and I think each is a viable explanation. Matthew Henry’s Commentary states this: “It seems, this book of the law was lost or missing. Perhaps it was carelessly mislaid and neglected, thrown by into a corner (as some throw their Bibles), by those that knew not the value of it, and forgotten there or it was maliciously concealed by some of the idolatrous kings, or their agents, who were restrained by the providence of God or their own consciences from burning and destroying it, but buried it, in hopes it would never see the light again; or, as some think, it was carefully laid up by some of its friends, lest it should fall into the hands of its enemies.”[ii]
The thoughts are that the scroll was just tossed aside not considering its precious value. Or, during the reign of a pagan-worshipping king, the scroll was hidden so that God’s Word wasn’t available. Or perhaps, and this explanation is my favorite, is that some God-fearing Israelite took care to hide it away so that God’s Word would be kept safe.
Regardless of whether the book had been mindlessly tossed aside, concealed by paganists, or hidden away for safety, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the book was found when it was found. It was discovered when Josiah, a man who walked in the way of the Lord, was king. It was made public when reading God’s Word would have been the most impactful. When there seemed to be a return to God.
King Josiah’s small group that he had gathered go out to seek a word from God. They go to a prophetess who delivers this message from God. 2 Kings 22:15 ICB “15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I will bring trouble to this place and to the people living here. It is in the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. 17 The people of Judah have left me. They have burned incense to other gods. They have made me angry by all the idols they have made. My anger burns against this place like a fire. It will not be put out.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to ask the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the words you heard: 19 You heard my words against this place and its people. You became sorry in the Lord’s presence for what you had done. I said they would become cursed and would be destroyed. Then you tore your clothes to show how upset you were. And you cried in my presence. This is why I have heard you, says the Lord. 20 So I will cause you to die. You will be buried in peace. You won’t see all the trouble I will bring to this place.’”
Trouble is coming and rightfully so. God has been patient, but ultimately, the Israelites must suffer for turning their backs on Him. But God promises Josiah that he will not see it and that he will die in peace. Now, speaking for myself, if I had been a close friend of Josiah, I would have made sure that he was taking his vitamins and watching his cholesterol to make sure he lived as long as he possibly could.
How do you think King Josiah felt when he heard what the Lord had to say? Relieved? Maybe a little pious that his goodness had been recognized by God and, as a result, he’d be spared? Can you picture him shrugging his shoulders and looking at those around him saying, “Stinks to be you, am I right?” Not in the least. Instead, King Josiah was even more vigilant in the Israelites hearing God’s Word.
2 Kings 23:1 ICB “Then the king gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem together. 2 He went up to the Temple of the Lord. All the men from Judah and Jerusalem went with him. The priests, prophets and all the people—from the least important to the most important—went with him. He read to them all the words of the Book of the Agreement. That book was found in the Temple of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar. He made an agreement in the presence of the Lord. He agreed to follow the Lord and obey his commands, rules and laws with his whole being. He agreed to do what was written in this book. Then all the people promised to obey the agreement.”
Even though Josiah had been promised by God that he wouldn’t see the destruction of the remaining Israelites, he didn’t sit back and prop up his feet. Instead, he re-read the Words of God, shared them with others, from the least important to the most important people, and he publicly made an agreement to follow God’s commands. The reality of the depths of sin had been revealed to Josiah and he was concerned about the consequences of the sins of the Israelites. He realized that God’s wrath was imminent. Matthew Henry once said, “Those that most fear God’s wrath are least likely to feel it.” This certainly describes Josiah. He had been assured that he would not experience God’s wrath, but he still cared enough about those around him to set an example and pledged his obedience to God. And, as a result, all the people joined in that agreement.
King Josiah continued to clean up Judah. Any items that had ties to Baal, Asherah, or any other god or idol were destroyed. He had the bones removed from graves and the bones were burned on the altars to desecrate them. He’s looking around at the graves, the memorials, the monuments. Remember that prophet from 300 years earlier who had foretold of Josiah? 2 Kings 23:17 TLB “17 “What is that monument over there?” he asked.
And the men of the city told him, “It is the grave of the prophet who came from Judah and proclaimed that what you have just done would happen here at the altar at Bethel!”
18 So King Josiah replied, “Leave it alone. Don’t disturb his bones.”
The Word of God spoken to an unnamed prophet 300 years prior had been repeated from generation to generation so that the Israelites knew the words that had been spoken of their king. Is that not amazing?! King Josiah stood out from the other kings.
2 Kings 23:25 HCSB “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.” King Josiah was as close to being like King David as anyone could be. He was passionate about his love for God.
2 Kings 23:26 HCSB “26 In spite of all that, the Lord did not turn from the fury of His great burning anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had provoked Him with. 27 For the Lord had said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight just as I have removed Israel. I will reject this city Jerusalem, that I have chosen, and the temple about which I said, ‘My name will be there.’”
“God is true to His Word, extending grace and exacting judgment.”[iii]
Josiah was spared from experiencing God’s anger because he didn’t just read and hear God’s Word, he also responded. Grace was extended to Josiah and later, judgment was delivered to the Israelites.
King Josiah was killed by the king of Egypt when he was 39 years old. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz was named king, and “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestors had done.” (2 Kings 23:32 HCSB) He only reigned for 3 months before he was taken captive by the king of Egypt, the same one who had killed Josiah. That same Egyptian king takes it upon himself to name the next king and he chooses another of King Josiah’s sons. Twenty-five-year-old Eliakim. But the king of Egypt changes his name to Jehoiakim. King Jehoiakim was also evil. But you can see that the Israelites are losing control.
And so it went for the next 70 years. Nothing but evil kings. Unfortunately, the Israelites, who alongside King Josiah, had pledged to honor their covenant with God had not been sincere. God speaks of their pretense in Jeremiah 3:10 CEV “And worst of all, the people of Judah pretended to come back to me.”
God’s wrath does indeed come. The Babylonians came into Judah and they took all of the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the king’s palace. Thousands of Israelites were taken as prisoners of Babylon. And this happened because they had been warned time and time again that the consequences of their disobedience and betrayal of God were coming.
2 Kings 24:20 ERV “The Lord became so angry with Jerusalem and Judah that he threw them away.”
The Babylonians took control and Judah essentially was no more. Both kingdoms, Northern and Southern, had neglected not only God’s Word but God Himself. They had tolerated idolatry until they accepted idolatry. They then accepted idolatry until they started practicing idolatry. Idolatry and the abandonment of worshipping God and God alone paved the way for the rest of the wickedness that followed. Even though they were warned, alerted, and reminded that God keeps His promises – even the promise of His wrath – they continued to live with “spiritual amnesia”[iv]. They chose to forget the authority, the power of God despite all that He had shown them.
Please let me share these words of Jonathan Edwards.
“Their foot shall slide in due time (Deut. 32:35).
In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who
were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding
all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as ver. 28.) void of counsel, having no
understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and
poisonous fruit; Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following doings, relating to
the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.
That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places
is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon
them, being represented by their foot sliding. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether
he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning.” [v]
Would it surprise you to know that those words came from a sermon preached in the 1700s? They could have just as easily been said from the pulpit last week. We are surrounded by slippery slopes. We see people every day in our lives who walk in slippery places and know that it’s just a matter of time before they slip and fall. Truth be told, we all have our own areas that we don’t recognize as slippery slopes. We cling to the promise of God’s grace, but somehow forget to remember the promise of God’s discipline. We expect to see Ephesians 4:7 on a bumper sticker. “God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ”. But I can’t imagine you’ll see many cars with Hebrews 12:6 NLT on the back bumper. “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
We cling to the promise of God’s grace, but somehow forget to remember the promise of God’s discipline.
Spiritual amnesia is still a problem today. Are we ourselves choosing to live with spiritual amnesia like the Israelites did? Are we forgetting that the God we know has chosen us to belong to Him and that He desires a growing relationship with us? Do we forget to feel blessed? Are we building up our modern-day altars and worshipping idols of a different nature? Are we neglecting to hear the warnings of God’s discipline for the sinfulness that we’ve excused as “just being who we are”? Are we thinking that God’s wrath is just something that happened in the Old Testament and people today don’t have to worry about it? If any of this stings you like it does me, let me tell you like I told myself. Get your Bible and dust it off. Recommit yourself to reconnecting to God and repenting of the reoccurrences of sinfulness and disobedience by reinvesting in the relationship that is required to live within God’s will.
You just might find that there are a few things you’ve forgotten about.
[i] Explore the Bible by Bryan Beyer & Donna McKinney
[iii] Explore the Bible by Bryan Beyer & Donna McKinney
[iv] Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn