I had the pleasure of teaching Bible study last night and we covered “Josiah’s Reform” (2 Chron. 34). I began by rehearsing Israel and Judah’s history of on-again-off-again idolatry, as is my custom, and something struck me when we got to Josiah. By the time Hilkiah the priest “found the Book of the Law of the LORD” (2 Chron. 34:14-15) it had been about 23 years (give or take) that Judah was without the Law (all of Amon’s reign).* That in and of itself isn’t so striking, but what is striking is when Josiah took the word of the LORD, which he had received from Huldah, back to the people and we see who exactly he was speaking to. 2 Chronicles 34:29-31 says:
29 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 He went up to the temple of the LORD with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites–all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. 31 The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.
I began to ask myself just what the priests and Levites had been doing for all these years without the Law of the LORD. How had they ministered in the temple of God without God’s standards in place? And how had they gone all this time in the temple without discovering the book of the Law of the LORD? What parts of the temple were they inhabiting? What kind of service had they been offering? How corrupt was the priesthood at this time?
I applied this text to our modern situation by asking if God’s standards are in place in our service to him. Have we been ministering according to God’s standards or our own? Are the things that are important to God important to us? Is our preaching based on the text of Scripture or do we just use the Scriptures the legitimize whatever it is we already think or feel? These are important questions and if the history of Israel and Judah can teach us anything, it’s how detrimental abandoning God’s standards can be.
*I have to admit that I focused my attention on Rehoboam’s initial abandoning of the law in 2 Chron. 12:1 about 300 years earlier and didn’t mention Amon last night. In rereading the narrative I see that I would have done much better to spend time on the kings in between Rehoboam and Josiah since the back-and-forth obedience/disobedience motif would have only strengthened my point. In my defense, I had to be finished by 9:00 PM, and going over that would have put me over time.