The Lost Book of the Law
Upon Solomon’s death, the powerful and rich kingdom of Israel was split in two. Both the northern and southern kingdoms suffered from godless leadership, but the worst king was Manasseh, who sacrificed his own sons in the fire of Molech and put an idol of the Canaanite fertility goddess in the temple in Jerusalem.
Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, became king of Judah when he was only eight years old. Unlike his father and grandfather, Josiah tore down the pagan altars, pounded the stone idols into powder, and began repairing the temple. During the repair, Hilkiah, the high priest, found “the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses,” perhaps in a dusty unused corner of the Temple or in an area being repaired. During the previous almost 60 years when the people were worshipping pagan idols, no one had read the Word of God.
Hilkiah gave the book, probably Deuteronomy, to Shaphan the scribe, and Shaphan took it to the king. Josiah wanted to “do what was right in the sight of the Lord,” but his knowledge of what God wanted was based on tradition and hearsay. Now he listened to the words of God.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” “You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children.”
King Josiah, who had torn down the pagan altars, heard Shaphan read, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” He also heard, “If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, . . , the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you . . . because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
Josiah was humbled and tore his clothes, a sign of repentance. For nearly 60 years the Word of God had not been heard in
Judah and, while Josiah had been doing the right things, he could now do them for the right reasons—because he knew what God wanted.
Josiah brought all the people together and Josiah himself read “in their hearing” the book that had been found. He then committed “to follow the Lord and to keep his commandments.” And “all the people took a stand for the covenant.” “There was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart.”
Josiah and the nation of Judah were convicted by their failure to live according to God’s commands, they repented, and they committed to follow God’s words. Josiah then ordered Hilkiah and the doorkeepers of the temple to bring out everything that was evil in the sight of the God of the Book he had just read. And everyone watched.
Josiah and the nation were transformed by the reading of God’s Word.