Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
Imagine for a moment that you are taking a college course. The semester is almost over and you feel like you are doing everything perfectly. Then one day the teacher mentions something offhand about “continuing your weekly forum responses.” You instantly break out into a cold sweat. Everyone around you is nodding like they know exactly what she’s talking about. When class is over you open your class syllabus and scan the list of requirements to pass the course. And then you see it: Students must complete two weekly journal responses on the class’ online forum. The responses make up the majority of the grade. There’s no way you can pass the class!
If you’ve never had this experience, you’ve probably at least had a nightmare about it. The sudden realization that you haven’t been meeting an expectation. There will be consequences, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid them.
As we learned yesterday, Josiah was a good King, not turning to the left or the right. We don’t know the circumstances around Hilkiah finding the Book of the Law or why it was lost in the first place. We don’t know if Josiah was to blame for the neglect. What we do know is that the Hebrew people had shirked their side of the deal. They had broken the covenant with God, and as King, Josiah was the one held responsible. The Kingdom of Judah relied on Josiah’s repentance to save them from God’s anger.
What can we learn from this passage? We cannot minimize sin. Despite his righteousness, Josiah still despaired the knowing and unknowing disobedience of the people. Yes, grace is available to us. Yes, God forgives us if we repent. But sin distances us from God, and disobedience angers Him. He is the Good Father, but he is also the Lion. He is the God who creates heaven and earth, but also the God who “makes destruction flash forth against the strong.” We can rejoice that God is merciful to those who repent, (and to a far lesser degree we can rejoice that professors can extend deadlines), but we must repent in fear of God, knowing our sin is hateful to Him.