In the accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah–few of whom were godly–there are many events that seem somewhat strange to modern readers. One of them is found in 2 Kings 22. Josiah was one of the few godly kings. When he was a young man, he wanted to restore the temple of the Lord, which had fallen into disrepair. When the repairs were being done, the “Book of the Law” was discovered hidden in the building. There is disagreement about what this refers to, but all agree it involved at least part of the Law of Moses. Perhaps it was all five books, or it might have been only the Book of Deuteronomy.
Whatever it was, Josiah was unaware of its existence. In the account, even the priests were unaware. They soon saw how far short they had fallen in obeying its stipulations. How could this be? How could the nation in which the temple of the Lord was located, and to whom God had given the Law, not be conscious of what that Law said?
Maybe an analogy would indicate how strange this account is. Imagine that nobody living in the United States is aware of the US Constitution. While working on one of the Smithsonian museums, someone finds a copy. When it is read, the government quickly determines that we are not following it. It is impossible for us to even picture something like that happening.
How did it happen in Judah? First, it must be remembered that there were few copies of the Scriptures. They had to be copied by hand, and only a small percentage of people could read or write. It was left to the leadership of the nation to ensure that the people knew what God had said. In this, the leadership had failed miserably. For the fifty-seven years prior to Josiah’s taking the throne, two evil kings had ruled over the nation. The Word of God was neglected. It would not have been read to the people. Instead, these two evil kings pointed people to the worship of false idols. In fact, if we are completely honest, we can be sure that in many cases, copies of the Scriptures would have been intentionally destroyed.
Surely this was the desire of Satan. He would have wanted the chosen people of God to turn away from God and His Word. He has certainly done this throughout history. In the past, for example, the Catholic church changed the Scriptures from being written in the language of the people, substituting Latin, instead. Martin Luther fought against this trend and translated the Word into German so that that the common man in his country could understand it.
In the account of Josiah, what had happened to the nation was sad. The neglect of God’s Word caused Judah to spiral down into chaos. A few years later it would result in the people being taken away into captivity in Babylon.
What do you think about the state of things today? What is the state of Biblical knowledge among those who attend our churches? Does it appear that the Word of God is being neglected? Obviously, our leaders are not openly destroying the Scriptures, but the sad reality is that many, many Christians are voluntarily choosing not the read them. We have all heard the saying that the person who refuses to read is no different from the person who cannot read. That would apply to the Word of God. It is as if the Word of God has been relegated to a closet and people are not aware it even exists.
The great news is that God’s Word always survives. The kings before Josiah tried to eradicate it. They failed. The Catholic church did as well. The Lord said His Word will never pass away. Let’s read it and not be like the people in Josiah’s day,