“Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes.” 2 Chronicles 34: 18-19
After becoming king at age 8, King Josiah was said to have “begun to seek God” on his own when he was 16. After seeking God for 4 years, King Josiah was led by God to purge his kingdom of all its false gods. Then at the age of 26, having cleaned out his kingdom, he concentrated his efforts on repairing the house of the Lord. It was while the priests were clearing out the treasury in the house of the Lord that they found the Book of the Law.
Our text today gives us a narrative of the reaction King Josiah had when he first heard God’s law – he tore his clothes. Now if you have not studied the Old Testament much, King Josiah’s behavior may seem rather strange to you, so let me explain. Expressing outwardly extreme grief or sorrow during that time was done in the manner of tearing ones clothes. King Josiah showed through his actions how grieved he was over the chasm which was revealed to him through the reading of God’s Word. Such a discrepancy between the current lifestyle that existed in his kingdom to the prescribed lifestyle God called for in His Law.
Up until the revelation of God’s Law to King Josiah, Josiah had been living the best he knew how off the bits and pieces of information that had been passed down among his people as the way to live a life pleasing to God. But, God’s Word gave King Josiah a much bigger picture of what worshiping Him was really about.
Reading through the Law of Moses, basically the first 5 books of the bible, not only reveals many stories of God working through the patriarchs of the Israelite nation but also lays out the complete prescription God supplied His people so they could stay within His will. If you have never read completely through these books I would encourage you to do so. Leviticus and Numbers may be a bit difficult to understand if you have not read through them before, but with a good study bible you will make it through with a basic understanding of the text.
The reason I am encouraging the reading of these books is because too few Christians really understand God’s Word as a complete revelation. Instead, it is sad to say, but our Christian culture has taken the Word of the Lord and parsed into trite sayings or even worse the real text has been replaced with humanized versions (in reality shadows) of the real truth. Those types of practices then eventually lead these half-truths to become little gods in themselves as we find ourselves clinging to their words instead of letting the full truth of the complete text show us just how far our lives really are from God’s perfect standard.
The bible is not defined as a cushion for us to rest on, but rather a sword that cuts away the evil in our souls so it does not spread like cancer and take over. We are taught in Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Instead of looking to the bible for only simple sayings that comfort you and where you are at in your life, be willing to let God reveal through His word just how far you are from holiness. Be willing to have a heart like King Josiah that grieves any division He reveal to you. It is not until you put your life in this place before God, and are willing to let Him change you as He pleases, that your worship comes into a place where God is and where He can work in and through you.