Stroll through Scripture for Sunday, November 26, 2023 – 2 Kings 22:1-10, 14-20; 23:1-3
This passage of Scripture is about Josiah, one of the few “good” kings of Judah, and certainly the last good king that Judah would see. Josiah reigned from 640-609 BCE. And it is this passage of Scripture, specifically verses 14-20, that give us a preview of what is to happen to Judah.
It’s important to keep a few dates in mind to better understand what’s going on. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE, 80 years before Josiah becomes king at the age of eight. And the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians will take place in 586 BCE, just a couple of kings after Josiah.
2 Kings 22 has a specific focus and agenda, leaving the reader with many questions that are unanswered. Questions like was Josiah really in charge at the age of eight, or did some else run things until he was older? When the high priest Hilkiah find “the book of the Law” (vs. 8) is that the entire scroll of Deuteronomy or just a section? And how on earth was the law missing from the Temple? Or was it hidden to protect it because of the actions of a previous bad king who was unfaithful to God? We aren’t given any answers to these questions.
The main point of 2 Kings 22 is that the book of the law is found after it had been lost for a long time. In a way, this is exactly what was going on in Judah – the ways of God had been lost, the people and the nation were lost spiritually and morally. Sure, there was a Temple in Jerusalem that could not be missed, but worship of Yahweh was set aside for other gods throughout the land.
Secondly, we hear about Josiah tearing his clothes when the scroll is read to him. Josiah is a considered a good king because he wants to follow God and is distraught that God’s ways were not only forgotten, but purposefully ignored. He is also a good king because he implements a major reform of the worship life and practice of the people, centering worship back at the Temple and cleansing the Temple of the items used to worship Baal and Asherah, throwing out priests throughout Judah for their unfaithfulness, and destroying the sanctuaries dedicated to other gods.
Questions for Reflection – In what ways has our society turned away from God? I’m sure your list is likely long. But be careful, if the list is only pointing out “those other people over there,” then it is incomplete. We are all human and fail to follow God faithfully all day, every day. In what ways have we pushed God aside for other “gods” that we pay attention to? Ouch, that’s a bit close to home, isn’t it? As we approach the season of Advent, a time of preparation for Jesus, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we, like Josiah implementing reforms in the religious life of the people of Judah, can be reformed by God, cleansing God’s temple (each one of us and our bodies), in order to be a suitable temple for God to dwell. How might we symbolically tear our clothes and purge ourselves of the items used to worship other gods that grab our attention in life so that our attention and focus is on God?