2nd Chronicles 34:14-21; The Discovery of an Old Book

There is a certain mystique and aura about old books. Ancient volumes carry the thoughts of a generation whose bones have turned to dust. They are ships voyaging across the oceans of time, their precious cargo despatched from the shore of another era. The language and learning, the facts and details contained in these old volumes are of greater value than all the gemstones in the world. No old book, however, in the history of the world ever had a greater impact than this discovery made during the restoration of the temple in the days of King Josiah.

1: The Title of the Old Book

the book of the law

2nd Chronicles 34:15

The book discovered during the rennovation of the temple, was the Torah, the five Books of Moses containing God’s regulations for His covenant people.

2: The Neglect of the Old Book

I have found

2nd Chronicles 34:15

The implication of this discovery is clear, the people for more than a generation were without the Law of God. Throughout the reigns of Mansseh and Amon there had been a neglect of the Scriptures. Apostasy is always associated with a neglect of the teachings of God’s Word. The Dark Ages, a name for the period prior to the Protestant Reformation, are known by this name because the Bible was not freely available.

3: The Finding of the Old Book

Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book

2nd Chronicles 34:18

Hilkiah the Priest on finding the Book knew the importance of its contents. In delivering the Book to Shaphan we observe the importance of the scribe in the spirual economy of ancient Israel. These old roles were reinstanted by Josiah and there is a coming together of like minds with the finding of this old Book. The Priest offered sacrifices and provided mediation but the Scribe had resposibility for maintaining the Scriptures. He copied the manuscripts, he burnt the old and torn manuscripts lest a partial copy be misconstrued and he filed the existing copies. The preservation of the Word of God was dependent upon the Scribe. Shaphan, however, was a scribe without a manuscript. There was the thought, I have no doubt, that as the Temple was restored and prepared for reopening that the Law would be found. This was eagerly antcipated. Therefore with joy Shaphan reported to the King, “Hilkah the priest hath given me a book.”

4: The Reading of the Old Book

Shaphan read it before the King

2nd Chronicles 34:18

The scribe then read the book to the King, just as Ezra the scribe, at later time would do for the returning captives from Persia. Carefully beginning with Genesis he filled Josiah’s mind and heart with things that he had never before heard, the eternal Word of the living God.

It is such a blessing that Hilkiah recognised the importance of the scroll that was found. Rev Andrew Stewart in “2nd Chronicles, A House of Prayer” speculates upon and applies the possibility of neglecting the Book:

The Book of the Law was just a dusty old scroll, lying in a corner of the temple. It could very easily have been swept aside by these who were doing an important task for the Lord. They were restoring the House of the Lord, not preserving ancient relics, and in so doing they might easily have missed the importance of the scroll. That would have been a tragic loss. But that is what busy Christians often do today. They are busy with Church life and meetings; they enjoy fellowship with other believers; perhaps they are out every night of the week attending Christian activities; but they hardly take time to read the Bible for themselves. If they do read it they barely take time to feed upon it, and listen carefully to the Lord as they read. That is why Bible believing Christians need to learn to be Bible reading Christians.

5: The Impact of the Old Book

“When the King had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes…Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.”

2nd Chronicles 34:19,21

Josiah in hearing Law read, listened eagerly and he learned. When Shapan reached the pasages concerning the judgements that the nation must face on account of sin the King was broken:

But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

Deuteronomy 28:18

Being painfully aware of the sins of his grandfather Manasseh and father Amon, Josiah reacted as he did because he knew that the die cast; judgement was coming.

Knowing that his only recourse is divine mercy he seeks a Word from God in this dark hour. He asks for the voice of the prophet, one who can bring a Word from God for His heart.

In a time when judgement was certainly coming, Josiah led the nation in the greatest of the Old Testament reformations. Like the 16th Century Protestant Reformation in Europe this work in Judah would be based upon the rediscovery of the Bible. The Book wasn’t merely discovered as an interesting historical artefact. It had a living message to covey. This was exactly what happened when Luther discovered the truth of Justification by Faith alone and when Tyndale translated the Scriptures into English. The Book lived, the Book converted, the Book breathed. If we are to witness a revival in this generation it must be a revival of the Book; its message needs to revolutionise and transform lives.

There is so much to learn from Josiah’s reaction that we would do well to take to heart. He had heard truth that was unpalatable, it condemned his people and him as the represenative of the people. He did not evade the issue, he did not invent excuses or flee responsibility. Like a man he faced the truth. As he faced the truth he tore his clothing, he wept and cried out because he knew that the broken heart alone will suffice in such an hour. When God lays his finger upon our sins there is no room for pride.

Josiah did more than simply cry and weep and rend his clothes. He sought a word from the Lord. He was thirsty for the God of his Fathers. He was doing a great work yet the Book did not commend and flatter him; instead he was encouraged and challenged to go deeper with God and revival came.

We may hence learn, whenever we read or hear the word of God, to affect our hearts with it, and to get them possessed with a holy fear of that wrath of God which is there revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, as Josiah’s tender heart was. When he heard the words of the law he rent his clothes (2Ch 34:19), and God was well pleased with his doing so, 2Ch 34:27. Were the things contained in the scripture new to us, as they were here to Josiah, surely they would make deeper impressions upon us than commonly they do; but they are not the less weighty, and therefore should not be the less considered by us, for their being well known. Rend the heart therefore, not the garments.

Matthew Henry

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