Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 30 2019 - 2 Kings 22 – The book of the law

We return for a few days to the book of Kings. King Hezekiah has died and was succeeded by his son, Manasseh. Manasseh, "did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites" (2 Kings 21:2). He reversed the good work of his father by rebuilding the high places, erecting altars to Baal and even installing altars to "the starry host" (21:3) in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and erecting an Ashterah pole there. He "led Judah into sin with idols" (21:10). God declared he would "wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes out a dish, wiping it and turning it upside-down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies" (21:13-14).

Manasseh was succeeded by his son, Amon who, "worshipped the idols his father had worshipped, and [bowed] down to them. He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him" (21:21-22). On his death, his son, Josiah, succeeded him as king, and this is where we pick up the story in 2 Kings 22.

Perhaps it's fortunate that Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king. He had not had time to learn from the awful example of his father and to become trained in the idolatrous worship that surrounded him from birth. Josiah, we read, "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left" (22:2).

Hezekiah had stripped gold from the temple in a vain attempt to buy off the threats of the King of Assyria. Amon turned the temple into a place of idolatry. Josiah was determined to restore the temple as a place devoted to the worship of the Lord. He commanded that carpenters, builders and masons should be entrusted with the money that had been collected in the temple and that they should set to work buying materials and repairing the house of the Lord. In a remarkable verse we read that the king said, "But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings" (v.7). Such honesty could put accountants out of business.

During the renovations, the high priest discovered the Book of the Law in the temple. The book was brought before Josiah by his secretary (someone able to read and write), who read it to the king. As the king listened he tore his robes in a sign of repentance. "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", he said (v.13).

The high priest went to the prophet Huldah to find out what the Lord had to say. The answer taken back to the king was this: "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says … because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people – that they would become a curse and be laid waste – and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place." (vv.18-20). God's judgment is coming on this rebellious nation, but Josiah's repentant heart over Judah's sins, his prayers to the Lord and his determination to turn the people back to single-minded devotion to the Lord, have averted judgment during his lifetime.

We have a king in the Lord Jesus who came into the world to turn the hearts of rebellious men and women back to the Lord their God. By his death in our place, he has not averted the judgment of God for a generation, but has utterly turned away God's wrath by taking it upon himself. We have the promise of living in the embrace of God's love in Jesus Christ for all eternity. Jesus our Lord and King now leads us in paths of righteousness for his own name's sake.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for our great and glorious Saviour and King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us by your Spirit always to hear his voice and follow him.

Peter Misselbrook