Forming and reforming. We’ve been here six weeks now talking about how God moves in our lives to form us, to reform us. Today we are finishing up this sermon series as we are on, uh, Advent starts next week. How exciting is that? Show of hands, how many of you remember the. Child game, Crack the Whip. Were you at the front of the line, the middle of the line, or like me, a little kid at the back of the line? Your experience of how you remember that will determine where you were. I was small, so I always got stuck in the back. If you remember, that was a game where you get in a long line and you hold hands. The person at the beginning starts running, and you try to keep up. The name of the game is Crack the Whip. So at one point, they stop and they turn directions, and then it begins this snake thing. By the time the line would change two or three times, the people at the end of the back of the line usually went flying and rolling, only to have everybody laugh because it was funny.
I was reminded of the torture of this game This last week, when I came across a devotion on 2 Kings, chapter 22, written by Jane Fryer. She compares the reigns of King Hezekiah, Manasseh, Ammon, and Josiah to this game, saying the people of Judah during the reign of these kings found themselves whipsawed by the spiritual forces around them. You see, a godly king would come, he would make reformation, he would revoke things, or he would change things, and then he would die and an evil king would come and change everything back to the way it was. A godly king would be raised up, he would tear down all the idols, and then an ungodly ruler would come and he would put them all back up. Judah, like Israel before her, had become spiritually rooted. Sorry, spiritually rootless, not rooted, rootless. For they had not been firmly anchored in the Word of God for decades and for generations. And without the Word of God, they drifted into the direction of whatever political wind was blowing across them.
Reminds me of our world today. Elijah’s challenge to the Israel in the north, that we read a couple of weeks ago, certainly could have been given for Judah in the south as well. If you remember, Elijah said, How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, then follow him. Who are you going to choose to follow? Let’s pray, and then we will get into What God wants to give us today, dear Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, thank you for gathering us here today as your people. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit already here. Help him give him direction to teach us about your truth as he opens up our minds and he gives us ears to hear and hearts to receive the faith that you offer us and Holy Spirit take me out of your way.We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, this whip cracking for God’s people started, like I said, with a godly king named King Hezekiah. He was the great grandfather of King Josiah. He came to power and he brought a spiritual revival. The Bible says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that David, his father, had done. After he died, his son, Manasseh, and then Manasseh’s son, Ammon, who were the grandfather and father of King Josiah, came to rule. And these were two of the most evil kings that you read about in 2 Kings. The books of Chronicles. Manasseh ruled for about 55 years, Ammon for only about two, but boy did they do devastation on God’s people. The Bible says they both did what was evil in the sight of the Lord following the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had driven out before the people of Israel. In all of this, back and forth and back and forth, the book of the law had been lost. God’s word had been lost, either the ones that held his commandments and his covenants had either been lost on purpose or by accident, by evil kings who probably didn’t want to hear about God. That is, until Josiah comes along. We read in 2 Kings chapter 22 that Josiah was 8 years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem 31 years. His mother’s name was Judida. She was the daughter of Adiah. She was from Bozkath. Josiah, the Bible says, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father, David, not turning aside from the right or to the left.
Did you catch it? He’s eight years old when he became king. Eight years old. That’s a third grader. Think about your third graders. Either your kids or your grandkids. Would you have handed over the rule of a nation to them? Not in today’s day, would we? The Bible says that King Josiah yearned to know more about the God of King David as he grew up. By the time he was 16, he tried learning more and more about it. And he started to do a few different reforms in his immediate… Physical area during that time, but by the time he turned 26 in the 18th year of his reign, he had such a desire to know more about God, the God of his ancestors. Josiah wanted to renovate the temple of the Lord. The Bible says King Josiah sent his secretary, Shaphan, up to the temple to make sure Hilkiah, the high priest, got the money that had been collected and gave it to the people who were supervising the renovation. So Shaphan met Hilkiah and they did what the king had asked. And as Shaphan was getting ready to go back to the king, Hilkiah says, Oh, I have found…
The book of the law in the temple of the Lord. I want you to think about that for a minute. Hilkiah is the high priest of the temple in my mind. Now, this is me. This is not in the Bible. It for me, I can see they’re doing renovations, right? I can just see Hilkiah going into some closet somewhere that’s been stuffed with a bunch of junk and he’s moving it around because they’re gonna redo it. Oh, what is this? You know, the book would have been probably scrolls. I can see him picking them up, blowing them off. Oh, it’s the book of the law. He’s the high priest of the temple. How could he have lost it? Anyway, he gives it to Shaphan. He takes it back to the king. He tells the king, oh, we did what you wanted us to do with the money. And then he informed the king. Hilkiah the priest has given me a book. And Shaphan read it from in front of the king. Now think about this. The king has had a desire to know about God.
Even though, for all of this time, 26 years, he has not had the word of God. Spoken over him, read to him, and yet he’s got such a desire in his heart to follow the God of his ancestors that he’s doing all this renovation work and now for the very first time he hears it read to him. Listen to Josiah’s response. Verse 11, When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his robes. Back then, that meant he was in distress in a time of humble repentance before the Lord. So he gave orders to Hilkiah and Shaphan and some other people, Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all of Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.
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. So they went and they found the prophet Huldah. If you’ve got your Bibles either physically or on your, uh, iPhones, I invite you to open it up to 2 Kings chapter 22. Read along with me what the prophet says. She said to them, This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. Tell the man who sent you to me. This is what the Lord says. I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people according to everything written in the book the King of Judah has read. Because they have forgot forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.
Tell the king of Judah who has, who sent you to inquire of the Lord. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard. 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 accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all of the disaster I am going to bring on this place. So they took her answer back to the king. The word of the Lord.
King Josiah’s response to all of this blows me away every time I read it. He’s in the clear. The prophet has said to him, judgment is coming. It’s not going to be taken away this time. It is coming. But you tore your robes. You humbled yourself. Your heart was moved. You wept in my presence when you heard my truth spoken over you.
You are going to die in peace. Judgment is coming. The king has been told, you’re in the clear. He could have just forgotten about these people who just won’t get it. And he could have walked away, but King Josiah has a servant’s heart. And he has just been told that this nation and these people that he loves and he serves are going to be destroyed. Because judgment was coming and we heard a few minutes ago in the reading that instead of walking away and Washing his hands of his people instead King Josiah uses his circle of influence Now he’s a king, his circle of influence is different than ours, I get that. But listen to what he did. He gathered the people of God from the least to the greatest.
And he gathered them together and King Josiah read all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the temple of the Lord in their hearing. Imagine the scene. All of the leaders. From the least to the greatest, gathered there with thousands of God’s people, hearing the truth of God spoken for the first time in generations. I can’t even imagine what that would have been like. And then King Josiah stands in front of his people, and he renewed the covenant given to God’s people by God himself generations before this. He renewed it. I will follow the Lord and keep his commands, his statutes, and decrees with all my heart and all my soul.
Thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. And in the hearing of God’s word, in the renewing of the covenant, God’s people responded. We all pledge ourselves to this covenant. Have you ever had a time in your life when you did not have God’s love story at the Touch of your hands. Has there ever been a time when you haven’t had one or twenty Bibles at your disposal? How many of us have them on our coffee tables with all kinds of things written in them? I saw a woman a couple of weeks ago. She couldn’t wait to show me her Bible. She had pictures of family. She had death dates and birth dates and wedding dates inside of it. It was falling apart, but it was a cherished love story book for her. Not a fairy tale, but a real book that was alive and it was making a difference in her life. Does your Bible do the same for you?
King Josiah is not done. He leaves the renewing of the covenant. And he goes out into the countryside. And he tears down all of the idol worship. Altars and the poles. He says to Hilkiah, Get those things out of the temple. He kicked out the male prostitutes that were doing their job in the temple of the Word of God. Clean it out, not just physically restore it, spiritually restore it. And then he went from town to town to physically and spiritually remove and tear down and desecrate the idols and the altars and the images and the statues so that no one could ever again in his Presence, sacrificed their child in the fire of mulli or bow down to eth or to the vile God of Moab. And he didn’t just tear it down the way some of the other kings had done. He, he says he desecrated it. He dug up the bones of the evil priests and he burned them over the altars in such a way that the people never came back to that spot again. And when he was done with that, he goes back to Jerusalem, he gathers the people of God, and he says he gave an order, Celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.
The Passover, you remember when it was given back in Exodus? God commanded, my people, we’ll celebrate this every year. But during the reign of the kings, it’s celebrated three times. King Solomon, King Hezekiah, and now in the 18th year of his rule, King Josiah, when he’s 26 years old, gathers as many people as he possibly can, and he brings them back under the covering of the blood of the Lamb, Passover Lamb. When they slaughtered those lambs back on, before God delivered them out of Egypt, you remember what they did with the blood? They put it on their doorposts so that God would save them. And King Josiah did all of this because he knew he was saved and he was clear. But not his people, because judgment was coming, and he wanted them to be informed. He wanted them to know this God that loved them so much, that one day he would send his son as a sacrifice for them. This is a powerful story of hope. It’s the story of God forming and reforming over and over again his people. What about us?
We too have been told, and we have heard. The judgment is coming. How do we respond? Do we dig into the Word of God, allowing it to change our lives? When we come into this place week after week, hearing the Word of God spoken, hearing it read, hearing it preached, does it move our hearts to change? It convicts us at times. It encourages us at times. And at times, it should move us to go home to our lives. To ask God for forgiveness for the little g gods we have put in place, and we should destroy them, and we should desecrate the idols that we worship, and get rid of them so we don’t run back to them time after time. Does the Word of God do this in our lives? If not, why?
Does the Word of God in our lives, and I’m talking to myself more than anybody else, does it compel us? To go and gather as many people in the circle of influence that we have. Gather them together. Read it in their presence. Tell them about the Lamb of God who came, who took away the sins of the world, who can rescue people still from sin and darkness and disaster. Do we go tell the world about King Jesus? How he came, stepping out of heaven and took on flesh, walking among us. Do we go tell the world about King Jesus? How on the night in which he was betrayed, he celebrated his own Passover meal, his last one that he would ever eat. And on that night, he gave us the new covenant. That you and I come and we partake in. Do we go tell the world how he walked to the cross? How he spread out his arms, took the pain of the nails. How he shed his blood for us.
Does the word of God move us in such a manner that we cannot be silent any longer? Judgment was coming upon King Josiah’s people, God’s people. Judgment is coming upon the world. God looked down on King Josiah, tearing his robe, humbling himself before the Lord. And God is here, looking down upon us, humbling ourselves before Him today. He looks at us with such a love, so deep, none of us can ever fully understand it or comprehend it. Today, we remember Christ our King. And I pray that the Holy Spirit would come to our lives and give us a yearning to open up our Bibles, to read them, and to study God’s Word, so that it can bring faith, it can form us and reform us, and our hearts can turn to our God who loves us. This book, this Word of God was written not just for Josiah, and not just for the people of old, it was written for us too. Written so that we can know the God who loves us, who saves us, and delivers us.
And I pray that this be truth for us. Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we praise you for your love. We praise you for your mercy. We praise you for your grace poured out upon us, so freely from the cross, King Jesus, as you hung there in our place. King Jesus, we acknowledge your word of truth can only be useful if it is opened, if it is read, if it is absorbed into our minds and written upon the tablets of our hearts. Will you make it so? King Jesus, send the Holy Spirit to help us fall in love with your, with you, and with your story. So our Bibles may not lay dormant on the shelves of our homes, but instead be active and alive in our hands. As we open it, as we read it, as we share it with the world, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.