March 8th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[2Ch 34:8-21 ESV] 8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD. And the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11 They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for binders and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12 And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadiah the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music, 13 were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service, and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers. 14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the LORD and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. 19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
What is hidden away in your attic? Maybe, if you’re the only ever owner of your house, there is little chance that anything is hidden there except what you’ve lost yourself. But if you’ve got an older house, possibly previous tenants have left things behind in the attic.
We hardly have an attic at our house, but I’ve found things in the basement. Just recently I fixing up the walls in my basement and I found a hinged hatch. And it was nailed shut on the end opposite the latch. So I had brief thoughts of gold bars and hundred dollars bills. And I pried it open, but sadly all that was in there was rocks and coal.
I’ve had slightly better luck here at the church. I’ve been cleaning a bit up in the belfry. And I’ve found some interesting things up there. An old oil can, old lightbulbs (that don’t work), hand-hewn wooden beams, and some Sunday School lithographs from 1918.
Well, the great irony is that one of those lithographs is a picture of the secretary Shaphan presenting to King Josiah the scroll found (maybe in the attic) of the temple. And it says “A Lost Book Found.”
And it is on this text that I’m giving the sermon today. The finding of the lost scroll in the temple.
Now, you might ask, “Why am I preaching on this topic?” And that would be a good question. And I think I have a good answer. In our yearly Bible reading plan we are now up to Deuteronomy. And if you’re following that plan, you should have read Deuteronomy chapter 1 yesterday. And today’s reading is Deuteronomy 2 and 3. Well, it is thought — and likely to be the case — that the lost scroll found in the temple by the High Priest Hilkiah and presented by the secretary Shaphan to King Josiah was, in fact, the scroll of Deuteronomy.
This was a literal rediscovery of the Scriptures.
And so in this text we’ll see how important this discovery was. And I’ll note how important this “Book of the Law” is for you and me today.
So we have three parts we want to look at.
I. Hilkiah’s Finding Of A Scroll.
II. King Josiah’s Reaction
III. Our Reaction Today
I. HILKIAH’S FINDING OF A SCROLL
We find ourselves this week in the time of King Josiah. That is the 7th century B. C. And King Josiah is one of those few good kings in Israel’s history. It is said of him in our parallel passage (2 Kings 22:2) that “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of David his father, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
The servants of the previous king, Amon, had conspired against Amon because he was an evil king. And they struck him down and made Josiah his son king in his place. So Josiah became king at only 8 years of age. And now we are in the 18th year of his reign. That makes King Josiah 26 at the time of this account.
And it is here that Josiah selects certain people to repair the house of the Lord; i.e. the temple.
Shaphan the son of Azaliah
and Maaseiah the governor of the city,
and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder,
to repair the house of the LORD his God
and they paid people to work on the temple.
Workman, carpenters, and builders. And they paid for quarried stone and timbers and beams.
The temple would have been in existence for about 300 years at this point. And repairs were needed. I imagine even stonework stays in place for only so long. Earthquakes, for one, can jostle stones loose. And a serious earthquake in about 750 B.C. is recorded in the Old Testament. (Amos 1:1) Possibly the temple needed repairs due to that earthquake, or perhaps just because of the impact of the people’s daily use of the temple. We also are told in the Scriptures that previous kings had poorly kept up the temple. We’re told that there were certain “buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin.”
What we see now in our account gives us a good precedent when thinking about upkeep of our own church, this house of the Lord.
APPLICATION: On Keeping House in the House of the Lord
So we see a number of important things here in the repairing of the temple. For one, the very desire to repair the temple is a good thing, and the money coming in to do it is also good. But lets look specifically at how the repairs are done.
1. There are both in-house workers and hired workers. This gives a good precedent for the fact that we as a church can hire outside help. For example, this last fall we hired a stone mason. He wasn’t a member of our church. And it was ok that we hired him. (It was also ok when the temple was first built and foreigners (from Lebanon) were hired to cut timber from cedar trees for the building of the temple.)
2. But also, it is ok for members of the church to do the work. In our passage the Levites are doing the supervision. And others have been hired as the accountants and paymasters.
So the repairing of the temple was done with both inside and outside workers. But it was all made possible through the tithes of the people.
II. KING JOSIAH’S REACTION
So, to return to our account, while repairing the temple Hilkiah the High Priest finds a scroll. I don’t know if he found it in the attic or in the basement or where he found it. But it was forgotten about. And thats where the problem lies. The Book of the Law of the Lord was forgotten about!
Now, I hope you know where your Bible is. And I hope it is not dusty, hidden away, forgotten about.
King Josiah recognized the problem when this forgotten scroll was found.
Now the scroll is called “The Book of the law of the Lord.” (They didn’t have bound books at that time, but scrolls that could be called books.) And this found scroll is thought by many to be the book of Deuteronomy. Or, rather, it is thought to be AT LEAST the book of Deuteronomy. It might also be more of the Torah. But references in the Bible show that the content found included words from Deuteronomy.
This is the book that we are now reading in our yearly Bible reading plan. Deuteronomy, from the Greek “deuteros” and “nomos” literally means “Second Law” or better translated as “copy”; because it is Moses’ retelling of the law that was given in Exodus. But the Hebrews knew it by the first words of the text, Devarim meaning “the words [of Moses].” Did you know this? There were no names on books/scrolls. So they were known by the first words. Genesis, for example, was known as “bereshith” or “In the beginning.” So in Deuteronomy we have the ten commandments listed for the second time, the first being in Exodus.
While this scroll was lost, it is apparent that the nation wasn’t very well following the Word of God. Because what happens when the scroll is read to King Josiah?
Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king. Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. 19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.
He tears his clothes. Why?
20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
It is said that the tearing of clothes was an expression of extreme grief in Biblical times.
And Josiah had extreme grief over the state of the people of the nation.
III. OUR REACTION
Now, what about us?
We have that same scroll. This amazing discovery in the temple, the Words of God through the prophet Moses.
I hope you haven’t forgotten to read the Bible. If you have, now is the time that extreme grief should dwell up in you. Now is the time for renewal. That is what we see in our passage – a call to renewal.
In your extreme grief you might not in these days tear your clothes, rend your garments.
But, using the words of Joel, we should “rend our heart, not our garments.”
Joel (2:13) says: “rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Rather than some outward show of rending your garments, the Lord desires a change in your heart. A renewal of dedication to the Lord.
Consider that for Josiah, while the money is spent on repairing the temple, a far greater treasure has been found. And not because it is a valuable artifact to sell, but valuable because it is the word of God.
We have that very treasure. And that treasure calls us to repentance and renewal in the Lord. And it calls us not to abandon the Lord. It calls us not to be a generation that departs from him. But to be a generation that repairs the house of the Lord and increases our devotion to Him.
In both the Kings and Chronicles account, Josiah says:
“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.
And he finds that disaster is coming upon Israel.
14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15 And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 18 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.'” And they brought back word to the king.
So disaster is coming upon the nation. But there will be a delay. Josiah will not see it.
What is that disaster? It is the coming of the armies of Babylon, the destruction of the temple, and the captivity of the people.
Indeed, great disaster awaits those who have fallen away from the Lord. But for God’s people, as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us “[the Lord] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
The apocalypse and disaster at the end of the world is being held off because God is gathering His sheep. His work is not yet done. And he calls us to repentance and to renewal.
So I want you to read Deuteronomy this week, as per our Bible reading plan, and consider it as a great treasure, what once was lost but now is found.
So what is in your attic? I hope its not your Bible.
And I hope your reaction is not like Hilkiah. He seems not to have been moved. But Josiah, makes a commitment. He, the elders, and the people will return to the Lord for worship, doctrine, and practice. Josiah leads the people back to God. He leads them back to God’s word and from there they find the only guide to faith and practice. Let us thank the Lord for his Word given to us in that guide. Amen.