So I was preparing to lead a devotional session this past week and made a startling discovery. I had decided to highlight young King Josiah who was described as a king who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” Josiah became king as an eight-year-old and then, as a teenager, decided to collect money for those repairing the house of the Lord. Interestingly, the Bible says that Josiah wanted the money given directly to the workmen; there was to be no accounting of the money because these workers were considered trustworthy, faithful people.
My idea for this devotional centered on an event that unfolded when Shaphan, the scribe, was telling Hilkiah, the high priest, to redirect the funds toward these trustworthy and faithful temple workers. As Shaphan talked with the high priest, Hilkiah revealed an incredible discovery he had made: he had found some long-lost scrolls that were, in fact, the Book of the Law of God. Shaphan, being a scribe, realized immediately the nature of what had been found and read the scrolls to King Josiah, who was so shaken by what he heard that he tore his clothes in despair.
Having read this story before, I had assumed that I understood what upset King Josiah so much. Yet it had always bothered me that the king did not seem a little more excited to find the actual words of God as they had been written down for the people of Israel. Then I made a startling discovery. I read the next chapter of the story (II Kings 23) and began to realize the people’s depth of sin, their distance from the principles laid out for them in the Word of God—and my own biblical illiteracy. Somehow, even though I thought I had read the whole story before, I had not remembered that God’s chosen people were worshiping idols in the temple itself, that there were living quarters inside the temple for male and female prostitutes, and that some people were actually offering their sons and daughters as sacrifices to the God Molech. This all seemed too incredible to be true. It certainly helped me better understand what Josiah had to do to cleanse the land and restore the Book of the Law to its rightful place.
It would be easy to pass all this sin off as the obvious result of the people not hearing the words of God read on a regular basis in the temple—and that would be partially accurate. Somehow, though, that seems like too simplistic an answer. Certainly the men and women who had heard the Book of the Law in generations past somehow stopped repeating these stories and talking about God’s law in their private family settings as well. It probably did not take long for one act of indiscretion and disobedience to lead to another before the law of God had been forgotten altogether.
Not only did I discover my own biblical illiteracy this week, but I also discovered how quick my heart is to judge. We have access to the Book of the Law in whatever translation we deem easiest to understand, and we do not have much human sacrifice taking place in our local churches. I wonder, though, how much we are actually reading and talking about the Word of God in our private family settings?
The scriptures in the book of Deuteronomy are pretty clear on this subject: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (11:18–21).
As we celebrate the beauty of the language in the King James Bible this year—at its 400th birthday—and are reminded of the accessibility of God’s Word to this generation with an updated NIV release, I look forward to talking about the Book of the Law more with my family and friends than ever before. Oh, what joy we have in seeing the law itself fulfilled in and through the life of our Savior in the New Testament! May the words of God be a living testimony in our lives this year and in the years to come.