Rediscovering God's Word

rediscovering god word

2 Kings 22:8 – “And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.’”

This was a moment of great irony during the reign of young King Josiah of Judah. How could it be that the Word of God was lost and apparently lying unnoticed in the house of God?! Hilkiah the high priest was clearly carrying out his duties without any reference to the Book of the Law! It seemed that Shaphan, the king’s secretary did not even recognize the significance of rediscovering the Book of the Law. Shaphan casually referred to it as, “a book” (v. 10). It was a moment that epitomized the extent of the apostasy that marked the nation of Judah at that time and should serve as a warning to us today.

King Josiah inherited the throne after his father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh, had led Judah into widespread idolatry and corruption. But then the Book of the Law was rediscovered, and Josiah was shocked when it was read to him for the first time at age 26 (v. 11). In that reading, it is likely that Josiah heard about “all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law” (Deut. 29:21b). The king responded by tearing his clothes in an act of deep repentance and fear.

Deut. 31:9-12 reminds us that, “Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them: ‘At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that He will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing….that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law’”.

Sadly, Israel failed to obey Moses’ command to publicly read God’s Word to the nation at a time when copies were not widely available to the people. No doubt, this sin contributed to Israel’s rapid slide into apostasy. They stumbled in the darkness due to the lack of a guiding light. Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. As an example of how far Judah had strayed, we see that one of King Josiah’s major reforms was the reinstitution of the Passover ordinance according to the instructions written in the Book of the Law (2 Kings 23:21). “For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah” (v. 22)!

The annual Passover observance was intended to remind Israel of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the official birth of the nation. “Then Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place’” (Exo. 13:3).  It was an opportunity for parents to educate their children about God’s gracious dealing with Israel, His omnipotence, and His purpose for them as a nation. It is almost incredible that the Passover was not kept since the time of the Judges, considering that the period included the leadership of such godly men as the Prophet Samuel and King David.

Approximately two thousand years later, the New Covenant people of God (the Church) found themselves in the same sad situation. Secular historians have referred to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance as the “Dark Ages”. The name was intended to signify a lack of scientific and cultural progress. However, it could better be marked as a period when God’s word was lost. By the sixteenth century, the dominant Roman Catholic Church was steeped in idolatrous worship, superstition, and corruption. Papal bulls superseded the Bible. The common people were strictly denied access to the Bible except when it was selectively read to them by the clergy. But once again, God mercifully stirred the heart of a young man within the walls of a German Augustinian monastery. That monk was Martin Luther.

 Luther’s probing questions and his exposure of corrupt practices, like the sale of indulgences, helped to kickstart the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Spirit illuminated the Scriptures to enable Luther to grasp the precious truths of the biblical gospel that, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) and that it was “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22). The Reformers recognized that it was the rediscovery of God’s word that made the light to shine again into the darkness. The Latin phrase, Post Tenebras Lux (After Darkness Light) was adopted as the motto of the Protestant Reformation.

While the issue of justification by faith alone became the material cause of the Reformation, it was recognized that Holy Scripture was the formal cause of the Reformation. Fundamentally, the apostasy was the result of the failure of the church to recognize and obey the authority of the Bible - the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

Fast forward now to our modern era, a mere five hundred years after the Reformation, and we find that the church has again slipped into deep apostasy. Even those churches that emerged from the Reformation have now become spiritually dormant and no longer preach the truth of the gospel. Over the last two centuries, we have seen the rise of several cults and charismatic organizations that preach dangerous heresies. Once again, it is noteworthy that the fundamental cause of modern apostasy is the ‘loss’ of the Bible. But this time, the irony appears in the fact that, while we have Bibles of various good translations widely available, there is widespread ignorance of Biblical doctrine due to unbelief and a lack of interest.

For example, the American Bible Society recently published the results of its research on the State of the Bible 2024. In the preface of its report, the Society sounded an alarm over “this moment of declining Scripture engagement”. It noted that this was occurring amid a great wealth of Scripture availability! It would come as no surprise if the findings of the American Bible Society are representative of the state of Bible literacy in the rest of the western world. The old African proverb, “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty”, is certainly appropriate for our time!

Will God respond mercifully as He did in the days of King Josiah and Martin Luther? Will He again bring a revival of His people? We can only pray earnestly for this to happen. Only the Holy Spirit can convict the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” (John 16:8). Therefore, let us beseech God to fulfill His promise to His people: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

But God did say that His Spirit would not always contend with man (Gen. 6:3). God made this statement back in Noah’s time and the universal judgement (flood) finally came in those days. It is true that God has been longsuffering with man’s rebellion since then. However, this cannot continue without end (1 Thess. 2:7). The hour of His righteous judgement must eventually come upon this earth. The day and hour have already been appointed (Acts 17:31).


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