Monday, April 28, 2014

2 Kings 20-22 Book of the law in the house of the LORD

From 2 Kings 20-22

2 Ki 20.1-11; Hezekiah; Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery
2 Ki 20.12-21; Hezekiah; Hezekiah and the Babylonian Envoys
2 Ki 21.1-9; Manasseh; Manasseh Reigns in Judah
2 Ki 21.10-18; Manasseh; Manasseh’s Idolatry Denounced
2 Ki 21.19-26; Amon; Amon Reigns in Judah
2 Ki 22.1-2; Josiah; Josiah Reigns in Judah
2 Ki 22.3-7; Josiah; Josiah Repairs the Temple
2 Ki 22.8-20; Josiah; Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law

Passage and Comments
Hezekiah faces some serious tests of his faith through his reign. The biggest is the attack of the Assyrians. But the LORD was faithful to him and Judah and an angel won a terrific victory over them by an angel of the LORD. Probably the biggest defeat in biblical history. 185000 dead. Afterwards Hezekiah gets a bit too comfortable and shows some visiting Babylonians all his wealth. Little did he care that after his reign the Babylonians would eventually conquer Judah because she will abandon the LORD just as Israel did.

After Hezekiah’s reign came Manasseh. Manasseh was particularly bad and introduced all the pagan worship back into Judah. The LORD vows he will bring disaster on Judah because they have forsaken him and done evil in his sight. This was the last straw for the LORD. Manasseh’s son who followed him continued in the same kinds of evil.

Following this king we have another rare good king. His name is Josiah. He did right in the eyes of the LORD walking in the way of David his father (2 Ki 22.2). When he grows up he cleans out and repairs the temple which seems to need ongoing attention because of all the idolatrous kings. During the repairing they find a book.

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.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. (2 Ki 22.8-10)

Unlike now, books then were rare. There may not have been many copies of the Book of the Law at all. Its kind of a sad state of affairs that they find it because it means it wasn’t being used and read. But that is about to change. The book is read before the king. It must have been a long read.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13 “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.” (2 Ki 22.11-13)

Near the end of the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy) are the blessings and curses for breaking the covenant (Dt 28). The last punishment will involve them getting kicked out of the promised land. Chapter 30 discusses what will happen if this happens. Eventually the LORD will restore them. Josiah takes this seriously.

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. (2 Ki 22.14-17)

Its too late as I mentioned above. They can’t do anything to avert the LORD’s punishment. The LORD will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants.

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. (2 Ki 22.18-20)

Josiah heard the word. He humbled himself on behalf of himself and the people and he grieved deeply. The LORD noticed and Josiah was given a little grace. The calamity is put forward till after his reign.

Story of Israel
Because of the scarcity of books and the ability to copy them not many had access at all to the scriptures in Israel and Judah. If the current king was an idolater. Even less because the temple may have been overrun with pagan worship. The people were dependent on the LORD to send prophets to speak his word. The LORD was faithful and he did that. But the optimal solution is to have faithful priests reading and teaching the Law at the temple of the LORD.

Judah will suffer the consequences. But the book of the Law predicts their return.

5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 7 And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Dt 30:5–10)

And it predicts them coming again to the Book of the Law to learn of the commandments and his statutes of the LORD.

John Calvin, the great reformer wrote in his tome Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Therefore, while it becomes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, since a place has been assigned him in this most glorious theatre that he may be a spectator of them, his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the better profit. Hence, it is not strange that those who are born in darkness become more and more hardened in their stupidity; because the vast majority, instead of confining themselves within due bounds by listening with docility to the Word, exult in their own vanity. If true religion is to beam upon us, our principle must be, that it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching, and that it is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture. Hence, the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased therein to give of himself. For not only does faith, full and perfect faith, but all correct knowledge of God, originate in obedience. And surely in this respect God has with singular Providence provided for mankind in all ages. Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1845). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 1, p. 86). Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society.

The obedience Calvin refers to is reading and hearing the word of God. Through the scriptures we gain knowledge of God and faith. Judah suffered for the lack of the book of the Law. But none the less the predictions in it proved true with their return.

The reading of the book of the Law continues with;

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Dt 30:11–14)

Story of Jesus
The prophecy that predicted their return also is used by Paul to describe the coming of the Christ

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Rom 10:5–11)