Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Huldah - advice for a young king
On Monday we read the passage that tells the story of Huldah, the prophetess, and the advice that she gave to young King Josiah. Let's look at her story in more depth now . . .
The backstory for all of this action is that Josiah's dad and granddad had been idolators, and had led the people in straying from Yahweh. Josiah's dad was called Amon (we saw yesterday that Josiah ascended to the throne when his dad was killed), and his granddad was Manasseh. They not only allowed the people to erect the poles that were used in Ashteroth worship, and the groves to idols, but they participated in the idolatry as well. (Great leaders, eh? Not just turning their eyes from the wickedness, but actually taking part in it, as well. Oy.)
So Josiah, having been brought up listening to the high priest's instruction, started purifying the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah. His ultimate goal was to restore the Temple; he wanted to bring his people back to the worship of the one true God. It was in the eighteenth year of his reign (he was then twenty-six years old) that he started the program to rebuild the Temple. And it was while those repairs were going on, that Hilkiah found the copy of the book of the law. We don't know if it was the complete Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) or if it was only a partial copy.
Imagine; the Word of God was lost in the house of God! Had it been discarded by the idolatrous people, or by a priest who went astray? Had it been carefully hidden and then forgotten? We cannot know the answers, but we can see the results: when the book was read to king Josiah, he realized just how far his people had wandered -- and he tore his clothing in repentance and regret. That's when he sent his officials to inquire of the Lord . . . would the dire happenings he had heard read actually come to pass? Would he and his people be judged and punished for their unfaithfulness?
Copies of the books of the law would have been either papyrus, or skillfully prepared animal skins, specially prepared from clean animals to be supple enough to take the scribe's writing and then be rolled and placed into a special container. Imagine Huldah's feelings as she received the scroll in her hands, and perhaps held it close -- the law of God that had been lost was now found.
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of
gold and silver. (Psalm 119:72)
She must have gently opened the scroll and begun to read the words. Carefully, from right to left, she absorbed the meaning, and then the words came to her from God. Pouring from her mouth as the men waited in front of her . . . She prophesied that yes, God was going to punish Judah, but that it would not happen during Josiah's lifetime or his reign -- why? Because he had humbled himself before the Lord; his heart was tender, and he repented.
What was king Josiah's response? In our passage, we see that Josiah shared the word of the Lord that came from Huldah with the elders of the land. He began to lead the way in a great movement of dedication, and he reaffirmed the covenant of God on behalf of the people of Judah. He went to the valley where wicked Manasseh had led the people in offering children to placate the idol Molech in fires of sacrifice -- he defiled it for the purpose of idolatry, making it a rubbish dump known as Gehennon valley. The Lord Jesus referred to it as a vivid illustration of the fires of hell, which cannot be quenched.
Josiah also uncovered the altar of the wicked king, Jeroboam, and the tomb of the prophet who warned Jeroboam of the consequences of his wickedness; he even fulfilled the words of I Kings 13 by burning the bones of the prophets of Baal. After restoring the Temple, he restored the celebration of the feast of the Passover, long neglected by the people. These were great reforms, and he offered great guidance to the people, but looking back on it, we can see that while Josiah's heart was pure and repentant, the people remained idolaters in their hearts.
Huldah was faithful to the Lord. It was probably not the most comfortable thing, with five high officials standing there, to prophesy about the coming punishment of the land of Judah. But she did, and she was used mightily by the Lord. Huldah must have been wise, for the king to send his men to her. We can assume that she must have been holy, for God sent His word for her to give to the men and to the king. She was a vessel for God to use. She was courageous, and most importantly, she was willing to be available for Him to use. We'll complete our study of Huldah tomorrow.