READ – 2 Chronicles 34:14-22
The story of Josiah comes near the end of the book of Chronicles. In fact, Josiah is the last king to receive a “good” report from the sacred story chronicler of Israel’s history. Before him, his father and grandfather had brought the nation to its spiritual low point. After him, his son Jehoahaz begins Judah’s final descent into the ruin and tragedy of exile. In between such stark and sober reminders of how far away we can wander from God, Josiah’s story gives hope and direction for all who seek to see their lives renewed in relationship with God.
SUMMARY: God brings renewal to our lives through the discovery and continual rediscovery of His voice speaking to us in Scripture - his written word.
THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE
When Josiah became king of the nation of Judah, he stepped into a miserable spiritual situation. For 57 years, his grandfather Manasseh and his father Amon had abandoned their faith in the God of Israel and sought to eradicate any and all memory of Him from the land. In large part they succeeded. The temple was filled with the idols of the surrounding nations. The sacred scrolls of Scripture were hidden and forgotten. The people followed the cue of their leadership and no longer believed in or followed the God of the Bible. If we think the Bible is marginalized and neglected in our day – it was far, far worse when Josiah began his reign.
But Chapters 34 and 35 of 2 Chronicles tell us that an unprecedented renewal of repentance and renewed commitment to one true God happened under Josiah’s reign. 2 Chronicles 35:18 tells us nothing like it even happened in the days of David and Solomon. “Throughout his reign they did not turn aside from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.” How did such a dramatic spiritual renewal happen? It was the rediscovery of Scripture that was the turning point.
The written word of God, “the book,” carries with it the very power of the voice of God. (See 1 Thess. 2:13.) It is powerful enough to bring renewal into our lives and relationship with God no matter how low we go, how far we stray or how resistant we are.
REDISCOVERING THE POSTURE FOR HEARING SCRIPTURE
The mere presence of Scripture didn’t result in the massive corporate renewal. The rediscovery of Scripture must be accompanied by a rediscovery of the posture for hearing it that unleashes its transformative power in our lives. Josiah’s story shows us three postures that unlock this power:
· Tenderhearted Posture – The prophetess Huldah tells Josiah – “because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words… God says ‘I myself have heard you.’” It was the tenderness of Josiah’s heart that opened his life up to renewed relationship with God. The opposite of a tenderhearted posture for hearing Scripture is a hard-hearted posture. Why do we harden our hearts? Isn’t it to protect them, to guard them from rebuke and painful change? Surprisingly, though God does rebuke Josiah deeply, he speaks tender words of peace and removes all judgment from him. The tenderhearted always find that God never wounds us or breaks us without healing us and restoring us with words of grace and forgiveness.
· Personal Posture – A personal posture hears God’s word as directed to us personally with specificity to our lives and situation and prayerfully lets the Bible read us (not the other way around). Instead of standing over the Bible in judgment, or standing beside the Bible to judge others, a personal posture kneels under Scripture.
· Communal Posture – Listening personally does not mean listening only privately to God’s word. Josiah needed help to apply the Scriptures to his life. He asked his friends to “inquire” of the Lord as to how what he read should impact his life. We all need the outside experience, perspective and wisdom of others to respond rightly to God’s word.
REDISCOVERING THE HERO OF SCRIPTURE
The hero of Josiah’s story is clear – it’s Josiah. When he was king, the people were faithful. As soon as he died, the people went astray again. What’s the lesson? It’s not enough to look at Josiah as example. We must also see that the story presents him primarily as hero. His story was meant to instill hope in the original readers not to give up on another king from David’s line who would come to lead the people in a rediscovery of Scripture and its renewing power.
The Bible tells us that a hero-king did come. He was a king with a fully tender and humble heart, a perfectly obedient life built on obedience to God’s word and he celebrated a Passover that exceeded even Josiah’s. This, of course, is King Jesus. At his Passover meal, he spoke of establishing a new covenant for covenant breakers. In this covenant, he would give his obedient life and spill the blood of his tender heart in their place. He did all this so that people would rediscover the heart of the Scriptures – the story of a Savior-hero who came to do what we never could. When we read Scripture looking for more to do, we miss the whole point of the book. We’re meant to read Scripture looking for Him – as we find Him, we discover the renewing power of his gracious word.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. How would you describe your relationship to the Bible currently? What would you say are the most significant obstacles for you in having a vibrant and consistent practice of hearing/reading Scripture?
3. Josiah’s story demonstrates the power of God’s written word (“the book”). Where do you most need to hear the powerful word of God bring renewal to your life? Has God been bringing any passages to mind?
· OPTIONAL GROUP EXERCISE: Have group members share other passages of Scripture that are relevant to each members’ response to question 3. Pause to pray Scripture into each person’s needs/circumstances.
4. Which of the three postures listed above do you find most difficult? Why? Would you add any other postures that have brought the Scriptures alive to you?
5. How can we tell if we are taking a hard-hearted posture to Scripture? How has God softened and humbled your heart to get his word into your life?
6. Read Luke 24:27. The resurrected Jesus explained that Scripture could only be rightly interpreted and applied if we realize that it’s not a book that gives us instruction to be our own hero; it’s a book that is about him. Why is it so important that we rediscover the hero of Scripture?