WE HAVE NEGLECTED THE BIBLE
Josiah had stepped into a dreadful position. He was eight years old when he became the king. He had to rule over a kingdom where Manasseh had had things his own way for 55 years. Manasseh had only been twelve when he began to reign, so he had been King of Judah for the first half of the seventh century, from 697 to 642 BC. One might summarize those years by looking at chapter 21 verse 9 --he led the people astray so that they became more evil than the original Canaanites. How could a king lead a whole nation astray like that? It's easy if you don't have the Word of God. Judah had neglected the Word for centuries. In the Lord's temple were shrines to Baal and Astarte, altars to the signs of the Zodiac, and cult prostitutes -- but no Bible. Josiah was a conscientious young man who loved his people, but he was ignorant of God's Law . He was open to hearing it, so when he had an opportunity he listened. A wonderful thing happened as a result. As surely as Manasseh turned Judah away from God, Josiah strove to bring them back.
All around us is a culture as bad as, if not worse than, what Manasseh had bequeathed to Josiah. Our leadership alliance of the entertainment industry, the publishing industry, and the media, assisted by a willing government, goes out of its way to protect the practice of sodomy, forbids children to be taught the scientific fact of God's existence, supports an educational establishment which is the greatest hindrance to real learning in all history, and ridicules good manners. The whole culture sneers at traditional values. Whether we see twelve-year-olds acting from ignorance, because their parents failed to teach them good manners, or forty-year-olds acting from contempt because they rejected the manners their parents taught them, both are equally to blame for what has happened. Of course everybody watches too much television. Consider also the increase in vulgar language, or carelessness, or the way people answer phones. Traditional values are in jeopardy.
It wasn't just the secular society either. Josiah found the religious establishment catering to impurity and lust. While all the normal hanky-panky was going on, there was added to it cult prostitution, which was really a form of magic, witchcraft. There were idolatrous feasts, and I am not exaggerating about this last one, even the sacrifice of human children. Does that remind you of Planned Parenthood? How did God's chosen people get so evil? They were ignorant of the Word. What's more, Manasseh had made an unholy alliance with the Assyrians, a dominant political power in the Middle East, which committed Judah to paying tribute. He said it would help the economy, but nobody was any happier for it. If you get your information from the public media, you are doubtlessly learning how much better off you are with free trade and diversity, even though those are strategic liabilities. The Assyrians in our world are international banks and corporations who are slowly enslaving everybody else, which raising a second generation in the bliss of being unable to think. At least the Jews had Josiah. We have no public figure who will lead people to the Bible as it ought to be interpreted, according to the Rule of Faith.
God had intended for His house to be a house of prayer for the nations. There He had commanded His musicians to sing and play divinely-inspired Psalms, His elders to read from Moses and the Prophets, His High Priest to perform the atonement of Yom Kippur, and that His people should inquire of the priest who used the urim and thummim. In that sacred house God had ordained that the blessing of Aaron should dismiss the people on their way. He wants His houses of worship today to be springhouses of the Fountain of Life. Here He grants forgiveness, gathers His people to remember the Incarnation of His Son, listens to their praises, and to the petitions they bring to their Father, encourages them by Christian sermons, and offers the Savior's Body and Blood. How do we know that God wants those things? Because He tells us in the Bible. How do we know that He despises preachers who say that all religions are the same, that He frowns on self-help groups and bingo nights, that He grieves over laxness of discipline in His churches? In Josiah's time false prophets taught all those things. If our churches are sliding into the super-highway instead of climbing the narrow sheep-path, it's because we have neglected the Bible. Welcome to Cleveland, where your taxes built a $200,000,000 stadium, your lake front airport spends the 4th of July as the circus maximus, and your neighbors spend far more on videos than on Bibles and things that edify.
Don't say that the Bible doesn't address your needs. You don't know what your needs are. The fundamental needs of all men have not changed since Adam. Our Lord was a True Man, by which we do not mean He was an ignorant pre-modern. To think of Jesus that way is to hold Him in contempt. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not.
Josiah was willing to listen to God's Word. At the age of twenty-six he began a major restoration project for the temple, which by then was 350 years old. One of the construction crew came up with an old scroll. God had watched over that scroll all those years, protecting it from Manasseh, until a king could come that God could trust. The workmen showed the scroll to the high priest, Hilkiah, who immediately consulted with Shaphan, the scholar, who agreed that this was the Law of God. When the king heard the Law, he used it as a basis for a thorough reformation - getting rid of the idols, turning from the immorality, stopping the child sacrifice, and re-instituting the Passover. Just as God wants us to remember His saving acts in Christ today, so He wanted the Jews to remember His saving acts during the Exodus. That is why celebrating Passover was so important.
Like Josiah, today's church needs to listen. We have more than He had. We know the fulfillments of the prophecies. We know the real Passover Lamb who was crucified for us. We know the real Sabbath, the Lord of the Sabbath who fulfilled its mandatory rest in death, and fulfilled its ending by rising again. We know the real passage through the water, the passage into the kingdom of God by the washing of regeneration. We know the real High Priest, who offered His blood to make atonement. We know the true king, the Messiah whose kingdom will never end. If Josiah could reform Judah armed only with the Law and the Prophets, imagine what we could do when we add to that the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The power of the Bible is its testimony to Jesus Christ. That is why it has such miraculous power over human souls, and that is why our society needs to hear it, to be brought under its benign influence. Begin with the smallest society, your family. Study the Bible and observe its transforming influence. Then attend the more formal classes your church offers, and volunteer to improve educational programs wherever you are. Everyone needs the hope we have in Jesus. We would not have that hope but for the Bible. AMEN.
~Rev. Lloyd E. Gross