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We are brought acquainted in this chapter with Josiah, the good king. Many of his pious deeds are recounted. The book of the law is found by Hilkiah. Shaphan reads in it before the king. Josiah's pious weeping in the rehearsal. He sendeth with humbleness to inquire of the Lord. The Lord's answer.
The most interesting circumstances for a gospel Reader to mark in those verses are the wonderful properties of grace. Josiah could derive nothing from his wicked father, either in precept or example, but what was evil. And yet we find in his early days tokens of grace. Oh! Reader! how sure and certain is it, that grace springs wholly from the sovereign pleasure and appointment of Jehovah. It ariseth from thee fountain head of everlasting love. Even so, Father (as our dearest Jesus explained it) for so it seemed good in thy sight. This is the sole cause. And therefore here must be ascribed the sole glory. Matthew 11:26 .
If the Reader will read the parallel history of this pious king, as it is more largely recorded in the book of the Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 34:0 . he will there find that in the eighth year of his reign, which was the sixteenth of his life, he began to seek after the God of David his Father. Oh! how lovely is early piety. There is another beautiful account to be noticed in those verses; I mean the faithfulness of the workman. No reckoning, it is said, was made with them, because they dealt faithfully. When labourers act in their worldly concerns as under the eye of the Lord, how very lovely and graceful is the sight. How exceedingly to be wished it is that gospel-times furnished out continual instances of this kind. And when piety is blended with honesty, and men are gracious as well as conscientious, oh! how blessed is the sight! We have a beautiful example of this in the workmen of Boaz. The Lord be with you, said Boaz to his reapers. The Lord bless thee, was the answer they returned. Ruth 2:4 .
This is a most interesting verse. It should seem very plain that during the long period that idolatry had prevailed in the land, not only the temple had been suffered to fall into ruins; but the very word of God had been so disregarded, that not a copy of it was among the people. It was God's command by Moses, that every king should himself write out a copy of it: Deuteronomy 17:18 . And there was a further command, beside that which concerned the person of the king in studying the law of God himself; it was to be publicly read every seventh year: Deuteronomy 31:10-5.31.13 . Reader! to what a deplorable state was the children of Israel reduced at this time, when so far from reading in the word of God; the very sacred book itself they had lost. Oh! ye that disregard your bibles, that pass by the reverence ye owe to the holy word of God. Behold here the dreadful effects of it. My soul! doth God's sacred word contain the words of eternal life, even Jesus and his great salvation? And is this precious treasure disregarded, slighted, overlooked by me? Do I suffer that holy word which is able to make me wise unto salvation; do I suffer if from Sabbath to sabbath to lie by on the shelf, until my sentence of everlasting condemnation might be, written upon the dust of it which lies upon the cover! Reader! I pray, God that this may never be your case nor mine. But what a mercy was it in God, to cause this copy which Hilkiah found to be secured during the whole reign of idolatry. Whose blessed hand was it that was thus commissioned of the Lord to put it in so secure a place in the temple? Let his memory be ever blessed. Some have thought that it was Moses, because we read that he commanded Joshua after he had finally read to the people the book of the law, to put it in the side of the ark as a witness for after ages, Deuteronomy 31:24-5.31.27 . But Reader! let it have been whom it may, have you thought of the mercy you and I have derived from it? Certain it is, that had this copy not been found, the hand that now writes; and the eye that reads those observations upon it, would never have known the one nor the other. Oh! blessed God! how evident from hence is it, even if there were no other testimonies, how evident from hence is it, that thou hast given us those scriptures of truth, from thy graciously watching over it! Oh! Lord, how gracious art thou, that so long a period of idolatry did not wear out thy long-suffering and patience! Oh! Lord, grant that I may esteem thy precious word more than my necessary food, and that it may be my study all the day. And let mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I may be occupied in thy word, I cannot help detaining the Reader with one observation more on this interesting verse, just to remark the distinguishing mercy of the Lord towards Hilkiah, that he should be the highly favored one to discover this hidden treasure. Reader! is not that minister of Jesus peculiarly blessed, whom the Lord honors with his secrets, and whom our Jesus commissions to bring out of his treasury things new and old for his household's use? Think, Reader! what joy the discovery of this blessed book must have given to Hilkiah, when he cried out in holy transport, 'I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord'. And let that soul describe his joy, for no language of another can express it, when from the word of God he can say, I have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth! John 1:45 , Reader! where was this book found? Was it not in the temple? Where shall you and I find Jesus, but in his ordinances, his word, his house of prayer!
What an interesting account this is! What a wonderful effect must have been wrought upon the minds of all the people, in the discovery of this inestimable treasure? How lovely a representation is given of Josiah? Surely all the people must have followed his example. Oh! Lord! what cause is there now that our hearts should be rent, in the dreadful views of sin which the world affords, and the awful threatenings thy word holds forth as the sure consequence of it.
How gracious an enquiry. Josiah compared the threatenings of God's law with the magnitude of the sins of the people, and he felt the dreaded punishment as already at the door. These are sure signs of a work of grace, when the inquiry goes forth in earnestness, What must I do to be saved! And when that enquiry is accompanied with what the Lord himself calls, accepting the punishment of our iniquity. Leviticus 26:41 . Reader! are you desirous to know whether a real work of grace is begun in your heart? Answer the question by these marks: Do you feel sin as exceeding sinful? And do you from your heart confess that while you seek mercy, you know yourself to be totally undeserving of it! These are precious tokens, because they lead to all precious Jesus. For surely, Lord, thou wilt be precious when I am brought to see that I am forever lost and undone without thee!
According to the dates of the prophets, Jeremiah had been preaching his sermons for five years before this event took place; and Zephaniah ministered much about the same time; yet Huldah, like another Deborah, was chosen of the Lord to be his servant on this business. And what a solemn strain is her answer delivered in. Nothing complimentary; nothing to soften the truth, though it be delivered to the pious Josiah. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you. Oh! for faithfulness in the ministers of the Lord Jesus. Most awful must it be in such, to accommodate themselves to the time-serving age of corruption, and prophecy smooth things to sinners, whatever their worldly rank may be.
How delightful are personal mercies, when the Lord separates between the precious and the vile; when the word of the gospel comes with distinguishing direction like a letter, to you is the word of this salvation sent. Josiah must have felt peculiar pleasure in this, to allay the grief, of his mind, in the prospect of the general evil coming upon his people. Reader! do not forget this one thing. As religion is a personal thing, until we have a conscious sense of a personal interest in it, and a personal enjoyment of it, the clearest views of divine things will bring no comfort. Balaam could, and did say concerning Christ, I shall see him; but then he adds that dreadful close to it, but not nigh. Oh! look to it that the word be an ingrafted word, for this alone will prove the salvation of the soul in Jesus. James 1:21 .
READER! are you young in years! behold the loveliness of early piety. What can afford a more interesting sight than to see our youths in the first days of their strength, asking the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, to join themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant which cannot be broken, and like Josiah, of whom it is said, that while he was yet young he began to seek after the God of his Father.
Reader! are you aged, or advancing towards the middle of life, and yet unacquainted with salvation, living without a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus! Oh! that God the Spirit, from your reading this delightful account of Josiah, may awaken your heart, and open your eyes to the love and glory of the Person and righteousness of Jesus, that now today, while it is called today, you may seek the Lord God of your fathers, before the night cometh when no man can work.
Precious Jesus! let the same impressions of grace which wrought upon the mind of Josiah, be in me. Lord, make my heart tender; give me to humble myself before thee: let my soul be bowed down in the dust in the contemplation of my own vileness, and the iniquity of the land, that when thou comest forth in judgment, thou mayest, blessed Jesus, be my strength, and the security of thy people in the day of visitation. And oh! Lord, grant that in thy blood and righteousness my soul may find an everlasting hiding place, both from the afflictions of this life and the terrors of the world to come. Yes! precious Jesus! on thee do I call, to thee will I come, by thee shall I be saved, for thou art my strength, and my song, and art become my salvation.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 22". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany