The Threefold Path to Spiritual Renewal

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“And Hilkiah [c. 639 BC] the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, 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.” ~2 Kings 22:8

Throughout history the world has responded to the power of the written word. During the American Revolution, the book, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine helped to create a certain mindset in the colonies encouraging freedom from England. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited with turning multitudes against slavery in the United States. The work, Mien Kampf, written by Adolph Hitler, set forth the basic program of National Socialism.

Of far greater impact is the power of God’s Word. “Is not my Word like as a fire?” saith the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). And the answer is yes. When God wants to deal effectively with a people, He sends forth His Word.

In the seventh century BC, God wanted to deal effectively with the nation of Judah, and so, in His providence He arranged that His lost Word would be discovered by Hilkiah the high priest. The finding of the Law is very instructive.

First, the lost Book teaches there can be much religious activities apart from the Bible. Though the Word was lost, Israel still had a spiritual life because of the sacrifices, prayers religious buildings. However, religious rituals can never fully satisfy the soul. For “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It was St. Augustine who said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Christianity is not about rituals, but about a relationship with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Second, the lost Book testifies to the fact the Word of God can be lost in the place of God or in the sphere of existence one would normally expect the Word to be.I was speaking in a Lutheran church one Sunday morning, and invited the people to open their Bibles for a Scripture reading. There was the strange sound of silence. Not a page rustled. I was surprised. I had expected the Word of God to be in a place where it should be, but wasn’t.

Third, the lost Book testified how easily it is not to care that the Word of God is not present. The lack of caring whether or not the Bible is present is found in shallow statements such as, “Doctrine divides, therefore do not get controversial. Truth is relative. It does not matter what a person believes.” Therefore, it does not matter if the Word of God is present or not.

Of course, this liberal philosophy is not applied to accounting. No one wants the bank to call and say, “There is a dispute about how much money is in your account. One teller believes one amount is there, another teller is not so sure –but it doesn’t matter.”  And you would say, “Oh yes, it does matter!”

If the doctor’s office were to call and a nurse were to say, “We are not sure what your problem is. One doctor wants to operate and another does not, moreover they are not sure where to operate— but it does not matter.”

You would say, “Oh yes it does matter!”

Only in religion is truth and the Word of God suddenly not important. Few seem to care if the Word of God is literally present or not. But Christians should care, and meet often for fellowship in the Word.  We want to honor the Word of God. We need the Bible. It is our moral compass in life.

During the early days of World War II, when the Nazis invaded France, French citizens took down all signposts. As the Nazi armies advanced, they did not know which way to turn, or in what direction lay their objective. Does it seem to you that many of the ancient signposts of life have all been taken down? They were not taken down by us to confuse the enemy; they were taken down by the enemy, to confuse us.

We do not know which way to turn until we open the Scriptures.

The only reliable signposts are there. It does matter whether or not the Bible is present.

Fourth, respect for the physical safe keeping of the Bible can be neglected.Apart from the grace of God, the Word of God can be lost to any given generation, not only symbolically by neglect of reading, but literally.  There have been many attempts to destroy the Bible off the face of the earth. In 303 A.D., Diocletian, the emperor of Rome, ordered that all copies of the Bible were to be destroyed. In fact, he was so confident that he would be able to stamp out the Bible that he had a medal engraved and the words on the medal said, “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods is restored.” He was a little premature in making that claim.

Concerning the Bible, century follows century…

There it stands.
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten
There it stands.
Dynasty follows dynasty
There it stands.
Kings are crowned and uncrowned
There it stands.

Despised and torn to pieces
There it stands.
Storms of hate swirl about it
There it stands.

Agnostics smile cynically
There it stands.
Profane punsters caricature it
There it stands.

Unbelief abandons it
There it stands.
Higher critics deny its inspiration
There it stands.

Thunderbolts of wrath smite it
There it stands.
An anvil that has broken a million hammers
There it stands.

The flames are kindled about it
There it stands.
The arrows of hate are discharged against it
There it stands.

Radicalism rants and raves against it
There it stands.
Fogs of sophistry conceal it temporarily
There it stands.

The tooth of time gnaws but makes no dent in it
There it stands.
Infidels predict its abandonment
There it stands.

Modernism tries to explain it away
There it stands.”
~A. Z. Conrad

The Bible has shown itself to be impervious, imperishable, impregnable, indissoluble, and invincible toward the vicious assaults hurled against it throughout the centuries. In spite of its enemies, the Bible lives. The Bible surpasses all other books in its popularity and its influence. It has been translated, in whole or in part, into at least 1, 907 languages and dialects and has been circulated by the billions of copies into every corner of the world. Bernard Ramm wrote, “A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.”

A second event God arranged in the seventh century was that His Word should be brought before the right king who would appreciate its teaching. The sensitive king was a man named Josiah. At the tender age of eight, Josiah had begun to reign. At age twenty-six, he was prepared to be used by God to launch a spiritual revival in Israel. 

When Josiah had the Word of the Lord brought to his attention, the providence of God so decreed that of all the possible readings, those words which spoken of divine judgment would be read. Exactly what portion Shaphan the scribe read to the king is not recorded. What is known is when the king heard the Words of the Law  “that he rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11).

Perhaps Shaphan found the place in Leviticus 26, which outlined the penalties of disobeying God’s commandments.

The penalties include:

terror, consumption and sorrow (Lev. 26:16),

defeat in battle (Lev. 26:17),

failure of crops to produce (Lev. 26:20),

destruction of children and livestock (Lev. 26:22),

annihilation of cities (Lev. 26:31)

and national disintegration and deportation (Lev. 26:33).

When Josiah heard the frightful predictions of judgment God would exact on His rebellious covenanted people, the Bible says Josiah was afraid, and he rent, or tore his clothes in anguish. Josiah was suddenly terrified God was ready to unleash His wrath against the nation. Calling the priests together a royal command was given. “Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13).

A question had come to the king’s mind. Would God really punish His people so severely?  That question is being asked today. Will God really deal harshly with His holy nation, the Church, when she ceases to be holy?

To find the answer to his concern, Josiah sent Hilkiah, and a delegation to inquire of a woman, a prophetess named Huldah, who kept the priestly wardrobes in Jerusalem. Receiving the delegation, Huldah had an answer from the Lord. The answer was in two parts.

First, God was determined to exact divine justice upon Judah. “Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read” (2 Kings 22:16). However, God would delay judgment for the sake of Josiah. “But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; 19 Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD” (2 Kings 22:18-19). Here is grace mixed with judgment, and a number of points to consider.

Notice first the relentless determination of God to deal with sin. God had given His Word in His Law. It will be kept. “Thus, saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read” (2 Kings 22:16).

Second, consider the justice of God’s determination to deal with sin. “Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore, my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched” (2 Kings 22:17). It was because Judah was guilty that God would act.

Third, consider the importance of a righteous person in averting sin’s judgment.  As Moses intervened on behalf of the Exodus generation, and as Esther appealed to the Persian king Xerxes on behalf of her people (Esth. 5), so Josiah would make intercession on behalf of the seventh century Jews. When Josiah discovered that God would delay the execution of wrath to give the nation time to repent, he did not use the time as an opportunity to sin more grievously. That is how God’s grace is often treated. The longsuffering of God designed to lead a soul to repentance, is used as an opportunity to do more evil.

Josiah began a religious national reform, first by restoring the temple (2 Kings 23: 3-7, 2 Chronicles. 34: 8-14), second, by renewing the covenant (23: 3) and third, by demolishing idolatry (23:5).

First, the temple was restored. Repairs were made on all the breaches of the house (2 Kings 22:5). Whatever facilities the Lord has entrusted to His people must be maintained as best as possible. It is a sacred duty.

Second, King Josiah renewed the covenant between the people and the Lord. “And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3-4).

Third, false idols were demolished. “And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven” (2 Kings 23:5).

Spiritually, this is the threefold path to spiritual renewal. Those attitudes and actions which morally defile the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit must be stopped. A renewed commitment must be made to keep the new covenant. And all the idols of the heart must be demolished. In particular, covetousness must be smashed. Colossians 3:5 commands, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Covetousness makes a person unhappy, even in the midst of a multitude of divine blessings. Covetousness creates not only an angry spirit, but also a selfish spirit. It does not want to share. It does not want others to have more than self has. Covetousness causes the heart to wish the downfall of others including loved ones.

It was a day of grace in the seventh century BC when the Word of God was rediscovered. It was a day of blessing when King Josiah led the nation in moral and religious reformation. It was a time of personal spiritual profit when the citizens of the land began to long for God and for His Word.

In all of this there is room for application today for a church is only as strong as the individual understanding of the Word of truth and the application of the Bible to experience. Oh, let the church today stand in judgment upon herself and seek moral and spiritual reformation.

In order to encourage a love affair with the Word of God, Psalm 119 cites specific rewards for those who take time to dwell in the Law of the Lord.

First, life will be lived with less sin.  Psalms 119:3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

Second, the heart will understand more spiritual truths. Psalms 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Third, the heart will find spiritual encouragement during the dark days of life. Psalms 119:28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.

Fourth, spiritual strength and courage will be found not to sin. Psalms 119:37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

Fifth, the soul will find comfort in the Lord. Psalms 119:52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.

Sixth, the heart will have discernment and knowledge. Psalms 119:66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.

Seventh, life will be characterized with inner joy. Psalms 119:111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

Eighth, daily praise will be found to offer to God. Psalms 119:164 Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

Oh, it is good, very good to discover, read, and appreciate God’s Word. I hope you will find it afresh in your life. Amen.

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