Midweek Evening Meditation
Evening Prayer and Reflection for Wednesday 24th June 2020
A candle may be lit.
The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
O God, make speed to save us: O Lord, make haste to help us.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us: and clothe us with power from on high. Alleluia.
2 Kings 22:
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”
Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
Many Christians don’t like reading the books of Kings and Chronicles and perhaps question why they are in the Bible at all; in the first century, Marcion even questioned if it was the same God as the New Testament. It is true that if you just dip in and out of the Old Testament ‘history’ books they can leave you feeling rather cold and traumatised. They portray selfish, power hungry people that are constantly leading the people of Israel and Judah astray, they take them into constant battles with huge loss of life, they are surrounded by their enemies, invaded by pestilence and have massive infrastructure problems; then to cap it all their God gets angry with them. And yet we argue that it was a very different society to today…..as we read this word I am struck by the similarities.
By way of background on today’s reading: King Josiah reigned from 640-609BC he was the king of Judah. If you remember, after Solomon the mighty kingdom that he had started to crumble and even the country itself split into two states, Israel in the north and Judah in the south – Judah is where Jerusalem and Bethlehem are.
The northern part (Israel) had already been destroyed and the Jews taken off into Assyrian captivity in 722BC, they were never really heard of again, although the Samaritan people of the first century claim to be their descendants.
Judah itself would also shortly go into Babylonian captivity in 597BC just a few years after Josiah’s reign. Prior to Josiah, his great grandfather Hezekiah was a brief respite in a longline of bad and rebellious kings. Hezekiah was the thirteenth king after David. Sadly Hezekiah’s son Manasseh didn’t follow in his footsteps and was possibly the worst king in their history leading the people into public acts of witchcraft and wickedness. Then his son Amon was similar but assassinated after just one year, hence the boy king Josiah, just eight years old.
For some reason, despite being a child Josiah decided to follow the example of King David and not his parents. Even though it is clear that they had no access to any scriptures. It was not until our reading today when Josiah was 24 that the scripture roll was found. We can also presume that there was no one alive who could remember Hezekiah’s reign, when he held off a siege of Jerusalem and prayed to God for help – sixty years earlier. So, even the High Priest appears not to know anything about the YAHWEH God. But before we jump to conclusions we must remember that this was an oral society. Prior to this book and chapter, there is no mention in the Bible of any written law or scripture existing, other than the Ten Commandments which were carved on tablets of stone around seven hundred years earlier.
Generations earlier, God had warned the Israelites to write down all the laws that he gave them – just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, (after the death of Moses and now under the command of Joshua). You must write them God said otherwise your people will be led astray. The laws say that you must choose a place to worship God (eventually Jerusalem and the temple) so as not to be distracted by other gods and altars. He also warned them about polygamy – which Solomon’s downfall. He also warned them later about wanting an earthly king like their neighbours rather than relying on God. Yet the Jews didn’t, in fact the first mention of any ‘written’ book of the law or scripture is in our reading when the scroll is found whilst temple repairs are underway.
So the child king decides to repair and restore the now 300 year old temple of Solomon. What the Jews call the first temple. Amazingly the mighty temple of Solomon is there in their midst and they appear totally un-aware or maybe just rebellious against God. It is looking more and more like today’s society; we have magnificent cathedrals and yet few people enquire as to who God is.
During the works, the ‘Torah’ book of the law was found and brought to the king. It is believed to be the book of Deuteronomy which would have contained all of the laws as mentioned above. We don’ know when this scroll dated from. The text is read to him and it appears to be ‘news’ to Josiah who reacts by repenting and tearing his cloths. Suddenly, everything came clear to Josiah, he was obviously a man who wanted to do what was morally and ethically right and then it’s as though his eyes were opened to God, like with Paul in the New Testament. It’s possible that he knew of God, (he must have done because he valued the temple), but he didn’t ‘know’ God.
Five hundred years later, Jesus would say to us all – there will come a time when you will all worship me in Spirit and truth – (in our hearts) there would be no need for a temple.
So, Josiah goes onto cleanse the temple and introduce reforms throughout the land. Sadly they are short lived as his successor kings drift from the faith and the Babylonian empire destroys Jerusalem and the Jews are taken into captivity for seventy years.
Time and again we see throughout the Bible, God using unlikely people to call his nation into repentence. He doesn’t want strong, mighty men he always choses the weak or the child so that there can be no boasting. Remember the story of David, the handsome young shepherd boy that God uses to defeat the mighty battle hardened Goliath with a stone.
Many of us older generation become fixed in our ways and maybe we should ask: what are the children and the weak and those people invisible to society teaching us today?
The account ends with the phrase: Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book.
God is so clean and righteous that he gets angry with sin and he wants us to do likewise.
Lord, create in us clean hand and a pure heart, forgive us all that is past and grant that we may walk with you in newness of life. Teach us too to be angry with sin and all that displeased you. Show us how and when to speak out and to declare your ways; may our lives be a witness to those around us and declare ‘My God, how great Thou art.’
O gracious and Holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you, through the power of the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Saint Benedict
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. Gerard Manley Hopkins – 1844-1889
God of life, be with you.
God of love, protect you,
God of light, you ensue,
Each day, each night.