“Hilkiyahu the cohen hagadol said to Shafan the secretary, “I have found the scroll of the Torah in the house of Adonai.” Hilkiyah gave the scroll to Shafan, who read it. Then Shafan the secretary went back to the king and gave the king this report: “Your servants have poured out the money found in the house and handed it over to the people supervising the work in the house of Adonai.” Shafan the secretary also told the king, “Hilkiyah the cohen hagadol gave me a scroll.” Then Shafan read it aloud before the king.”  

(2 Kings 22:8-10 CJB) 

               Lately, I have been reading and preaching from the biblical accounts of the Kings of Israel and Judah. This week I have delved into the stories of Yoshiyahu (Josiah). He hardly has an auspicious start. His grandfather M’Nasheh (Mannaseh) had systematically perverted the nation’s spirituality, though 2 Chronicles 33 records his change of heart when he is brutalised in captivity in Bavel (Babylon) and his attempts to reform the nation. Yoshiyahu’s father, Amon, immerses himself in evil and is assassinated by his own staff who are then slaughtered by the people. Yoshiyahu is just 8 when he is made King. In my imagination I see a traumatised boy, fearful and uncertain, thrust into an impossible position beyond his maturity and capability. And yet, in God’s grace, he somehow found his way to a personal faith at the age of 16 and “…did what was right from Adonai’s perspective, living entirely in the manner of David his ancestor and turning away neither to the right nor to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, when he was still young, he began seeking after the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year, he began cleansing Y’hudah and Yerushalayim from the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and cast metal images.” (2 Chronicles 34:2-3) 

               What most struck me though, in the biblical accounts, is the story of the Torah scroll being found in the Temple during the rebuilding and restoration work that Yoshiyahu initiates. Most scholars agree that the scroll contained the core of the Deuteronomic covenant. If anything marks the depths of the spiritual void M’Nasheh and Amon had created, it is this astonishing fact that a Mosaic scroll had been ‘lost’ in the very place where it should have been central. It was physically lost: it is the builders who find it – not the cohens (the priests). It was spiritually lost: Hilkiyahu, the cohen hagadol (the High Priest), seems unsure what to do with it and hands it to Shafan the secretary. Shafan, a Civil Servant, is the one who realises this matters and that it is important, and he is the one who reads it to Yoshiyhu. And finally, it is Yoshiyahu – the boy who became king after regicide – who grasps how important this scroll is and reacts and organises a delegation to enquire of the Lord. It is Huldah the prophetess who finally confirms these are God’s words and of immense political and moral and spiritual importance. 

               I wonder if, like me, you can see some awful parallels to our own context and to our contemporary world. It is not just that society at large has lost its connections to God’s words but that we who should be anchored to these very words seem to be losing them too. While preaching this episode last Sunday, an unplanned aside came to mind (a God prompt?) and I mused aloud, “How many of us, for example, can recite even the Ten Commandments without having to look them up?” It led to one of those profoundly disturbing God-moments when we – a congregation of mature and long-standing Christians – struggled to collectively recall all ten and could not place them in the correct order and struggled to know which chapters we should look in to find the answers. It seems that we too have ‘lost’ the words of God. 

               So: here and now, as you read this, how would you fare on recalling the Ten Commandments? And this Sunday…when you meet with God’s people where you are: dare you ask?