Bible Readings for Monday February 7th, 2011 – The 5th Week of Epiphany
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances.
107. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word.
108. Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your ordinances.
109. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
110. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
111. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
112. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.3. In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying,
4. “Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people;
5. let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the LORD; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house,
6. that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house.
7. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”
8. The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it.
9. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the LORD.”
10. Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.” Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.
11. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.
12. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah, saying,
13. “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
14. So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her.
15. She declared to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me,
16. Thus says the LORD, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants– all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read.
17. Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.
18. But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard,
19. because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the LORD.
20. Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place.” They took the message back to the king.2. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
3. “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”
4. But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
5. So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
6. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
7. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,
8. as it is written, “God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
9. And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10. let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and keep their backs forever bent.”
- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm119:105
- The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. – 2 Kings 22:8
- … as it is written, “God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” – Romans 11:8
They’d lost the book of the law. The people of Judah had lost the book of the law. Are you reading this? Is it sinking in? The temple priests, the kings, the people… were all living day in and day out in a shadow, an echo of the word. Mostly remembered, preserved in pieces, the complete book of law was lost to them. Until Hilkiah found it, secreted near the holy of holies during the repair of the battered temple.
This is incredible to ponder. It confirms that at numerous time throughout our human history, for one reason or another, mankind has existed for generations without access to the word. And nearly every time, the loss of the word was due to the covetous and jealous actions of those in power. In the instance of King Manasseh (the longest ruling king of Judah, two generations before King Josiah from today’s reading), he worked with abandon to re-institute pagan worship rites into the temple only to watch as it all was swept away by the Assyrian Empire, kingdom and word. More recently (1000+ years ago), in the case of the early and medieval Roman Catholic church, the word was sequestered away out of a sense of mistrust of the common people, and with control of the world always foments a lust for power.
However, since the reformation of Martin Luther (500 years ago) and the mass production of the bible on the printing press, the word has permanently become a fixture in the lives of humanity. But are the results evidenced in our lives any different than in the time of King Josiah?
Without access to the word, the people of Judah struggled with morality (lying, fornication, etc), idolatry (both literal and spiritual, i.e. they cared more about money than God), and wicked actions towards each other (cynicism, callousness, gossip, mistrust, etc). Today, with uninhibited access the word, we still struggle with morality, idolatry, and wicked actions towards each other. Hmmmm… not exactly the paradigm shift one would hope for.
How can this be? How can we still be so vulnerable to all of the evil things in this world? The hard truth is, it is becuase we still are cut off from the word. We allow others to control it, and when we do have access to it we show very little interest. Almost every American household has a bible in it somewhere, however very few Americans have actually read it. And then they cram into churches where charismatic leaders tell them their version of the bible. Most of us don’t care to read the word of God on our own. Have you even read the readings for today(top of post), or are you just reading my interpretation of it? Sadly, I bet most skipped the actual readings today.
In order for the word of God to begin to soften our hearts and be “a light unto our feet”, we must be exposed to the word regularly. The word becomes so alien to our ears when we do not hear it regularly, but it afflicts us deeply when it is finally revealed to us. It is in this act of afflicting out hearts that the word starts to work in our lives. It causes us to seek, which causes us to know ourselves and then to know God all the more. And finally at the end of our seeking lies the comfort of the word, the light that guides our hearts and our way.
What I find amazing about all of this is even when things look their darkest, such as they did to Elijah, when he lamented to God that he thought everyone living had turned against God and want to kill Elijah, “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life”. But God revealed that Elijah was not alone, and things are never as dark as they seem, for God revealed “a remnant 7000″ who had not given themselves over to idolatry and still celebrated the covenant.
Today, God’s “secret remnant” is quite large… in fact it’s everybody. Because of the actions of Christ, we are all cleansed through his blood and bound by the holy spirit, we are all part of God’s “secret remnant” chosen without merit of our own (Grace), we just need to realize it… and want it. But, alas, we still live our lives ignorant of the word and grace, worshiping our American Idols and our cars and our money, ignoring the cries of the needy, ignoring the word, neglecting our calling and our covenant.
But as God has done so many times before, patiently enduring our selfish lives, God still loves us, and is steadfastly waiting for us to pick through the rubble of our modern-day “temples” and rediscover the word. Waiting for each of us start to apply it in our daily lives and change the world.