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September 24, 2017

Sermon II Kings 22:8-10  . . . “People to meet in heaven:  Hilkiah”

“People to meet in heaven:  Hilkiah”
II Kings 22:8-10

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

What’s the world’s largest undiscovered treasure?

Apparently, there’s some pretty nice stuff out there, ranging from seven Faberge eggs, stolen back in 1918, worth $20 million each, to lost ships filled with incredible treasures.

Think of the Flor de La Mar, for example, a Portuguese vessel that went down off the coast of Sumatra in 1511.  On board were two hundred chests of precious stones, with diamonds ranging from a half-inch to the size of a man’s fist.  Another ship, the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, wrecked off the Bahamas in 1656.  When divers found it in 1972, they recovered ten tons of goods.  Some say there’s another one hundred and forty tons waiting for the rest of us, if only we could snorkel our way down to it.

And that’s nothing to say of the legendary Amber Room dismantled by the Germans back in World War II, then packed into twenty-seven crates and shipped to somewhere in eastern Europe.  It was a room lined with panels of amber, gold, and mirrors once given as a gift to the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great.

Or think of the treasure meant to resupply General Custer’s army, lost in a mudslide deep in the Bighorn Mountains.  Back in the 1800s, it was valued at $375,000.  There’s no telling what it’s worth today!

Or if that’s just a little too far for you to travel, you could always make a day trip to Little Bohemia Lodge, near Mercer, Wisconsin.  Apparently, one day back in April of 1934, the FBI came calling on gangster John Dillinger.  That’s when he promptly ducked out the back door with a suitcase full of $200,000 in unmarked bills.  Then he buried it somewhere north of the lodge, where it remains to this day.

Happy hunting!

The world, it seems, is full of hidden treasures.

And strangely enough, in the book of II Kings, we find a story about another hidden treasure, one of the most important treasures of all time.  But you’ll probably never guess what it was.

If you would, please turn in your Bible to page 417, as I read the words of our text.  Let me start at II Kings chapter 22, verse 1, to give you a little context.

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.  His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.  And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”

Now if you don’t know the story, Josiah’s father and grandfather both were kings, but were about as wicked as they came.  The Bible says his grandfather, Manasseh, reigned for fifty-five years and “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  He built altars for Baal, Molech and Asherah in the Lord’s temple.  He burned his own son as an offering and had his fortune told by wizards, mediums and magicians.  As it says in chapter 21, verse 16:  “Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

And his father, Amon, wasn’t any better.  Chapter 21, verse 20, says, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done.  He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them.  He abandoned the Lord, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord.”

He was so bad, his own servants killed him.

And that’s why Josiah, at the tender age of eight years old, became king over Judah.

But wonder of wonders, as it said in chapter 22, verse 2:  “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”

And in the years that followed, he began to turn his kingdom upside down.  He tore down those altars and temples once built by his father and grandfather, kicked out those pagan sorcerers and priests, and led his nation to once again worship the Lord.

And what was his top priority, the number one thing he knew he had to do?  Repair the temple of the Lord!  Rebuild and restore the sanctuary, the house of the Lord.

So he gathered together quite a lot of money, and hired a number of skilled workmen—carpenters, builders and masons—to repair the house of the Lord.

And as they were digging and lifting, pounding and scraping, guess what they found?  Look with me at chapter 22, verse 8:  “And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’”

“Book of the Law in the house of the Lord”?  What could that possibly mean?

Let me take this apart for a moment, because it’s one of the most amazing passages you could ever find.

Simply enough, the “Book of the Law” is the Pentateuch, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible—you know—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the books of Moses.

And if I could mention, commentators believe that this wasn’t just any copy of the Book of the Law.  This was the original copy, the very one written by Moses himself.

Is it any surprise Hilkiah found it there?  It shouldn’t be.  In fact, that’s exactly where Moses told them to put it, in Deuteronomy 31:  “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God.”

Now if you haven’t quite connected the dots, if something’s been found, that means it’s been lost.

And when something is lost, it means people had long since forgotten the treasure that was hiding inside.

Think about it!  For as many as eighty years(!), the people knew nothing of the words of Genesis:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Or the commandments found in the book of Exodus:  “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Or the words of Deuteronomy:  “See, I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

Or think of the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob, Rachel and Leah, and their twelve sons.  There’s the story of Noah and the ark, of Moses and the burning bush, of manna in the wilderness, water from a rock, and the parting of the Red Sea.  And think of the wonder and the beauty of the Promised Land.

And who found it?  Hilkiah, the high priest!

What does that mean?  It means that not only had the people lost the books of Moses, the high priest did too!

Can you imagine the look on his face when he found it?  Slowly and carefully, he lifted it up from its place, buried beside the ark.  With reverence and fear, he brushed off decades of dust and read its deep, penetrating pages.  Here was the long, lost testimony of Moses.  Here was the heart-rending, soul-piercing, grace-filled word of the Lord.

And just as soon as he found it, he took it to Shaphan, the king’s secretary.  And just as soon as Shaphan saw it, he took it to the king.  And just as soon as the king saw it, look at verse 11:  “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.”  He was so moved, so shocked, and so stunned, he not only wept (v. 19), he tore his royal robes.

As hard as it is for us to say it, just as the people of Israel once lost the Word of God, we in America have too.  As one author put it, “It’s been lost at the altar of consumerism, lost among the idols of religious celebrity, lost among the junk of personal experience, lost among the crooked priests of worldliness, lost in the icons of comfort and ease, and lost at the worship of choice.”  And he said, it tastes great, but it’s less filling.  The Gospel Lite does little good.

A test of Bible knowledge was once given to five classes of high school seniors, and most every class failed the exam completely!

Some thought Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers, that the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John.  Others said Eve was created from an apple, and that the stories Jesus used in teaching were called “parodies.”  (No, it’s “parables.”)  And more than eighty percent of the students could not complete familiar verses like, “Many are called, but few are (chosen),” and “A soft answer turns away (wrath).”

Remember when Jesus rose from the dead and walked with Peter along the beach.  Three times, He asked him, “Do you love Me?”  And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I do.”

Then what did Jesus say?  He didn’t say, “Thrill My sheep,” or “Entertain My sheep,” or “Please My sheep.”

Instead, He said, “Feed My sheep.”  Admonish them, nourish them, encourage them, feed them.  And that’s what each one of us must do.

It’s amazing what you can find hidden in a book.  Adam Tobin, owner of a used book store in Brooklyn, New York, even set up a display of the things he’s found.

He said, “It’s a motley assortment…there are postcards, shopping lists, and concert tickets, but my favorite are the cryptic notes.  They are often deeply personal and can be very moving.”

Sure there are strange things, like a dried banana peal, a bone from a chicken drumstick, and a slice of raw bacon.

But there are valuable things too, like a $500 savings bond, diamond rings, and a Christmas card signed by Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz.  Someone even found forty $1,000 bills!

You know what you’ll find inside this Book?  You’ll find words like these:  “For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  And the words of Isaiah:  “The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.”  And the words of Jesus:  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

As William How once wrote in the words of a hymn:  “O Word of incarnate, O Wisdom from on high, O Truth, unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky!  We praise Thee for the radiance that from the hallowed page, a lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.”  

 

We thank You, dear Father, for Your Word, that strengthens, admonishes and encourages us, sharper than any double-edged sword.  May we read it, mark it, and learn it, that we may find rest for our souls.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen

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