Lost and Found

2 Chronicles 34:14-15

The Book of the Law Found

14 While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. 15 Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.

2 Chronicles 34:18-19

18 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.

19 When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I don’t think that any of us here today will ever be able to forget what happened on September 11, 2001, for that was the day when a group of terrorists affiliated with the organization known as al-Qaeda hijacked 4 commercial airliners with the full intention of turning them into weapons of mass destruction that would kill as many American people as possible.  Two of those planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, also known as the World Trade Center, ultimately resulting in the collapse of both buildings and the tragic deaths of nearly 3000 people.

Much discussion ensued later on about what to do with the site where those well-known majestic landmarks once stood.  Finally it was decided that a new tower would be erected there. It would be known as the Freedom Tower.  Work began on that building in 2006 and was completed in 2013.  This magnificent tower interestingly and I’m sure intentionally rises 1776 feet above the place where the Twin Towers once crumbled, that number – 1776 – representing the year our nation was founded.  Today it stands as a beacon of hope and freedom to all who come to our shores and as a visible testimony to the resolve of the United States of America and the people of New York City.

Well, a couple of years after construction was begun on the Freedom Tower, the unthinkable was reported in the news.  The plans for the tower had been found in one of the city’s trash dumpsters.  Those plans were clearly labeled: “Secure Document – Confidential” and they were found, believe it or not, by a homeless man who was looking for some cardboard to cover up with.  The 2 sets of blueprints were dated October 5, 2007 and they contained the following information: plans for each floor, the thickness of the concrete-core wall, and the location of air ducts, elevators, electrical systems and support columns.  Some felt it was more than enough information for someone to plan another terrorist attack if those plans fell into the wrong hands.

Now I know what you’re thinking: How in the world could something like that happen?  Well, according to one article I came across, and I quote: “The agency that owns the World Trade Center site, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, calls it a serious security lapse.”  A serious security lapse???  That’s putting it mildly!

When I read that story, I couldn’t help but think of another time in history when something even more important than those plans was lost.  Care to guess what it might have been?  Believe it or not, it was the Bible, not the Bible as we know it, but as much of the written Scriptures as were available at that time.  It’s a sad but very interesting story from the Old Testament that ties in well with what we’ve been talking about in a sermon series that I actually began preaching last July entitled “The Foundation of Our Faith.”  In my last sermon which was a week ago we finished up the section of this series in which we looked at some of the problems that can arise when people fail to read the Bible – what we’ve been calling biblical illiteracy.

Well, today we’re going to discover that while biblical illiteracy is not a good thing, it is also not a new thing.  It’s been around for a long, long time.  So I want to invite you right now to take a trip with me back in time to a period in the history of the Israelites when they were ruled by kings.  You may recall in one of my previous sermons we looked at a time when they were ruled by judges and we read how everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.  Or to put it another way, they were doing things their way rather than God’s way.  Well, it’s sad to say, but times had not changed much when we get to the period of the kings.

One of those kings that most of you are probably not very familiar with was named Manasseh.  He was the longest reigning king in the nation but he was also one of the most evil, vile, and wicked of the kings.  I mean this guy was bad – bad to the bone!  In 2 Kings 21 we’re told of some of his activities.  He worshiped false gods like Baal and Asherah and led his people to do the same.  He bowed down to the starry hosts.  He desecrated the temple of God in Jerusalem.  He practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists, things God had specifically and strictly forbidden.  He even offered his own son as a human sacrifice to the false gods he worshiped.  Verse 16 of 2 Kings 21 says: “Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.”  And so upset was God with this evil king and the entire nation that was following him that we read these interesting words from God in v.13 of 2 Kings 21: “I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.”

Well, in time Manasseh was taken captive by his enemies and led away to the country of Babylon where God finally got his attention.  And amazingly, this once arrogant and evil king humbled himself before the Lord and repented of his many wrongdoings.  And God had mercy on him and allowed him to return to Judah again and resume his reign there.  Only this time he did it God’s way rather than his own way.  And he led the people back to the Lord again.

But then he died and his son Amon became king.  And Amon took the nation back down into the same sordid cesspool that his father had led them into during his younger years.  Well, that lasted 2 years before Amon was assassinated and replaced by his son Josiah who was – are you ready for this – who was 8 years old when he became king.  Now obviously he would have had to have some adult help and supervision when it came to ruling the nation and it must have been some pretty good help because Josiah blossomed into one of the most godly kings the nation had ever known.  By the time he reached the ripe old age of 15 or 16, he was already showing signs of incredible devotion to God and spiritual discernment beyond his years.  At age 19 or 20 he began to chart a course that would lead his nation back to God.  He got rid of the idolatry that his father and grandfather had practiced and he began to institute both political and religious reforms to get his people back on track with God again.

Then something dramatic happened.  The beautiful, opulent, gold-covered temple that Solomon had built years before had fallen into disrepair.  So Josiah gave orders that it be repaired and restored.  And while they were working on it, a priest by the name of Hilkiah made a startling discovery.  In some dusty unused holy cupboard, he found what was known as the Book of the Law that God had given to his people through his servant Moses at Mt. Sinai.  In other words, he found their Bible.  Now think about that for a moment, my friends.  If he found their Bible, what does that mean?  It means that the Bible was lost, right?  And if the Bible was lost, then that means no one was reading it.  No one was preaching it.  No one was teaching it.  No one was studying it.  Talk about a major case of biblical illiteracy!  Is it any wonder why the nation had fallen into such spiritual disrepair?

So what happened next?  Well, when Hilkiah the priest discovered the Book of the Law, he told Shaphan the secretary to King Josiah what he had found.  Shaphan then told Josiah.  But he didn’t just tell Josiah, he read to him from the Book of the Law.  And when Josiah heard the word of the Lord and realized how far he and the nation had fallen from the laws of God, he tore his robes as a sign of great grief.  Then he called a city-wide meeting in Jerusalem and had all the people, from the least to the greatest, assemble at the temple.  There he read to them all the words that were contained in this book.  And the final verses of 2 Chronicles 34 tell us that they renewed their covenant with God that day and pledged themselves to serve him faithfully.  And then we read these great words about Josiah, this great king who started his reign when he was only 8 years old: “As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their fathers.”  Put simply, a return to their Bible resulted in one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of the nation.

That’s a great story, isn’t it?  But what does it have to do with us today?  Well, I think most, if not all of us here this morning would agree that we need a similar revival in our country today.  If you’ve ever attended a National Day of Prayer gathering which is always held on the first Thursday of May, you’ve heard God’s people praying for just such a revival.  Recognizing the slippery slope and the downhill slide that our nation has been on for the past several decades, it’s refreshing and encouraging to see Christians joining together and pleading with God for a spiritual revival that will sweep across our land and return us to the godly nation we once were.  And while that’s a great thing to pray for, the only way that that kind of revival is going to happen, my friends, is when we start doing what Josiah and his nation did in the story we looked at earlier.  We need to get back to the Bible.  We need to let that holy Word of God do spiritual surgery on our hearts just like it did with Josiah and his people.  We need to let it reveal to us the sin that has become all too commonplace in our lives these days.  We need to let it direct us to the paths of righteousness that God wants us to walk in rather than the paths that the rest of the world is walking in.  We need to let that holy Word humble us and bring us to our knees in repentance.  For in 2 Chronicles 7:14 God himself tells us: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Now I realize what I’m telling you is nothing new.  We all know up here in our heads that reading and studying the Bible is what we’re supposed to do.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll have to admit that knowing it and doing it are two different things.  So I want to close with a great story that I came across while working on this sermon that will hopefully motivate us to get back to the Bible, to get into the Bible, and to get out of the Bible the precious and priceless truths it contains.

This story is about a young woman who had a friend that recommended she read a particular novel.  So she went down to the local bookstore, purchased the novel, and began to read it.  She got through the first couple of chapters but didn’t find it to be all that interesting, so she put it up on the shelf and forgot about it.  Well, a couple weeks later she was at a party where she met this very nice guy.  And as they talked throughout the course of that evening and got to know one another better, her heart began to beat a little faster and she found herself being attracted to him.  When she asked him what he did for a living, he told her he was an author.  In fact, he was actually the author of the book that she found to be too boring to read.  What a coincidence, right?  Well, she didn’t tell him that, but I’ll bet you can guess what she did when she got home.  She got that book off the shelf and started reading it again.  And all of a sudden, it took on a whole new life, a whole new meaning, and she couldn’t put it down.

Now, what was the difference?  The difference was she had gotten to know and was falling in love with the author of that book.  And my friends, it is my contention that when we get to know and fall in love with the Author of the Bible, it will become the most exciting and interesting book in the world.  That’s my prayer for all of you here today, that you will do just that, that you will fall in love with the Author of Scripture, which is really a pretty easy thing to do when you think about it.  For he loved you first, long before you ever knew him or loved him.  In fact, he loved you so much that he gave you the best he had to offer in the person of his Son Jesus Christ who in turn loved you all the way to the cross where he suffered and died in your place to pay for your sins so that you might be able to one day have the joy and privilege of spending eternity in his glorious presence.  Once you understand all that, when you open this Book and start reading it, you will discover that you’re not just reading some ancient document, but rather you are reading nothing less than God’s personal love letter to you.  Amen.