SERMON TITLE: 2 Chronicles: A Passion for the Word of the Lord
TEXT: 2 Chronicles 34:1-21 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. Now — if you’re joining us online or at our North Main Campus — I need to let you in on a little secret that’s not so secret to our County Road 9 Campus — I’m not actually with you this morning. I’m actually out of the country right now — halfway around the world meeting with some recent Bible school graduates and local pastors. We’re a church that’s all for going and making disciples of all nations — so that’s where I — and some of your fellow Gateway members — are today.
Now — you may be wondering — “Why not have someone else preach while you’re gone?” That’s a great question. The reason why I’m preaching via video is because there’s one last sermon in our Finding Jesus series that we need to get to this year and the alternative to me preaching via video is me preaching twenty-four hours after getting back to Findlay. And no one needs to hear a sermon from jet lagged Josh.
So — even though this is a bit different for some of us — there’s still one thing I want all of you to know — whether this is your first time with us or if you’ve been part of Gateway for many years — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
And we’re finishing up our Finding Jesus series for this year. In this series I introduce you to a book of the Bible that you may or may not be familiar with. So I’ll give you an overview of the book — followed by a closer look at a particular section of it. And then — and this is what I hope is most helpful — each week I show you how to find the one story the whole Bible is telling — the story of Jesus — because the whole Bible is ultimately pointing us to him.
And in this iteration of our Finding Jesus series — we’ve been looking at the books in the Old Testament referred to as the history section. What these books have in common is that they cover the historical events in the life of God’s people. Some of the books cover hundreds of years while others cover a brief period of time — but — together — they tell the history of God’s people in the Old Testament. And — today — we’ll be looking at the book of Second Chronicles. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Second Chronicles chapter thirty-four.
In previous weeks we’ve looked at Joshua, Judges Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First Chronicles. And — if you can believe it — we’re now gonna take a break for our Christmas series — which will begin in two weeks — before we finish up the final three books in the Old Testament — Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther — early next year.
BACKGROUND OF SECOND CHRONICLES
Now — let’s take some time to get our bearings in the book of Second Chronicles — and I hope you’ll see that this is a book you’ll want to go read for yourself.
So let’s start with some basic questions about the book — such as — who wrote it? As I mentioned last week — like many of the historical books — we don’t know who wrote Second Chronicles — or First Chronicles — for that matter. And — similar to the books of Samuel and the books of Kings — the two books of Chronicles are really one book — but were originally written on two scrolls — which is why we have a First and a Second Chronicles in our Bible.
Additionally — and I’ve mentioned this in a couple of earlier sermons in this series — originally some of these historical books were placed in a different order in the Old Testament. For example, Ruth was originally placed between the books of Proverbs and Song of Solomon. Well — the two books of Chronicles were originally placed at the end of the Old Testament — making them like a final recap of the history of God’s people. But — in our Bibles today — the books come right after the books of Kings — which makes it feel like you’re re-reading many of the same stories that you just read in First and Second Kings.
Scholars suggest that the author wrote these books after the people of God had returned home after living in exile in Babylon. Why is that important? Well it means that our author has a different theological perspective about the historical events that have taken place. For example — while the author is writing — the temple would’ve been rebuilt — but it’s nothing like what God’s people were imagining it would be while they lived in exile. Additionally, the author can look back and see how the kings have pretty much all been failures — and not one of them — not even the good ones — have lived up to the promised King of God’s covenant with David. So — with all of this perspective — the author of First and Second Chronicles looks back over the history of God’s people and records the events through a timely theological lens.
OVERVIEW OF SECOND CHRONICLES
So that’s the bird’s eye view of what’s going on — now — let’s turn to the book itself. If you remember from last week — First Chronicles focuses on David’s reign as king — and does so with a rather positive view of David. Second Chronicles picks up after David’s reign as king and focuses exclusively on the kings who rule from Jerusalem. So the kings who rule the nation of Israel aren’t the focus of this book — they get their time in the books of First and Second Kings. And there’s a reason for this focus — our author is focusing on David’s line — God’s covenant promise was made to David after all — so the author is focusing on the kings that are the descendants of David as he looks forward to the promised Messianic King.
And what is somewhat unexpected — is that there’s new material in Second Chronicles that we don’t read about in First and Second Kings. And — though the author only mentions the positives from David’s life — the author records stories from the lives of the obedient kings of Judah and stories from the lives of the kings who were disobedient. In Second Chronicles you’ll read of the successes and blessings of the obedient kings and of the failures and struggles of the disobedient kings. So think of this as a history lesson for the people of God — “remember what the good kings did and the blessings they received — and remember what the bad kings did and the consequences for their disobedience.”
Now — before we look at our passage — we’ve got to talk about the end of the book. The book ends with the destruction of Jerusalem. And the ending reminds me — and maybe it’ll remind you — of the book of Judges. Listen to these sobering words found near the end of the book.
2 Chronicles 36:15–16 (NLT)
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.
Here we are — hundreds of years later — and the people are still turning from God. They thought they needed a king — “these judges just won’t do” — yet the real issue wasn’t a leadership structure problem — it was a heart problem. And this problem — the problem of our heart — continues into the New Testament and in our day and age — which helps explain passages like this which run counter to everything we want to believe about ourselves.
Romans 3:10–18 (NLT)
10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous — not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” 13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “They rush to commit murder. 16 Destruction and misery always follow them. 17 They don’t know where to find peace.” 18 “They have no fear of God at all.”
And — the consequences for the sin and rebellion of those living in Judah — are the consequences they saw their relatives in Israel experience years earlier.
2 Chronicles 36:17–21 (NLT)
17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. The Babylonians killed Judah’s young men, even chasing after them into the Temple. They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 The king took home to Babylon all the articles, large and small, used in the Temple of God, and the treasures from both the Lord’s Temple and from the palace of the king and his officials. 19 Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value. 20 The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.
And once the seventy years were fulfilled — the light of hope breaks through the darkness.
2 Chronicles 36:22–23 (NLT)
22 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: 23 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!”
What’s not easy to catch — in our English Bibles — is how that final verse ends. Cyrus is speaking — and his last sentence isn’t really a complete sentence — it’s similar to a sentence that ends with a dot, dot, dot. Now — remember — our author knows what will happen under Ezra and Nehemiah’s leadership as they return to Jerusalem and help rebuild the temple. But for our author — and for the Jewish people as a whole — what they accomplish versus what they envisioned is nowhere near the same. So — our author seems to end the book with a “dot, dot, dot” because he — and many of the Jews — were holding on to a hope that was yet to be fulfilled. Thus this final book in the Hebrew Old Testament leaves us looking back to God’s promise as we hold on to hope — this is not the final word in God’s story. Though the ending promised is not yet the ending experienced — have hope — for there’s still more to come for the people of God.
And — with that as our overview of the book — let’s now turn to our passage for today. Hopefully you’ve found Second Chronicles chapter thirty-four — we’ll begin in verse one.
2 Chronicles 34:1–21 (ESV)
1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 4 And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 7 he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. 8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord. And the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11 They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for binders and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12 And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadiah the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music, 13 were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service, and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers. 14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. 19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
PASSION FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD
Can you imagine being king as an eight year old? And — to be clear — I don’t think this is the most remarkable thing about young Josiah. And — I call him young — not just because of his youthful start as king but because I’m older than he was when he died. Yet I’m amazed by all that he accomplished for the Lord in his rather short life. At sixteen years old his faith journey begins. One would guess that he knew of the religion of his people prior to this age but something obviously happened to him at sixteen. Then — at twenty — the age when a male became an adult — he immediately enacts reform in the nation of Judah.
The idolatry had to go — and not just go quietly — this was a public display of cleaning up the nation from the false gods that had gripped the people’s hearts. There’s a passionate violence directed at these false religions. He purged the land of idolatry. He had the altars of the false gods chopped up and cut down in his presence. Metal idols were broken into pieces — smashed to dust — and he had the dust scattered over the graves of those who served these false gods — a sign of judgment upon them. He burned the bones of the priests who led the people to worship and serve these false gods. This — yes — was a display of passionate violence — but it was violence directed at false religions, false gods, and the religious leaders who led the people of God in apostasy. And this was a passionate violence birthed out of a passionate love for the one true God.
Then — much later — in his eighteenth year of reign as king — so he’s twenty-six years old now — he begins repair work on the temple. Josiah’s dad was only king for two years before his servants assassinated him. His grandfather — Manasseh — was a wicked king who reigned for fifty-five years and — under his leadership — the temple wasn’t taken care of — I mean — “who cares about the temple of God when you’ve got all of these other false gods and religions to keep up with?”
Now back to Josiah. It’s while the temple is under repair that workers find the book of Law. Let me say that again. Workers find the book the Law. Find it — because — it was lost.
So first things first. We’re not sure if the “book of the Law” refers to the five books of Moses or just the book of Deuteronomy — but that’s not nearly what’s most important here. Think of the situation. God’s Word had been lost — but the craziest part of the story — for me at least — is where God’s Word was found — where did they find it? In the temple — like duh? Of course God’s Word would be in God’s house — which goes to show just how far the people of God had turned from him — they didn’t even know that his Word would be found in his house!
Now here’s one last thing to ponder: If the Word of the Lord was lost in the temple — who do you think were the last folks to have known where God’s Word was? The religious leaders — the priests. The very individuals called by God to be his mouthpiece — to speak his Word to his people — to instruct them in his ways — to call them back to him in repentance — these were the individuals who — under their care — the Word of God was lost. They had one job — protect the Word of God — and they failed — failing both God and his people. And this discovery shocked Josiah.
He had the Word of the Lord read to him and — in response — he tore his clothes as a sign of grief — for he realized that God’s wrath — God’s righteous anger towards his people was due to them having not kept the Word of the Lord because they had lost God’s Word.
Now — before we get to finding Jesus — I think there’s a sobering reminder here for us. Here in our country — it’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending culture war. Now there’s definitely a clash of cultures going on in our nation — but what this moment from Second Chronicles teaches us is that our greatest foe — when it comes to the Word of the Lord — is not those who oppose us — the greatest threat to God’s Word in our lives as Christians are not the unbelievers in our nation — no — the greatest threat to God’s Word in our lives is our own neglect of it and our apathy towards it. As one person has stated, “If the Word of God is lost in our age, it will not be because the world snatched it from our hands — it will be because we lost it in the house of the Lord.” (Anthony Selvaggio, TableTalk Magazine)
This book is not a lucky charm, it’s not some sort of relic that keeps the bad vibes away — this is the very Word of God — and yet we can so easily treat it as if this is some ordinary book. Where — it may not be lost physically — but we’ve lost passion for the Word of the Lord — we’ve lost understanding of the Word — we’ve lost knowledge of God’s Word. And this has led to people coming to church hoping to hear a little less Word of the Lord — “can’t we get in and out of here a little more quickly?” All while God’s Word says…
2 Timothy 4:1–4 (NLT)
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
That’s Paul’s way of saying, “A time is coming when people will have lost the Word of the Lord.” And when you lose the Word of the Lord — you’re in eternal danger of losing Jesus — because he is the Word of the Lord.
The apostle John begins his gospel with these words — and notice John’s choice of words in describing Jesus.
John 1:1–5, 14-18 (ESV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God — Jesus is the Word of the Lord. Thus — to lose God’s Word — Scripture — is to be journeying in a dangerous wilderness — a land of spiritual famine — without Jesus — the Word of God — as your guide. And God will not be mocked by our worship as a church if we lose his Word.
When Jesus was a boy — just a few years older than when Josiah became king — on a family trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover — Jesus got separated from his mom and dad on their way back home. This was the pinnacle of all parenting blunders — they lost their son. So Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to look for Jesus.
Luke 2:46–49 (NLT)
46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” 49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Do you know what we just witnessed? The Word of the Lord had been lost and — like a few hundred years earlier — though lost — the Word was right there in the Temple of God. Do you see the connection? Hundreds of years earlier the book of the Law — the Word of God — had been lost in the Temple and — here — the Word of God is present in the Temple and meanwhile — his parents think he’s lost. But Jesus isn’t lost — the Word doesn’t get lost — we get lost. And God graciously — just like he did in Josiah’s day — leads us back to him. That’s why Jesus — the Word of God — became flesh and lived among us — to lead us back to God — to bring us back to this book so we’d be men and women of the Word. Men and women who live by this Word — who live because of the Word — and who — if called — are willing to die for the Word — for we know that the Word of God — Jesus Christ — died for us.
To follow Jesus is not a light calling — it’s a high calling — the highest of all callings — for it’s a call to follow the One who left Heaven to come to earth to rescue his people out of darkness and into the light — to bring us back to God. He — the Word of God — came to seek us who are lost. And when Jesus — the Word of God finds you — the Word of God becomes who you live for. Let’s pray.