2 Kings 22 vs 11 - 13.
“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
It’s not just in these days of pandemic, in our times, or even in this part of the world that people flout the law and break the simple rules of society even when they are designed to keep us and others safe. It’s in all places at all times. Human beings are basically law breakers at least when we think it’s to our benefit and we can get away with it. To be honest, we all have the opinion sometimes that some rules and laws are daft, often with some justification, but the law is the law even when we think it is senseless or petty.
The reason king Josiah tore his clothes is plain he was distressed and troubled by God’s law when it was read. Tearing his clothing was an act of contrition. The word of God had penetrated his heart, he realised that the way he and his forefathers and all Israel had been living was out of kilter with God’s law and he realised to his alarm that the judicial wrath of God was burning against them. This young man’s heart was profoundly touched and he was convicted by the word of God. His urgency in sending the High Priest and royal officials to enquire of the Lord shows how deeply he was troubled and how sincerely he wanted to change not only his own but the behaviour of Judah as well to please God; this encounter had changed his heart.
We often have an unbalanced view of God in one way or another. A generation or two ago people had a warped view of God as vengeful and angry, one who was waiting to pounce on every unsuspecting sinner with burning fire however trivial the sin was in our eyes. Today the picture is almost the polar opposite. God is soft, an indulgent heavenly grandfather who forgives because that’s his job. It’s the reason he exists after all is it not, to be nice? Neither view is correct; both are unbalanced in a dangerous way. God is full of compassion and grace, but he is also holy and just and these attributes of God have to be seen in harmony.
That too reveals the dilemma God faced. Human sin is offensive to him and has estranged God and man yet he is loving towards us and wants to reconcile us to himself. Only in Jesus could that conundrum be resolved. The place where the justice of God is satisfied is the cross but at the same time it is the cross which expresses the love of God and makes forgiveness a reality. There is nothing we can do to make amends to God, everything we offer is tainted by sin. Jesus alone perfectly satisfied the law of God and only he could atone on our behalf.