Robert E. Surgenor
Having discovered the Book of the Law of the LORD in the House of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest made it known to Shaphan the scribe, who in turn carried the Book to the Josiah and read before the king. This book may have been the original signature of Moses. What a traumatic experience! The historian tells us, "when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes" (2 Chron. 34:19). Is it not amazing the tremendous impression that the Word of God engraved upon the kings heart and mind? Let me ask you, how does the Word of God affect you when you hear it? Years ago an old saint related to me the effect the spoken ministry had on the saints as they were gathered together in conference capacity. His memory related occasions to me that took place in the eighteen hundreds. He told me that many saints wept at conferences. What made them weep? It was the Word of God exposing to them their worldliness that produced such contrition of heart. Let me say, those saints were far godlier than us today, yet when they heard Gods Word, they felt condemned over their ways, and in contrition before God - they wept. They attended those conferences not for social activity, but rather for spiritual cleansing and a reviving in soul to the things of God.
What do we have in our day? Be honest! I see this. A lot of planning, a lot of labor, a lot of money spent to cater to those who attend an assemblys conference. That is kind and noble of such saints and I would not seek to detract from such labor of love. Accommodations are provided and the saints from various parts of the country commence to arrive at the prescribed location. The conference commences with a prayer meeting, usually on a Friday evening. In many cases, few are present. Even some preachers who will be at the conference seemingly cannot attend the prayer meeting. On Saturday the ministry commences. As one elder expressed to me his appraisal of some speakers, he said. "They are like Columbus when he sailed for the new world, he didnt know where he was going. When he got there, he didnt know where he was, and when he finally sat down, he didnt know where he had been." It is sad when a brother rises in the flesh and the ministry that is given is weightless and time is wasted. Other times the ministry is heartwarming and the speaker is helped of God. On rare occasions the ministry becomes very searching and practical. How much we need to be encouraged as the Lords people, but also how much we need to be warned and corrected. The Holy Spirit will produce a divine balance in the ministry if He is allowed to be the sole master of ceremonies on such occasions.
However, when the conference is all over and the providing assembly has labored and spent much money, what really is the ultimate result? The social activity was wonderful. Meeting old friends was great. Young folks came in contact with others and marriages, in some cases, will result. But brethren, what should be the main thrust of such gatherings? Finding a prospective mate for life? Having a pleasant social time together? Having delicious meals served to us at no cost to ourselves? Is the conference merely a cheap vacation? Perish the thought! Do we understand that the main objective of our conferences should be the producing of greater holiness in our lives and a greater desire to please God? A producing of repentance in our hearts from being thoroughly searched from the ministry? If this was the case there would be with no doubt, a measure of weeping. The very fact that such a spirit is rarely seen and so few tears are shed reveals to me that we have lost the fact of why conferences were ever commenced amongst us.
Some years ago, a Christian related to the late William Ferguson, editor of the Words in Season magazine, that the conference they were at was just wonderful. Mr. Ferguson asked them, "Well, just what did you get? What did you learn?" They replied, "We had a lovely time." Then they mentioned how wonderful a certain preacher was. Mr. Ferguson asked them, "What was his message?" They couldnt remember, neither could they tell him of anything learned. I believe that this incident could be echoed in many places. When the Word of God was read, it was very effective -Josiah wept!
Not only did the king weep, he rent his clothes before God. He sat astonished and full of grief. Many people in ages past had rent their clothes. The first recorded one was Reuben when he returned to the pit only to find his brother Joseph missing (Genesis 37:29). Jacob rent his clothes over an evil report. Joshua rent his clothes over a disaster in battle. Caleb rent his clothes over the unbelief of his brethren. Rending their clothes was an expression of utmost grief and Josiahs soul was thus affected over the departure of the nation before God.
As the eyes of the LORD beheld the king, He said, "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same" (2 Chron. 34:27,28). This word of approval and assurance so affected the king that "he sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. ..and went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD... and he stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments, and His testimonies, and His statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it" (2 Chron. 34:29-32).
Moreover the king kept a passover, and "there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept" (2 Chron. 35:18). The Word of God had enlightened him how to hold the passover in a scriptural way.
Next month, God willing, we shall occupy ourselves with practical truths pictured in that ancient rite, truths that may prove profitable to us in our day. In the meantime, may Josiahs God give us the grace to be as attentive to the Holy Writings as this young king was.