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And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” (2 Kings 22:8)

My daughter, like most children, has long had a favorite stuffed animal. It is a stuffed dog that she named “Oscar.” When she was younger, she took Oscar everywhere and slept with him every night—except for one fateful night. One day, after running some errands and making a visit to our local library, we returned home to realize that Oscar was missing. Panic immediately ensued in our household. We quickly deduced that Oscar had been left behind at the library, but when we realized this, we also discovered that the library was closed for the day. Needless to say, that was a difficult night for my daughter. The next morning, we were at the library waiting for it to open. When the doors opened, we scurried inside and found Oscar sitting among a group of other stuffed animals. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and my daughter experienced joy unspeakable. What was lost had now been found.

In 2 Kings 22, we find a similar account of the finding of something that was once lost, but in this case what was found was not something as mundane as a child’s stuffed animal. What was found in 2 Kings 22 was nothing less than the very Word of God.

Shock and Irony

It is quite shocking and ironic that Israel actually misplaced the Word of God. It should immediately strike us as odd that a people who were described as the “People of the Book” actually lost that which stood at the very center of their identity and distinctiveness. The phrase “Book of the Law” is likely a reference to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) or, perhaps, more particularly, to the book of Deuteronomy. In either case, the Book of the Law represented the core written record of God’s gracious covenant relationship with His people. This is something that should be protected and cared for, much as we take extra care to protect precious documents such as our passport or our last will and testament. But Israel had failed to protect it. Israel had lost the Word of God.

Even more shocking and ironic is where it was lost. King Josiah, one of the few righteous kings in Israel’s history (2 Kings 22:1–2; 23:25), had initiated a construction project to rehabilitate the house of the Lord, which had fallen into disrepair during the reign of Manasseh, an apostate king. It was in the midst of this repair effort that Hilkiah found the Word of the Lord. The high priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law “in the house of the Lord” (22:8). The people of Israel did not misplace the Book of the Law in some cave or have it snatched from them in battle; instead, they lost it in God’s house. The church I serve as a pastor has a storage room that goes by the moniker “Room 3.” Room 3 is where things go to die—where things are forgotten. It is as if Israel lost the Word of God by taking it to something akin to Room 3. Ironically, the Word of God was lost in the house of God.

When you find the Word of God, you find Jesus.

The final salvo of shock and irony in this account emerges when we consider who lost the Word of God. Given that the Book of the Law was lost in the house of the Lord, we have to assume that it was the priests themselves who lost it. There is a popular saying today when someone fails to perform a singular and important task: “You had one job!” This phrase was certainly applicable to the priests of Israel. Their job was to keep the law of the Lord ever before the king and the people. Their “one job” was to preserve and protect the Word of God. Instead, the priests had lost the Word of God in the house of God.

Finding the Word of God

Shockingly and ironically, the priests lost the Word of God in the house of the Lord. This account should serve as a great warning to us as Christians living in the twenty-first century. Often, we misconstrue the identity of our true foe. In a culture becoming increasingly secularized, one in which there is growing hostility to the Bible, we think that the greatest threat to God’s Word is the animosity of the world when it is actually the apathy of the church. 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.

The biggest threat to the Word of God is our own neglect of it in our churches and in our homes. As in the Old Testament, the primary responsibility to avoid losing the Word of the God falls upon the shoulders of those called to protect, preserve, and proclaim it. On any given Sunday, you can walk into churches that are entirely void of the proclamation of the Word of God. You might hear about social issues or self-help, but you won’t hear about Jesus and the cross. Pastors need to examine themselves and ask, “Have I lost the Word of God in the house of the Lord?” Pastors need to heed the charge that the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:1–2). It is time for our pastors to recover the Word of God in their lives and in their pulpits. Pastors need to find what Hilkiah found.

Of course, the application of this text extends beyond the responsibilities of pastors. In the new covenant, all believers are called to be priests (1 Peter 2:9). It is incumbent upon every believer to join in the effort of ensuring that the Word of God is not lost. How do we do that? We do that by actively placing the Word of God at the center of our lives, our marriages, our families, our churches, and our homes. Apathy and neglect are how Israel lost the Word of God, and thus we the priests of the new covenant must counter those tendencies in our own lives by actively, daily, diligently, and consistently engaging with God’s Word in our lives. We can do that through a myriad of ways, including personal devotions, meditating on a recent sermon, family worship, and committing to a Bible reading plan. It is time for the entire priesthood of believers to recover the Word of God in their lives. All Christians need to find what Hilkiah found.

What Happens When You Find It

If you take up this challenge to find the Word of God, you will some other wonderful things as well. First, when you find the Word of God, it will change you. It will lead to a reformation of life, a reorienting of priorities and purpose. We see this in 2 Kings 22. After Hilkiah found the Book of the Law, it was eventually read in the presence of King Josiah, who, upon hearing it, tore his clothes, repented, and launched a national reformation in Israel (22:11; 23:1–25). Josiah’s reformation included the removal of idols from Israel’s life. When you find God’s Word, you will be led to remove the idols in your life. The Word of God will bring reformation to you.

More importantly, however, is that when you find the Word of God, you find Jesus. Jesus, who is the Word (John 1:1), is also the prime subject of the Word of God. The entirety of Scripture speaks of Jesus (Luke 24:44). Therefore, if you find what Hilkiah found, if you find the Word of God, you will inevitably also find the greatest and most precious gift of all—the One of whom it speaks.

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