GCB, April 1, 1903
The reading of the book of the law, so long forgotten, made a deep impression upon the king's mind. He realized that something must be done to bring this law to the attention of the people, and to lead them to conform their lives to its teachings. By his own course of action, he designed to show his respect for the law. He humbled himself before God, rending his clothes.
In his position as king, it was the work of Josiah to carry out in the Jewish nation the principles taught in the book of the law. This he endeavored to do faithfully. In the book of the law itself he found a treasure of knowledge, a powerful ally in the work of reform. He did not lay this book aside as something too precious to be handled. Realizing that the highest honor that could be placed on God's law was to become a student of its precepts, he diligently studied the ancient writing, and resolved to walk in the light it shed upon his pathway.
When the law was first read to him, Josiah had rent his clothes to signify to the people that he was much troubled because he had not known of this book before, and that he was ashamed and painfully distressed because of the works and ways of the people, who had transgressed God's law. As he had in the past seen the idolatry and the impiety existing among them, he had been much troubled. Now as he read in the book of the law of the punishment that would surely follow such practises, great sorrow filled his heart. Never before had he so fully realized God's abhorrence for sin.
Josiah's sorrow did not end with the expression of words of repentance, or with outward demonstrations of grief. He bowed his heart in great humiliation before God, because he knew the anger of the Lord must be kindled against the people. He rent his heart, as well as his garments, for the dishonor shown to the Lord God of heaven and earth. He realized what the outcome must be; that God's displeasure would come upon His people.
An Investigation Instituted
The king did not pass the matter by as of little consequence. To the priests and the other men in holy office he gave the command, "Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not harkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that is written concerning us."
Josiah did not say, "I knew nothing about this book. These are ancient precepts, and times have changed." [Many today say that times have changed are after the cross we don't need the book of the law] He appointed men to investigate the matter, and these men went to Huldah, the prophetess. "And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you unto Me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken Me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the word which thou hast heard, because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before Me: I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold, therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again."
In Josiah's day the Word of the Lord was as binding, and should have been as strictly enforced, as at the time it was spoken. And today it is as binding as it was then. God is always true to His Word. What should we do, we who have had great light? The law has been kept constantly before us. Time and again we have heard it preached. The Lord's anger is kindled against His people [His anger is manifested in allowing Satan to do His work] because of their disregard of His Word. Conviction of soul should send us in penitence to the foot of the cross, there to pray with the whole heart, saying, "What shall we do to be saved? Wherewithal shall we come before the Lord?" My brethren, inquire quickly, before it is too late.