Narrative Lectionary Reflection
November 24, 2019
Read: 2 Kings 22:1-10, [14-20]; 23:1-3
There is an episode of the Original Series of Star Trek where Kirk and Spock beam down to a planet and in the midst of a war. They end up in a village of people who call themselves Comms who imprisions them. They are in jail with a person from another tribe called Yangs. Kirk and the Yang leader escape to the Yang villiage. It’s during a ceremony where the Yangs recite something that seemed very familiar, that Kirk and the others notice what looks like an American flag. They all surmise that this planet had something akin to a cold war between “Yankees” and “Communists.” But this war grew hot as the nations used biogical warfare. Later on, one of the Yangs starts reading from a scroll and again, the words were familiar. Kirk undstands that this was the preable to the US Constitution. He chides the group for not understanding the meaning of the document. The Yangs had fought for so long that they had forgotten the meaning of the constitution, which Kirk reminds them is not just for the Yangs, but for the Comms as well.
Every culture is formed by stories. But stories can get lost and forgotten. Or the meaning is lost to the story and it becomes interpreted in ways that the document was not intended.
Reading today’s text can be a challenge. It’s very dense and filled with words that were hard to read. But after a while, the clouds will scatter and the message becomes clear.
Josiah was now the king of Judah. It is a vassal state of Assyria. There are people at work repairing the temple when the workers find a document. It is the law that was given to the people as the journyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. They had fallen so far, that the law had been be forgotten and lost.
Josiah hears the prophecy and he rips his clothes in sadness. He sent his court priest to go to the prophet and ask what God wants. The priest does go to the prophetess Huldah who confirms that yes, the kingdom of Judah will suffer a dark fate for falling away from God. But because Josiah expressed repentance, Josiah will not see that fate.
Now, if I heard all of this I might be happy that I won’t have to face the coming judgment. But Josiah does something different. Instead, he launches a reform campaign. We don’t read more than the first few verses of chapter 23, but in verse 25 we learn the details of his reform:
The king now commanded the people, “Celebrate the Passover to God, your God, exactly as directed in this Book of the Covenant.”
22-23 This commanded Passover had not been celebrated since the days that the judges judged Israel—none of the kings of Israel and Judah had celebrated it. But in the eighteenth year of the rule of King Josiah this very Passover was celebrated to God in Jerusalem.
24 Josiah scrubbed the place clean and trashed spirit-mediums, sorcerers, domestic gods, and carved figures—all the vast accumulation of foul and obscene relics and images on display everywhere you looked in Judah and Jerusalem. Josiah did this in obedience to the words of God’s Revelation written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in The Temple of God.
25 There was no king to compare with Josiah—neither before nor after—a king who turned in total and repentant obedience to God, heart and mind and strength, following the instructions revealed to and written by Moses. The world would never again see a king like Josiah.
2 Kings 23:21-25 (The Message)
The companion text for this week is from Luke 24, where the risen Jesus meets with two disciples who don’t recognize him. What both texts highlight is how we can blind ourselves to God. The people of Israel forgot God’s law and the two disciples could not see Jesus walking with them.
It can be so easy- the cares of this world make us blind to God speaking in front of us.
A pastor friend liked to say to the congregation he preached at where they saw God this week. I think that question is important, because it forces us to remember that God is present in the world and in our lives, even when we forget Jesus.
Josiah could have just been happy to know that he wouldn’t see the coming judgement. But he wanted everyone to remember, to remember what God had done in the lives of the people of Judah.
Where have you seen God this week? What stories do you think have been forgotten?
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.