Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Ouch!"

2nd Chronicles
34.14-16a NRSV

“While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses.

Hilkiah said to the secretary Shaphan, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord’; and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan brought the book to the king,…”

“I found the book”, cried Hilkiah the priest. It was an amazing discovery! Unearthed from the debris of more than three centuries of deferred maintenance somewhere in a far corner of Solomon’s decaying Temple lay the Law of Moses. The sacred writ. The Word of God. The nation’s conscience. Hilkiah “found the book of the law in the house of the LORD”.

The “the book of the law” was discovered by Hilkiah the priest...
    
     ...who gave the book to Shaphan the scribe
     …who read the book to Josiah the king
     …who consulted with Huldah the prophetess
     …who warned Josiah the king
     …who gathered the elders of Judah
     …who assembled all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
     …who listened to a public reading of the entire book by Josiah the king
     …who made a covenant of allegiance between the Lord and the people of Judah
     ...who “did according to the covenant of God”.

The book made a difference. Something significant happened in the hearts of Judean citizens. Change happened.

How unlike today’s church. We’ve become far too accustomed to the message of the book. Its familiarity lulls us to sleep. It no longer sounds like “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”. We do not “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” nor do we expect that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”.[1] We are passive, apathetic, and way too comfortable.

Reformed theologian Karl Barth preached and wrote about church apathy 100 years ago. Nothing’s changed:
“…the church’s preaching, the church’s morality, and the ‘religious life’ go their uninterrupted way. And we are Christians! Our nation is a Christian nation! A wonderful illusion, but an illusion, a self-deception! We should be honest and ask ourselves far more frankly what we really gain from religion. What is the use of all the preaching, baptizing, confirming, bell-ringing, and organ-playing,… efforts to enliven church singing, the unspeakably tame and stupid monthly church papers, and whatever else may belong to the equipment of modern ecclesiasticism? Will something different eventuate from all this in our relation to the righteousness of God? Are we even expecting something different from it? Are we hoping that something may happen? Are we not rather hoping by our very activity to conceal in the most subtle way the fact that the critical event that ought to happen has not yet done so and probably never will? Are we not, with our religious righteousness, acting ‘as if’ – in order not to have to deal with reality? Is not our religious righteousness a product of our pride and our despair, a tower of Babel, at which the devil laughs more loudly than at all the others?”
“We are fixed firmly, very firmly, in human righteousness. We are alarmed by the cry of conscience, but we have gone no further than to play sleepily with shadow pictures of the divine righteousness.”[2]
Swiss Refromed Theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968)

My conscience is sharply bothered. I have only one honest word of response to Karl Barth’s century old indictment and the story of Josiah’s discovery of “the book of the law in the house of the LORD”... Ouch!
_______________

[1] John the Baptist quoted this passage from the prophet Isaiah (40.3-5 KJV) when he shook up the Judean countryside heralding the coming of Jesus Christ (see Mark 1.1-5 and parallels Matthew 3.1-6; Luke 3.2-7).

[2] The Word of God and the Word of Man, Karl Barth, Peter Smith Publisher, Inc., 1978, p. 20, from a lecture entitled “The Righteousness of God” delivered by Karl Barth in January, 1916.

3 comments:

Nitewrit said...

Perhaps the more they try to stiffle the Book, the more we may come to new excitement about it.

Larry E.

JOV said...

Funny you write this article. I have been talking to many others about this same thing. Christians today really need to wake up and get back to sound doctrine.

Just like the days of old, it seems that Bible is being hidden away from society, and it is time we who claim to be of the faith, pull it out into the open and read it aloud and teach the …

1 Timothy 4:13 NASB Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

Thank you for this wonderful article!

Dave Scriven said...

Thank you Larry and JOV for your excellent comments.

Dave