ISSUE: 2020, Volume 17, Issue 3
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Hilkiah’s name means ‘My portion is Jehovah’ and this priest certainly lived up to his name. Hilkiah was high priest during the reign of Josiah, the last good king of Judah who ‘walked in the ways of David’, 2 Chr. 34. 2. In this article we examine three spiritual highlights which, taken together, demonstrate that revival is possible in the darkest times, even when divine judgement is imminent. Hilkiah and Josiah lived ‘just before the curtain came down’ 1 on the kingdom of Judah, yet they saw the greatest revival in centuries, 35. 18. Does this give us current cause for hope?
The wicked practices of paganism had accumulated while previous rulers like Manasseh and Amon encouraged godlessness. People worshipped in the wrong places – at groves and idol shrines. False priests were employed to serve false gods. Images and immorality accompanied the idolatry. If idolatry demotes God, then its logical conclusion is atheism, which ignores God entirely. This is the state of modern society, remarkably similar to Hilkiah’s day.
Hilkiah’s ancestor, Urijah – priest during the reign of Ahaz, 2 Kgs. 16. 10 – was complicit in promoting idolatry. On the other hand, Hilkiah seems to have been faithful to Jehovah and served as a godly influence on young king Josiah.
In his campaign to eliminate idols, Josiah ensured there was no easy way back. Idols were ground to powder, 2 Chr. 34. 4, in the same way that Moses destroyed the golden calf, Exod. 32. 20. We must be ruthless in ridding ourselves of spiritual hindrances, ‘if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out’, Mark 9. 47.
Josiah’s intentions are captured well by William Cowper’s words: 2
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
There had been several temple restoration projects since Solomon’s day. This reminds us that the Christian life involves ‘constant renewal’. 3 Following the destruction of false religion, Josiah promoted the construction of what is true. The temple at Jerusalem had been derelict for many years, the consequence not only of neglect, but also of active looting by Josiah’s forebears, 2 Chr. 34. 11. The priests and workers were entrusted with the donated money. Hilkiah superintended this finance. The priest was ‘faithful in that which is least’ and ‘faithful also in much’, Luke 16. 10.
The word of God had been lost in a ‘haze of heathenism’ 4 – presumably in either Manasseh’s or Amon’s day. The book was discovered in the temple where it had been preserved. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away’, Matt. 24. 35. Who appreciated its value? Hilkiah realized he had found a treasure, but Shaphan seemed unimpressed as he communicated the news to the king. However, when Josiah heard the words of the book, he immediately understood its significance. Only when the book is opened and read can its message strike home to our hearts.
The word of God brought Josiah to repentance and a seeking after God’s will. This led to further revelation from Huldah the prophetess. Although Hilkiah was not in direct communication with God, he knew someone who was – so he went directly to her, 2 Chr. 34. 22. Past revivals were often built on the foundation of spiritual women.
The joy of discovering God’s word was expressed by Jeremiah, who may have been related to Hilkiah. ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart’, Jer. 15. 16. Can we challenge ourselves – do we share this joyful response to scripture?
Finally, we leave Hilkiah and Josiah celebrating Passover, 2 Chr. 35. 1-19, enjoying God’s goodness in the land. Revival, albeit brief, brings joy to God’s people and, no doubt, to God Himself.
1 This is a direct quote from John Grant, who spoke on Josiah in Liverpool in 1996. His stirring Bible teaching gripped me then as a teenager, and still does – thanks to a cassette recording, recently upgraded to MP3.
2 Oh, for a closer walk with God. William Cowper. Olney Hymns. 1779.
3 Martin Luther, except he said it in Latin (renovatio).
4 Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/2-kings-22.html.