Let Us Be Guided by Scripture (2 Kings 22-23:25)
What is the Bible, exactly? Well, it’s a book, with a cover and lots of pages filled with words arranged in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. There might be maps and charts. There might be extensive notes, in the case of a study Bible. There might be two translations side-by-side on each page. But physically, it’s still a book. Apparently, it’s a very popular book. According to Guinness World Records: “Although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, there is little doubt that the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book. A survey by the Bible Society concluded that around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion” (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/…/best-selling-book-of…/).
John Wycliffe produced the first hand-written Bible in English in the 1380s, but the oldest known Bible in the world is the Codex Sinaiticus, inscribed in Greek on leaves of parchment in the fourth century A.D. (You can see the pages here:http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx.) Before the Codex were the Torah and other scrolls. The Bible has existed in some form or other for a very long time. Longevity aside, what is so special about this book? Might it be the scripture it contains and what that means for people who believe in God and follow his laws and precepts?
King Josiah was young, about twenty-six, when he decided to repair the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Through his secretary he sent instructions and money, collected from the people by the temple’s doorkeepers, to the men who would supervise the work and pay the workers. During the renovation, the high priest reported to the king that he had found the Book of the Law in the temple. When Josiah heard the words of scripture, he was dismayed. “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book,” he said. Once he had gotten confirmation that God intended to bring disaster to his disobedient people, Josiah took action. Before all the people in the temple, he renewed the covenant in God’s presence, promising to keep the commands, regulations, and decrees with all his heart and soul. The people also pledged themselves to the covenant. Then Josiah had all the idols and shrines and their pagan priests and mediums destroyed. All the kings before Josiah had had access to the same holy book, yet most of them had ignored the law and the covenants.
With more than five billion copies of the Bible in print, it stands to reason that everyone who wants this book owns at least one, and everybody has access to scripture through the local library or the internet. But having access to the book isn’t enough. Like King Josiah, we must read the scriptures and take them to heart, and then we must allow them to influence our lives and guide us. If we have placed other things before God—money, work, sports, hobbies, even family or the church—we might find ourselves convicted of idolatry. We might find our priorities challenged by the words of Jesus or the letters of Paul. All of scripture is important for us to read, even the Old Testament stories of the ancient Israelites. We can see ourselves in the accounts of the disobedient and stubborn people, whom God disciplines, rescues, and redeems. Our God is a god of justice and mercy, compassion and grace, power and love. If we want to know him, truly know him, we must read his story. After all, it’s our story, too.