Sermon on 2 Kings 22:3-13, 23:1-3,25
3rd Sunday after Pentecost; 1st sermon at the new CTK Church
Now is the Time for Dedication
Finally! Here we are! After all that time and all those hardships, here we finally are in our own permanent worship space! And what a beautiful house of God it is! I think it is safe to say that this is a happy and joyous moment for us all.
As happy as we might be with the new Christ the King Church and School building after just under three years of nomadic worship at Wadsworth Elementary School, it is likely only a fraction of the joy that Israel once felt with their new temple. For around 300 years the Israelites also had a mobile worship space. It started at the time of Moses while the people were wandering in the desert. God gave his people instructions on how to build and set up a tabernacle for worship. This tabernacle was not some small structure made up of little pieces that could fit in an 8×13 trailer like our old church (which also means they couldn’t have their church stolen like ours was!). No this tabernacle was a massive tent-like structure configured with many movable parts and many ornate furnishings.
We may have complained once or twice about setting up and tearing down our church in the middle of a Florida summer, but imagine moving the entire tabernacle from place to place throughout the arid desert of the Sinai Peninsula! So for about 300 years the Israelites had no true, dedicated house of worship. For 300 years God had no true sanctuary to give him the highest glory and praise.
It had always been the great desire of king David to construct a temple for the Lord. But the Lord did not allow it. Instead, the task and the honor of building a temple for the Lord went to David’s son, king Solomon. Finally! After all that time and all those hardships, they finally had their own worship space! And what a beautiful house of God it was! As carefully designed and ornate as our church is, we can’t even begin to compare with the beautiful and luxurious temple Solomon constructed. Some have estimated that his temple today wouldn’t cost millions—it would cost billions! And for as much as we were sick and tired of setting up after almost three years, we can’t even imagine doing that for 300 years! I think it is safe to say that the dedication of Solomon’s temple was an extremely happy and joyous moment for all of Israel.
You would think that after all they had been through that when they dedicated the temple to the Lord they would also rededicate themselves to the Lord. You would think that after God had mercifully spared them after all their whining and complaining and rebellion and sin that they would never take the Lord for granted again. You would think that the brand new and luxurious temple would have been a constant reminder of the Lord’s endless love and grace. That’s what you would think. But that’s not what happened.
It was less than 30 years later that the kingdom of Israel was ripped in half. Idolatry was immediately introduced as false gods like Baal and Asherah and Molech were brought in from other heathen countries. Besides idolatry, adultery was a huge sin in Israel. Often the people even committed adultery during their worship services of these false gods! The people consulted mediums and spiritists. The priests either served false gods or were dishonest and power hungry. Merchants lied and cheated to gain more money. Most kings of Israel in the north and many kings of Judah in the south were heathen unbelievers. Israel had waited about 300 years for their wonderful and beautiful new temple. Now almost 300 years later the whole nation had nearly fallen away from the Lord completely.
We see just how bad things were in our first lesson today from 2 Kings 22 and 23. Josiah was a king in the south, in Judah. He had become king when he was just eight years old! Both his father and his grandfather were heathen unbelievers. But Josiah was much different. Likely through the instruction of his mother and grandmother, Josiah was a believer. He knew things were bad and he wanted to bring some change and reform. He decided there should be some remodeling in the temple. So he sent his secretary of the state, Shapan, to tell the high priest, Hilkiah, what to do.
But a strange and amazing thing happened during the temple repairs. They found this dusty old scroll sitting in the temple, likely near the ark of the covenant. Look at verse 8: “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.’ He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.” The people of Israel had strayed so far from the Lord, that the Scriptures were just sitting around collecting dust. The secretary Shaphan seemed hardly to know or remember what it said. He had to read it again. He was so moved by its words he had to share with the king. Look at verse 10: “Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’” (Note how he doesn’t call it Scripture or the book of the Law, as if he didn’t even know what to call this newly found book!) Verse 10 continues, “And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.” Tearing robes was a sign of absolute distress and sorrow and outrage.
Josiah was cut to the heart by what he heard. Look at verse 13: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” After straying so far in sinful ways, the Word of God—holy Scripture—made its impact on Josiah’s heart. He recognized his sin.
If you lifted these words off the pages of the Bible in 2 Kings 22 and 23 and put some flashy cover on it and placed in on a shelf in the Palm Coast Books-a-Million store, do you think anyone would know where it came from? Let’s see . . . a country that has almost completely gone astray. A land where people do whatever they want, worship whomever they want, and have intimate relations with whomever they want. A nation where leaders are often no better than the people, sometimes even worse. People lie and cheat in business to get more money. God has little priority or importance. If we lifted these words off the pages of Scripture would you think of ancient Israel first or modern America?
Yet before we wallow in self-pity lamenting the downfall of our beloved United States, we first had better examine our own lives. Remember Josiah, Shaphan the secretary, and Hilkiah the high priest. These were apparently God-fearing and believing men, yet they had no idea what the Word of God said. In fact, they didn’t even seem to know where it was. I would suggest that this is the easiest sin for Christians to slip into.
I’m a Christian. Things are fine. I believe in Jesus. I’m good to go. Why do I need to go to church? What does it matter if I don’t come every week? So what if I don’t read my Bible every day? I know what it says. I know I’m good with God and I know I’m going to heaven.
That’s the kind of apathy that Satan loves to use against every one of us. Things might be very exciting for us all with our brand new church and school building. How wonderful to worship in such a beautiful space! But what will happen in a few weeks after we get used to the new building? What will happen after our grand opening on July 18? Suddenly the worship services aren’t as special or important. No more “firsts.” No more special music. No more choirs. The kids aren’t singing. Suddenly the desire to be at church dissipates. Before you know it, we all could be sliding down that same slope the Israelites slid down for 300 years from the time of Solomon to Josiah.
So here’s the question to ask yourself—am I living like an Israelite at the time of Solomon and the new temple, or am I living like an Israelite at the time of Josiah and the lost and dusty Scriptures? I would say about myself, about our church, about our city, about our country that we are all more often like Josiah’s Israel. I can’t even remember the last time we had 100% church attendance on even one Sunday—probably way back when there were only four families starting the church. We average less than 50% of our worshipers staying to learn more on Sunday mornings in Bible Study and Sunday School. I offer midweek Bible studies all the time throughout the year to people in our church, school, and community but I don’t think I’ve ever had more than 10 people in a midweek group. When I teach our regular Bible Information Class to newer people I’ve found that probably 95% or more of people don’t even know what the 10 Commandments are.
I could go on and on. I’m sure your life is much like mine. You get so busy and you get so tired. Who has time for Bible reading? Who has time for prayer? Who has time to grow closer to the Lord? So we ignore reading the Bible at home. We skip Bible study and worship time. We forget to pray throughout the day. Sounds like we have a lot in common with Josiah’s Israel!
What sinners we are! How we have strayed! Jesus once said, “What good is it for a [person] to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul.” We have children and jobs and friends and other family. We need money. We want fun. We like entertainment. But what good is all that if we forfeit our souls and end up in hell? There should be nothing more important in our lives than God. There should be nothing more urgent than growing closer to him. How do we grow closer to him? In worship and in his Word! How like Josiah’s Israel we are! What sinners we are!
As you read through the Bible and learn more about what the Israelites did—real gross and terrible things—one thing certainly becomes very striking. Those Israelites should have been blasted off the face of the earth. God had every right to destroy them for their sin. But he didn’t. He always mercifully preserved his people because he always mercifully preserved his promise.
For God had promised that through these Israelites, sinful though they were, that he would send a Messiah. God had promised that he would send a Savior from those sins. And he did just that. About 650 years after Josiah, a descendant of David and a descendant of Josiah was born. His name was Jesus. But this Jesus was more than any ordinary Israelite child. He was also God. He was God come in human flesh to remedy this problem of sin. He came to live on this earth to perfectly fulfill God’s laws and demands. He came to do what we haven’t and what we couldn’t.
But more than that, this Jesus came to give his life as a payment for sin. He came to suffer the depths of hell which is due all sinners. He came to forgive the wrongs of all and to declare the guilty innocent. He came to save us. Some refuse it. Some deny it. Some don’t want it. But for those who believe—they shall not perish but have eternal life. Isn’t that amazing? Even sinners like us are saved?! There is nothing we need to do. There is nothing we need to pay. God simply gives forgiveness and salvation freely through his Son Jesus!
It’s this same forgiveness that gives us comfort and peace that also gave Josiah and Israel comfort and peace. More than that—it moved them to change their lives. Look at the second paragraph in your service folder in chapter 23: “Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul and thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant . . . Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses.”
Brothers and sisters, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Jesus came to this world to live and to die for you. He rescued us from death and hell. When we truly grasp that truth, it moves and motivates our hearts to be just like those Israelites. Did you see what they did? Josiah stood up and read all the words of the Book of the Covenant to all the people of Jerusalem. That would be tens of thousands of people gathered to hear the Word of God. It would have taken at least five hours, probably more like 10, to read Genesis through Deuteronomy! But they were determined to change their ways and they rededicated themselves to the Lord and they pledged to follow his ways.
Now is the time for us to do the same. Now Is the Time for Dedication. No, I’m not talking about the dedication of this church building. Yes, that is important, too. And yes, we will have an amazing worship service and party on July 18th at 4pm right here. More importantly, Now Is the Time for Dedicating your lives to the Lord. It is a fresh and clean start in a new church building. We have a wonderful example and model in Josiah to learn from. We have a God who loved us enough to sacrifice his Son for our salvation. Now Is the Time for Dedication. Come to worship every week. Read your Bible every day. Come to Sunday morning and midweek Christ the King Bible studies. Read the church blog. Pray morning, noon, and night. When you fill your life with the Word of God and when you are constantly with the Lord in worship and in prayer you will grow closer to him than ever before. Now is the time to start new with this church and with your life. Now Is the Time for Dedication.