King Josiah read to his people the Book of the Covenant, the word of God left by Moses, that had been found during the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a new experience for all, as the worship of God and the reading of His word had been abandoned by their elders and previous kings.
1 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. 2 The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. 2 Kings 23:1-2 NKJV
When the word of God enters into our eyes and ears, it can be activated by the Holy Spirit to come alive in our hearts. Our thoughts and beliefs are laid open for discovery, and it brings us to a point of decision on how we will move forward. Are we willing to change to grow and to overcome our fears and shortcomings?
Much like the temple in Josiah’s time, our hearts can be cleansed and restored by the introduction of God’s word. Most of us who are willing to do this have undergone a profound change. We have had to discard a large number of false ideas and assumptions that we have carried around within us for years.
The word is the key tool the Lord uses to penetrate to the core of our being and to weed out the unholy and unclean thoughts and habits that reside there. His word is referred to in the Bible as a spiritual sword, striking down falsehoods and vain imaginations, and allowing the Lord to work deep within our souls and spirits to heal us.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 NKJV
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
King Josiah read the word of the Lord to all his people, but it was up to each individual to decide how they wanted to respond to it. There were several different ways that each could receive it.
Did they tune Josiah out as he read, allowing other matters to crowd the word out and occupy their thoughts instead? Were they resentful at being forced to listen against their will, as many of us were in our youth? If so, we know what a challenging and unfruitful situation that can be.
Did they receive God’s word in their heart for the moment, but soon forget it as they went home and turned their attention to other things? Maybe when they had to choose between following God and pursuing other less clean activities, the latter won out?
On a more positive note, did God’s word grab their attention and take root in their hearts, starting a spiritual fire that would be the first step on a satisfying life journey? Would they allow it to grow into a true faith that would bear fruit for the Lord’s kingdom?
Probably all of these different responses were found among the crowd as Josiah read.
Jesus addressed this concept when He told the Parable of the Sower, found in Matthew 13. Using the analogy of a farmer spreading seed over a field with various types of soil, Jesus was describing the various responses of people to the hearing of God’s word.
The seed on hard ground represented hearers who were distracted from even considering receiving the word into their hearts. Jesus placed the blame for this on the distractive efforts and abilities of the evil one.
The seed that fell on thin soil represented those who received the word half-heartedly. As soon as difficulties arose because of the word, the receiver rejected it and went back to old ways and thinking.
Potentially fruitful responses to the word were then sometimes cut short by other influences, such as a focus on the worries and cares of daily life or the pursuit of material wealth. These priorities helped to choke off the spiritual nourishment required for growth. God wants to assist with all of these issues, but He also wants us to place Him first in our lives and to call on Him in prayer to address our needs.
Finally, in the spiritually successful case, the word took root in the hearer’s heart, and was allowed to grow as a fruitful plant and to be tended daily by Christ. The individual who chooses this path will go on to produce abundant spiritual fruit in the lives of those around them.
Like the people in Josiah’s audience, we all have a choice in how we will respond to the hearing of God’s word. We get to pick which type of soil we want to be. With God’s help, the sword of the spirit will cut away the weeds of our lives and produce a great harvest throughout God’s kingdom, giving us a satisfying life of hope, serenity, peace, and joy.
Lord, teach me to receive Your word with joy in my heart, and to hold on tight to it in my soul. Use it to cut away the unhealthy thoughts, practices and addictions that threaten to keep me in bondage. May Your Holy Spirit empower and enrich my soul to produce much fruit as I abide in You, the Vine of life. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.