Discover the Book

Sunday, November 24, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

2 Kings 22:1-13. 23:1-3

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

How do you typically respond when someone points out to you that you are wrong or you have done something wrong?

Do you get defensive and deny any wrong doing on your part?

Do you question and twist the facts as they are presented to you so you can justify yourself?

Do you question the other person’s version of what actually happened in order to make it look like you are not in the wrong?

Or do you listen to what is being said.

Do you listen carefully and pause to consider the words being spoken to you that point out your wrong doing. This can be hard to do.

The truth can hurt because the truth hurts and it is supposed to hurt. Especially when we are wrong in our words or our behavior.

Today’s reading is a story about what happens when God’s people discover the book of God’s law that had been hidden and upon reading this book they realize they have not been living as God intended for them to live. It was a truth they needed to hear and it hurt.

Josiah was the King and he was young when he became King of Judah, the southern Kingdom. He was a good man. He walked in the ways of the Lord. This is an important detail in today’s story.

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

What this means is that Josiah kept the main thing the main thing.

He was a good King.

When he heard the words of the book of the law that was found in the temple during a construction project and realized as the book was read to him that the people of God had gone astray, he listened to the truth.

He understood what was wrong and the things they were doing was wrong.

When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

It is an interesting response isn’t it. Do you understand why Josiah does this?

He is convicted by God’s Word. He realizes in this moment that the people have not been living in a manner that was in alignment with God’s Word. He understands it is time to re-discover God’s Word, God’s book.

The tearing of his clothes is a sign of repentance, an act of grief and sorrow as a result of hearing the truth and seeing the truth.

If our hearts desire is to live in relationship with God – if we are going to know God and what God wants for us and from us, then we need to know God’s book. We need to discover and read God’s Word. This may seem like an obvious thing to say in a church butt I think it needs to be said.

So my question for you this morning is this; when did you discover God’s Word in your life? Or are you still looking for it?

Are you still trying to figure out what God’s book means in your life?

I can still remember when I discovered the book of God for really the first time in my life. It is a vivid and clear memory. It was in the summer of 1979 and I was working at a bible camp of all places. Seems like a logical place to discover God’s Word doesn’t it.

I knew what God’s Word was. It was in plain sight for me and had been my whole life but for the first time in my life I began to hear for myself and this is an important distinction.

I listened to what it actually said and I read it for myself.

I marveled at the promises in that Word.

I began to see the power of God’s Word as I sought a deeper relationship with God. And it worked. It did something in my life.

The Word did to me what it promised to do and that was a revelation of significance.

This is a crucial move in faith formation and in moving us into a deeper, closer relationship with God

Maybe that is one of the takeaways from today’s story about Josiah and the finding of the Book of God in the temple.

  • We need to find it for ourselves.
  • We need to discover the book again and again and again.
  • We need to give our lives over to the King who is revealed to us in this book.
  • As individuals and as a church community.
  • At the different stages of our lives.
  • In the joys and in the sorrows of all that life brings to us

We need to take it into our own lives and listen to what it says to us and allow that Word to draw us into a closer relationship with God and a better understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

If we are going to keep the main thing the main thing then this is what is required of us as the people of God.

I know I had to discover it for myself and I know I have to keep on discovering it.

I have to actually read it and listen to it and discover the power in that Word.

The book I’m talking about is of course the bible and it wasn’t until I started to be obedient to what it said that spiritual clarity began for me and the desire for spiritual clarity continues forty years later. Oswald Chambers says “that spiritual confusion can only be conquered thru obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.”[1]

This is exactly what Josiah does when he hears the book of God’s Law that is found in the temple.

He hears the truth in the words, he understands how far astray the people have gone and he is obedient to that Word and all the spiritual confusion that was present in the lives of the people is gone.

The confusion in Josiah’s time manifested itself in all kinds of cultural clutter that impaired the people’s relationship with God. Cultural clutter that got in the way of their obedience to God.

The cultural clutter in Josiah’s time isn’t all that different from what we have to contend with in our time.

There are people and activities that compete with and impair our relationship with God. Competing loyalties. False gods that promise things in our lives but in reality only serve to draw our focus away from the one who can give us life and freedom, wholeness and mercy.

Obedience to the Word creates discernment of the Word and when we have discernment there is no more spiritual confusion. When we don’t understand we don’t obey. We go our own way, not God’s way. We end up following other kings, not Christ the King.

So if you want to discover the book you have to read the book. You can’t just rely on a good 12 minute sermon each week to clear up any spiritual confusion you might have. As hard as we try to do that from this pulpit.

If you want to know Christ the King and what it means to have him rule over your life you need to read His book. You need to dwell in His Word because He is the Word that gives life. He is the Word that gives hope and He is the Word that gives freedom.

You will have spiritual clarity. You will see Jesus – your King.

Thanks be to God. Amen

[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 14

Romans is the Apostle Paul’s longest, weightiest and most important letter in the New Testament. He lays out in this letter the full richness of his experience with Jesus. We heard the main theme of Romans last week in chapter 1:16-17 where Paul says – For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.

The theological term for what Paul is speaking about here is called justification. It means we are saved, justified before God, made righteous in God’s eyes not by what we do or don’t do in this world but on the basis of faith in Jesus. Faith alone.

In chapters 1, 2, and 3 the Apostle Paul makes the argument that God deals with all people on the same basis – all are sinners – all are under the power of sin. Paul is simply telling the truth here. He is saying out loud what all of us know about ourselves and the brokenness that is present in our lives. We are sinners and that is the truth, plain and simple.

In chapter 5, where we land today, we hear the pay off, the ‘so what’ of justification. The answer to the question of why does this matter and what difference does it make in my life and your life.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.

That is such a great verse!

Therefore we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore we have peace with ourselves, in our hearts and in the depths of our soul.

Therefore we have the peace which passes all human understanding.

This is what it means when Paul says we are justified by faith.

To be justified by faith means we don’t have to justify ourselves. We no longer have to make excuses. We’ve all done it. We try and justify our actions, our words, our choices and our behavior. We do it because we want to be right. We do it because we think it will make us feel better. But deep down we know better.

It means we can stop trying to make ourselves worthy of God’s love.

It means we can stop feeling guilty that we don’t measure up to some standard that we or someone else has created for our lives.

I was listening to a podcast this week on a site called Working Preacher. It comes out of Luther Seminary. Professor Craig Koester, who teaches New Testament at Luther spoke about the term, justifying the margins, as it relates to word processing. Do you know that term?

As someone who didn’t take keyboarding in high school, don’t ask me why, and who is basically self-taught on the key board, I had to look this up to better understand why Professor Koester would use this term as it relates to the reading today from Romans.

“Justifying in margins has to do with where the text is aligned. Justification refers to whether the rows of text on a page appear straight up and down in line with the margin or show a ragged edge. Margin justification works in Microsoft Office programs the same way it does with other printed and on-screen text, but it’s much easier to justify margins in an Office program than it is using a typewriter for example.”[1]

I kind of like that example Dr. Koester uses. The margins of my life are aligned, straightened out and it is God who aligns my margins.

There is no longer a ragged edge. We could use that as a definition for sin couldn’t we.

My margins are justified. Your life is in alignment with God. Our edges are no longer ragged.

This is God’s work in Jesus. This is the God who is always seeking me out in order to straighten the relationship and make it right. This is good news. This is the gospel.

Paul keeps pushing the point in chapter 5. He reminds us what it means to be standing in grace and how much God does for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

God justifies the margins at the right time. Think about that. What does that look like for you?

We think of salvation as a onetime event and that is true. Jesus died on the cross and God raised him from the dead and it happened once. It only needed to happen once and this is what Paul is referring to when he says at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

But what do your margins look like today?

Are they ragged? And if they are ragged what is the cause of them being ragged? What is it today that you are struggling with in your life that is causing you to be out of alignment with God’s purposes in your life, with God’s plan in your life, with God’s direction in your life?

Can you name what this might be for you, today? Take a look at what it is that keeps you from experiencing God’s peace and what do you need to do about it?

Confess it? Make amends with someone? Do the thing you have been putting off doing? Make the change in your life that will give you wholeness instead of ragged margins. You are the only person who can answer these questions.

And let me remind you of where you stand – what Paul tells us – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand

For while we are still weak, at the right time, God has the power to align our margins and straighten things out. The right time is today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

Because God justifies our margins we have access to this grace in which we stand and we can boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God.

This is truly where faith meets life.

At the right time God will empower us to do what we need to do.

At the right time God will give us what we need the most.

At the right time God will eliminate the ragged edges of our lives and bring us into alignment with His purpose and plan.

This is hope. This is peace. This is God’s justification.

Thanks be to God. Amen

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