So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. And she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king. II Kings 22:14-20 ESV
The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation. Numbers 14:18 ESV
In 2005 two teenage boys, Josh Long and Troy Driscoll, went out into the ocean on a sailboat off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. Suddenly high winds came up and blew their boat out onto the open sea. They drifted for six days without food or water, and gave up on being found and rescued. One time a container ship sailed by and almost swamped their boat, but it didn’t see them. The sun burned and dehydrated them, and sharks circled their boat. Their families began to give up hope that they would be found, and the Coast Guard gave up their search. But then a fishing boat saw them and went to rescue them. It seemed like a miracle that they were found and safely brought home. Their situation had seemed hopeless, but in time there was good news instead.
When the Book of the Law had been found in the temple, Josiah heard the bad news of God’s judgment for the sins of his people, and he believed that there was no hope that God’s judgment could be turned aside after generations of sin and rebellion against the Lord. But he called on God hoping for mercy by sending his men to a prophetess named Huldah. The Lord spoke words of both judgment and promise through Huldah. God would punish his people for their sins by bringing disaster on the southern kingdom of Judah, but he would postpone that disaster during Josiah’s lifetime. God showed his mercy to Josiah and promised him peace and security for his kingdom as long as he lived.
We also have lived in sin and rebellion against God, and we deserve his punishment, but God has had mercy on us. He sent Jesus to die and take the punishment for our sins, and because of what Jesus did our sins are forgiven every day. God sends us his Holy Spirit to help us feel sorry for our sins and to turn to the Lord for forgiveness. We know that God’s final judgment for sin is coming, but we know that for everyone who believes in Jesus, instead of judgment and disaster, there is God’s sure promise of forgiveness and mercy.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us your mercy through Jesus and giving us forgiveness and life with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.