There’s an Old Testament story that bears striking resemblance to what’s going on today in America. It’s the story of King Josiah finding the lost Book of the Law.
Josiah, a boy at the time, had ascended to the throne in Jerusalem in a period of national turmoil and conflict. Political struggles had literally torn the nation in two, unleashing a destructive domino effect of division and violence. Lawlessness abounded, and the threat of war and invasion by foreign powers loomed ever near over the horizon. In all the confusion and chaos, the temple in Jerusalem had been neglected, and God’s law had been lost.
Josiah, who Scripture says, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” instituted sweeping reforms across the land. He personally sent his most trusted aide to ensure the temple was restored, and in the midst of the restoration, the lost Book of the Law was discovered.
Here’s what 2 Kings 22 says happened next:
“Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the high priest has given me a book.’ 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.”
Some scholars believe this was the first time the Bible had been read in King Josiah’s generation. The words impacted Josiah so deeply (tearing one’s robes was a sign of intense contrition) that he gathered all the people of Judah and Jerusalem and, standing in front of the temple, read from the book in their presence. That day, the people renewed their covenant with God, to turn back to him and keep his laws and decrees with all their hearts and souls.
Today, in America, it seems like we’ve also lost the Bible, and in a time of crisis, too.
In the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy, as we recently experienced with the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, instead of turning to God, many of our leaders questioned and even mocked prayer. We’ve forgotten the precious comfort of the Psalms, which declares, “The Lord is near to all who call on him” and He “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
In days filled with political spite and online vitriol that are tearing our nation apart, we’ve rejected the proven wisdom of the book of Proverbs. How different would America look if we heeded the warning, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Or Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).
And when our communities are yearning for racial reconciliation and healing, we’ve resorted to finger-pointing and accusations, instead of turning to the biblical truth that we were all created in God’s image and, therefore, have inherent value and equal standing with one another.
Like the kings of old, who set the Book of Law aside to collect dust, we’ve pushed the whole canon of the Bible out of the public square to be forgotten. We’ve banned Bible studies from our classrooms, forbidden prayer in our children’s football fields and stripped the Ten Commandments off many of our city halls, courthouses and public spaces. We’ve even recently tried to bar Congress from opening in prayer — a tradition that goes back 243 years to the first Continental Congress.
Our Founding Fathers never intended this for America. In fact, I believe if they were alive today they would be aghast at what has taken place.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” said John Adams in a speech to the Massachusetts militia on Oct. 11, 1798. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
George Washington, in his first inaugural address on April 30, 1789, said, “The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Some may argue our Founding Fathers didn’t intend to build an explicitly Christian nation, but it’s undeniable they believed the great American experiment could only work if the American people held fast to the Judeo-Christian principles found in the Bible.
On Nov. 17, Museum of the Bible opened its doors for the first time to the public. Located just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Museum of the Bible rises as a 430,000-square-foot monument to the legacy and impact of the best-selling book of all time.
This museum is an opportunity for America to retrace the rich and unparalleled history of the Bible in our country. Perhaps, like King Josiah, we can also rediscover the Bible we’ve lost.
• Jack Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.