If you asked 100 Christians to name the greatest women in the Bible, this woman probably wouldn’t make anyone’s list. But I think I can reveal a little known fact about her that will put her on your list.
When her story begins, she isn’t even in the room. The year is around 620 BC, the location is Jerusalem and the text is 2 Kgs. 22; 2 Chr 34. Josiah has been King of Judah for 18 years, tearing up idolatry all over Judah and the neighboring region. After he felt like the “religious housecleaning” was sufficient, that enough idols had been destroyed, he sent Shaphan, Maaseiah and Joah with orders to clean-up and repair the Temple from all of the filth and evil that Manasseh had caused. Hilkiah the priest was in charge of getting the finances ready to pay the workers; so the work began.
One day while Hilkiah was bringing out the money that had been given for the upkeep of the Temple, he found a book, a LOST BOOK. Hilkiah found the Book of the Law of the LORD that had been given to Moses. He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. This is one of the most unbelievable stories in all the Bible. God’s Book of the Law had been lost; how could anything like that possibly happen in God’s Temple? Shaphan immediately took the book to King Josiah and read it to him.
The Scriptures record, “When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” The tearing of clothing was a public and powerful expression of grief. Then he immediately ordered
Hilkiah, Ahikam, Abdon, Shaphan and Asaiah: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the LORD; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.”
So to whom would the leaders turn for guidance from the LORD? Zephaniah was one of the prophets in the area; yes, the Zephaniah who wrote the Bible book of Zephaniah. Would they go to him? No! Everyone knew who the top shelf prophet in the entire region was – JEREMIAH. Jeremiah had begun hearing directly from the LORD about 5 years previous. Jer. 1:1 (Even today he and Isaiah are to most respected prophets from the Bible.) Therefore, he was the obvious choice. Only one problem: the leaders didn’t seek out Zephaniah and they didn’t knock on Jeremiah’s door either.
Probably everyone in Jerusalem was shocked when the appointed leaders made their way to Shallum’s house; not to talk to him, but to seek counsel from his wife, Huldah, the most respected prophetess anywhere in Judah. Think about the honor that was. The leaders by-passed Zephaniah and Jeremiah and chose Huldah instead. When you truly want a message from God, the most prestigious names on the list don’t carry the most weight.
The leaders were probably shocked when Huldah already had a word from the LORD waiting on them and half of it wasn’t pretty. She wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but God.
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people— all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’
Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’ ” Half terrifying, half joyous. So then they took her answer back to the King.
The next time someone asks you to name the greatest women (or prophets) in the Bible, remember who the leaders of Judah chose when they desperately needed a word from God. They lived in the days of those prophets and knew who they could depend on to have a word of truth from the LORD. They chose Huldah over Zephaniah and Jeremiah. Remember to do the same. God bless.
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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