In the earliest years of my faith in Christ, during high school, God led me to the short story of young King Josiah and the finding of the “Book of the Law” while rebuilding the temple.
It would take two decades for me to understand the parallels and significance in my life.
Born in 649 BC, Josiah’s father, King Amon, and grandfather, King Manasseh, both “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 21:20). The Lord ordained that Josiah lose his father at young age. The wicked King Amon was murdered when Josiah was only eight. Josiah “began to seek the God of David” in his mid-teens. (2 Chron. 34:3). As the Word declares, “he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2) and he became the last Godly King over the God’s chosen people before the Lord exiled His people. His clearing the kingdom of idols foreshadows Christ clearing the Temple and His ultimate clearing of sin in His coming Kingdom. I, too, was born to a father and grandfather who turned from the Lord, experienced pre-adolescent alienation from my father, yet the LORD sought me in my mid-teens. When I originally studied this character during my late teens the LORD impressed the story of Josiah upon me so greatly that I wanted live up to Josiah’s example and also name my first son in his honor.
What was the event that propelled Josiah from God-seeking young man into the great leader of God? What so deeply convicted him that he changed not only his own life, but used his influence over those around him to return a people to the Lord?
The life-changing, nation-turning event was this: He found a lost Book, but not just any book.
In 633 B.C., Hilkiah the High Priest found a lost copy of the “Book of the Law” in the “house of the LORD” (the Temple) which was undergoing repairs. He gave the Book to Shaphan, his secretary, who present to King Josiah and read it. Now about age 24, Josiah had already been “seeking” the LORD for almost ten years, was already living in the fear of the LORD and thus likely knew of the Book of the Law.
Yet something about finding this particular “Book of the Law” provoked a reaction in young king Josiah that would change his life, the course of a nation, and even stay the judgment hand of God. Something shook him to the core at hearing the Word of the Lord read from the unexpected find of an irreplaceable written record of the spiritual legacy of his forefathers. Josiah tore his closes in renewed repentance and became a strong leader for God through driving out the idolatrous practices in the land, restoring right worship of the Lord .
I thought the story and the parallels ended there; an inspiring moral story tucked away in my head. Now, two decades and many revelations later, the Lord has shown me even more.
Over the past five years the legacy of my great-grandfather, Rev. Joseph Burrows, has meant more to me with every passing year. I’ve traveled back to where he preached, visited his grave, met some old ladies who knew him and stood where he preached three generations ago. As I grow in knowledge of the Word and matured in Christ, I feel ever more called to continue his legacy and go into ministry. Yet all I had were some pictures and what limited information my ailing grandmother (Rev. Burrows’ last surviving child) could provide from her fragmented memories. In the year before her death I had a repeating daydream of someday telling my grandmother that I was entering ministry and in response I pictured her handing off to me the most precious physical connection to my great-grandfather that I could image: his personal preaching Bible. This dream was so strong and flourished with such detail that in the summer before her death I asked if she knew what has become of his Bible. She assured me that she had no such thing and it was likely lost to time. In February 2008 she went to be with Jesus at the age of 83.
Then, like my spiritual hero Josiah, I also found a book which is changing my life.
With the family gathered in my grandmother’s apartment where she had passed just days prior, the greedy process of pillaging through her life’s possessions began. Unconcerned about jewelry, clothes or other things of “value,” I sought the irreplaceable: the pictures, postcards, and letters that document a life lived. We neared completion of divvying up her belongings when my cousin pulled a small red box from inside the TV cabinet. When she opened it she recognized it as a Bible and handed it to me (she knows I’m a strong Christian and would probably want such a thing). Opening the cover, the inside page simply read, “Joseph Burrows, April 14th, 1914.” Thumbing through the pages confirmed what seemed impossible: the Bible was indeed his preaching Bible, complete with sermon outlines and lesson notes! This one Bible—once thought lost to the chaos of time—about which I’d so often dreamed of holding, that symbolized the passing on of a legacy of ministry, was preserved by the Lord in His Grace and Sovereignty and now sitting in my hands. In my daydream, which I now see as prophetic, my grandmother handed this once-imagined copy of the Word to me with a loving smile and watery eyes that told me, “You’re ready for this.” Since finding the Bible—this particular Bible—I’ve felt that now that the dream has come true, so should the meaning behind it.
Last week, feeling somehow called to re-read the story of Josiah again for the first time on a couple decades, two amazing parallels hit me. First, the discovery of Rev. Burrows’ preaching Bible greatly parallels Josiah’s finding of the “Bible” of his day. I don’t know why, perhaps just the working of God, but I in the 17 months since I found the Bible I never realized the parallels. Second, in the text (2 Chronicles and 2 Kings) I discovered another parallel in family history. Using online Bibles with great cross-references (an advantage I didn’t have, nor would I have used, in my teens) I traced back Josiah’s lineage a little further. As the LORD showed me, in addition to a godless father and grandfather, Josiah had a Godly great-grandfather, King Hezekiah, who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.” (2 Kings 18:3). I was stunned. Josiah and I both had Godly great-grandfathers, only that mine is matrilineal rather than patrilineal as was the case for Josiah.
I can only imagine what God has to show me, or do with me, next.