Good Old Fashion Trembling

There is a scene in the Old Testament that is near and dear to my heart. It’s found in 2 Chronicles chapter 34. In this chapter Josiah is a young king over Judah. Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign. But even in his early years we are told from scripture that he was a young boy that, “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Chronicles 34:2).” Even though he had been born into a time and a culture where idolatry and sin and perversity were rampant around him, the Lord’s hand was clearly guiding young Josiah. He began to bring tremendous reform into Judah. Prompted by the prophetic voices like Jeremiah and Huldah, Josiah began to tear down places of false worship, a courageous step for a young king.

Then one day while Josiah’s men were working to restore the temple in Jerusalem, they accidentally (or perhaps we might say providentially) discovered the “Book of the Law given through Moses.” This is a fascinating moment. God’s Word had been laying hidden for years, and then one day it was stumbled upon. We read in the following passage Josiah’s response when told of the discovery.

“While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses… Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. And when the king (Josiah) heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.

2 Chronicles 34:14–19 (ESV)

He tore his clothes! That is a picture of a man so conflicted internally that he can do nothing but rip the clothes from his own chest. What caused such inner turmoil and response? It was the realization that the living God, the God whom He had internally longed for all His life, had spoken and recorded His will for His people. For the first time Josiah saw the vast separation between the current culture of Judah and God’s will for His people, and it caused Him to tremble!

Josiah could have discovered God’s Word and said, “We’re doing pretty good. We’ve torn down a lot of the altars and made a lot of positive changes.” But he didn’t. Rather he tore his clothes.

The prophet Isaiah describes the heart of one to whom the Lord looks upon:

“… But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2 (ESV)

Do you tremble when you read God’s Word? Trembling is a mark of humility and contriteness of spirit. The trembler is the one who regularly peers into the unchanging Word of God and allows it to serve as a mirror accurately depicting their own life and circumstance. A humble spirit before God reads God’s Word and takes enough time in reflection for the Word to cut straight to the heart. They allow God’s Spirit to reveal where more reform is still needed in their own life. None of us have made it, and the moment we start to think we have made it, is the moment that we are in the most need of sustaining grace. We’re still sinners, broken through and through, in desperate need of sanctification today!

Oh may we increasingly rejoice in trembling before God’s Word.

Written by Raef Chenery

I'm a pastor in Chicago at Park Community Church - South Loop. I'm a husband to my beautiful wife Sara and a dad to three sweet girls, Ruth, Joy, and Mira. I'm blessed to be surrounded by a number of men and women who love to think about the ways that our faith interacts with our culture. This blog is as much for me to get my thoughts in order, as it is for those who might benefit from it and engage in the conversations as well. I would love to get your feedback through the comments on each post.

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