So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe… and they spoke to her regarding this. (II Chronicles 34:22).
It is popular at this time of year to make predictions about what the coming year will bring. Sometimes predictions are wild guesses; sometimes they are wishful thinking; but many times they are more like prophecies. What is the difference? What makes a prophecy?
The prophets in the Bible were inspired by God and so they could make accurate predictions about the future. Not all of the prophets were men; there were a number of women including Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah.
Our story this week is about Huldah. I’d be willing to bet that most of my readers have never heard of her. Even if you have, I wonder what percentage of folks have ever heard a sermon on her – probably less than 1% would be my guess.
Yet, in her day, Huldah was a very important woman. God used this faithful woman to give a very important prophecy to King Josiah. Here’s her story.
King Josiah reigned near the end of the Jewish Southern Kingdom before the Babylonian Captivity. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen due to God’s just judgment on them for hundreds of years of disobedience and idolatry. As God had warned them, they were carried off into captivity. The people in the Southern Kingdom had been more faithful and God was holding off the judgment of captivity on the Southern Kingdom for a few more decades.
Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign. He sought God with all of his heart. He purged the land of Judea of all of the idols and cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. Then he ordered the rebuilding of the newly purged temple. While the workers were cleaning it, the “book of the law” was found. It had been missing for many years. Previous bad kings, like Josiah’s father Amon, had never bothered to read it much less think it important enough to obey.
When portions of the book of the law were read to Josiah he was truly frightened. He realized that the Israelites had been disobeying God for many years without repenting. He knew that God’s wrath was very great because the people had been disregarding God’s word. He wondered if God would bring the disasters on Israel that were foretold by other prophets.
Josiah wanted to know if the book that was found was genuine. If it was, then he knew that God’s wrath would soon be on them. Josiah sent a few men, including his personal seer, to seek out Huldah, a prophetess, so that he might learn whether or not the book was the actual “book of the law” and what he should do if it was.
Now in our day, many people jump to the conclusion, due to their preconceived ideas about whether or not God uses women to minister, that Huldah was the only prophet available. These are the same folks who say that God only used Deborah to be a judge because there were no men available (See Judges, chapters 4 and 5). While it is true that God used more men than women to serve as prophets, we should not take that to mean that women are second best. If God used a woman, then she was the right person for the job. We should let God be God and not second guess HIm.
Anyway, the story of Huldah will blow away the reasoning that God only uses women when He has no men available.
Consider the fact that there were five other men available. Who were these men? Were they just youngsters or lesser prophets?
They were Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Jeduthan (the king’s seer). There are four Old Testament books bearing the names of the first four of these prophets. They were all alive at the time, but the king’s messengers went to Huldah’s house. It would have been so easy for Josiah to turn to his personal seer and ask him what God would have him do, but he sent his men to ask Huldah.
They knew that Huldah was a mature, Godly woman and that she was well respected by all. They did not need to go any further than her house to find out what God’s will for the king was.
Huldah responded with the message that God gave her. It was pretty horrific for the Jewish people. “Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched” (II Chron. 34:25). However, since Josiah had repented and sought God, Huldah gave him this promise, “‘Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord” (II Chron. 34:27).
Truly, Huldah was a remarkable servant of God. It could not have been easy for her to give such a scary prophecy to her people, but it was the truth and she boldly spoke it. Whether or not Christians have honored her as much as they should have, the Jews have held her in high regard as a prophet. Today you can see the monuments in Jerusalem that they constructed in her honor.
There are a couple of other things to note with this story.
One, does it have something about it that sounds familiar? Do you recall Solomon’s words when he finished building the temple and dedicating it to God? Solomon asked God to bless the people. Solomon also knew that the people might not continue to obey God as faithfully as they should. Solomon knew that God promised the Israelites that they would be taken into captivity as punishment for their sins. Of course we know that this would indeed happen a few years after King Josiah died. The Babylonians would come and defeat the people and carry them away as God foretold.
Recall that Solomon asked God to remember His people and forgive them if they should fall into idolatry. If the people should remember God again and humble themselves and ask forgiveness Solomon beseeched God to “hear from Heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You” (II Chronicles 6:39).
King Josiah certainly knew that God had been patient with the Israelites for hundreds of years. He knew that righteous judgment was upon them. But he humbled himself and sought God’s forgiveness. Huldah assured Josiah that God had heard his prayer and forgiven him. Because Josiah found favor with God, Huldah foretold, “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants” (II Chronicles 34:28).
Josiah read the words of the book of the law to the people and they decided to obey God during Josiah’s reign. After Josiah’s death, the kings of Egypt and Babylon took captive Josiah’s sons as foretold.
Huldah was a true prophetess. We know this because her message came true. That was God’s test for His prophets. And her message was both a reminder and a fulfillment of the one that Solomon had given many years before.
We don’t have “inspired” (I mean like those in the Bible) prophets today, but can we prophesize to a certain extent? May we, by using God’s Word predict what will happen this year?
I believe that we can. If we continue to mock God, we will have judgment. I do not know what form that will take, but we already have a “bad king” in the form of the current evil administration and so some predictions are possible.
If Christians don’t wake up and do something it is a sure thing that many more innocent unborn babies will die. It is a sure thing that much more injustice will be done. It is a sure thing that the hard won freedoms for which our forefathers fought and died will disappear one by one. God has told us what the consequences of our sins will be. Even a quick study of Biblical and Church will show that God keeps His promises to bless and to judge.
The answer to solving our problems is the same as it always was – we must repent of our sins, ask God to forgive us, and beseech His mercy. Then He will hear from Heaven and forgive His people (II Chron. 6:39). He has also promised to bless us richly if we obey. I pray that we will get back to focusing on God and His glory. When we follow God we will have much happier things to predict!