More than WordsMay 11, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Hilkiah and those the king had sent with himwent to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.” — 2 Chronicles 34:22
During the time of Josiah, there lived three renowned prophets. Jewish tradition teaches that Jeremiah prophesied in the streets of Jerusalem; Tzefaniah prophesied in the synagogues; and Huldah – a woman – had a school for women. Together they formed the spiritual leadership of the nation.
Josiah was a good king and took on the huge task of restoring God’s Temple. Kings before him had neglected and even desecrated the holy space. During the renovations the workers were thrilled to uncover an ancient Torah scroll that had been hidden away in the Temple walls. But the joy was short lived when they discovered that the scroll was open to an ominous section in Deuteronomy that describes all of the terrible things that will happen to the Jewish people if they forsake the ways of God. The king was deeply shaken and heartbroken, remembering how his father and grandfather had lived. He rent his clothes and ordered his men to take the scroll to a prophet for further clarification and advisement.
From all of the great prophets that were available at the time, the men chose to go to Huldah. Why?
The truth is that any prophet they would have gone to would have said exactly the same thing. A prophet is required to speak the word of God word for word. The king and his men already had a good idea of what the prophet was going to tell them. They knew that they could not change what they were about to hear, but they could change the way in which it was said. Huldah, as a compassionate woman, would give over the prophecy with love and grace. If they were about to hear bad news, at least she would break it gently.
As Josiah anticipated, Huldah prophesied that the Jewish people were about to experience the exile described in Deuteronomy. It wouldn’t happen in Josiah’s lifetime because of his righteousness, but it was on its way.
The reaction to the prophecy is positive. Josiah leads the people in repentance and even though they never fully return to God, perhaps it was that strengthening of spirit that gave the Jews the ability to withstand the harsh exile. This productive reaction and positive outcome can be attributed to Huldah. Had another prophet conveyed the message it might have lead to despair and more distance from God. But Huldah’s gentle tone inspired hope and encouraged change.
Every time we speak, people hear so much more than just the words we say. They hear how we say them. So whenever we open our mouths to speak, we have an opportunity to encourage and give hope through our words and tone, or we have the ability to tear down and cause despair.
As it says in Proverbs, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (16:24).