I had never heard of Huldah the summer that I stood in my growing-up kitchen and hollered into the phone, “You can’t let him come home because he’s crazy!”
I don’t recall whether I was heard on that occasion, whether our feet were spared another few days or weeks of walking on the hot rocks of mental illness. It didn’t matter to me at that moment if the doctor thought I was a “bad daughter,” or even if she thought that I was “crazy” like my dad, and so the ugly words of truth—supported by factual evidence—came spilling out.
Sometimes, during dark days that bristle with question marks, a voice of certainty emerges.
We don’t know why Huldah, the Old Testament prophetess, was given the fleeting spotlight in Israel’s history. Scripture’s spare style leaves much to the imagination, but here’s what we do know:
We know that Huldah lived in Jerusalem during a solemn time of division, when Israel’s monarchy swayed between righteousness and idolatry in a generational downward spiral. The temple, Israel’s center of worship, had been abused and desecrated by evil kings, but young King Josiah had begun to set things right. (For context, check out II Kings 22 or II Chronicles 34.)
We know that Huldah was married to the keeper of the priests’ wardrobe, and that they lived in the “university district” of the city. Tradition holds that she directed a school for women and children.
We know that Huldah was recognized by palace officials, and that she was known as … a prophetess! This is no small thing in the days of multiple wives and women as property.
Under orders from King Josiah, carpenters, builders and masons had begun repairing the ruins of the temple when, one day, Hilkiah, the high priest, found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD. Shaphan, a scribe, was given the task of delivering it to King Josiah and then reading it to him.
Which part of the Old Testament reached King Josiah’s ears that day? Given his response, it is reasonable to assume that they had discovered the list of terrible threats and curses against all those who violate God’s Law. In his grief, sorrow (and likely fear), Josiah tore his clothes and then ordered everyone within shouting distance to find out more about these words from God.
Enter Huldah. . .
Rarely did God speak to Israel through women, but the Megillah (a Jewish scholarly resource) suggests that Josiah’s officials thought a woman would be more easily stirred to pity than a man, and more likely to intercede with God on their behalf, prompting the temple officials to seek out Huldah and to bypass her contemporaries, Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zephaniah.
Most important of all, we know what she said because her words are recorded for us in Scripture. She interpreted the words of God, and she applied them. She did not mince words; she did not apologize. She had no fear of offending her audience even though her task was to communicate a message of judgment and wrath, calamity and doom against the nation of Israel. She was not intimidated by the power or the position of the titled quintet that had come scurrying to her for an interpretation.
Four times in her exposition, she used the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” She knew her Torah; she knew its Author. She was not giving her opinion or taking a poll of anyone else’s. She knew that she was God’s mouthpiece for God’s message and she used her God-given gift for the benefit of the nation.
If there was an Old Testament equivalent to the hair twisting, high-pitched, breathy-voiced presentation women resort to today when we feel intimidated, I doubt that it was part of Huldah’s repertoire.
Her role took G.R.I.T. (Graciously Reporting Intense Truth) and her message to us today is two-fold:
Don’t be afraid to be right. Don’t be afraid to speak hard truth.
It’s been a long time since I was 14, but the training in lava-words that God gave to me that summer has continued. The year one of our sons decided that his parents were nothing but a pain in the neck, he needed a gritty message of truth—not my opinion about what he should do with his life; not my broken heart handed to him in a bucket of tears. He needed God’s Words about relationship and holiness; God’s thoughts on planning a life and making wise choices.
And the hard reality is that I need grit today—this very day—to speak truth to my elderly mother.
“You need more care than I can give to you in my home.”
“It’s time to find a safe place for you to live.”
I am praying for grit to listen to her arguments, tinged with dementia and laced with desperation, and then to respond with grace and truth—a hard truth, based on the evidence of her rapid decline; a truth that I don’t want to say, and that she does not want to hear.
Here’s part two of Huldah’s message to us today, and it does not sell well either:
Don’t be afraid to disappear.
Huldah was on and off the stage in a single scene. Her prophecy came true—the destruction of Jerusalem, the exile of the people. But then, she faded into obscurity. We don’t know if she went on to greater opportunities in Jerusalem because of this big moment or if she was shunned and criticized for breaking with tradition.
I fear this kind of invisibility: no one reading my blog; no one liking my Facebook posts; no one seeking my opinion or asking for my input. Disappearance.
In the sovereign plan of God, Huldah made herself available when the time was right.
If she had been searching for recognition or concerned about her “image,” if she had been thinking in terms of her “role,” she might not have been able to do the task that was given to her to do. Whether or not she was given credit for it, Huldah was instrumental in bringing revival to God’s people. Because of the warning they received from Scripture coupled with King Josiah’s reforms, the hearts of the people were turned, for a time, toward their God.
It takes grit to disappear, to forego the faith-hindering search for recognition in favor of obedience.
It takes grit to speak truth, to put hard words on the table that need to be said, but that no one wants to hear.
Oh, God, one person can make a difference in the lives of thousands. One person can blaze a trail with her words that leads to life, holiness, worship, and truth. May the fiery heart of Huldah beat in me. May your Spirit of Truth burn away everything that stands in the way of Your Words.
Image credit: martinak15
This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.
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