No one knew the Bible like my grandmother, Mary, and it was a well-known fact. No one was watching her, but we all knew from the evidence that she spent a good amount of time each day looking through her magnifying glass at the stories in the Bible. The gold leafed pages of her King James Bible had turned gray and the cow-hide edges were permanently upturned. The details came out here and there in plain speak, uncolored, unfiltered – like God to the Hebrews – with an undisputed sense of barb and that familiar combination of compassion and wrath.
Oh, usually, it was in statements to me about my appearance like, “are you ever going to comb your hair?” and “do you go to work looking like that?” Sometimes, the more prophetic statements emerged, like the one I will never forget while sitting at the site of my first wedding (not a church) uttering something like, “I don’t know why you’re doin’ this, it ain’t gonna last.” Blunt speak, she was known for it. I suppose she learned it from the Bible. She steered me from beyond with her stubborn, steadfast faith, through all my many wanderings; she was my magnetic north star, always pulling me back into her center of gravity.
Huldah was probably a lot like my grandmother. I can imagine her looking up from a careful reading through her magnifying glass, pointing it at the gang of priests sent by King Josiah to find her, “tell that man (refusing to say his name) who sent you to me…thus says the Lord God of Israel, thus says the Lord, I will certainly bring disaster on this place.” Ouch.
The priests in the presence of Huldah probably felt a lot like I did sometimes in the shadow of my grandmother, shaking from the dread of the implied doom her words often prophesied (which felt mostly like the fear of God.)
One would think King Josiah chose Huldah to interpret to mysterious scroll found hidden within the walls of the temple over Jeremiah because he was looking for a more compassionate voice, a more nurturing presence. After all, Jeremiah was the dark rock-star prophet of the times. However, Huldah, much like Jeremiah, was also not the coddling type. No, she was the tell it to you straight type, the one you go to for the unabridged truth, the unfiltered truth, the truth unaltered by peer pressure or political allegiance. Perhaps. The truth is, we really don’t know why Josiah chose Huldah that day. We can only speculate. Perhaps Jeremiah was away or busy or Josiah wanted the indie-alternative voice of the day.
Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t much matter. The story is not really about Huldah, as much as I would like for it to be. After all, I’ve written an entire series of songs about women of the text, hoping to find some thread of power that connects to all the ways in which I have felt powerless in my own life. But, the story is not really about Huldah or self-empowerment. We don’t even know much about her, although it is pretty impressive that she is known as a prophet in the region of Jerusalem. Still, the story is not about that, though it does make for a great story.
And the story is not about me or my grandmother or even the great King Josiah. No, the story is actually about what connects us all together, the voice that is speaking through this forgotten scroll and what it has to say to everyone in a time and place and a kingdom and a world. It is a message that is for them and for us. It is a story about a message that cannot be hidden or misplaced, a message so creative that it would speak through the rocks and the trees if the human voice refused to be its vessel. It is the message that was written down in this lost scroll and comes to be found by a great man, a king, and a great woman prophet in a time and place so long ago that we have to excavate it even from our text.
It is the message that sees through us, all of us. King Josiah and his great righteous zeal, Huldah and her powerful feminine obscurity; the message that sees through this strange point where I meet them in my attempts to be an effective and powerful female clergy leader while trying to mediate the mysterious voice of God from the often dying relic of the church pulpit; it is this message that even sees through my grandmother and her sage-like attempts to bring us all down to the stump of our humble beginnings.
But to know God in this human experience is to be rescued by the sheer force of love.
It feels good and true and right when you are at last seen by this kind of love, when you are rescued from all the ways you have tried to secure it by your own efforts. When you are seen by this kind of love, you are seen through, as it were, by someone who loves you, a friend, a grandmother, a prophet — you feel that a sort of rescue mission for your soul has been underway all along and you never knew it until that very moment when you understood. In that moment, it doesn’t matter if the world ends or if your whole life has been some empty pursuit of justice, of fortune, of recognition — all that matters is that you have found the one thing you’ve searched for all your life. This is the essence of Huldah’s story, and mine, too.