The year the Bible arrived on the shores of the Hawaii Islands, King Kamehameha had just died. His son Liholiho broke the kapu system that enforced the death penalty for rules like if you looked upon the queen, or ate together with the opposite sex. This breakdown of the old religion meant that the Hawaiian high priest had to make a decision. Hewahewa, the priest declared that their God couldn’t be an carved image, a thing made by their own hands, God had to be spirit. He also declared the new religion would come in a black box and show up in Kailua Harbor. With the old religion worthless in his eyes, he set fire to Hawaii’s pagan temples and soon they were all burned.
Hewahewa saw the missionary ship’s arrival and raced down the oceanside trail to greet them. The missionaries stepped out of the boat bearing the black box, with God’s Word inside. The prophecy was fulfilled. Hawaiian royalty wanted to read, and the missionaries started training them, using the Bible as the text. When that was a success, the commoners also were taught. Eager to read just as soon as the pages came off the printer, they grouped themselves around the pages, and so some learned to read upside down and had to relearn their reading style when they received their own Bible.
This chapter of Hawaii’s encounter with God’s word is full of unexplainable circumstances, except that God opened the doors. For a high priest trained from a young age about his religion’s requirements, and for him to renounce it in the way he did goes to show another force was at work. He looked at carved images, at the strict rules, and other features of his religion and threw out those ideas in favor of the idea that God is spirit. With the royalty also breaking years of cultural restrictions, what had happened to the Hawaiian people? They had developed an awareness there was more, and there was something better and within a year, the Bible was in their hands. How do you explain that?
This story is awesome, the overthrow of both the government and the religion at precisely the same time that the missionaries were on their way to the Hawaiian islands. The perfect alignment of timing that included the life and death of the Hawaiian born man who translated the Bible, but that is another unexplainable story, revealing a deliberate action of someone beyond our earthly abilities, God.
This is based on Yolanda Olson’s history tour on last Friday, Oct 19.
Seeing God’s intricate design in bringing the Bible to Hawaii made me thrill to understand his love in a new light. He is good!