Sunday, May 1, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 84. The Reign Of Joash, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 84
The Reign Of Joash
Part 1

Today we study the reign of the young king Joash and will be looking at both 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24.

2 KINGS 12:1-16, 2 CHRONICLES 24:3,7,13-14a
"In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother's name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." (2 Kings 12:1-2) Jehu had been king of Israel for seven years when Joash was crowned king of Judah. Joash has one of the longer reigns of the kings of Judah, perhaps because for many years he did what was right under the guidance of his uncle the high priest. We will find he has a heart for God's house but he does fail to remove the old high places where people used to sacrifice to God before there was a temple at Jerusalem. The high places are not good for the people because they lead the people away from the temple where God commanded them to worship. The high places are a step removed from where God told them to worship and they are a step toward slipping back into idolatry.

"Jehoiada chose two wives for him, and he had sons and daughters." (2 Chronicles 24:3) Jehoiada is so involved in Joash's life that he even chooses his wives for him. I think Jehoiada fears Joash making a bad match in marriage like some of the kings before him who married pagan women. We can safely assume that the women Jehoiada chose for his nephew were godly women. I don't feel that the Bible endorses multiple wives or that this situation applies to our world today. The Bible reports to us what men and women did in ancient times, both the good and the bad. But God only gave Adam one wife when He created mankind because God's best plan does not involve a man having multiple wives. Most of the men of the Bible who had multiple wives also had a great deal of trouble in life because of it, mainly through their children. A man cannot adequately guide more than one household or effectively be a father to a multitude of children by different women. It could be that Jehoiada chose two wives for the king because he felt the more children the better, in view of how the wicked queen Athaliah once ordered all the royal princes killed. It could be the priest fears something similar happening again and wants to do all he can to ensure the continuation of the royal line. Having more than one household of children may seem prudent to Jehoiada in case of attack on the family.

Joash has a heart for God's house and wants to see it restored to its former glory. The house of God was his home during the years the priests hid him from his wicked grandmother. The house of God is precious to him, like our childhood homes were precious to us. He has a godly desire to care for it. During the reign of Athaliah, a Baal worshiper, this happened: "Now the sons of that wicked woman Athaliah had broken into the temple of God and had used even its sacred objects for the Baals." (2 Chronicles 24:7) It wasn't enough for Athaliah to simply reject and disrespect the God of Israel. It wasn't enough for her to neglect the upkeep of the temple. She allowed her sons to break into the temple and do damage to it. She even allowed them to take the sacred objects out and desecrate them by using them in pagan rituals. 

Joash comes up with a plan to fund the temple repairs. "Joash said to the priests, 'Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the Lord---the money collected in the census, the money received from personal vows and the money brought voluntarily to the temple. Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasuries, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.'" (2 Kings 12:4-5) The priests were intended to make their living by their service at the temple, so some of this money paid their salaries, which is only right since that was their occupation in life. If a priest or pastor works full time in the church, he ought to be paid a good living wage for it. But somehow it was not a priority to use the money left over to do the repairs to God's house. Some scholars speculate that the priests were taking the excess and dividing it greedily among themselves, becoming quite wealthy. Other scholars feel these men were not skilled in money management and were not making the repairs a priority.

Joash's command is ignored for many years. "But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests had still not repaired the temple. Therefore King Joash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and asked them, 'Why aren't you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for repairing the temple.' The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves." (2 Kings 12:6-8) Because the priests have failed to properly manage the money and repair the temple, Joash takes matters into his own hands. The money will need to go into a specific collection box. Also, workmen will be assigned to do the repairs that the priests have failed to do. Unfortunately, these men have shown themselves to be poor stewards of the money entrusted to them and have been lazy in getting the work done. This is another reason some scholars believe their failure to obey the king was motivated by greed, although to give them the benefit of the doubt they may just have been so busy with their duties they had little time left over to do repairs, or they may have just naturally been bad at handling money, or they may have lacked management and leadership skills.

A collection box is constructed for donations to the temple repairs. "Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid. He placed it beside the altar, on the right side as one enters the temple of the Lord. The priests who guarded the entrance put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the Lord. Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the Lord and put it into bags. When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the Lord---the carpenters and builders, the masons and stonecutters. They purchased timbers and blocks of dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the Lord, and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple." (2 Kings 24:9-12) This is more like it. This is a good system of money management and personal accountability. The collection box is placed where the people can't miss it when they come to the temple. The people know this money is for the repair of the temple and so they know exactly what their offerings will be used for. The priests stand there to collect the offerings and place them in the box in the sight of the people, so they can see for themselves that their money is going into the temple repair fund. When the box gets almost full, two men come and count the money, which is far better than having only one man count the money, With two there is less chance of being accused of any funny business with the money, since each of them is keeping an eye on the other. Then the money is given to those who supervise the work and it is paid out as expenses are incurred.

"The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the Lord; it was paid to the workers, who used it to repair the temple. They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty. The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the temple of the Lord; it belonged to the priests." (2 Kings 12:13-16) What Joash is doing is good for the economy by employing workmen. The priests aren't suffering financially either because they are still receiving the portion of funds that is due them. This clearly shows us that there was more than enough money for everything that needed to be done; it just wasn't being handled properly before Joash set down some rules. I feel inclined to disagree with those who think the priests were being greedy with the money, because once a clear system is in place, everyone behaves with the utmost honesty. Some people are naturally good at handling money while others need guidance and I think in this case the priests simply needed guidance. They needed someone to help them make the temple repairs a priority. 

"The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them. They rebuilt the temple of God according to its original design and reinforced it. When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money to the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made articles for the Lord's temple: articles for the service and for the burnt offerings, and also dishes and other objects of gold and silver." (2 Chronicles 24:13-14a) The Lord requires good stewardship of everything He blesses us with. Because all these men finally got with the program and put a system in place, the Lord abundantly blessed this project. There was plenty of money for materials and to pay the workmen, with enough left over to replace the articles that Athaliah's sons had stolen.  

We will continue our study of Joash's reign tomorrow and we will find that he goes astray after his uncle Jeoiada dies. He is a wise king when it comes to managing projects but not so wise when it comes to managing his personal life. He isn't the first king we can say this about, though. King David was successful as a leader and a warrior but not successful as a family man. King Solomon was successful in building the kingdom but not successful in setting a spiritual example. Like the rest of us, the kings of Judah and Israel had strengths and weaknesses. They were strong in the Lord at times, weak in the flesh at others. We see a pattern in their lives that should be a warning to us: when they stick close to the Lord they do well; when they stray from Him they do poorly. 

I have a fear of growing cold toward the Lord. In my early thirties I somehow slipped out of church and didn't go back for seven years. You would think a thing like that would have to be caused by something specific, something big, but that wasn't the case. My heart had grown lukewarm and after missing a few services I simply didn't go back. And I can't tell you why because I don't understand why. I can't point to this thing or to that thing and say, "This is what caused me to stop going to church," or, "This is what caused me to stop spending prayer time with the Lord." It took what, to me, was a personal tragedy to send me running back into the arms of the Lord. And so for me it's vital that I stay faithfully in church. It's vital that I do this Bible study and that I talk to the Lord in private. It like life or death to me. The last thing I ever want is to feel cold in my worship again. I remember what kind of person it made me, how dead I felt inside, how fruitless my life was, how nothing I was doing during that time had any eternal value. And I really think I'd rather be dead than ever feel like that again. Looking back on my life, the only things that matter are the things I've done in the name of the Lord and for His honor, and sadly there aren't as many of those things as there should be. It's a slippery slope when we start growing cool toward the Lord. Studying these kings of the Bible should be a warning to us about growing spiritually cold. The Lord was with them if they were with Him. But when they grew lukewarm and then cool and then cold, many of their reigns ended on a sad note. We don't want to be like the kings who started well but ended poorly. Many of us began poorly, lost and without Christ, but in Him we can end well. We can finish strong. As the saying goes, let's go out with our boots on. Let's go out standing on the battle line, shield in one hand and sword in the other, with the name of our Lord and Mighty Defender on our lips.

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