Monday, May 2, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 85. The Reign Of Joash, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 85
The Reign Of Joash
Part 2

Today we finish our look at King Joash, who sadly goes wrong after the priest Jehoiada dies.

2 KINGS 12:17-21, 2 CHRONICLES 24:15-25
Yesterday Joash implemented a plan for the restoration of the temple and it was a success. Everything was restored to its original splendor and there was enough money left over to replace the articles Athaliah's sons had stolen from the temple. During these years Joash was advised by his uncle Jehoiada the high priest. "As long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were presented continually in the temple of the Lord." (2 Chronicles 24:14b) 

But things are about to change because Jehoiada is about to pass on. It was in the twenty-third year of his reign that Joash took over the temple project, so we know Jehoiada has advised him for well over half his reign, since Joash's total reign was forty years. Jehoiada has been a father to him. Jehoiada has been a spiritual adviser to him, along with being a wise counselor in matters of government. And God has been good to both these men, giving Jehoiada an unusually long life during a time when men who lived to be seventy were considered old. The long lifespans of Old Testament characters is past but because Joash was so young when he ascended to the throne and because Jehoiada was so faithful to God and so essential for the prosperity of Judah, the Lord extended his years. "Now Jehoiada was old and full of years, and he died at the age of a hundred and thirty. He was buried with the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and His temple." (2 Chronicles 24:15-16) This man Jehoiada served his nation so well that he is given the burial of a king. 

Joash is undone by the death of his mentor. He falls into sin quite quickly after Jehoiada's death and I suspect the reason is that his faith was in Jehoiada, not in the Lord. While his uncle lived, Joash gave him respect and honor and obedience, but his allegiance was to a man and not to the living God. I believe Jehoiada taught Joash the truth of God's word and may not even have realized his nephew didn't have a relationship with the Lord. Joash looked like a godly man and behaved like a godly man. He had an earnest desire to see the house of the Lord restored and he worked diligently toward that goal. He went up to the temple and made all the sacrifices and offerings that the law required. Everything about him said that he was a faithful man but the death of Jehoiada tells us the truth about the condition of the king's heart. His trust was in the priest, not in the Lord.

"After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God's anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to Him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen." (2 Chronicles 24:17-18) How quickly Joash abandons the living God! This tells us he was never committed to Him in the first place. There's something weak in Joash that longs for someone to tell him what to do, and instead of clinging to the Lord's covenant he was given at his coronation, he happily changes his allegiance to these new advisers. I think Jehoiada did all that was humanly possible to mold Joash into a godly man but there's something lacking in the king's character. 

The Lord sends many prophets to speak against what the king and the people are doing, to no avail. So He sends Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, to give the people a chance to listen to the descendant of a well-respected man. After all, Zechariah's father was given a king's burial. For the sake of Jehoiada, we would expect the people to want to hear what Zechariah has to say. But their hearts are hard and they do not want to be confronted with their sin. "Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, 'This is what God says: 'Why do you disobey the Lord's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has forsaken you.'" (2 Chronicles 24:20) What dreadful words! But even in these words there is mercy because the Lord sends Zechariah to tell the people the truth so they may have the opportunity to turn from their sins. God is not saying He has forsaken them forever. He is saying that He has taken His protective hand off the nation because they have forsaken Him. But if they will repent and turn back, God will forgive them and heal their land. 

The truth hurts sometimes. When we know we are in the wrong and a friend comes to us and tells us the truth in love, it hurts. But as King Solomon once said, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." (Proverbs 276a) God is telling the people the truth because He is their friend. Zechariah, obedient priest of God, is telling the people the truth because he is their friend.

But they don't want to hear the truth. They don't want to turn from their pagan rituals back to the service of the living God. They want a made-to-order religion, one that requires little of them, one that allows them to satisfy their carnal desires. And so they reject the words of Zechariah. "But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord's temple. King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah's father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, 'May the Lord see this and call you to account.'" (2 Chronicles 24:21-22) Joash is alive only because of the kindness of Jehoiada. Joash is king only because of the kindness of Jehoiada. Yet he refuses to extend such mercy to Jehoiada's own son. It's difficult to imagine such cruelty and ingratitude. 

This heinous act of the king and the people is the last straw. The Lord allows their enemy, the Syrian king Hazael, to defeat them. "At the turn of the year, the army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people. They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus." (2 Chronicles 24:23) There is an account in 2nd Kings of Hazael coming to attack Jerusalem. I can't tell whether that attack is the same as we find in 2nd Chronicles. Many scholars believe that it is. "About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem. But Joash king of Judah took all the sacred objects dedicated by his predecessors---Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, the kings of Judah---and the gifts he himself had dedicated and all the gold found in the treasuries of the temple of the Lord and of the royal palace, and he sent them to Hazael king of Aram, who then withdrew from Jerusalem." (2 Kings 12:17-18) Joash is willing to do anything to preserve the capitol city, including giving the sacred temple objects to a pagan king. 

We can't be certain whether Hazael came against Jerusalem once or twice, but in one of the battles Joash himself is wounded. "Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the Lord delivered into their hands a much larger army. Because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, judgment was executed on Joash. When the Arameans withdrew, they left Joash severely wounded. His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. So he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings." (2 Chronicles 24:24-25) Up til now the officials of Joash haven't seemed very godly, so I don't know whether they assassinate him because of their high regard for Jehoiada and Zechariah or whether they blame Joash for their current defeat. It could be they want him dead because they can see a direct correlation between the stoning of Zechariah and their defeat by the Syrian army. Joash, who was consenting to the conspiracy against Zechariah, falls victim to a conspiracy himself. It's ironic that his godly uncle Jehoiada received a king's burial but Joash himself does not.

The author of 2nd Kings concludes with this, "The officials who murdered him were Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer. He died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. And Amaziah his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 12:21) He was buried with his ancestors but not in a king's tomb and not with all the pomp and ceremony of a king. While Jehoiada lived, Joash was a good king for the people, but after the death of the priest we see who was the real power behind the throne. Things abruptly fell apart. This is what can happen to any of us if we place our security in anyone or anything except the Lord. We will fall apart just like Joash did. If we follow our church pastor instead of the Lord, we are standing on dangerous ground because if the pastor lets us down we run the risk of falling away from the church. If we place our security in our marriage and our marriage fails or our spouse dies, what are we to do then? If we place our security in our children and we lose a child or our children rebel and break their relationship with us, what then? If we trust in our jobs, our finances, our standing in the community, our health, our talents, or anything other than the living God, the loss of any one of those things could send us into a downward spiral. As the old song goes, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is shifting sand." In this life there is only one thing upon which we can safely stand: the Rock of Ages. There is only one hand to which we can cling: God's unchanging hand. There is only one form of real security and it is found in the One who made us this unbreakable promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Our security is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

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