Friday, May 13, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 96. Jotham King Of Judah

Prophets And Kings
Day 96
Jotham King Of Judah

Today the author takes us back to the southern kingdom of Judah to tell us bouts the new king there, Jotham. Jotham is a good king who follows the Lord.

2 KINGS 15:32-38, 2 CHRONICLES 27:1-6
"In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok." (2 Kings 15:32-33) Jotham's reign isn't as long as that of some kings of Judah but before he sits on the throne he has already been running the nation for some time due to the illness of his father. 

"He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done." (2 Kings 15:34) The author of 2nd Chronicles adds this, "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord." (2 Chronicles 27:2) The author is not suggesting that Jotham didn't go to the temple at all but that he didn't go in to the altar and behave as a priest, as his father so sinfully did. Uzziah started out well, obeying all the commands of how to worship the Lord, but in his later life he became prideful and full of himself. He was so carried away with his self-importance that he entered the temple to offer incense on the altar, something only a consecrated priest could do. When confronted by the priests he became angry instead of sorry for his sin and the Lord struck him with leprosy. For the rest of his life Uzziah lived separately from his family, unable to lead the affairs of the nation, and so Jotham became king in everything but name. We don't know how long Uzziah lived after contracting leprosy but during those years Jotham was performing all his father's duties. Uzziah's sin and its consequences must have been a powerful lesson for his son. It taught Jotham that there is a God and that He is holy, not to be disrespected or dishonored.

There is one thing which Jotham and all the kings of Judah should have done: remove all the old high places where people worshiped God before the temple was built. We have discussed this subject several times before because the Lord commanded offerings and sacrifices be brought only to the place He would choose in the promised land, and He chose Jerusalem. So once Solomon built the temple nobody should have been bringing offerings and sacrifices to the high places. I can't say for certain why none of these kings remove the old altars. The Scriptures indicate it was something the kings knew they needed to do. The Scriptures keep bringing this up as a failure on the part of the kings, so we can't assume the kings left the altars there just because they had once been consecrated to the Lord. They know the Lord wants them removed. I suspect the kings left the altars because the citizens found them convenient. A person didn't have to travel to Jerusalem to worship but could walk up any old hill in Judah close to their house where there was an altar. Although bringing offerings and sacrifices to the Lord sounds like a good thing on the surface, refusing to do it the way He commanded allowed the people to practice their religion in whatever way seemed best to each man or woman. It separated them from the main body of believers and the priests at Jerusalem. Instead of going down to the temple where the word of God was read aloud, the people were avoiding hearing anything in God's law by going to the high places. Many of the poor people in Judah's society couldn't read and even if they could, they couldn't afford a copy of the word of God. Not going to the temple kept them from knowing what the word of God said and how it applied to their lives. "The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." (2 Kings 15:35a) "The people, however, continued their corrupt practices." (2 Chronicles 27:2b) 

Jotham doesn't tear down the high places but he does build up the temple complex. "Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the Lord." (2 Kings 15:35b) "Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the Lord and did extensive work on the wall at the hill of Ophel. He built towns in the hill country of Judah and forts and towers in the wooded areas." (2 Chronicles 27:3-4) Earlier in 2nd Kings we found some walls torn down and the temple looted by Jehoash king of Israel after Amaziah king of Judah challenged him to a military fight. Amaziah made the challenge because raiders from Israel had attacked a territory of Judah, robbing the people and killing many. But the Lord was not with Amaziah because of his pride and sin, plus he was greatly outnumbered by the troops of Israel. Because he insisted on a fight, Jehoash brought it in Chapter 14, He broke down a section of the wall about 600 feet long and entered the temple, taking the fine articles from the temple and the palace. Amaziah did not rebuild this wall, nor did his son Uzziah, Jotham's father. So we see Jotham is a more godly man than some of his ancestors. He is concerned that the Upper Gate of the temple is in ruins. He is concerned that an important defense wall at Ophel is in ruins. After rebuilding these walls, he builds towns and forts, adding to Judah's security.

The Ammonites have always been an enemy to Judah and Israel, attacking them time and again over the years, but during the reign of Jotham they actually become subject to Judah. "Jotham waged war against the Ammonites and conquered them. That year the Ammonites paid him a hundred talents of silver, ten thousand cors of wheat and ten thousand cors of barley. The Ammonites brought him the same amount also in the second and third years." (2 Chronicles 27:5) The Ammonites pay Judah 3 3/4 tons of silver per year for three years along with 1800 tons each of wheat and barley per year.

The author wants to make certain we know just why Jotham and his kingdom prospers. "Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God." (2 Chronicles 27:6) What a wonderful testimony to the Lord Jotham's life was! Can anything better ever be said about us than that we walked steadfastly before the Lord our God? The definition of steadfast includes these descriptions: to be devoted, to be firmly fixed in place, to be resolute and unwavering, to be dependable and reliable. To be called steadfast in the faith of the Lord is a great compliment. This tells us everything we need to know about Jotham's character. He was a man faithful to the Lord, devoted to his Creator, walking in His ways. 

We are not told the circumstances of Jotham's death, which is likely because he died of natural causes. The author of the books of Kings and Chronicles usually tells us the death circumstances of unrighteous kings, whether it be by assassination or by an illness that comes as a result of unrepentant sin. The just and the unjust both die, just as King Solomon once pointed out in Ecclesiastes 2:14 when he said, "The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both." So Jotham, though a good man, still faces the fate we all face. But Jotham went into the presence of the Lord at his death and it is still said of him all these thousands of years later, "He walked steadfastly before the Lord his God." Jotham received the reward of a life lived for the Lord: eternal life with Him and a testimony that lives on.

"As for the other events of Jotham's reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? (In those days the Lord began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.) Jotham rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David, the city of his father. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 15:36-38) During the final years of Jotham's reign, the Lord begins to allow Judah to be bothered by enemies because of her wrong worship practices. Jotham himself is not engaged in these practices but many of the people are. The Lord begins to send disciplining troubles upon them to encourage the people to ask themselves why this is happening, what they have done wrong. The troubles are intended to cause them to seek the face of the Lord. Not all of our troubles are a result of sin; most of our troubles are a result of living in a fallen world where disease and lawlessness exists. But sometimes trouble comes because we are going down the wrong path and have refused several opportunities to turn back. 

The Bible has many good things to say about King Jotham and it's quite a relief today to study a godly king after we have looked at several ungodly ones over the past several days. Jotham lived an honorable life and then rested with his ancestors. He rests in peace with the Lord, the reward of a life lived for Him. Jotham obtained a good name because of his faith and, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1)

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