Friday, March 17, 2023

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 154, Jehoash King Of Israel, Part One

Yesterday we studied the very brief passage of Scripture that deals with the reign of King Jehoahaz of Israel. Today we begin our study of his successor, Jehoash. We will soon need to combine our study of King Jehoash's reign with that of King Amaziah of Judah because their stories are intertwined.

Jehoash ascends to the throne while King Joash of Judah is still alive. "In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years." (2 Kings 13:10) We know that King Joash of Judah reigned for forty years, so Jehoash of Israel begins his reign three years before Joash dies. Then Jehoash completes the final thirteen years of his reign while Amaziah, the son of Joash, is the ruler of Judah.

Unfortunately, King Jehoash of Israel is not a very good king from a spiritual standpoint. Nevertheless, because his grandfather Jehu destroyed the state-sponsored religion of Baal worship in Israel, the Lord promised Jehu that his descendants would sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. The Lord does not break His word! In spite of Jehoash not being fully devoted to the Lord, and in spite of Jehoash's father not being fully devoted to the Lord, and in spite of Jehu himself not being fully devoted to the Lord, the Lord keeps His word. 

About Jehoash the author of 2 Kings says, "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them." (2 Kings 13:11) Jehoash is not an idolater in the strictest sense of the word; the golden calves set up at Dan and at Bethel by Jeroboam were presumably symbols of the Lord. But the Lord forbade anyone to make an image intended to represent Him. The Lord also decreed that offerings and sacrifices were to be made only at one altar---the altar of His choosing---which is now located in the temple at Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah. It did not seem advantageous to Jeroboam to have his people continually going in and out of the northern kingdom of Israel to worship the Lord at Jerusalem so he set up the golden calves as substitute locations of worship in violation of the Lord's commands. Jeroboam harbored the fear that the people would transfer their allegiance from him to the king of Judah. This is a fear that must have been shared by various other kings of Israel since they clung to the sinful locations of worship.

The author of 2 Kings inserts two verses here that may seem out of place to us. He seems to wrap up his comments about the reign of King Jehoash in verses 12 and 13 but then in verses 14 through 19 the author tells us of an interaction that took place between the king and the prophet Elisha. Let's take a look at verses 12 and 13 now. "As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, all he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jehoash rested with his ancestors, and Jeroboam succeeded him on the throne. Jehoash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel." (2 Kings 13:12-13) 

Before we move on with verses 14 through 19 we are going to study 2 Chronicles 25 beginning tomorrow. The author of 2 Kings just made his first mention of King Amaziah of Judah and of the war between Amaziah and Jehoash. The account of that war is detailed for us in 2 Chronicles 25 and we are going to take a look at that account before coming back to 2 Kings 13 to study the meeting between King Jehoash and the prophet Elisha which occurred just prior to Elisha's death.

For now we will conclude today's study session by stopping for a moment to think about the fact that King Jehoash of Israel admired the northern kingdom's first king, Jeroboam, so much that he named his son and successor after him. Jeroboam bears a great deal of responsibility for the northern kingdom's steep descent into idolatry, for when he disobeyed the Lord's commands he placed the people on a slippery slope. It's not that far of a jump between worshiping the Lord in the wrong way and in the wrong place to worshiping at altars that don't represent the Lord at all. I think it's very believable that Jeroboam did not expect his actions to cause anyone to begin worshiping false gods in addition to (or in place of) the Lord. But that is exactly what happened. On the day Jeroboam commissioned the golden calves to be made, the first step was taken toward the northern kingdom's eventual downfall. Idolatry is the reason the northern kingdom will fall utterly and irrevocably to the invading nation of Assyria later on in the Old Testament. 

It is never okay to compromise on any of the principles the Lord has laid down for us. I sincerely doubt King Jeroboam thought his golden calves would lead to the destruction of the nation. If someone had told him there would come a day when the vast majority of the nation's citizens would be worshiping the gods of the heathen nations, he probably wouldn't have believed it. But one compromise leads to another compromise, then another, then another, until we find ourselves far away from where we started. We find ourselves "a long way down a dark road" as I phrased it in one of the old journals of my youth when I suddenly found myself a long way spiritually from where I started. Jeroboam's religious system led the whole nation, in time, a long way down a dark road. And in spite of the Lord's repeated pleadings for the people to turn around and go back in the right direction, they won't, and as a result they will lose their nation altogether. 

Did any of them think such a thing would ever happen? Did any of them want such a thing to ever happen? No, but deliberate and unrepentant sin never leads to anything good. The Apostle James, brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, warns us that when we give in to wicked desires, our wicked desires "give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death". (James 1:14-15) Jeroboam gave birth to sin when he commissioned the golden calves and, later on in the Old Testament, this sin becomes full grown and gives birth something terrible---the death of the northern kingdom.

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