Disobedience brings its own bitter reward – Saturday, 11th week in ordinary time – 2 Chronicles 24:17-25
From 2 Kings we shift for a brief period to the second book of Chronicles to supplement the narrative of the seven-year-old King Joash who was placed on the throne in a stunning coup by the priest Jehoiada. The wicked grandmother of the king, Athaliah is executed and the temple of Bal and its priests destroyed.
The book of Chronicles attributed to the scribe Ezra or sone unknown Levite, in its Greek title reads as ‘paraleipomena, meaning “things omitted,” or “passed over”; things in the accounts found in Samuel and Kings that are ‘passed over’. However, The Books of Chronicles, are much more than a supplement to the books of Samuel and Kings. When we actually compare the two histories in the books they disclose striking differences in their scope and purpose. The Books of Chronicles record in some detail the lengthy span, almost five hundred and fifty years of Israelite history; from the death of King Saul to the return from the exile.
The text of today documents the forty year reign of King Joash , also known as Jehoash in 2 Kings 12 and how judgment followed when he turned to idolatry. His was a long and mostly blessed reign. While he did advance the cause of God in the kingdom of Judah during the time that the priest Jehoiada, this king too fell short of a full commitment to complete godliness. When Jehoiada died, Joash no longer did what was right in the sight of the LORD.
Life is not merely about putting your best foot forward, it’s about being consistent. Joash began well. He set his heart on repairing the house of the LORD; This indicated the godly concern that Joash had regarding the condition of the temple. We are told that the sons of the wicked queen Athaliah, had broken into the house of God. This explains why the temple was in such disrepair. It wasn’t just normal wear and tear usage; it was a deliberate campaign against the temple and the worship of the true God prompted by Athaliah and her sons.
King Joash knew that a prosperous and secure kingdom mattered little if the things of God were neglected or despised. The temple was not God, but neglect and despising of the temple reflected neglect and despising of God.
Clearly, there was not enough money in the royal treasury to underwrite this project. Therefore, the king commanded the Levites in Judah’s outer cities to collect money and bring it back for the project in Jerusalem. However, the Levites did not do it quickly: For some reason the Levites did not share the same passion as King Joash did; perhaps because of natural inertia (still true even of Christian workers) or they felt that the townspeople would not embrace and support this work. Nevertheless, Joash held them to account and got the work moving.
An ambitious fund-raising campaign is put into action. A collection chest was made and set outside the gate of the house if the Lord. This was a strategic location on the right side of the altar. This would be akin to our collection boxes. King Joash and Jehoiada the priest, implemented a system where the money would be set aside, saved, and then wisely spent for the repair and refurbishing of the temple. Here is a thought; it is possible for God to cause the money and materials to just appear by a miracle. Yet He chooses to almost always fund His work through the willing gifts of His people. He works this way because we need to be a giving people. This idea is echoed in 2 Corinthians 9:7: So, let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
In all likelihood, this generous giving was somewhat of a surprise. Both the king and the priest must have doubted the inability to make such a collection considering the great iniquity and impiety which had reigned for many years. Yet the piety of King Joash disappeared the day Jehoiada died at the age of one hundred and thirty years. This great priest was honoured with a burial in the City of David, buried among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, to his King and country. The influence of one good priest can sway a parish and check sin. One man can be the head of a host who shall serve God, and honor his name.
Sadly, now that Joash was no longer under the influence of Jehoiada, he took a definite turn for the worse. All that Joash had done was to give his heart to Jehoiada, not to Jehovah. Joash is influenced to do evil. We are told that the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Joash seems to have been a fundamentally weak man; he did good when he was under the influence of the godly Jehoiada, but he did evil when he was under the influence of these leaders of Judah, who led them into idolatry. Now, Joash no longer worshiped Yahweh and begins to serve wooden images and idols. Yet God sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. This second sin was greater than the initial sins of weakness and idolatry. Joash would not listen to God’s prophets or the correction they brought to him
The Spirit of God then came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people: This prophet, the son of the influential priest, had a position of leadership as a priest with a stern message, “Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you”. Instead of repentance we see conspiracy. At the command of the king, they stoned Zechariah the priest. They not only rejected his message; they also silenced the prophet who spoke with the words of conviction.
Zechariah’s dying words were a plea to God, asking Him to repay his murderers according to His justice. It is the perfect prayer of the persecuted, leaving all vengeance in the hand and wisdom of God. Zechariah is not looking for personal revenge but asking God to act in keeping with his declared principles of justice. And God does exactly that!
At the end of that year, in the spring of that same year, the army of Syria came up against Judah, destroyed all the princes of the people, sent their spoils to Damascus; and Joash, the murderer of the prophet, the son of his benefactor, was himself murdered by his own servants. The army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the LORD delivered a very great army into their hand, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers.
This whole evil tragedy is filled with ironies. The people did not listen to the command of the LORD, but they did listen to the evil command of King Joash. Joash was treated with kindness by Jehoiada, yet Joash murders Johoaida’s son. Zechariah was murdered in the same place where his father Jehoiada had anointed Joash king (2 Chronicles 23:10-11).
Disobedience brings its own bitter reward, and what God’s people sow they always, in some way or another, reap. Thus ended a reign full of promise and hope in the beginning, but cruel and ruinous in the end. Never was the hand of God’s justice more stretched out against an apostate king and faithless people, than at this time.
The study of the story of Joash offers a striking illustration of how a weak man is easily influenced. It emphasizes the need of strong individual character, which can only be created by direct dealing with God.