Ahaziah and Athaliah

Brian Peterson, Speaker

2 Chronicles 22-23 | July 8 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
July 8
Ahaziah and Athaliah | 2 Chronicles 22-23
Brian Peterson, Speaker

Let’s pray together. Our Father, that is indeed the cry of the redeemed soul. All I have is Christ. Hallelujah, Jesus is my life. O Lord, we feel very keenly this morning the words of the apostles when they said to your beloved Son, where else shall I go for You alone have the words of life, and so this morning we come to you looking for Your words of life. Speak, O Lord. Give us ears to hear. Show yourself to us this morning through Your Word, Your infallible and inerrant Word that we should leave this place having gained a fuller side of God. We commend our morning to you now for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, would you open in your Bibles this morning to 2 Chronicles once again, 2 Chronicles, this time this morning to chapter 22. If you’re visiting with us, you’ve heard already that we are in a summer series studying the kings, especially the kings of Judah in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles. This morning we will also be in a relative passage in 1 Kings chapter 16, so you might put a pencil or something else in 1 Kings 16.

Now this portion of the Scripture can get terribly confusing. I have a book on my shelf that’s about, many books on my shelf, that are all about the royal, the monarchy in Great Britain. And particularly in the time of the Puritan era and then leading on into the Reformation, and one book in particular tells the story of one particular part of the church in that part of the world in that era and in the very back of that book there is an appendix devoted only to explaining who all these people are, because it gets terribly confusing. There is, there’s only so many Queen Marys that we can keep up with. There’s only so many Elizabeths and James that we can keep straight in our minds. And if there’s anything that is more confusion than who all the Marys are and who all the Elizabeths are and who all the James are from the royal line, then maybe the only thing more confusing than that is to keep up with who all the kings are in the days of Old Testament Israel. It can get vastly confusing.

If I had the time this week I’d every good intention of giving to you for your bulletin a little visual, a map of who these people were and, and where they belonged and what line and so forth. We’ll do the best we can with sharing those things just with, just with our words.

But in this period that we’re studying in 2 Chronicles, by now it’s important that you remember that the, the people of Israel, just setting the stage for us this morning, the people of Israel are by now divided into two kingdoms, a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom, and the northern kingdom keeps the name Israel, just to add to the confusion. All Israel, then there’s the northern kingdom, the bigger of the two kingdoms, they keep the name Israel; the southern kingdom takes the name Judah. And they each have kings that are set up, and some of those kings, their names sound terribly similar to one another. There’s Rehoboam and there’s Jeroboam, and then there’s Jeroboam II, and there’s all these kings that have, have similar names. Sometimes there’s, there’s kings that are in Israel and has a certain name and then there’s also the same name of a king in Judah; King Jehoram of Israel and King Jehoram of Judah come to mind.

Then there are alternate names for some of these kings, and if we dig deep enough we might even find alternate spellings of these alternate names for these kings and where do they belong and sometimes they say “this is the King of Israel” and we have to figure out by looking at other texts is this the king of all Israel or the king of just the northern kingdom of Israel, and it all gets terribly confusing. And that’s all at play in our passage this morning. We’ll do our best to keep up with it all.

We’ll not read the entire passage that we’re going to look at this morning, two chapters in all. But it’s important that we catch a feel for the drama and the political machinations that are happening, all lurking beneath the text, because all of those things, all of the political maneuvering and this king dying and this king taking his place, all of these things are meant to reach off the text and grab us by the shoulders and take us to something quite sacred indeed.

So that if you’re looking for a single theme that connects this lengthy narrative of these two chapters, it is simply this: That God at last always reestablishes His own faithfulness. God at last always reestablishes His own faithfulness. And if I may so speak, some of us in our sanctuary this morning, with risk of overstating things, desperately need to remember that God at last always reestablishes His own faithfulness.

Chapter 22, as we jump headlong into the deep end of this pool, begins with the short-lived reign of a man called Ahaziah, and this wicked mother’s desperate attempt to keep the throne for her family. We’re going to jump right into 2 Chronicles 22 and then we’ll explain some of the context.

“And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his place, for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had killed all the older sons.”

Now, by the way, by way of reference, if you were with us last week, that’s what Dr. Thomas preached was last week, about, about Jehoram, this evil, wicked man, the man about whom when he died, no one regretted his death. And he was after a particular piece of land, so he made war with the Arabians and the Arabians retaliated and came back and they executed, as Jehoram was dying a very miserable death, all listed for you in chapter 21, all the sons that would naturally be next in line to succeed him are all killed. That leaves only just one, his youngest, that is Ahaziah. The Arabians came to the camp, they had killed all the older sons.

“So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned. Ahaziah was twenty-two[a] years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, or Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing.”

Ahaziah, Omri, and Ahab and Athaliah and Jehoram of Judah; who are all these people? Why do they matter to us? Well, in a nutshell, it’s one wicked family. Omri’s the patriarch; this is where we will go back to 1 Kings 16 in just a few moments. Omri’s the patriarch followed by the most notorious of all the wicked kings in all of ancient Israel, Ahab, he’s the one that marries this terrible woman named Jezebel, and this entire episode is about the ruin, this entire episode is about the ruin of sin and unbelief.

This doesn’t happen to me often, but I, I must tell you when I was writing my notes/manuscript or whatever this is, as I was writing and I was thinking about Ahab and his daughter Athaliah, and I was thinking about the, the ruin of sin and unbelief. I, I, I had a certain pit in my stomach. I’m not the most emotionally sensitive man you ever met, most people cry long before I do, but I, I felt a certain internal weight and gravity as I, as I remembered afresh this wicked family, beginning with Omri, and we’ll read about him in a moment, and then Ahab, the woman he married Jezebel, and then from there down to Athaliah, down to Ahaziah, and on it goes. This entire episode about the ruin of sin and unbelief but maybe not in the way you expect. Something are more sinister is at work, something perhaps not far from all of us. This is why comes to us with such gravity.

Turn back to 1 Kings chapter 16. Here we find the beginnings of this monarchy and why the end of the monarchy in our passage is such a big deal. To catch you up, about midway through or so, 1 Kings 16, after the death of one of the kings of Israel, half of Israel, if I may summarize, follows new King A, the other half of Israel follows new King B. The second king is named Omri. And then soon new King A dies and Omri becomes king over all Israel.

Then verse 25: “Now Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord and acted more wickedly than all who were before him. For he walked in the way of Jeroboam… And in his sins which he had made all Israel sin, provoking the Lord, God of Israel, with their idols.”

And then as the text will go on, you’ll see that soon Omri dies, but his damage is done insofar as he established a line of men and women faithful to his ways, which were evil in the sight of God. This is not guilt by association, this is not some weird concept of well, if you’re in this line, then that makes you evil. No, no. All that followed after Omri, especially his son Ahab, are outdoing one another in provoking the Lord God. And when he died, Omri died, his son Ahab became king, and if it was possible to be more godless, aggressively godless, then Ahab found a way.

Ahab is the one that if you go to an ancient Old Testament Hebrew 4th of July party you don’t mention Ahab. You want, you want, you want to kill the mood? You go and say to everybody “let’s talk about Ahab.” You just don’t talk about Ahab, and Jezebel, so wicked, were they. Miserably wicked, outdoing all of their peers and all the people that came before them and doing wickedly, including the slaughter of many babies.

Now listen to this devastating statement, 1 Kings 16 at verse 30. I’ll read the ESV then tell you something of perhaps a better translation. “Then Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam…he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of the king of the Sidonians.” Some of your Bibles perhaps say “as though it had been a trivial thing for him, to walk in the sins of his fathers, even so to worship Baal.”

That’s a devastating indictment, and one I think is not far from very many of us. He considered it a trivial thing to walk in the sons of his fathers, a trivial thing.

May I say something to you? Any sin, any sin, any, any response to sin, any trajectory of one’s life that provokes a light and easy and forgettable repentance, if there be repentance at all, or a repentance that is so general as to never consider the weight, the gravity of personal sin, any sin that provokes a light and easy and forgettable repentance, reveals the heart of Ahab, that sin is a trivial thing, that sin is a trivial thing.

You see why this text weighs so heavily on us. How do you consider sin? It is the height of man’s folly to consider sin a trivial matter. Indeed, it is lethal to consider sin but lightly.

Evangelicalism, like any other movement, has certain trends, doesn’t it? One of the trends in contemporary evangelicalism, a lot of things about contemporary evangelicalism, is very, very good and very, very healthy. We have recovered a lot of really wonderful things. But one of the trends within our own movement is we begin to speak of the Gospel as though the Gospel is primarily about the removal of shame. It’s not. That’s a part of the Gospel, that’s a part of coming to Christ, that’s a part of new life in Christ is the removal of shame, but it’s not the main thing. It’s far greater than that. The Gospel is about deliverance from the wrath of an almighty God. Because any sin against an infinitely holy God is by its very nature infinitely heinous.

And here comes Ahab and all those what walk in his way and they consider sin but lightly. So much so that they make a choice, Yahweh, nahhh. Baal, a famous god B-a-a-l, a god who has the body of a man and the horns of a ram. He is something of a sun god, something of a creator, sort of god, to whom children must be sacrifice, often in excruciating fashion. This becomes, this becomes a religious faithfulness of he or she who takes sin but lightly. Other gods become far more appealing, like the god of the flesh.

And so back to our chapter then, Ahaziah, the grandson of Ahab, the wicked king of Judah has died. His mother, that’s Ahab’s daughter, that’s Omri’s granddaughter, will do everything in her power to secure the kingdom. She, too, is a worshiper of Baal, where the execution of children is nothing, it’s commonplace, it’s what we do. We have to appease this god so we execute children. So she does what’s natural to her. She is going to struggle greatly to keep the kingdom for herself, so eager is her ambition. And so far from the living God, so far from righteousness, but all cloaked in religion. She will do everything in her power as chapter 22 of our text keeps going on, that she will kill all the other children that might have threatened her power, cloaking it all in her religion because she considers it but a trivial thing, as her father had done. The deception of sin. The deception of sin. She thought it was shrewd, she thought it was good and noble, to keep the kingdom in open defiance of the will of God. If there’s one thing that defines the line of Ahab, that is it: An open defiance to the will of God.

Sin is like that, you know. Sin is like that. Sin will convince you it’s really not all that bad, it’s just normal. I’m no different than everybody else. And hey, listen, some of you are wondering, well, I’ll just tell you flat out right now. You want to know who the vilest of sinners in the sanctuary this morning is? You’re looking at him. If there’s any man who knows the sinister and deceptive nature of taking sin but lightly, it’s the man in the purple tie. I think purple tie. Because we convince ourselves it’s just normal.

Slowly and surely what creeps in is Ahab’s theology, and soon we take sin but lightly. Everyone’s, you know, I’m no different than anybody else. I’m an angry person, so just get over it. Or I’m a lustful person, so just get over it. My pornography addiction is really not as bad as, as it probably could be, so just get over it. That’s what we tell ourselves.

Some years ago a man in my church out west wanted to take me to lunch, and his whole purpose of gaining an audience with me was to tell me that he was an immature Christian. His whole reason he wanted to get with me. We’re in the car, on our way to eat tacos ’cause that’s what you do in California, you eat tacos, and so we’re going to tacos and he says “I just want you to know I am an immature Christian.” He wasn’t telling me that as if I’m a new believer and this is so terribly exciting. No, no. He was saying “I’m an immature Christian and I’m not going to grow, so don’t come to me with this holiness nonsense.” That’s what he was saying. As a matter of fact, he didn’t use the word nonsense; other than that, that’s exactly what he said, “so don’t talk to me about holiness, that’s just who I am.” And that is a man for whom it has become a trivial thing to walk in the way of sin. All the shallows and the poverty and the folly and the deception of sin. It all challenges your affection for the depths and the riches and the wisdom in the knowledge of God.

We sing about this, don’t we? He who considers sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great here, that is at the cross, here you may view it’s nature rightly, here it’s guilt may estimate, mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load. This is the word of the Lord’s anointed, the Son of Man, the Son of God.

This is what Ahaziah and his wicked mother Athaliah represent, those that will take sin but lightly.

We live in an age of acceptable sin in the church. It’s not that our church or more broadly speaking that our culture cares nothing for God, rather the God of the Bible is thought to coexist with the idols of man, as though all things are equal. Yahweh, Baal. Let’s be genuine. That’s what the ancient Hebrews might do. The ancient Hebrews might put a bumper sticker on the back of their chariots, a symbol of Yahweh and the symbol of Baal and maybe a few others and say “Can’t we just get along?”

Everything’s the same, and perhaps there are some in our sanctuary today for whom the ancient pluralistic thoughts are alive and well, and we say God understands I’m not perfect, and it becomes a trivial thing to walk in the way of sin.

But my friends, you must understand that the infinite holiness of God, you must understand that God is never okay with sin and unbelief. He is so fiercely not okay with sin or unbelief, He so fiercely treats win with gravity that He unleashes hell itself on His own Son to deal with it. And we would treat it but lightly?

No, the question is not why would God punish His creatures, the question is how could God have mercy at all, on such a worm as I.

The life of Athaliah and her son and her family line that unfolds and culminates in 2 Chronicles 22 compels us to ask the question how could God still have mercy on these people? Look what they have done. Look what shipwreck they have made of the faith. How could God still have mercy on them at all? They have exchanged the glory of God for ugly, violent false religions. They have exchanged the exultation and the purity and the holiness of God for the cheap satisfaction of the flesh. How could God have mercy on them at all?

And the answer to that comes from the hymn that we have been singing much this week, that you must understand that this one, this living God in whom there is no shadow of turning, always remains faithful and therefore mercy has not run out. Not for you. Mercy has not run out. You know how I know that? Because you’re still breathing. You’re still alive. And that means the depth of your depravity, the, the very sinister nature of sin that drives you to consider sin but lightly, even that is not beyond the outstretched arm of God’s redeeming mercy. Because He always remains faithful. He always remains faithful for even the vilest of sinners in our sanctuary today.

The first portion of our text exposes the ruin of sin and unbelief and the many effects that it has, all of which stem from taking sin as a trivial matter. But bless God, there is always more. And the more is what chapter 23 is about. Especially verse 16 to the end. Most of chapter 23 tells of the dreadful end of Omri and Ahab’s house. With the death of the wicked queen mother Athaliah comes the end of Ahab’s house. In fact, if you go down to the end of chapter 23, you’ll notice how her death evokes a national silence. Not out of respect, but out of relief. She’s so jealous to keep her wicked ways that she’s responsible for the murder of many. She’s so jealous to keep her wicked ways she makes her ways the way of all Judah, but God has found her out, and God has stepped in through the faithfulness of one obscure man, the priest named Jehoiada.

If this is a 2-point sermon, and in some ways it is, then this is point 1-1/2. This obscure man Jehoiada. What do you know about Jehoiada? Answer: Probably nothing. Who’s the greatest preacher that maybe ever lived? Some would say Charles Spurgeon. Do you know the name of the person who led Charles Spurgeon to the Lord? The one man who through whom many came to faith? The one man Charles Spurgeon through whom many were prepared for the Gospel ministry. Do you know who led Charles Spurgeon to the Lord? Neither do I. Never underestimate the obscurity of your faithfulness.

Here is the one obscure man, this priest Jehoiada. We know very little about him. He shows up here and there in very important ways and out of, out of seemingly nowhere in God’s kind providence he stirs within this obscure man Jehoiada to restore holy things.

So Athaliah is put to death, so ending Ahab’s house. And then verse 16, “so Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king,” that new king is now Joash, we’ll here about him next week. So “he made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the Lord’s people.” That’s covenant language. “Then all the people went to the house of Baal and they tore it down and his altars and his images they broke in pieces and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars and Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of the Lord under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the Lord, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and singing according to the order of David.”

The sun is rising. The sun of righteousness is rising on these people and there’s a, there’s a new breath of, of fresh air. I couldn’t help but, but think of, of all of this as it unfolded yesterday was a, a very difficult and dark day in more ways than one. And there was gray and there was overcast and it just had a certain ugliness associated with it and then this morning I walked outside and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sky so blue.

That’s what’s happening here in the life of Israel, the life of Judah. The sun… Oh, there’ll be many more dark and cloudy days for them, but here at this moment the sun is shining. God is restoring His own faithfulness. He is reestablishing His own faithfulness in the life of His people and there is much rejoicing with singing according to the order of David. Do you see what’s happening here? Israel is returning, at long last Israel is returning. Not so much to a land, but they are returning to worship.

And three things stand out in these couple of verses: That they should be the Lord’s people, that’s the language of covenant; they worship the Lord according to the Scriptures; and they rejoiced with singing.

What do you want on your gravestone? Your own headstone? This would be a good one for you. They worship, they should be the Lord’s people, they worship the Lord according to the Scriptures and they rejoiced with singing. This one. How would that be for your memory, for your legacy, your heritage? That this one knew the Lord. That she worshiped the Lord with joy and singing.
The question that looms over 2 Chronicles is how can we return to the Lord’s favor. The wickedness and unbelief of the people had caused their judgment. They swept away, captive to the Babylonian empire, and 2 Chronicles is recalling that whole narrative and asking the question what happened. What happened to our people? Why did God remove His favor for a time? And secondly, more importantly, how is life to be rebuilt on the promises of God? My friends, some of us need to ask that question ourselves. How can my life be rebuilt? And the answer is always on the promises of God.

Does that resonate with some of you? Young or old, doesn’t matter. How is my life to be built? On what foundation am I to build my life? That’s the question that should always come back to you. And that’s the question being answered in this obscure passage. There is both a corporate element and a covenantal element to all of this, and there’s also something very personal about all of this. It centers on the covenant that they should be God’s people, people for His own possession. God is always reestablishing His own faithfulness.

Back in the spring Anna and I were at McAllister’s up here having a nice lunch together and two women were sitting behind me, and they began to talk about church. And so we pretended that we were talking and sort of eavesdropped on them. I’m good at doing that, so be careful. [laughter] And then they mentioned Christ Covenant, and now they had my attention. [laughter] And one said to the other in near exasperation “everything over there is always about covenant. Even the name of their church, Christ Covenant. What is that all about? The name of their school, Covenant Day School.” And then they said “even their Bible studies are called covenant groups,” and it was just uuuuhhhh. [laughter]

I can think of no greater word for the weak and shamed, the guilty, the doubting Christian than God’s covenant. That they should be His people, a people for His own possession. Jehoiada, this obscure man, but a faithful priest, is called by God at last to bring godly reforms to the people following a season of great darkness and unimaginable grim, and he does it by reminding them of God’s promised faithfulness to them. Isn’t is spectacular the simplicity of the Gospel? This is good news for the lukewarm Christian. This is good news for the wandering ones. Good news for those who feel that he or she has fallen too far. It is good news for the one who feels that he or she has become a stranger to God.

We might think that the Lord would look upon the utter destruction of His name and His goodness and the people set up king after king after king and even queen. And these people who considered sin so lightly as to be a trivial thing, and to celebrate sin in their life, and by their silence before God to mock righteousness. And these people in whose lives God was abandoned. We might expect God to respond in kind.

I wonder if any of you this morning have sensed the Lord’s withdrawing His hand from you. Let me remind you then that the only thing that rests more heavily upon you than the consequence of your sin is the welcoming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the lesson of these two otherwise miserable chapters. The Son of righteousness begins to rise at this point in Judah’s life because He is faithful to his covenant, and so He is faithful to His people, the covenant that He made with David. The scarlet thread that weaves through it all, that his kingdom shall have no end, and that kernel of that covenant leaps off of these pages and findings their fulfillment on a scandalous cross where a yet greater covenant is fulfilled.

We asked the question earlier this morning, how deep is the Father’s love for us? Deep enough to turn His face away from His own beloved Son. Though my sin put him there, so that through Him even the vilest of sinners may become the very righteousness of God.

There’s troubles with bulletins, because they always want information too early in the week. If I could rename my sermon, I would rename it to “Ruin and Restoration.”

Some of you may feel the ruin of your life in one way or the other. Perhaps a faith that has become lukewarm, perhaps a sin that is so common in your life that it has become acceptable and trivial, and its ruin is always lurking beneath, but my friends in Christ there is no ruin. Some of need badly to remember that, that in Christ there is no ruin, only perpetual restoration. Oh, what a deep well of eternal life has been given to us through Christ.

We have had a difficult couple of weeks, maybe couple of months, around our beloved church. And most recently we’ve suffered the untimely deaths of two young men. In each of the past two days the sanctuary has been filled with very difficult funerals. And people have been leaving these doors weeping, and ruin seems to gain an advantage. But brethren, that is never so. Not in Christ. In Christ in whom the covenant is fulfilled there is only and always restoration, renewal, and perpetual joy because that is the very nature of his being.

And so let me close with the place where this whole disaster of unbelief always takes us, but whenever a person turns to Christ, the veil of unbelief is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, but we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the spirit. This is good news, for the vilest of sinners.

Let’s pray. Our Father, we gladly confess, O what joy we have, to confess mercy has never run out, not while we still breathe. You have given to us a firm foundation, it is Jesus Christ, the Lord. You have given to us all things for life and godliness and we are but humble sinners, who through faith have found eternal life and perpetual renewal and joy. O I pray that You would come and minister by Your Word and by Your Spirit to every soul in our sanctuary this morning. I commend my friends to Your care, for the sake of Jesus I commend them to Your care, and in His name alone. Amen.