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Good morning, Christ Covenant. It’s good to be with you this morning and to be able to continue our study in the kings in the period of time when in the Old Testament Israel was a divided kingdom, Israel to the north with its capital Samaria, Judah to the south and its capital Jerusalem, and so we’re going to be looking this morning at another king after we followed from Pastor Brian Peterson last week. God had established in this nation a way of life for His people in a healthy relationship between the priests leading the religious life of the nation and the kings managing and protecting and administering the kingdom.
And so last week Pastor Brian Peterson took us through the life of King Ahaziah and we saw the sad outcome of his short one year reign in Judah. And you’ll remember a very prominent figure in his rule that Brian mentioned to us and showed us was the influence of his evil mother Athaliah, who the Bible says followed the wicked ways of the house of Ahab. And so in 2 Chronicles, chapters 23 and 24, the chronicler, the writer of Chronicles, tells us of a transition from Ahaziah and his evil mother to the focus of our sermon today, King Joash.
So the life of King Joash is a story of contrasts. The chronicler goes to great lengths to emphasize in his writing in chapter 24 about this.
Now I have to tell you that I am one of those guys who likes to know the ending before watching the movie. Okay? Or reading a book or watching a sporting event. I will get buzzed on my phone by ESPN that, you know, France won today, or something, and then I’ll watch the game. And it drives my family crazy, especially my wife. So whether or not you like it, I need to tell you in the beginning of this sermon that the story of King Joash did not end well. Okay?
So that kind of prepares you as we read this together. He just didn’t end well. As one commentator said, he began in the spirit but ended in the flesh. And I say that with this addition, there are many good redemptive lessons for us in this intriguing story, and we don’t need to get sidetracked by the knowledge that he ended poorly. We will see the courage of a good and godly priest named Jehoiada and the bravery of his good wife Jehoshabeath. We are introduced to the prophet Zechariah, their child, their son, and we’ll see his boldness in calling the king and the nation to repentance. Boldness unto death.
So this story is not just an opportunity for us to learn from the mistakes of Joash and others. The Bible is replete with many examples of flawed men and women that God uses to accomplish his purposes. Why? So that we will boast in the Lord and not in man. And so I believe that we can leave here today with good hope and sure confidence that God remains faithful and will carry out his perfect plan, even in the lives of checkered, mixed men and women. We will learn from Joash and we will discover why he ended poorly, I think. And here’s a preview, put this in the back of your mind, here’s a preview: Joash shows us there comes a time in our lives when we must personally own our faith. We must personally make the decision to own our faith. We no longer can ride the spiritual coattails of another. We all eventually have to move out of the shadow of another, and learn to walk ourselves.
The story of Joash tells us of the dangers of staying in the shadow of another and remaining content with immaturity as we will see when the crisis comes, faith collapses. It is a tragic story of a young king that started so well.
In preparing this, I came across a good quote by an old pastor and commentator, Matthew Henry. Many of you use his commentaries. He said in approaching this study, a study of any of the kings of Israel, here’s the perspective you need to have: What is good in man we should take all occasions to speak of and often repeat it; what is evil we should make mention of but sparingly, and no more than is needful. We’ll try to do that today, and each week.
It is worth studying and learning from this checkered and mixed life man called King Joash, and shout from the rooftops the worthiness and faithfulness of God as He orchestrates His perfect plan through imperfect people. And we will rejoice in the grace of God that He gives to individuals to act courageously and faithfully in danger and even death.
And so let me set the stage. If we were to fly up to 30,000 feet right now, briefly looking at the big picture, Chronicles is a selective history of the Jewish people, encouraging their trust in their covenant-keeping God who is at work in their lives. It is a selective history. Chronicles along with a companion book, 1 and 2 Kings, covers a wide range of events from Adam to the period after the return from exile in Babylon, and our story today is written to a people after they return from exile. It’s important for us to know this, because there are big questions looming in people’s minds for their nation after the exile.
Questions like this: Are we still the recipients of God’s promises that He gave to our forefathers? How can we know the blessings of being secure in the chance to proper? And perhaps the biggest question for them coming out of the short, one-year rule of Ahaziah and the six-year terror-filled years with his wicked mother Athaliah, would be this: Is the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 still intact?
Here’s what it says, 2 Samuel, chapter 7: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of man, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you, and your house, your house, David, your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”
So here’s the question that the people had: Will God keep His Davidic leader on the throne? This is a big question because of the circumstances the people were living in. Chapter 22 tells us that Athaliah when she came to power after her son Ahaziah’s death, she promptly used her reign to desecrate the Lord’s house and she attempted to destroy any possible future king of David’s line.
2 Chronicles 22:10: “Now when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah.”
Now think about this. I’ve had the blessing of having my son Mike, his wife Megan, and my grandson Beau here, and being a grandparent, and it is wonderful. I’m full. I love it. But imagine a grandmother could lower herself to such wickedness to take her own grandsons’ lives. Commentators write that the worship of Baal involved human sacrifice. She had to have become calloused beyond all imagination and natural feeling and affections, even for her own grandsons.
But you cannot thwart God’s promises and plans. A good priest, Jehoiada, had married a good wife Jehoshabeath, who was the daughter of King Jehoram. She saw what was happening and quickly took one son of her brother and fled to the house of the Lord to preserve the Davidic line. That little boy was Joash, one year old, and for the next six years, during Athaliah’s reign of terror, she and her good husband Jehoiada the priest would hide and protect him from the wicked Athaliah in the house of the Lord.
Well, chapter 23 tells us how Jehoiada courageously brings the now 7-year-old Joash before the people for his coronation to the throne. It is a marvelous story of bravery and wisdom, of how Jehoiada sets the whole thing up by establishing covenants with the leaders, securing the safety of little Joash, and doing all in his power to make sure that the evil rule of Athaliah would not reign any longer. In an effect, this was a coup.
2 Chronicles 23:11-13: “Then they brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony and they proclaimed him king and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him and they said ‘long live the king.’ When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the Lord to the people and when she looked, there was a king standing by his pillar at the entrance and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebrations, and Athaliah tore her clothes and cried ‘Treason! Treason!'” but to no avail. God’s purposes will not be thwarted. She was quickly removed by Jehoiada the priest in a very appropriate manner outside of the house of the Lord.
And verse 21 of chapter 23 speaks to the happy time it was for Judah. Look at verse 21: “So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword. The wicked usurper Athaliah removed, a king in the line of David on the throne, and a quiet land with rejoicing people.”
Here’s the message to this post-exilic people, it’s very clear: Expect blessings of God when you avoid involvement with wickedness and turn to the ways of renewed loyalty and faithfulness to your God.
As Richard Pratt says in his good commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles, the priests were to lead the way and all the people were to serve the Davidic king faithfully. If they did, the land of Judah would experience quiet again.
This begins little Joash’s reign. So I want to read chapter 24, because it is a great story. It is a sad story, I’ve always prepped your for its end , but I want you to remember the title of the sermon: The Dangers of Living in the Shadows.
Verse 1 of chapter 24: “Joash was 7 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 40 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiahof Beersheba. And Joash did was right in the eyes of the Lord, notice this, all the days of Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada got for him two wives and had sons and daughters. After this Joash decided to restore the house of the Lord, and he gathered the priests and the Levites and said to them “Go out to the cities of Judah, gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that you act quickly.” But the Levites did not act quickly. Do the king summoned Jehoiada, the chief, and said to him ‘Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the congregation of Israel for the tent of testimony?’ For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God and had also used all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord for the Baals. So the king commanded, and they made a chest and set it outside the gate of the house of the Lord. And proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring in for the Lord the tax that Moses the servant of God laid on Israel in the wilderness. And all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished. And whenever the chest was brought to the kings officers by the Levites, when they saw that there was much money in it, the king’s secretary and the office of the chief priest could come and empty the chest and take it and return to its place. Thus they did day after day, and collected money in abundance. And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who had charge of the work of the house of the Lord, and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the Lord and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the Lord. So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. And when they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada and with it they made utensils for the house of the Lord, both for the service and for the burnt offerings, the dishes for incense and gold, vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord regularly all the days of Jehoiada.”
“But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and he died. He was 130 years old at his death. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and His house.”
“Now after the Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash.” Here’s the crux of the passage: “Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. They testified against them, but they would not pay attention.”
“Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he will forsake you.’ But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, how he had shown him that kindness, but killed his son. And when he was dying, Zechariah said, ‘May the Lord see and avenge!'”
“At the end of the year the army of the Syrians came up against Joash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.”
“When they had departed from him, leaving him severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. Those who conspired against him were Zabad the son of Shimeath the Ammonite, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabite. Accounts of his sons and of the many oracles against him and of the rebuilding of the house of God are written in the Story of the Book of the Kings. And Amaziah his son reigned in his place.”
Two periods of life with King Joash, with a very notable crisis that occurs separating the two periods. Joash is the young age of 7 when he ascends to the throne as king, under the watchful eye and tutelage of Jehoiada the priest. He leads the people well in a number of areas. At some point, we are not specifically told when, Joash initiates restoring the house of the Lord.
Look at verse 5: “He gathered the priests, the Levites, said to them ‘go out to the cities of Judah, gather from all Israel money to repair the house of God from year to year, and see that you act quickly.’ But the Levites did not act quickly.”
That’s an understatement the chronicler is not trying to emphasize. If you go back over to the parallel account in 2 Kings verse 11 and 12, chapters 11 and 12, he elaborates. It was 23 years later. 23 years later. They didn’t act quickly. He’s 30 years old now.
Verse 6 tells us this leads to a bit of a conflict with Joash, the Levites, and ultimately with Jehoiada the priest. It seems that Joash’s plans initially fails. For whatever reason, the priests didn’t heed his request for those 23 years. Perhaps they despised his youth. Perhaps they were used to all the decisions being made by Jehoiada. Maybe they just didn’t want to bear the responsibility of gathering the money. The text just does not tell us.
So Joash starts another plan, with a compromise between he and Jehoiada the chest was made. A chest, a large chest, placed outside the temple gate. This occurred clearly at the king’s request. And a proclamation was issued in Judah and Jerusalem, reminding the people their responsibility to fulfill the tax Moses instituted earlier to provide for the house of God and for the Levites, and the Chronicle says that the people responded with great enthusiasm, joy, generosity, so much so that they needed to collect the money several times out of the chest. An abundance was collected. And so with carefulness, the restoration begins, with the putting in place hired skilled workers who complete the project.
Listen, these years of Joash’s fidelity are not to be missed or minimized. He did what was pleasing in the sight of God; it was just during the first years of his life. Under his leadership, they were able to bring back the temple to its original design, and the text clearly says even reinforce it, make it stronger. They collected enough money for the making of utensils needed for worship, and importantly, Chronicles mentions that the customary burnt offerings were continuously presented as long as Joash was the king.
All was good until a huge event is recorded for us. Jehoiada, the good and godly priest, dies. The chronicler honors him. It is very clear in honoring him in verse 15 and 16, stating first that he lived to the ripe old age of 130, which is a sign of blessing in the Old Testament. Secondly, that he was buried in the city of David among the kings, a sign of honor. And that he had done good in Israel toward God and His house, a sign of a godly character.
Now that he is gone a change occurs in King Joash, and the story quickens here to a sad and tragic conclusion, from verse 17 to the end of the chapter. Apparently princes of Judah come to pay him homage, King Joash, and they successfully convince him to turn away from the Lord. And incredibly he listens to them and he walks away from God. What happened? Why does it seem such a short step from walking with the Lord faithfully to falling off the cliff?
I think Richard Pratt has an insightful comment about this, when he says “like other kings, Joash proved unfaithful once his kingdom was secure.”
When life presents itself as good and secure, and all seems peaceful and quiet, it’s in those times that we are most vulnerable to fall and lapse. Perhaps it was pride on Joash’s part. Ease of life, boredom with the everyday sacrifices that were being offered. When life is good, yes, we should rejoice. But we need to remain vigilant and on our guard, because it is there that we can easily abandon the God who gives gifts and worship the gift rather than the giver.
One has to think that Joash knew what he was doing was terribly wrong and would have dire consequences. Abandoning the temple and leading the people in worshiping the Ashera poles and the idols, this king had forsaken the Lord and flagrantly together they violated their covenant loyalty to God. The result was that God’s righteous anger, the text says, His wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem. God was provoked and the king’s path was leading to judgment. There couldn’t be a greater contrast: Obedience leading to God’s blessing, and disobedience leading to judgment.
Yet God in His grace sent prophets to bring them back, but they refused. They would not pay attention.
And the chronicler gives one example of those prophets that became worthy enough of an illustration for Jesus to use in the Gospel of Luke, the prophet Zechariah, the very son of Jehoiada. “The Spirit of God came upon him and he confronted the people with his accusation, ‘Why do you disobey the Lord and the Lord’s command? You will not prosper. Covenant blessings will not come if you continue down this path. Because you’ve forsaken the Lord,” and the text is very clear on this, “because you’ve abandoned the Lord, He will abandon you.” Same Hebrew word.
Joash should have reacted with humility and repentance, but what does he do? He orders the death of Zechariah. Unbelievably and sadly, Joash didn’t remember the kindness of his mentor and his sweet wife who had taken him under their wing to save his own life and preserve the Davidic line on the throne. Without any regard for that kindness, he orders the death of their son Zechariah.
And in a dramatic scene, Zechariah’s final words were a sure prophecy in themselves. “May the Lord see and avenge,” which is the last section that describes its fulfillment.
In marches in verse 23 the Syrian army, and what is noted very clearly is the smallness of it compared to Judah’s army, and what happens? The Lord delivers Judah, the large army, into their hands. The chronicler mentions that it was because Judah had forsaken the Lord judgment was executed. In the melee Joash is wounded, and the very servants that encouraged him to listen to the princes and abandon the Lord now take his life.
Joash’s reign ends with no praise or positive evaluation. His later years of infidelity brought him to his grave in disgrace. The last verse of chapter 24 says that Amaziah his son reigned in his place. A sad ending with so good of a start.
Dale Ralph Davis writes in his commentary on Kings “it looks as if God’s providence has been frustrated by human failure. Joash’s story began on such a thrilling note, that marvelous and gutsy preservation of the Davidic line, a persevering and successful renovation of Yahweh’s house, and now ends in disappointment and involuntary death. Joash’s reign is a yellow flashing light of warning for us commoners.”
So what can you take home today from a king like Joash? Number one, the story of Joash reveals a man who never chose to step out of the shadow of his mentor Jehoiada, and when a crisis hit, his faith faltered. Some of you today are riding the spiritual coattails of another person, living in the shadow of another, and it’s time now that you commit to internalize your faith and make it your own. You need to step off the coattails of another, step out of the shadow of another. You’ve been too content to remain there. It inevitably leads to an immature faith. When the Lord removes that mentor, that friend or discipler, or other significant person, the scaffolding around us falls and our faith can collapse. We cannot borrow on the faith of another. And we have to ask ourselves today is our own faith internalized and personal? Do I own it? Or am I just walking through life on the spiritual coattails of another? Am I in the shadow of another?
Matthew Henry makes a good comment about this, saying we must act in religion from an inward principle which will carry us on through all changes, then the loss of a parent, a minister, a friend, will not involve the loss of our religion.
Number two. If you’re the one who is wearing the coat, with the tails, and casting the shadow, if you’re the mentor, the friend, the discipler, the parent, you need to accept the fact that there will come a time when the one that you are mentoring needs to step off those coattails of yours and step out of that shadow and step out in faith for themselves. Be careful of being a wet blanket over them, controlling their every decision and action. I suspect that as Joash grew up, Jehoiada and his wife had to learn to let this little boy become a man. And the text does not lie any blame on Jehoiada and his wife’s upbringing of Joash, but it had to be a struggle.
It’s a struggle for me to let go of my kids. Now especially my grandson, it’s just a struggle. It can be hard for us. We have to be willing to let them make mistakes sometimes, and suffer the consequences of that under our supervision and help. They need to find the tools for themselves to forge ahead in their Christian life.
Number three. If you’re the young one, like Joash, growing up under the watchful eye of your parents, your mentor, your discipler, your pastor, your friend, and many of you in here are like that, you kids, listen: Be grateful for the blessing of that relationship that God has given you.
I am going to again quote Pastor Henry, Matthew Henry, when he said “let those that are young reckon it a blessing to them and not a burden and check upon them to have those with them that will caution them against that which is evil and advise and quicken them to that which is good and let them reckon it not as a mark of weakness and subjection but of wisdom and discretion to harken to such.”
Did you hear what he said, kids? It is not a mark of weakness and subjection, but of wisdom and discretion, to have mentors, parents, youth pastors and others counseling, guiding, correcting, helping, loving you.
Number four. We need to be careful in times of security and prosperity, and when life is good, to realize that’s when we are most vulnerable to listen to the world, and the world’s message as Joash did. He was secure. Jehoiada dies and he walks away in that security, and God in His grace sent the prophetic word and messengers of that word to show Joash and us that the only real life of blessing and happiness is found in complete fidelity and faithfulness to God. Do not listen, do not listen, to the world in times of prosperity and security. The best life and blessing and happiness is found in fidelity and faithfulness to God.
Number five. So where’s the hope in this passage? Where’s Gospel hope here? I think it is the realization that listen, the one standing here and all of us have a tendency to be like Joash. We have checkered lives. We have times, if we were all honest, when we have seasons where we’re disobedient. And what does God do? He affirms that if you’re in Christ, you’re forgiven. And He brings people in your life, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses people to confront you, to say to you return back to the Lord, return back to the Lord.
When crisis abruptly rattles us and the challenge comes into our lives, perhaps a mentor will be taken out of town because of a new job, or death. Even we maybe leave and go somewhere else and be by ourselves. That’s when we’re tempted to listen to the enemy of our souls and walk away from the Lord and abandon Him for the pursuit of other gods with destructive results. The gospel is that our great God in His grace will send prophets, teachers, pastors, friends, parents, everyone else, to convict of us our sin and give us the grace of repentance, and the realization that Christ has forgiven me my sin and disobedience, and I need to return to my true moorings and walk with him.
Grace was given to Joash and the people. He sent them prophets, a good one, Zechariah. But they didn’t listen.
If you’re in a state today of this season of disobedience, listen, listen to Joash’s story and the people. Listen to your friend or your spouse who’s telling you this needs to change, you need to return to the Lord.
Number six, and the last one. Despite the checkered history and mixed lies of God’s servants, the Lord of the church continues to march His holy bride onto the new heavens and the new earth. His plans, folks, will not be thwarted. The failure and folly of men should only make us crave the fullness and faithfulness of Jesus all the more. The little religion that Joash had was all buried in his grave. May that not be true of us.
Let me pray. Father, we thank You for the chronicler and the writer of Kings to give us pictures, snapshots, of men and women like us, and this morning we celebrate the lives of Jehoiada and his wife, we celebrate and thank You for the faithful testimony of Zechariah and boldness proclaiming. And we thank You, too, for the lives of checkered men and women like King Joash, and we would ask today, and admit today, even our own seasons of unfaithfulness. Perhaps today asking You to help us to repent and not abandon our relationship with the Lord. Give us the grace of repentance, to not wander away from the Lord and abandon Him. We have been told and we will be held accountable that this means if we do, destruction and judgment, not only upon us but our families, our world, our church, and so Father we would ask this morning that you would have mercy on us, a sinful people, and cause us to walk in Your steps. Thank you so much of the grace of repentance and faith and the promise of forgiveness of sin. We would commend ourselves to You today for this life that we can say in the end people can say of us, “he finished well.” May that be true of all of us in here. In Jesus’ name. Amen.