Christianity 201

October 26, 2021

A Story of Compounded Tragedy

When I first started blogging, a popular destination was Internet Monk, a site founded by Michael Spencer. After Michael’s untimely death, the iMonk community continued to keep it alive, but in January it was decided to suspend new posting, and many in the iMonk community migrated to a new site, Mystery and Meaning. The new site is a combination of serious articles and reviews, and Saturday silliness. It was there we found today’s article, and you’re encouraged to read this at its point of origin there, by clicking the header which follows. The author of this piece is Paul Mitchell.

The Tragedy of Jehoiada and Joash

When studying Scripture, one of the things I enjoy most is rediscovering the small stories, the overlooked details, the passages that rarely get attention. This past week, my reading led me to a section of 2 Chronicles that is, frankly, heartbreaking. 2 Chronicles is not terribly optimistic to begin with. Israel and Judah are in a downward spiral, both spiritually and culturally, and that spiral continues to accelerate throughout the book.

Our story begins in 2 Chronicles 22 with the death of Ahaziah, king of Judah. Upon Ahaziah’s death, we are introduced to Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother. Athaliah is from Israel, of the house of Ahab. She married into the Judean royal family. Now, we know the house of Ahab is bad news. A pretty easy case could be made for Ahab being one of the worst kings of Israel. So knowing Athaliah is a descendant of Ahab should already make us nervous for what comes next, and we are not disappointed. Seeing an opportunity to seize power, Athaliah makes a move to kill all the heirs of the royal family of Judah.

One of Ahaziah’s sons escapes: a young boy, only a year old, by the name of Joash. He is rescued by his aunt Jehoshabeath, who is married to a priest named Jehoiada. They hide Joash in the temple for six years. Jehoiada the priest, the young boy’s uncle, eventually allies with military leaders and the Levites to place Joash on the throne, deposing Athaliah, the boy’s grandmother.

This is where things get interesting. In 2 Chronicles 24:2, it says that Joash “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” Jehoiada not only hides and protects Joash, he helps place him on the throne, and continues to advise him. As long as Joash has this mentor, this spiritual figure, he is just and Israel prospers.

When Jehoiada dies at 130 years old, he is given a special honor. He is buried among the kings of Judah because, as verse sixteen records, “he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house.”

Soon after the death of Jehoiada the priest, other advisors step into his place and turn Joash to idol worship. The Spirit of God comes on Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, and he confronts Joash and the people of Judah, saying in verse 20, “Why do you break the commands of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?” In response, Zechariah is killed, stoned to death by command of the king.

While reading, this was the part that left me shocked. Joash was saved by Jehoshabeath and Jehoiada, his aunt and uncle. His uncle helped put him on the throne. Together, they worked to repair the temple. But soon after Jehoiada’s death, Joash has Jehoiada’s son, his own cousin, killed. As it says in verse twenty-two, “Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son.”

Joash dies not long after. Those who conspire against him and bring about his death do so specifically because of the murder of Zechariah. And as the story closes, in one last bit of irony, Joash, because of his evil, is not buried in the tombs of the kings, where Jehoiada the priest was buried.

So why has this passage stayed with me over the last few days?

Part of what stands out is the symmetry of the whole story. Jehoiada the priest saves Joash’s life, then Joash turns around and kills his son. The priest in his righteousness is buried with kings, while the king in his wickedness is not.

Part of what stands out is the tragedy of the whole story. There was a chance for things to go well, even after the atrocities committed by Joash’s grandmother. Part of what stands out is how little agency Joash seems to have in the whole story. As long as Johoiada is around, Joash follows God. As soon as the priest is gone, others lead Joash into idol worship.

It is interesting how much of what we think of as “our character” may be the influence of others, for good or ill. No overarching moral or lesson today. Simply a sad story that has stuck with me, making me think.

Second Helping: Read another thoughtful article at Mystery and Meaning by Paul Mitchell: Cultural Divides and the Kingdom of God.

November 2, 2018

Sin Makes People Stupid

Today and tomorrow we return to Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at Practical Faith. Yes, her writing is such a good fit here that I’m taking the liberty of ‘borrowing’ two different posts, two days in a row. Click the title to read at source.

Learning from history . . .

Which one is the wiser statement: “Study the past if you would define the future.” (Confucius) or “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” (Edmund Burke)

Our ‘home group’ is studying the kings of Israel. I came away with one question. They recorded the activities and outcomes of their kings. Clearly, those who followed God prospered and those who did not did not. Each one of them made their own decisions. If they knew the historical patterns, why would any of them choose to worship idols and disobey God? These ‘evil’ kings knew yet repeated the past. It seems all they learned from any study of the past was how to replicate it in their own lives.

My conclusion may come across as crude, but it seems that sin tends to make people stupid. As we discussed this during the Bible study, we agreed that the laws of God are true and He never changes, but even the good kings occasionally pushed against the boundaries and got themselves into trouble. That is, we are doomed to repeat history even when we know it, and unless God intervenes, the past cannot help but define the future.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7–9)

This is a spiritual law that could be called cause and effect. It is illustrated in the physical realm of agriculture. If I plant a carrot seed, I will get carrots, not peas or corn. In my spiritual life, if I plan, plant and spend my energies in activities that are self-focused and driven by my old nature, I will reap a spiritually dead crop that amounts to nothing of eternal value. If I live according to the Spirit, the results will last forever.

The ‘evil’ kings were all about power and doing their own thing. They were not measured as evil by their building programs, achievements, battles, etc. but by their response or lack of response to God. The good kings were also not measured by any accomplishments as we might measure our leaders. They were measured by their faithfulness to God and His commands.

I look back at my own history and cannot make an accurate list of “this I did for God” and “this was fleshy junk.” However, I know both will be determined at the bema judgment seat of Christ:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15)

Because of Jesus Christ, my eternal destiny is not shaped by mistakes or rebellion, but by faith in Him. What is affected by the law of cause/effect is eternal rewards. Some of life’s efforts will go up in smoke while some will shine like gold.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word motivates me to think about motivation and about the power behind everything on my to-do list. Some of it is obviously useless. Open my eyes and keep them open to see and obey the Holy Spirit that the resulting work not only pleases You but will pass that final test.