A Little Leaven

Introduction: A context of tumult both in Israel and in Judah immediately preceded the reign of Jehoash (also spelled Joash). For the first 21 years of the reign of Jehoash, Jehu reigned in Israel. Elisha sends a son of the Prophets to anoint Jehu and commission him. In 2 Kings 9:6, Jehu was anointed king. Jehu begins a journey to execute divine justice on Ahaziah, a son-in-law of Ahab, and Joram, Jezebel’s son. Both these kings are assassinated in 9:14-28. Joram was thrown on the land of Naboth’s vineyard according to God’s word. Jezebel survived Ahab’s reign by 12 years. She is thrown from a second story window, trampled under the feet of horses, and eaten by dogs so that no portion remaied for burial  (9:33-37). Then, Jehu brought to naught the entire house of Ahab (10:1-17). Jehu challenged all the supporters of the seventy sons of Ahab asking them to declare one of them king and then prepare to defend his right to the throne (10:1-3). They had no desire to engage Jehu and his multitude in battle, and, at Jehu’s request, they gave him the heads of all the sons of Ahab. Soon after, he killed 42 of the sons of Ahaziah. Jehu feigned leadership in a time of sacrifice to Baal, gathered all of the worshippers of Baal, and had them slaughtered. He also destroyed the temple of Baal and turned it into a latrine. He completed God’s vengeance on the house of Ahab and Baal as God had commissioned him. He failed to depart from the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:31; 1 Kings 12:25-33). When Athaliah learned of the death of her son Ahaziah, she led in a slaughter of his children remaining and usurped the monarchy for herself. One child, a one-year-old named Jehoash, was rescued and hidden for six years by Jehosheba, daughter of king Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah and wife of the priest Jehoiada. When he was seven, Jehoiada the priest, revealed the presence of the true heir to the throne, Jehoash. Jehoiada organized the priests and the army in support of Jehoash (2 Chronicles 23:1-11) and had Athaliah killed. “So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king’s house” (11:20). He began his reign at seven years of age in the seventh year of the reign of Jehu in Israel.

I. At the time of the birth of Jehoash, Jehu was cleansing the northern kingdom of the descendants of Ahab, the lingering foul influence of Jezebel, and the kings of both kingdoms who were under the influence of Ahab’s paganism.

A. As long as Jehoiada the priest lived, (2) “Jehoash ruled in accordance with God’s law: Jehoash did right in the sight of the Lord all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Jehoiada had made a covenant with all the people and the priests that they would be the Lord’s People (2 Chronicles 23:16, 17).

B. Worship on the high places, places designated for sacrifice prior to the completion of the temple, still was done (1 Kings 3:2). Though not blatant paganism as had been practiced during the reigns of Jehoram and Ahaziah (8:18, 27), this was not in accord with the temple services as required in Deuteronomy 12: “You shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. … Take heed to yourselves that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. … Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (8, 13-14, 32).

C. Matthew Henry makes this comment: “Up and down the country, they had altars both for sacrifice and incense, to the honour of the God of Israel only. These private altars, perhaps, had been more used in the late bad reigns then formerly, because it was neither safe nor sage to go up to Jerusalem, nor was the temple-service performed as it should have been; and, it may be, Jehoiada connived at them, because he hoped that the reforming of the temple and putting things into a good posture there, would by degrees draw people from their high places and they would dwindle of themselves.” This shows, however, the sad lack of joyful and full obedience on the part of Judah. Compromise of God’s requirements always results in dilution of devotion and profanation of the holy—“You shall not add to it or take away from it.”

II. Jehoash made a plan to restore the house of the Lord.

A. Athaliah had abused the house of God and had taken the various utensils and used them in the house of the Baals. In light of that, Jehoash “set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 24:4). This had been his sanctuary from the plots of Athaliah for six years, it had been abused and neglected as a place of worship and sacrifice and he had sincere zeal for its restoration.

B. His plan was to use the money of assessment for the repairs plus the periodic free will offerings (4). The priests were to collect money that was brought to Jerusalem and also were to go throughout the cities of Judah and gather the money (2 Chronicles 24:5). Exodus 30:11-16 describes the assessment for a census that is to be appointed for “the service of the tabernacle of meeting.” Property dedicated to God (whether persons, or animals, or possessions), if redeemed, was to be assessed and money given for the support of the priestly service (Leviticus 27). Another source would be similar to the offerings given from those “whose heart was stirred” for the construction and supplying of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 – 36:7). The priests were to be in charge of the money and for executing the plan of rebuilding (5).

C. The priests, however, were not zealous for this task and the project did not advance. Years had passed, and Jehoash called Jehoiada and other priests and questioned them about their failure to make any progress on his request. In light of Jehoash’s apostasy after the death of Jehoiada, one might question whether his zeal for the completion of this project was a matter of a desire to see God worshipped according to his word, or to have the building itself as a monument to his own leadership.

D. Jehoash put an end to the priests’ collection of the money and also took from their hands the responsibility for repairing the temple (8). That was neither their calling nor their skill. Ministers of the gospel must labor at their callings with the conviction that their gifts are most faithfully executed when they are in service of the word of God. They must encourage their congregants to sharpen their own gifts, use them in ways fitting for the service of God, and be honorable and honest in the pursuit of their calling.

III. Jehoash stopped the process originally instituted and looked to another plan that would engage the entire nation in a renaissance of worship and a renewal of the devotion that brought about the building of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35-36:7).That was now to be the sole source of financing the revitalization of temple worship.

A. At the kings’ direction, Jehoiada took a chest, bored a hole in its lid, put it on the threshold of the temple, and set priests to watch over it. All the money that was brought for that purpose, the priests put into the chest.

B. The offering from this point on was to be a free will offering, as in the construction of the Tabernacle while the newly-rescued Israelites were in the wilderness (2 Chronicles 24:9). The people who desired the restoration of the temple and its regular times of sacrifice began to give with great liberality. There was “much money in the chest” (10); each day they would empty the chest and return it to its place at the threshold (2 Chronicles 24:11).

C. Also skilled laborers would be responsible for the purchasing of all materials needed and for making the necessary repairs (11, 12). The workers proved so trustworthy and frugal that no accounting was required of them (15) They made sure that nothing superfluous was done until all that was initially vital had been completed (13). No cups, trumpets, bowls, vessels of silver, or snuffers were made from the gifts but all was expended on the repair of the building itself. “They restored the house of God to its original condition and reinforced it” (2 Chronicles 24 13).

D. This offering did not intrude on the normal means of support for the priesthood. The guilt offering and the trespass offering were given with a monetary valuation added for the support of the priests and their families (Leviticus 5:15, 16; 7:7; Numbers 18:21-24).

E. After the repair of the temple was done fully with reinforcements, then the remaining contribution of precious metals was turned into “articles for the house of the Lord, articles for serving and offering, spoons and vessels of gold and silver” (2 Chronicles 24:14).

D. All during the life of Jehoiada, the temple was put to its proper use in the sacrificial offerings of the priesthood. When Jehoiada died at 130 years of age, he was buried among the kings in Jerusalem. Paganism had been repressed and pushed underground, but had not been uprooted from the hearts of many of the people

IV. Jehoash quickly surrendered his reforming purpose to the residue of influential leaders who had not forsaken the idolatrous influence of Athalia and Ahazia (2 Chronicles 24: 17, 18). It seems that they came in flattery of him and the extent of his leadership and asked that they might have the personal prerogative of resuming their formerly open practice of idolatry and avoid the pretense of coming to Jerusalem. Their flattery won his consent if not his participation, and eventually turned him to resent the prophetic utterance that condemned what he now allowed (19).

A. Jehoash’s capitulation to the “leaders of Judah” who still treasured the worship of “wooden images and idols” brought wrath on Judah and Jerusalem. Prophets came but neither the king nor the people listened. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, spoke words of warning and judgment and he was stoned to death in the courtyard of the house of the Lord, seemingly with Jehoash’s participation (2 Chronicles 24:22). Jesus mentions this event in Luke 11:51 as an evidence of the spiritual deadness of the leaders of his generation. The blood of Zechariah will come upon them. Jehoash not only forgot the Lord and the house of the Lord that he had been instrumental in restoring, but he forgot the kindness of Jehoiada, who had saved his life and restored him to the throne.

B. Judgment fell on the remainder of Jehoash’s reign.”

    1. During one siege of Hazael, Jehoash took the gold and all the articles made from the temple that remained from Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, as well as those that had been made during his own time and used them to bribe Hazael not to attack (17, 18).
    2. At a later time, the Syrian army returned with a small force, took captive a large army from Judah, and wounded the king, Jehoash. As he was seeking to recover from his wounds, two of his servants killed him. He was buried in Jerusalem, but not among the kings.

V. The life of Jehoash leads to serious ponderings.

A. Those truly devoted to the worship of God will give freely and abundantly to causes consistent with the Lord’s revealed will. While many maintained their penchant for idol worship on the high places, restoration of worship and sacrifice as revealed to Moses brought out generous giving from those who treasured the truth and felt gratitude for the mercies of God to Israel.

B. Benevolent providences might give a sense of indebtedness and lead to external works of religious appearance, but do not change the heart. Jehoash lost his gratitude for the external deliverances he had experienced and showed that a true heart change had not occurred. Only the light of Christ shining in the heart will produce persevering labors for Christ and true delight in worship with his people.

C. Though he restored the temple and its mandated place in the worship of Judah, he was led into idolatry by the powerful appeal of influential leaders of Judah. Whether his was a mere toleration of their idolatrous worship or involved his personal participation, it showed that his desire for reform was not deep nor long-lasting. The form of worship had been restored, but the heart of worship had not entered into the affections of Jehoash. Matthew Henry noted, “Many have been zealous for building and beautifying churches, and for other forms of godliness, who yet have been strangers to the power of it.”

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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