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‘Joash did that which was right … all the days of Jehoiada.’
2 Chronicles 24:2
I. He was dependent for his faithfulness and piety on the good influence of his human friends.—There are many other children who have the same experience. While this incident of Joash and the good priest and his wife is before us, we may think a moment of the beautiful work they did for God in this training of the infant king. Perhaps they may sometimes have felt that it was not worth their while to be so burdened with caring for a baby. At least some women in these days think that nursing infants is rather dreary work, and they sigh that they cannot do something great for Christ because their hands are so full of nursery tasks. They forget that taking care of infants is work for Christ.
II. We should always have a care for God’s house.—‘ Joash was minded to repair the house of the Lord.’ This may show itself in many ways. There is also a spiritual temple, in which every one should be particularly interested. Our life is God’s temple, and we should be most careful that no marring shall occur in it, no breaches; that no blemishes may be allowed to remain.
III. Slack helpers.—‘ Howbeit the Levites hastened it not.’ No reason is given for their want of energy. But we see the effect of their indolence. The house of the Lord remained year after year in its condition of decay, a standing dishonour to God and a reproach to the priests and Levites who had been commanded to repair it. We get a lesson on the sin of slowness and indolence in doing God’s work.
‘Mrs. Preston, in one of her story poems, tells of a weary sister who grieved sorely because she was not free to do any work for Christ. By her mother’s dying bed she had promised to care for her little sister, and this had so filled her hands that she had not had time for anything else—anything for Christ. As she was once grieving thus the little sister sleeping beside her stirred, and awaking, told her of a sweet, strange dream that she had had. She thought that her sister had bidden each one bring Him a gift—
And in my dream I saw you there
And heard you say, “No hands can bear
A gift that are so filled with care.”
“What care?” the king said, and he smiled,
To hear you answer, wailing wild,
“I only toil to feed a child.”
And then with such a look Divine
(’Twas that awaked me with its shine)
He whispered, “But the child is Mine.”
There are many for whom this little story should have rich comfort. There are fathers and mothers who find it hard to provide for their children. It takes all their time and strength; and sometimes they say, “I cannot do any work for Christ, because it takes every minute to earn bread and clothing for my little ones and to care for them.” They do not remember that in providing for, watching over, and training their children, they are really doing the noblest work for Christ that their hands can find in all this world. Jesus whispers to them in their disheartenment, ‘Your children are Mine, and what you do for them you do for Me.’
A HEBREW AND A CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM
‘And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon it, and require it.’
2 Chronicles 24:22
‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’
When we compare the words spoken by the Prophet Zechariah at his martyrdom—‘The Lord look upon it, and require it’—with the words spoken by St. Stephen at his martyrdom—‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’—we are conscious of a very strong contrast, and we are now invited in the Church of England to pay attention to this contrast; for we read part of this twenty-fourth chapter of 2 Chronicles for the first lesson on the afternoon of St. Stephen’s Day. We have, in fact, set before us on this festival, side by side, a Jewish and a Christian martyrdom. It will be instructive to draw a parallel between the two. The young men of Judah came and made Joash dissatisfied with the worship of that house which he had himself restored, and turned him away to serve groves and idols. The wrath of God was soon threatened upon these apostates. He sent prophets to warn them: ‘They testified against them, but they would not give ear.’ Then Zechariah, the old priest’s son, stood up boldly and warned them. But they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones.
I. The Lord did indeed ‘look’ upon the crime and ‘require it.’—But our attention at this moment is restricted to the point of martyrdom in the cases of Jehoiadah and Stephen, set side by side.
II. When we turn away from the Books of Chronicles to the Books of the Acts of the Apostles, from the dying prayer of the Jewish to the dying prayer of the Christian martyr, the change is very remarkable.—In certain respects, indeed, there is a great similarity in these two scenes of the Old and New Testaments. In both cases there was a direct outpouring of the Holy Spirit; in both a fearless rebuke, received, not with penitence, but with hardness of heart. In both we recognise the horrors of that cruel death by stoning. But in other respects the difference between the two scenes is very great. As we gaze upon the mangled bodies of the two martyrs, and hear their last cries, how strangely dissimilar they are!
III. How are we to account for this difference of thought and feeling in two men, on each of whom the Holy Spirit had descended?—A word explains it. They were living under different dispensations, of which the principle of one was justice, of the other mercy. When earth was fading away from Zechariah’s eyes, Whom saw he as he looked up to heaven? A God of vengeance, by Whom ‘actions are weighed’—surrounded by thunder and lightning and clouds. When Stephen died, Whom saw he? ‘He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 24". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany