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THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF JOASH
2 Chronicles 24:2. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
IN order to display more fully his own truth and faithfulness, God often permits events to arise, which seem to render the accomplishment of his promises almost, if not altogether, hopeless. This was particularly visible in his conduct towards the posterity of Abraham in Egypt, in that he forbore to rescue them from their captivity, till the period assigned for their deliverance was brought to the very last hour. We behold a striking interposition also in behalf of the descendants of David, to whom God had promised, that his seed should continue to sit upon the throne of Judah. More than once had they been in imminent danger of utter excision [Note: 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 22:1.], before Athaliah usurped the throne: and she was bent upon destroying them all [Note: 2 Chronicles 22:10.]: but God would not suffer his promise to fail [Note: 2 Chronicles 21:7.]. It should seem that Joash, the youngest son of Ahaziah, was actually with his brethren when they all were slain, and by some means, being only an infant, was hid amongst them, so as to escape the general slaughter. From that state he was rescued by his aunt, and was hid, together with his nurse, in a bed-chamber [Note: 2 Kings 11:2.], till he was seven years old: at which time Jehoiada the priest, who had married his aunt, put to death the usurper, and established Joash on his father’s throne.
One might have hoped, that a person so signally preserved, should, like Moses, have proved a great blessing to his age and nation: but, hopeful as his beginnings were, his reign was evil, and his end calamitous.
To take a brief view of his history—
A sudden and total change having taken place in his conduct about the middle of his reign, it will be proper to consider his history,
During the life of Jehoiada—
[At first, as might be expected, he was under the entire management of Jehoiada, who was his instructor, and acted towards him as a father [Note: 2 Kings 12:1. with 2 Chronicles 24:22.]. But it was not only during his minority that he was thus observant of Jehoiada, but for many years after he had attained to manhood, even at loge as Jehoiada himself lived. Now in this we admire his humility; for he was a king, possessed of arbitrary power; and yet, because he was convinced of the skill, the integrity, and the piety of his instructor, he still continued to consult him on all occasions, and to follow his advice without reserve. In this conduct also he evinced his wisdom; in that he preferred the sage advice of an experienced counsellor, before the less matured dictates of his own mind, or the judgment of sycophants around his throne. Even piety itself seems to have possessed his mind at this period: for when he saw to what a dilapidated state the temple was reduced by the impious rage of Athaliah [Note: ver. 7.], he set himself to repair it; and even reproved Jehoiada himself, and all the Levites, for their tardiness in executing this important work [Note: ver. 5, 6.].
Who from such beginnings would not augur well of the remainder of his reign? From such a view of him we are ready to say, ‘O that our princes, our nobility, our youth of every rank, were thus observant of pious instructors, thus intent on “doing what was right in the sight of the Lord!” ’]
But our views of Joash will be greatly changed, if we consider his history—
After Jehoiada’s decease—
[Instantly did a mighty change appear in him. Having lost his pious counsellor, he began to listen to the advice of young unprincipled sycophants [Note: ver. 17.]. O what a misfortune is it to any man to connect himself with ungodly associates! How many are there, who, whilst under the care of pious parents or godly instructors, have promised well, who yet, by means of ungodly companions, have been drawn from every good way, and been led to disappoint all the hopes that have been formed concerning them! We cannot too earnestly caution all against the influence of bad advice, by whomsoever it be given, even though it be by their nearest friends or relatives [Note: 2 Chronicles 22:3-14.22.4.]. Every counsel must be tried by the unerring word of God; and to those who would lead us in opposition to that, our answer must invariably be, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”
Released, as it were, from the restraints of man, he soon cast off all fear of God, and abandoned his temple and service for the service of groves and idols [Note: ver. 18.]. Nor, when God sent him prophets to testify against his evil ways, would he regard them at all: yea, when Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada himself, was sent to him, instead of attending to his admonitions, he gave commandment to the people to stone him to death; which commandment they executed, even in the court of the temple itself.
To what excesses will not men run, when once they give ear to ungodly counsellors, and knowingly violate all the dictates of their own conscience! It not unfrequently happens, that backsliders and apostates become the bitterest persecutors; and that they who “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, soon learn to stand in the way of sinners, and come at last to sit in the seat of the scornful [Note: Psalms 1:1.].”
We wonder not at the melancholy end to which these transgressions brought him. Within the short space of a year was he, notwithstanding “his very great host,” subdued by “a small company of Syrians,” who destroyed all the princes, his advisers, and sent the spoil of the city and temple to Damascus [Note: ver. 23, 24.]: and Joash himself, being seized with multiplied disorders, was assassinated in his bed by two of his own servants [Note: ver. 25.]. Unhappy man! yet more unhappy still, if we contemplate the fearful state to which he was driven from the presence of his offended God. But such is the end which, if not in this world, certainly in the world to come, awaits those who “leave off to behave themselves wisely,” and “turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”]
Let us, from this brief view of his history, proceed,
To make some reflections on his character—
From his character in its commencement, we observe, How great is the benefit of a pious education!
[From what appeared in his latter days, we may judge what he would have been, if he had been left to himself in early life. What pernicious habits would he have contracted, and what multiplied evils would he have perpetrated! Instead of doing for several years “what was right in the sight of the Lord,” it is probable that he would have “done evil from his youth.” To be restrained from such enormities, was a mercy both to himself and to the whole nation. That he turned this blessing afterwards to a curse, is deeply to be lamented; though the proper tendency of a pious education is not a whit the less apparent. Let all be thankful for the advice given them, and the restraints imposed upon them in early life. Little do any of us know to what an extent of wickedness we might have been carried, if those admonitions or corrections, which were once irksome and painful to us, had not been administered. Indeed the more irksome such restraints appear to us, the more reason we have to be thankful for them; since the very impatience which we feel, demonstrates clearly our need of them. An aversion to them argues a disposition that is hateful and ruinous [Note: Proverbs 12:1; Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 15:10; Proverbs 15:31-20.15.32.]: and those who, from an undue tenderness, neglect to reprove their children, lay up sorrow for themselves, as well as for the objects of their ill-judged lenity [Note: Proverbs 29:15.]. Let parents consider, that they are accountable to God for the authority vested in them, and for the talents committed to their care: and let them remember, that if it is not always found that “a child trained in the way he should go will not in more advanced life depart from it,” yet it is generally true; and that such a promise affords ample encouragement for their most strenuous exertions.]
From his character toward the close of life, we observe, How awful is the state of those, who, after hopeful beginnings, turn aside from the paths of piety and virtue!
[In one view, it is a blessing to have been kept from evil for a time; but in another view, the instructions that have been given us, the convictions we have felt, and the obedience we have rendered to the voice of God, will serve but to aggravate the guilt of our subsequent misconduct, and to bring upon us an accumulated weight of misery. As the instructions given by our Lord to the Jews served only to enhance their guilt, and render their state in the future world “less tolerable than that of Sodom and Gomorrha,” so all our advantages, professions, and attainments, will, if renounced, make “our latter end worse than our beginning: for it were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than after we have known it to depart from it [Note: 2 Peter 2:20-61.2.21.].” Whilst this thought primarily applies to those who, like Joash, have burst through the restraints of education, it speaks powerfully to those who have turned back from a religious course, and relapsed into a state of worldliness and sin. To what they will come at last, God alone knows: but the downward road is very precipitous; and they who provoke the Holy Spirit to depart from them, will most probably go on from bad to worse; till, having filled up the measure of their iniquities, they be made distinguished monuments of God’s righteous indignation.]
From his whole history in a collective view, we observe, How necessary divine grace is to produce any radical change of heart and life!
[Education may change the exterior conduct, but the heart will remain the same: and when the restraints that operated at first are removed, the dispositions of the mind will break forth into outward act. The lamp which is not supplied with oil, will go out at last; and, not uncommonly, the restraint which obstructed the stream of nature for a while, will, like a dam broke down, give occasion for the greater and more fatal inundation. Nothing but the grace of God can convert the soul: and every change, short of true conversion, will but deceive us to our eternal ruin. The redeeming love of Christ must be felt in the soul: nothing but that will have a constraining efficacy to renew and sanctify us after the divine image. Whatever therefore any may have done in compliance with the advice of others, know, that we must have a principle of life within ourselves, and “be renewed in the spirit of our minds,” and be “new creatures in Christ Jesus:” “Old things must pass away, and all things become new.” Nothing but this change will prove effectual for a consistent walk; nor without this can we ever behold the face of God in peace.]
Those to whom the care of young persons is intrusted—
[Whether you are parents, or instructors only, be not discouraged because you see not all the fruit that you could wish: but continue to sow in hope; for you know not which attempt shall prosper, or when the Angel at Bethesda’s pool shall make your labours of love effectual.]
Those who are yet under the authority or instruction of others—
[Do not think hardly of the restraints imposed upon you: they are all salutary, and intended for your good; and the day is coming when you will see reason to bless your God for those very things which are now irksome to you. Your advancement in all that is good is the richest recompence your instructors can receive: and, in repaying them, you will greatly enrich yourselves.]
THE RE-OPENING OF THE TEMPLE BY KING JEHOASH
2 Chronicles 24:14. And they offered burnt-offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada.
THE temple of God, which “had been broken up” and “made desolate” by the sons of Athaliah, was now repaired and opened by King Jehoash. Long had he laboured to attain this object; but the priests and Levites were averse to it, insomuch that for three-and-twenty years he was unable to accomplish this desired measure [Note: 2 Kings 12:6.]. At last he reproved even Jehoiada himself, his relative, his preceptor, and the very man to whom, under God, he owed both his life and his crown; yes, even him and all the priests that were under him did this young king reprove, for being intent only on their own interests, whilst they utterly neglected the house of God [Note: 2 Kings 12:7.]. As for the priests, they would have waved their own gains, if only they might be excused the trouble of advancing the honour of their God [Note: 2 Kings 12:8.]. But Jehoiada devised an expedient, which, whilst it relieved the priests from a part of their burthens, gave to the people generally an opportunity of shewing what their wishes were in relation to this matter. He made “a chest, with a hole in the lid;” and put it beside the altar, to receive the gifts which should be voluntarily contributed for the furtherance of this good work [Note: 2 Kings 12:9.]: and God so wrought on the hearts of the people, that a sufficiency was soon obtained; so that the temple being repaired, they could resume with comfort the worship of their God [Note: 2 Chronicles 24:11-14.24.13.].
In my text there are two things to be noticed:
The reformation made—
Of course, the temple being desolated, the service of it would be neglected. Now, therefore, when the repairs of the temple were completed, the service of it was resumed.
Of all the sacrifices that were presented to God, those of burnt-offerings were the most ancient and dignified—
[This was the offering which procured for Abel such a manifest token of God’s approbation and acceptance [Note: Genesis 4:4-1.4.5.]. And whereas it is said that “Abel offered it by faith [Note: Hebrews 11:4.],” it seems that it must have been of divine appointment; and most probably was appointed immediately after the Fall, when beasts were slain, and our first parents were clothed with their skins [Note: Genesis 3:21.]. Under the Mosaic economy, they were offered every morning and every evening throughout the year; and on the Sabbath-day they were doubled: and, being entirely consumed upon the altar, they were peculiarly fitted to represent the desert of men on account of sin, and the sufferings of Christ in their behalf.
Consider them in this point of view. Behold a spotless victim slain, and his body consumed upon the altar, as a sacrifice for the sins of men! methinks, the offerer could not but see that death was his deserved portion, even the second death in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. At the same time, viewing this sacrifice as a typical representation of the Lord Jesus, what an idea does it convey of his sufferings under the curse due to sin, even the wrath of an avenging God! Surely it was a most instructive ordinance: and, being repeated “continually,” the people enjoyed the full benefit of the Mosaic dispensation, and God was glorified in the midst of them.]
Amongst you, also, the same sacrifice is now renewed—
[The Jews possessed the shadow; but you enjoy the substance. In the Gospel that is ministered unto you the same truths are held forth, but with infinitely clearer evidence, and more consoling power. You are told that you deserve the wrath of God, not by a mere shadowy exhibition, but by a faithful statement of your sins, and an explicit declaration of God’s threatened vengeance against you. You are informed, also, that there is mercy for you through the intervention of a Saviour, who has offered himself a sacrifice for your sins: but you have not to see this held forth under the image of a slain beast: you are instructed, that the Son of the living God himself has become incarnate: that, having approved himself spotless, and been acknowledged to be so even by his most inveterate enemies, he offered himself a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour, and has been accepted in your behalf; so that all who believe in him may henceforth be justified from all things. These two great doctrines, of your own personal desert of punishment, and of your redemption through Christ, are “continually” set before you. Whatever be the immediate subject of discourse, these are either taken for granted as acknowledged truths, or are rendered prominent, as the occasion may require. These truths every minister of our Church is bound to make the “continual” subjects of his ministration: and I thank God, that, from the first moment that I ever ministered among you, “I determined to know no other [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.]!”]
But, if we rejoice at the reformation made, our joy is damped by what is spoken of,
The term of its continuance—
It was only “during the days of Jehoiada” that this reformation continued—
[King Jehoash had, from his infancy, been instructed by Jehoiada; and during the life of that aged priest he was kept steadfast in the ways of God [Note: 2Ki 12:2]. But no sooner was that pious monitor removed, than Jehoash listened to the voice of evil counsellors, deserted the worship of his God, and abandoned himself to idolatry [Note: ver. 17, 18.]; yea, and slew the very son of Jehoiada, whom God had sent to remonstrate with him and reclaim him [Note: ver. 20–22.]. What an awful picture does this give us of human nature! But, in every age, man has shewn himself prone to depart from the living God. Moses warned the Israelites, that, after his departure, they would, notwithstanding all the wonders that had been wrought for them, forsake the Lord [Note: Deuteronomy 31:27; Deuteronomy 31:29.]. Even St. Paul himself, whose ministrations were so powerful, foresaw that, after his removal, the good work which he had begun amongst the Ephesian elders would be greatly impeded, and that many among them, who had run well for a season, would be hindered in their way, and be turned at last from the faith which they had professed: “I know this,” says he, “that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch: and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears [Note: Acts 20:29-44.20.31.].”]
And who shall say how long the work that has been begun amongst you shall continue?—
[It is not three, but three and forty, years, that I have had the happiness of watching over you, and of endeavouring, according to the grace given me, to advance your spiritual welfare [Note: Preached in Sept. 1825.]. But I tremble to think how soon the instructions now given you may be forgotten, and the hopeful appearances among you may vanish. But, as St. Peter says, “I will not be negligent to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth: yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover, I will endeavour that you may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance [Note: 2 Peter 1:12-61.1.15.].”
Know, then, that ye are sinners, deserving of the wrath of God — — — But know, that “God has laid help for you upon one that is mighty;” and that, through the sacrifice which Christ has offered for you on the cross, every one of you may obtain both pardon and peace — — — Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is both “able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by himt;” and, “of those who come to him, not so much as one shall ever be cast out” — — — O, treasure up these truths in your hearts; for “they are your very life [Note: Deuteronomy 32:46-5.32.47.].” Without the knowledge of them you never can be saved: and with the experimental knowledge of them in your souls you can never perish. Seek, then, to realize them more and more in your secret chamber; that, whether he who now ministers them unto you be alive or not, you may have the comfort of them in your own souls, and find them, as ye most assuredly shall, “the power of God to your everlasting salvation [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:2.Romans 1:16; Romans 1:16.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 24". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany