Revivals Under The
Good Kings Of Judah
What a lesson we have in this member of Archie Naismith’s series on the Good Kings of Judah! May we accept the warning. May we avoid the dangers.
The covenant which many devoted Scottish Presbyterians signed with their blood in 1643 and later ratified with their life’s blood was called the Solemn League and Covenant. The same designation might appropriately be given to
The People’s Covenant
by which Jehoiada the high priest, Joash the young king, and the people of Judah pledged themselves to renewed allegiance to Jehovah their God. They sanctified themselves by this fresh act of consecration, promising that “they should be the Lord’s people!” Their ancestors had given a similar solemn undertaking at Sinai, which later came to be known as “the old covenant” (Exod. 24:3-8; Heb. 8:6-8), and this pledge had been repeated by the nation of Judah during the reign of good King Asa after the period of declension under Rehoboam and Abijah.
This covenant was accompanied by the complete Collapse of Idol Worship that had been predominant throughout the realm in the reign of Ahaziah and the regency of Athaliah (2 Kings 11:18). Following the popular outburst consequent upon covenant pledges and vows, Baal’s sanctuary, altars and images were demolished, and Mattan, the officiating priest of that idolatrous system, was put to the sword. Thus, for a time at least, the people returned to the faith of their fathers.
During the years preceding the coronation of Joash the temple of Jehovah had been defiled, its treasures and dedicated articles plundered, and its holy vessels sacriligiously employed in the worship of Baal. The doorkeepers of the temple had been removed and the priests and Levites had ceased to function in their appointed spheres, as prescribed for them by Divine decree. There must therefore be first a Consecration of Jehovah’s Priests and servants. The courses of the priests were established again, and singers and doorkeepers returned to the service assigned to them (2 Chron. 23:18-19). The Levites, doubtless owing to long desuetude, proved negligent in fulfilling their obligations (2 Chron. 24:4, 5) and had to be reprimanded.
The renovation of the material structure and the replacement of the vessels of the house of the Lord was taken in hand by the monarch himself when he had grown to manhood. For this purpose large sums of money were required, and so the next great result of the covenant was the collection for Jehovah’s House (2 Chron. 24:8-14). The good work went on apace, paid for from the abundance of monetary gifts cast into the chest that became the receptacle for the offerings of the princes and people. When the Lord’s priests consecrate themselves afresh to His service, the Lord’s people will not shirk their responsibility to supply the means for the furtherance of that ministry. If we would see the Lord’s hand put forth in power and witness a revival in our time, there must be whole-hearted consecration to God to such an extent that our purses will be truly converted as well as our persons.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mah. 3:10).
The closing years of the reign of Joash are among the saddest in the annals of the kingdom of Judah. Indeed, our Lord linked Joash with Cain, the first murderer, when He charged the hypocritcal Pharisees and scribes of His own day with murders similar to those of Abel and Zechariah (Matt. 23:35). Some doubt has arisen regarding our Lord’s reference and the identity of ‘Zacharias,’ but the view that is generally accepted identifies Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who rebuked the people of Judah and made his prophetic utterances before Joash, with the martyr of whom the Lord spoke. The substitution of ‘Barachias’ for Jehoiada in Matthew 23:35 is usually attributed to a transcriber’s error, The martyrdom of Zechariah was commonly believed among the Jews, and the Talmud recorded that the blood of the prophet was still bubbling up at the time of the capture of the temple by the Babylonian general, Nebuzaradan.
In this action of Joash is illustrated the possibility of one who did right in the beginning being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and having an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God”(Heb. 3:12, 13). The king’s declension began with the death of his wise counsellor, Jehoiada, who for about a quarter of a century had enjoyed his sovereign’s fullest confidence. Rawlinson affirms that Joash “must have been a consenting party to the extraordinary honours which were paid him at his decease,” for “he was buried in state within the walls of the city of David, in the sepulchres of the kings.” This was a distinction never allowed to any other subject during the whole period of the monarchy.
In recounting the downfall of Joash the sacred chronicler first mentions the Work of the Priest. “He had done good in Israel, both toward God and toward his house.” As destroyer of the internal enemies of the Kingdom of Judah, as preserver of the royal dynasty, as leader of a great revival of the worship of Jehovah, and as restorer of the temple in Jerusalem, the high priest who guided King Joash in the first part of his reign is an outstanding example of that zeal, devotion and prudence that mark the true man of God. A like zeal and courage chracterized his son, Zechariah.
Almost immediately following the death of the high priest the Wickedness of the Princes displayed itself and alienated the heart of the king by leading him into a course of apostasy. The princes, who had evidently yielded only a feigned allegiance to the Lord their God, seized the opportunity afforded by the death of a strong counsellor to return to the worship of Baal with its sensual and alluring ritual. Flattered by their obsequious homage, the king gave a ready ear to their honeyed words and a willing consent to the erection of Baal’s groves and restoration of the images. The defection of Joash proved the Weakness of the Potentate. This was a moral weakness that led to departure from the path of right and terminated the great spiritual revival that had vitalized the nation during Jehoiada’s lifetime. Angry with His people because of their trespass, the Lord “sent prophets to them to bring them again to the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:18, 19). Priests and prophets together testified against the course of flagrant disobedience and transgression.
But to the Witness of the Prophets the sinners in Judah turned a deaf ear and continued in their sinful ways. Chief among those who raised their voices in protest was Jehoiada’s son and successor in the high-priestly office, Zechariah. His message to the people was inspired by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit clothed Himself with Zechariah, and through him uttered the Warning of the Preacher. His message was clear: “Thus saith God —Why transgress ye the commandment of the Lord, so that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath also forsaken you.” These words brought down upon him the king’s wrath; and the high priest, the son of his friend, supporter and counsellor who had shielded him from death in his boyhood, placed him on the throne of Judah and brought him regal happiness and prosperity, was ruthlessly slain by the king’s command.
But “God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The Lord looked upon this evil and ungrateful act of Joash and He did require it at his hand, and requite it. Within a year a small army of Syrians defeated the large hosts of Judah and destroyed the princes who had been the ringleaders in the nation’s departure from the Lord. The spoils that fell into the enemys hands were taken from the recently renovated temple and from the king’s palace. Joash, humiliated, diseased and miserable, became the victim of a conspiracy and was assassinated by his own servants. Thus the Lord required at the king’s hands the blood of Jehoiada’s son, God’s faithful witness. The Lord thus ended a reign and a revival that began full of promise but lapsed into apostasy and tragedy.