2 Kings 12:1-21
In the seventh year of Jehu Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem…
In the seventh year, etc. The whole story of Joash is soon told. He was a son of Ahaziah, and the only one of his children who escaped the murderous policy of Athaliah. "It would seem that this child, whom the pity and affection of a pious aunt (Jehosheba) had preserved, was the only surviving male representative of the line of Solomon. Jehoram, his grandfather, who married Athaliah, in order to strengthen his position on the throne, slew all his brethren, and all his own sons were slain in an incursion by the Arabians, except Ahaziah, the youngest, who succeeded him; while on the death of Ahaziah, his wicked mother, Athaliah, 'arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah,' except the little child Joash, who was rescued from her grasp. So that the unholy alliances formed by the descendants of Solomon, and the manifold disorders then accruing, had reduced everything to the verge of ruin. Measures were concerted by Jehoiada, the high priest, for getting rid of Athaliah, and placing Joash on the throne, after he had attained to the age of seven; and having in his youth the wise and the faithful round his throne, the earlier part of the reign of Joash was in accordance with the great principles of the theocracy. The Lord's house was repaired and set in order, while the temple and idols of Baal were thrown down. But after Jehoiada's death, persons of a different stamp got about him, and, notwithstanding the great and laudable zeal which he had shown for the proper restoration of God's house and worship, a return was made to idolatry to such an extent as to draw forth severe denunciations from Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. Even this was not the worst, for the faithfulness of Zechariah was repaid with violence; he was even stoned to death, and this, it is said, at the express command of the king. The martyred priest exclaimed as he expired, 'The Lord look upon it, and require;' and it was required as in a whirlwind of wrath. For a Syrian host, under Hazael, made an incursion into Judaea, and both carried off much treasure and executed summary judgment on many in Jerusalem, not excepting Joash himself, whom they left in an enfeebled state, and who was shortly afterwards fallen upon and slain by his servants. Such was the unhappy termination of a career which began in much promise of good, and the cloud under which he died even followed him to the tomb, for while he was buried in the city of David, it was not in the sepulchers of the kings of Judah. He reigned forty years - from B.C. 878 to 838." The narrative, whether we regard it as inspired or not, reminds us of five things worth considering - the dilapidating influence of time upon the best material productions of mankind; the incongruity of worldly rulers busying themselves in religious institutions; the value of the co-operative principle in the enterprises of mankind; the potency of the religious element in the nature of even depraved people; and the power of money to subdue enemies.
I. THE DILAPIDATING INFLUENCE OF TIME UPON THE BEST MATERIAL PRODUCTIONS OF MANKIND. Joash here called upon the priests and the people "to repair the breaches of the house," i.e. the temple. The temple, therefore, though it had not been built more than about a hundred and sixty years, had got into a state of dilapidation, there were breaches in it; where the breaches were we are not told, whether in the roof, the floor, the walls, or in the ceiling. The crumbling hand of time had touched it. No human superstructure, perhaps, ever appeared on the earth built of better materials, or in a better way, than the temple of Solomon. It was the wonder of ages. Notwithstanding this, it was subject to the invincible law of decay. The law of dilapidation seems universal throughout organic nature; the trees of the forest, the flowers of the field, and the countless tribes of sentient life that crowd the ocean, earth, and air, all fall into decay; and so also with the material productions of feeble man. Throughout the civilized world we see mansions, churches, cathedrals, palaces, villages, towns, and cities, in ruins. All compound bodies tend to dissolution; there is nothing enduring but primitive elements or substances. This being so, how astoundingly preposterous is man's effort to perpetuate his memory in material monuments! The only productions of men that defy the touch of time, and that are enduring, are true thoughts, pure sympathies, and noble deeds. He who builds up the temple of a true moral character produces a superstructure that will last through the sweep of ages, the wreck of thrones, and the crash of doom.
II. THE INCONGRUITY OF WORLDLY RULERS BUSYING THEMSELVES IN RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS. Joash was no saint, the root of the matter was not in him; he had no vital and ruling sympathy with the Supreme Being, yet he seemed zealous in the work of repairing the temple. "Then King Joash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house." Though the conduct of corrupt men in busying themselves with things pertaining to religion is incongruous, alas! it is not uncommon. Such conduct generally springs from one of two things, or from both - policy or superstition. The religion that is popular, whether it be true or false, rulers recognize and sanction. They use the religious element in the community as a means by which to strengthen their thrones and augment their fame. Not only, indeed, are kings actuated thus, but even the corrupt tradesman, lawyer, doctor, etc., must show some interest in the popular religion in order to succeed in his secular pursuits. But superstition as well as policy often prompts corrupt men to busy themselves in matters of religion. Do not many build and beautify churches and subscribe to religions institutions, hoping thereby to escape perdition and to ensure the favor of Heaven? Alas! some of the corruptest men are often most busy in religious affairs. The man that betrayed the Son of God at the last Passover was most busy on that awful night; "his hand was on the table."
III. THE VALUE OF THE CO-OPERATIVE PRINCIPLE IN THE ENTERPRISES OF MANKIND. It would seem that the work of repairing the temple was so great that no one man could have accomplished it. Hence the king called earnestly for the cooperation of all. "And Jehoash said to the priests, All the money of the dedicated things that is brought into the house of the Lord, even the money of every one that passeth the account, the money that every man is set at, and all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord, let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance: and let them repair the breaches of the house." They obeyed his voice. The people gave the money, and all set to work; the "priest that kept the door," the "high priest," the "carpenters," the "masons," the" builders," the "hewers of stone," etc. By this unity of action "they repaired the house of the Lord." Two remarks may be made concerning the principle of cooperation.
1. It is a principle that should govern all men in the undertakings of life. It was never the purpose of the Almighty that man should act alone for himself, should pursue alone his own individual interests. Men may, and often do, make large fortunes by it, but they destroy their own peace of mind, degrade their natures, and outrage the Divine laws of society. Men are all members of one great body; and was ever a member made to work alone? No; but for the good of the whole, the common weal.
2. It is a principle that has done and is doing wonders in the undertakings of life. Our colleges, hospitals, railways, etc., are all the products of co-operation. The more men get intellectually enlightened and morally improved, the more this principle will be put into operation. This principle, however, has its limits. In spiritual matters it must not infringe the realm of individual responsibility. There is no partnership in moral responsibility. Each man must think, repent, and believe for himself. "Every man must bear his own burden."
IV. THE POTENCY OF THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT EVEN IN DEPRAVITY. At this time Israel was morally almost as corrupt as the heathen nations. From the beginning Israel was the Church of God in little more than a metaphorical sense. Never in the history of the world has there been a member of the true Church whose sympathies with Jehovah were not supreme. But how many of the Jews had this supreme sympathy? Notwithstanding this, the religious sentiment was in them, as in all men, a constituent part of their natures; and this sentiment is here appealed to, and roused into excitement; and, being excited, men poured forth their treasures and employed their energies for the repairing of the temple. This element in man often sleeps under the influence of depravity, but mountains of depravity cannot crush it; it lies in human nature as the mightiest latent force. Peter the Hermit, Savanorola the priest, Wesley the Methodist, and others in every age, have roused it into mighty action, even amongst the most ignorant and depraved of the race. Cunning priests and crafty king/have appealed to it as the strongest force that can bear them on to the realization of their miserable ends. The truly good and godly must appeal to it if they would accomplish any great work for mankind. By its right action only can men rise; by its dormancy or wrong development men must inevitably fall.
V. THE POWER OF MONEY TO SUBDUE ENEMIES. "Hazael King of Syria... set his face to go up to Jerusalem. And Joash King of Judah took all the hallowed things that... his fathers... had dedicated and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord... and sent it to Hazael King of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem." Here is a man, a proud, daring monarch, who was determined to invade Judaea, and to take possession of Jerusalem, relinquishing his designs. What was the force that broke his purpose? Money. It is said that Joash sent gold to Hazael, "and he went away from Jerusalem." Truly money answereth for all things. Money can arrest the march of armies and terminate the fiercest campaigns. After contending armies have destroyed their thousands, it is money alone that brings the battle to a close. Money is the soul of all pacifying treaties. What fools the rulers of the people are not to employ money to prevent war and turn it away from their country! Enemies can be conquered by gifts. Evil can only be overcome by good. "If thine enemy hunger, offer him bread to cat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the seventh year of Jehu Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba.