Long Live the King (Sermon)
2 Chronicles 22:10-24:27
There is usually a lot of debate around Christmas time about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. To set the record straight, of course it is a Christmas movie. It takes place during a Christmas Eve party. John McClain comes bearing gifts, and it ends with a Christmas carol playing. If that’s not better than Elf, I don’t know what is. But you want know what movie has even more Christmas themes than Die Hard? The Terminator.
In the Terminator, there’s an evil system of machines who have turned on humanity and are seeking to destroy mankind. They send a Terminator back in time to take out the man that will be their undoing and who will end up saving mankind. Whether intentional or not, this has themes of Genesis 3, Revelation 12, and Matthew 2; the Messiah figure, John Connors, is saved away from the murderous plot of the Machines when he is a small child. He eventually grows up to save mankind and defeat the enemy. Since this has echoes of Matthew 2, an appropriate ending song for Terminator could be “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”
All good stories have themes of the greatest story: In Eden the Serpent who has come into the Garden to destroy mankind is told that someone will come born of woman who will save mankind by crushing his head. In the process that one’s heel will be bruised. From that time on, the Serpent has waged war against the seed of the woman trying to wipe out the line of the Messiah before He comes. Satan rages against God’s people Israel, specifically the tribe of Judah and the house of David through whom the head-crusher would come, just as promised to David in 2 Samuel 7. We have seen this over and over: Satan moves Cain to kill Abel to cut off the line, yet Seth is born. Satan moves the Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew sons, yet Moses is stowed away in order to come back and bring down Pharaoh.
Time after time, it seems Satan is winning in his war against the seed of woman, only for God to bring life out of death and provide an offspring and hope that the promise of Eden will come true. Here in the text before us this morning, Athaliah joins in that assault on the line of the chosen one as she seeks to wipe out all of David’s sons. Once again it seems the promises to Israel and the world lie dead in the tombs of Jerusalem, yet one son is saved, his name is Joash.
We see three truths about Old Testament kings this morning.
The King Brings Peace (22:10-23:21)
We are introduced to this evil queen who is the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were a horribly wicked king and queen in Israel who led Israel into idolatry and pagan worship, and murdered innocent people like Naboth because he would not give them his vineyard. We are introduced in Athaliah to another Jezebel who the text indicates is a usurper to the throne. Once her son is dead, she sees it as a chance to take the throne and does so by going on a killing spree that wipes out all rivals including killing some of her own grandchildren, as she seeks to destroy the line of David and any and all rightful heirs to the throne.
The evil queen acting on behalf of the Serpent from Eden continues the assault on the line of woman and particularly on the house of David. She is a very real threat to the promises of God made to David. The Davidic line here is on the brink of extinction. In fact, it is only one child away. Yet unknown to Athaliah the true King lives. In the midst of this carnage, we find our first hero, and her name is Jehoshabeath. You don’t hear that name often but maybe we should.
Shabby (Jehoshabeath) courageously acts as a true mother to Israel by protecting the Davidic line and the rightful King by hiding him away from the evil leader seeking to destroy him. She puts Joash in the care of her husband, the High Priest Jehoiada, and by doing so she opposes the woman who is either her mother or step-Mother. Even though following examples of these people is not first and foremost what the text is about, we learn several lessons from Shabby.
She is courageous in that she is willing to do what is right regardless of consequences, and she is dedicated to God in that she is willing to forsake mother in order to obey God. By being dedicated and courageous, she is to be commended because she not only protected the promises to David, but she also kept alive the promise for us all, who need the true Son of David on the throne. This is why one commentator said of her, “Without her courage we would not rise from the dead.” Here once again we see from her faithfulness that God brings life out of death as Joash is safely stowed away. Joash will be a new Moses who frees his people from enemy oppression and takes down the evil female pharaoh. Joash, the Son of David, is currently living in God’s house being about his father’s business.
As we read at the beginning, the High Priest patiently waits for the boy to grow before hatching a plan to overthrow the wicked queen and put the rightful heir on the Throne. He does so with a shrewd plan where he brings together a pro-Davidic group made up of military leaders, the Levites, and the heads of the prominent families. This makes it appear that Athaliah’s reign has not been well received by the people.
In order to maximize protection and minimize suspicion and because there would be twice as many forces because it would take place during changing, they would bring out Joash and crown him as king. The priest arms the men with weapons from David in order to protect the sole son of David left. In verse 11 they bring in Joash and proclaim him as king by giving him his crown and a copy of the Testimony, which most believe is a copy of the Law. Then they shout, “Long Live the King!” This is significant because it shows that the success of the king and the flourishing of his people will be intertwined with his commitment to the Law or Mosaic Covenant.
Athaliah hears the praises, songs, and shouts of the people, and as she comes upon the temple and looks there is a son of David standing. Her cries of “treason” shows she is out to lunch because she is the treasonous one. There is a son of David alive, and he is to be the rightful King. The plan works as the queen does not have the forces. She is taken outside of the temple so as to not shed blood in the house of the Lord, and the evil murdering queen is put to death, one of the serpent’s seeds is cut off.
The death of Athaliah leads to celebration, rest, and reform. I have mentioned before that I am a Star Wars fan and the best Star Wars is Return of the Jedi. Again every good story has echoes of the even greater one: In Return of the Jedi after the Evil Emperor is killed, there is the finishing off of the Empire, there is a celebration (with the Ewoks), and most importantly there is rest or quiet because the war is over. This is what happens here: 1) They finish off the enemy by ridding the land of idolatry and pagan houses of worship. 2) They re-establish proper worship in the Temple and celebrate with “rejoicing and singing.” 3) All the people now, led by Joash, renew or re-pledge their covenant to the Lord established with Moses. 4) There is quiet in the land because the war is over.
Verses 20—21 tell us that all the people participate in taking the rightful king to the royal palace and putting him on the throne. When the king sits down on his throne, there is rejoicing and there is peace. God has once again provided a son of David who brings peace and quiet to the land, and He has done so by ridding them of the wicked queen who oppressed them and by removing their idols.
Application: Following God means rooting out idols in our lives. An idol is not necessarily some carved image, but it is anything in your life that competes with that place in your life only God should occupy because He alone can fully satisfy. In fact the strongest idols can be very good things that enjoyed rightly are good gifts from God, but they become idols when you make them a “God thing” or give them the supremacy that God alone should have.
The best way I can help you identify potential idols is with the help of Rocky Balboa. In Rocky I, as Rocky is about to fight Apollo he says to Mick, “I just want to go the distance and then I’ll know I am not a bum.” A potential idol is anything in your life that you say I have to have that and then I will know I am not a bum, I have to have that to be truly happy. My Dad says it like this, “I need Jesus+” and whatever you fill in the blank with it has the potential of becoming an idol no matter how good of a gift from God it might be.
I need Jesus plus a spouse
I need Jesus plus the success of my kids
I need Jesus plus security
I need Jesus plus a successful job
These are things that can compete with the supremacy of God in your life, and they are not good gods because they can be taken away and therefore cannot ultimately satisfy. We must fight to put these things in their proper places, meaning we go to the Scriptures to see Jesus as the only One who can fully satisfy and provide and see Him as more precious than anything this world can offer or take away.
The King Rebuilds the Temple (24:1-14)
In verses 1-4, we see that as long as Jehoiada was alive that Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. In verse 3 we see the restoration of the Davidic line that had been decimated by the wicked queen as Joash has sons and daughters. Then in verse 4 Joash begins renewing and restoring the Temple which shows us his early devotion to God. Under the wicked queen mother it had fallen into decline as she had even plundered the house of the Lord.
In verses 5–11, Joash tries to employ the priests to gather the necessary funds to restore the temple, but they do not move quickly enough so he devises another plan. He will put out a chest in front of the temple for people to bring money beyond the normal tax. People began to give with joy (v. 10) tells us and even sacrificially (v.11).
All the repairs were made according to the original design and worship was restored as long as the High Priest was alive (v.13—14). Joash has done this because kings are temple builders, and it was their responsibility to maintain the house of God. Solomon builds the original, Hezekiah works on it, Joash restores it, and one day a Son of David will build the final Temple. Joash is a new Moses hidden away from a murderous evil ruler only to come back, save his people, and then lead Israel to worship (for a time).
We Need a Better King (24:15-27)
Though Joash started well, he like too many in the pages of Scripture did not finish well (v.15–22). He ends in apostasy as with most of Solomon’s son. We see two things that are telling: as long as his faithful advisor Jehoiada was alive and as long as he revered the Temple he was faithful. Yet sadly once Jehoiada dies, Joash falls apart.
Jehoiada is given great reverence in the text and is spoken of like a king. What a statement about him, “He had done good.” This reminds me of young Timothy in the New Testament: “He was well spoken of by the brothers.” But now Joash moves from doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord and listening to godly counsel to listening to the counsel of those who wanted things back like they were in the times of pagan worship and idolatry.
Like Rehoboam, Joash follows bad advice and returns the land to the idolatry from before. This is instructive application for us: How important is it to have godly counsel in your life? I think a good question for us all to wrestle with is, “Do we surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear or need to hear?” (children, teenagers, young adults, adults, more seasoned adults).
Joash refuses to listen even to Zechariah, who wasn’t just a priest but would have been like a brother because they would have been raised together (v. 19). Yet God again shows His patience. That He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love by sendsing prophets to call them back to repentance. God’s patience does not go on forever—one should never presume upon the patience of God. God’s had not given up on Joash, but it seems that now Joash has given up on God, and the consequences will be devastating not just for him but for the people.
Zechariah declared that God’s judgment would coming crashing down for their idolatry and for their forsaking of God, but instead of heeding his warning they moved to have him stoned in the Temple. This is incredibly sad and wicked: Joash’s reverence for the temple is gone. Now in the very place where Jehoiada arranged for him to ascend to the throne he murders his son. Yet as he is dying Zechariah predicts that this wickedness will be avenged.
Indeed God’s judgment falls upon Joash and Judah as a smaller army comes in and takes out Joash (v.23—25). This is a reversal of what happened with Gideon. When God’s people are faithful, He delivers them from larger armies with smaller numbers. But when they are not faithful, He gives them over to the hands of smaller armies. This rebel army has such disdain for Joash that they do not kill him but just leave him there to die. His servants, disgusted by his treatment of Zechariah, take the opportunity to take him out.
Because of his treachery, Joash is not given the ceremonial burial due a King, though he is buried in the City of David. It seems once again the promises of God lay dead in Jerusalem tombs.
We need a King better than Joash. We need a King who can save us from idolatry and our enemy. We need a faithful King who can bring us peace and rest, and build a Temple. And we have one!
Joash is ultimately not the king we need, but he does point us to the greater Son of David. This King would also have to be hidden away as a child to be protected from an evil ruler trying to wipe out Sons of David.
There would be another King who would come back to defeat the evil one, and who would save his people and deliver them from lifelong bondage to an enemy.
There will be an even greater King who won’t just be presumed to be dead like Joash, but who will really die. He will not die for His own sins or covenant unfaithfulness but will die for the sins of others in order to free them from their sin, from their covenant unfaithfulness. He could be this perfect sacrifice because He was always faithful to the Covenant of Moses. Yet outside the gates of Jerusalem He would die in the place of sinners, in the place of men like Joash.
And once again the hope of the world lies dead in Jerusalem tombs. But on that Sunday morning this King did what the sinner Joash could not do as He walked out of the grave. In so doing crushing the head of the serpent, and once again God brought life out of death. They thought they could tear this temple down, but He raised it up in three days, and as He ascended into heaven He gave gifts to men in order to build His new temple. We are told this New and Final Temple is entirely different because it is not a building, but it is made up of Living Stones. You and I in the church are the temple, and the promise given from this King is that not even the gates of Hell will prevail against it.
This King, though He was slain, is standing (Rev.5), and what accompanies this victorious King is “shouts and songs and praises!” Who is this slain King who is standing? Jesus of Nazareth, rightful heir to the throne of David, who is establishing an everlasting Kingdom that will have peace covering the earth like the waters cover the sea.
If you are in this room and you do not know Him, the judgment of God due sin is headed for you. But He has provided a way for you to be right with God if you, unlike Joash, will by faith repent and beg the Lord to have mercy and to save you.
Brothers and sisters, let our affections be stirred toward our King. Let’s root out any rivals, any idols that would compete for His supremacy in our lives, and let’s do that until He comes back or we go to see Him. Our brother John sums up this war between the Serpent of Eden and the seed of the woman who will establish an everlasting reign in Revelation 12 and reminds us why our allegiance should be His:
(Revelation 12:3—5) And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Long Live the King!