Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT THE BEST PART OF UZZIAH'S FORTUNE WAS IN HIS FATHERHOOD. He did, indeed, enjoy a very good estate; the "lines fell to him in pleasant places, and he had a goodly heritage." He had the highest position in the land, power, wealth, a large and noble sphere for great natural ability and honourable ambition (2 Chronicles 26:6-15). But more precious than all of these to the king's heart, we may be sure, was the possession of a true, loyal, godly son and successor. That which touches us in our home affections either stirs within us the deepest and purest joy or awakens the profoundest and most poignant grief. An unworthy son, a "thankless child," an heir who is likely to overturn all that we have laboriously built up, will make the very sweetest enjoyments and the fairest earthly possessions to lose ill their charm and be of no account to us. But such a son as Jotham is to his father the crown of prosperity and the comfort of adversity. From royal cares the king goes home to find, in conjugal and in filial affection, a contentment and a peace, an exhilaration and a joy, which no glittering gewgaws and no obsequious attentions are able to command. We do not know how highly Uzziah prized the virtue and the attachment of his son during his earlier and happier years, but we may be well assured that, when the hand of God was upon him, and he was separated from the society of men, he found in Jotham's regency and in his filial sympathy a priceless mitigation to his loss, an invaluable treasure in his loneliness and his decline. Parents may think that their professional or household duties make it impossible for them to afford time for the teaching and training of their children, for the culture of their Christian character; but they ought to know that, whatever their other claims may be, they cannot afford to neglect their parental duty. If they do neglect it, they will leave undone that which will make them immeasurably poorer than they might become a few years further on.
II. THAT THE BEST PART OF JOTHAM'S SUCCESSION WAS HIS FATHER'S CHARACTER. He inherited great things from his father, the king; but from his father, the servant of Jehovah, he gained one that outweighed them all - the influence for good of a godly man. He "did what was right... according to all that his father did." It was very largely, indeed, to his father's example that he owed his own character for piety and purity. And what is there in the most splendid surroundings, or in the most attractive positions, that is to be compared with that? They will perish, but that will endure; they will soon lose their charm, but it will always he precious beyond all price; they are relatively, but that is intrinsically and eternally, valuable. We may not have to thank our parents for a fortune or a dowry - it matters little; we may have to thank them for a bright and beautiful example - that matters much, indeed everything.
III. THAT JOTHAM LEARNT THE LESSON WHICH THE DIVINE FATHER TAUGHT, "Howbeit he entered not [profanely and intrusively] into the temple of the Lord." God rebuked his father, Uzziah, for this flagrant transgression, rebuking at the same time his pride of heart, his spiritual decline (see homily on 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, "A clouded close"). Doubtless Uzziah himself understood the meaning of that heavy blow, and bowed his heart beneath it; he "was in subjection to the Father of spirits, and lived." In that lingering death of leprosy he found life in penitence and in return to God. Jotham, his son, also learnt the lesson; and, instead of giving way to haughtiness of heart in the days when he was "mighty" (ver. 6), he retained his integrity before the Lord.
1. We may not plead our father's deficiencies, excesses, or disobediences as an excuse for our own. If they erred or sinned, they also suffered for their error, for their guilt. And their experience should be a warning which we should heed, and not an example which we foolishly follow.
2. We should give God heartfelt thanks for all the gracious influences which come to us in our home-life, and regard them as of the very best gifts that come from his Divine hand.
3. We should have it as a sacred and honourable ambition to confirm (and not to destroy) the work of those who went before us. If we do thus live, our fathers will be living on in us and through us, and if we cannot immortalize their name, we can perpetuate their influence.
4. We may hope that such filial devotedness will be rewarded by parental rejoicing in those whom we shall leave behind, to whom we shall commit the fruit of our labour. - C.
2 Kings 15:5) -
I. THAT HE SERVED A USEFUL APPRENTICESHIP. We find that, for some time during his father's illness, he, "the king's son, was over the house, judging the people of the land." This was an admirable arrangement for the country and for the young prince; for it had the advantage (which the son could not fail to obtain) of the experience of Uzziah; and he was learning the great art of ruling, while his responsibility was shared by one much wiser and stronger than he. It is an excellent thing for the you-,g, in every sphere, to be placed where they can be gathering wisdom before they carry the heavy burden of a weighty responsibility.
II. THAT HE FOLLOWED IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF A WISE AND GOOD MAN. (Ver. 2.) (See previous homily on "Uzziah and Jotham, father and son.")
III. THAT HE WORKED IN A WISE DIRECTION - FROM WITHIN OUTWARD. First, "he built the high gate" of the temple (ver. 3); that was beginning at the very centre, at "the house of the Lord," which was morally, if not geographically, the central spot in the kingdom. Then he made some additions to the wall of Jerusalem (ver. 3). Then, moving outward, he built fortified cities in the mountains, and castles in the forests of Judah. And. then, going further afield, he warred with Ammon, and compelled it to pay tribute (ver. 5). This is the true order. Let solicitude and activity begin at the centre; let them begin at the very centre - at a man's own heart and character; let them move outward - to those in the home circle, to the kindred, to the Church; and then to those still further away - to fellow-countrymen, to fellow-men everywhere. A circumscribed activity is altogether a mistake; but we must begin with ourselves, becoming right at heart, and then we may and should move outward in our sympathies and our endeavours.
IV. THAT HE ATTAINED GREAT POWER BY MAINTAINING HIS GODLY CHARACTER. (Ver. 6.) (See succeeding homily.)
V. THAT HIS LIFE WAS DARKENED BY MANY SHADOWS AS WELL AS BRIGHTENED BY MANY BLESSINGS.
1. He could not effect all the reforms he would have liked to carry out, and he had to witness some evil-doings which must have grieved his spirit. "The people did yet corruptly" (ver. 2).
2. Foreign invasion began to threaten the kingdom (1 Kings 15:37).
3. He found himself sick unto death at an age (forty-one) when he might have expected to do great things, and to be much to the people whom he ruled. It was an honourable and useful life that Jotham lived; one to be remembered and to be followed in its salient features. Like him
(1) we should see that we inherit that which is the best from our fathers;
(2) pursue the right steadfastly, without swerving, even to the end;
(3) beginning at home, we should extend our influence as far as we can send it;
(4) be prepared to lay down our weapons in the midst of our days. And how much better to die, as Jotham did, leading all men to wish that he had lived longer, than, as so many others have done, compelling their best friends to wish that they had died sooner! It matters little when the night of death comes; but it matters much that, during the day of life, we do our work well and bear our burden with a brave and patient heart. - C.
I. JOTHAM, A GOOD MAN.
1. Of honourable parentage.
(1) His father Uzziah, though guilty in his lifetime of a great sin (2 Chronicles 26:16), and dying under a cloud (2 Chronicles 26:21), was essentially a sincere worshipper of Jehovah. Good men may commit acts of wickedness, from the temporal consequences of which they cannot, in their lifetime, shake themselves free, (e.g. Moses, Jacob, David); yet are their characters and standing before God not to be judged by these, but by the whole course of their earthly careers.
(2) His mother Jerushah, a native of Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 9:11. 2), and the daughter of Zadok - if this was the high priest mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:53 (Bertheau) - was probably a woman of piety. Incalculable is the influence of mothers in determining the characters of sons (e.g. Jochebed, Eunice, Monica, Susanna Wesley).
2. Of excellent character.
(1) He followed in his father's steps in so far as these were good (ver. 2), which was all he was warranted to do (Acts 4:19). Religion doubly influential upon the young when recommended by the example of devout fathers and mothers. Who would make others good, himself must be good. Irreligious parents not likely to succeed in the godly upbringing of their children.
(2) He avoided the mistake his father had committed (ver. 2). Mistakes of ourselves or others not actions to be repeated or patterns to be copied, but beacons to be observed and paths to be shunned. Whether, had Uzziah not been "stricken of the Lord," but permitted to assume the priest's office, Jotham would have discontinued the practice as an unwarrantable intrusion into a province that belonged not to kings, may be doubtful; it was to his credit that he was able to interpret the lesson of God's judgment on his parent, and meekly acquiesce in the same (Psalm 119:75, 120).
(3) He persevered in the right way in spite of the sinful practices of his people. These "did corruptly" (ver. 2), i.e. worshipped idols, sacrificed, and burnt incense in the high places (2 Kings 15:32); and if the representations of the prophets may be credited, were sunk in deplorable immorality (Isaiah 2:5, etc.; Isaiah 5:7, etc.; Micah 1:5; Micah 2:1, etc.). Cf. the phrase used of the Babylonian tower-builders on the monuments: "Babylon corruptly to sin went" ('Records,' etc., 7:131). Jotham stood alone, or nearly so, in an extremely degenerate age; like Noah in the antediluvian world (Genesis 7:1), Lot in Sodom (2 Peter 2:8), and Daniel in Babylon (Daniel 6:13); which heightens one's idea of both the nobility of his character and the strength of his piety. It requires a strong man, intellectually and morally, to be singular, and especially to be good, when goodness is unpopular and immorality with irreligion holds the field. "This king was not defective in any virtue, but was religious towards God and righteous towards men" (Josephus).
II. JOTHAM SUCCESSFUL KING.
1. The duration of his success. Throughout his entire reign of sixteen years. If his father's reign was longer and more brilliant, his was more symmetrical and complete. If he was a more obscure monarch than his father, he was probably as good a man.
2. The nature of his success.
(1) His buildings were important.
(a) He restored and beautified the upper gate of the temple (ver. 3), i.e. the northern gate, which led into the inner court (Ezekiel 8:3, 5, 14), and was called "upper" probably because it stood upon higher ground than the gates upon the south (Ezekiel 9:2). His reason for such architectural ornamentation most likely was, either that it formed the principal entrance to the temple (Bertheau), or that there the burnt offerings were washed; cf. Ezekiel 40:38 (Bahr). In beginning with the temple, Jotham observed the right order; first the things of God, and then those of man; first religion, and then business; first the claims of Heaven, and then those of earth.
(b) He added to the city fortifications. "On the wall of Ophel," which ran along the southern slope of the temple hill and joined the temple wall at the south-eastern corner, at the turning of the wall (2 Chronicles 26:9), where his father before him had raised erections, "he built much." As Solomon's palace, on the southern slope, was considerably lower than the temple, Jotham may have had a good deal of building.
(c) "In the mountains of Judah," on the military roads, he erected fortified cities or garrisons; and in the forests or wooded hills, where such "cities" could not be placed, he constructed" castles and towers" (ver. 4). Thus, while like a good man he honoured God, like a prudent sovereign he looked well to the safety of his kingdom.
(2) His wars were victorious. "He fought with the Ammonites, and prevailed against them" (ver. 5), compelling them to resume payment of the tribute which Uzziah had imposed upon them (2 Chronicles 26:8), but which they had discontinued. If, after two payments, the tribute ("a hundred talents of silver," equal to £50,000, with "ten thousand measures of wheat, and ten thousand of barley") ceased, this was probably due to the incursions of Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 15:37) having enabled them to successfully assert their independence. Probably in close connection with this subjection of the Ammonites was his annexation to the kingdom of Judah of the trans-Jordanic tribe of Gad, of whose population he made a registration according to their genealogies, doubtless for the purpose of imposing an assessment (1 Chronicles 5:17).
(3) His reputation was high. If barely realizing the ideal of uprightness or perfection contained in his name (Jotham, equivalent to "Jehovah" is, "upright," or" perfect)," he yet maintained an untarnished escutcheon. Though a man's funeral cannot always be accepted as an index to his moral excellence (Luke 16:22), yet the circumstance that when Jotham died he was interred in the royal mausoleum, "in the city of David," was a proof he had done nothing to forfeit the good opinion of his subjects. Contrast the burials of Joash (2 Chronicles 24:25), of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:23), and of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 27:27).
3. The explanation of his succces. Neither the wealth of his kingdom, which was "full of silver and gold" (Isaiah 2:7), nor the size of his army, "The land [in his day] was also full of horses, neither was there any end of chariots" (Isaiah 2:7), nor the splendour of his merchant navy, which consisted of ships of Tarshish (Isaiah 2:16), accounted for the remarkable prosperity of this sovereign's reign. If, on the one hand, these were rather signs and results of the flourishing condition of the nation; on the other hand, they were ominous of, and contributory to, the nation's decay. Not only did these in no way diminish, but, on the contrary, fostered and increased the worst characteristics of the people - a love of luxury, which evinced itself amongst the women in a passion for finery and dress (Isaiah 3:16-24), amongst the men in licentiousness and oppression, witchcraft and soothsaying (Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 3:9), amongst both in haughtiness and self-conceit (Isaiah 2:17), a thirst for war (Isaiah 2:7), and an infatuation for idolatry (Isaiah 2:8). The real secret of the kingdom's prosperity lay in the piety of its king. Judah was blessed because Jotham "prepared [or, 'ordered'] his ways before the Lord" - a clear case of imputation of merit and of vicarious blessing. Jot. ham systematically and studiously guided his personal and official actions by a regard to the Divine Law, and Jehovah caused him to become mighty. Them that honour me I will honour" (1 Samuel 2:30). No piety likely to he either deep or permanent that does not spring from well-considered choice and lead to scrupulous obedience. A good man may pray, "Order my steps in thy Word" (Psalm 119:133), knowing that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23), and that a good man's steps are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23); if a truly good man, he will try to answer his own prayer (Psalm 101:2), in doing which he has God's encouragement (Psalm 50:23). Rehoboam prepared neither his heart nor his way, and consequently went astray (2 Chronicles 12:14).
1. The best men are often the least known.
2. A life short in years may be long in influence.
3. The danger of inferring inward stability from outward prosperity. - W.
I. THE COMBINATION OF MANY CHRISTIAN VIRTUES. AS the "mighty" swordsman is the man who is strong at all points of attack and defence; as the "mighty" speaker is he who has all possible qualifications for interesting, convincing, and persuading men; so the "mighty" man of God is he who has acquired all the various excellences which we are able to secure. "Giving all diligence," we are" to add to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance," etc. (2 Peter 1:5, 6). "Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report," we are to think upon and, of course, to pursue and to acquire. We are to "build ourselves up on our holy faith." And building up is a work that is not done in a day nor in a year. It is a Work of time. And the strong character thus formed is the accumulated result of many spiritual activities, protracted over many years.
II. THE WORK OF TIME IN MANY PARTICULARS. No man can be a mighty man, in a spiritual sense, who is not:
1. A large possessor of Divine wisdom. A superficial. knowledge of Divine truth may serve for a while in simpler and subordinate positions; but he who occupies an important post, to which large responsibilities and delicate duties belong, must be furnished with a large measure of spiritual sagacity. And this can only be gained by serving the Lord for many years and in many ways. It is the acquisition of one whose "ways have been firm before Jehovah;" who has been living before God, and learning of him from year to year, from period to period.
2. A man of much self-command. A hasty or impulsive man is necessarily a weak man. Only those who can control themselves can command their fellows or direct affairs. Patience, self-possession, the ruling of our own spirit - this is an essential condition of all real strength; and this, again, is the work of long-continued struggle and discipline. It is the harvest of strenuous effort and of earnest prayer; it is a steady, spiritual accumulation.
3. One that has acquired skill and strength in exercise and activity. No man can do a thing really well till he has first done it imperfectly and tentatively. Excellency is always the fruit of practice, of patient, continuous endeavour. And here, again, is gradual acquisition or accumulation.
4. One that enjoys a good measure of esteem. It is the man of whom we say, "We know the proof of him;" the man who has approved himself in many a field of labour and in many a flood of trial; to whose words we listen, whose will we obey, whom we permit to guide and rule us. And, of all things, esteem is the product of consistency and beauty in life, of much walking "in the ways of Jehovah."
III. A GOAL TO BE PURSUED AND ATTAINED. It is true that power, or might, is, to some extent, an endowment; it is a direct gift of God. But it is far from being wholly so. In the kingdom, large or small, over which we are placed, we may "become mighty;" we may rise to influence; we may make our mark, which will not soon, if ever, be erased.
(1) By a thorough consecration of ourselves to Jesus Christ and his cause;
(2) by consistency and excellency - by blamelessness and beauty of life and spirit;
(3) by earnestness of purpose and endeavour;