Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. MUCH DEPENDS UPON THE CHARACTER OF THE SOVEREIGN. Compare England under the Stuarts with England under Cromwell or Queen Victoria. An impure and licentious court demoralizes a whole nation. A pure court is a standing rebuke to iniquity in high places. We have much need to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority." We have much need to be thankful for the character and life of our present sovereign.
II. THE NATIONAL LIFE LARGELY DEPENDS UPON THE CHARACTER OF THE NATION'S COUNSELLORS. In our limited monarchy the "ministers of the Crown" are virtually the rulers of the nation. How important that a Christian nation should have Christen rulers, Christian legislators! The time has surely come when the voice of the Christian people of the British empire should be much more heard in Parliament. It is not so much the politics of party we need, as the politics of Christianity. We want rulers who will remember that "righteousness exalteth a nation." We want our laws to be based upon the eternal law of God. We want legislators who have the fear of God before their eyes. Christian people need to be aroused to their duty in this matter. They should see to it that, so far as they can secure it, Christian men are chosen to represent them in the legislature of the nation. - C.H.I.
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.
I. JOASH'S ADVANTAGES.
1. He had a pious education. As a child he was brought up by his aunt Jehosheba, who, with her husband the high priest, would instill into his mind the principles of true godliness. In his strict seclusion he was kept free from sights of vice. Like Timothy, he would be taught from a child to know the things that make wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). To have an early training of this kind is an inestimable advantage.
2. He had a good counselor. The early education of our own Queen Victoria was carefully conducted with a view to the royal office she was afterwards to fill. It would not be otherwise with young Joash. Jehoiada would carefully impress upon his mind the principles of good government, and, after his coronation, this holy man continued to be his guide and counselor. So it is said, "Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." It is a happy thing when a king is willing to receive counsel from older and wiser heads than his own (cf. 1 Kings 12:6-11).
3. He had an excellent opportunity. Joash started with every advantage for reigning well. The people were animated with hatred of idolatry from the experience they had had of it in Athaliah's reign; they were enthusiastic in their return to the worship of Jehovah; they had inaugurated the restoration of the line of David by a new covenant with God, and by zealous acts of reform. The tide was with Joash, if he had shown strength of character sufficient to avail himself of it.
II. JOASH'S WEAKNESS. Circumstances test men, and it was to be proved that, with all his advantages, Joash was a weak king.
1. He lacked independence of judgment. Whether the early seclusion of his life had anything to do with this, we cannot tell; but it seems plain that he was not a king accustomed to think and act for himself, but one who was easily influenced and led by others. His nature was passive clay, on which the judgment of others stamped itself. While Jehoiada lived, he allowed himself to be led by him; and when this good priest and counselor died, he allowed himself as readily to be turned into evil courses by the wicked nobility (2 Chronicles 24:17, 18).
2. He lacked firmness of will. This defect flowed from the feebleness of judgment now indicated, Joash knew the right, but he had not the courage or persistence to do it when pressure was brought to bear on him in an opposite direction, His life thus proved at last a wretched failure. Notwithstanding Jehoiada's kindness to him, he was betrayed at length into shedding the blood of Zechariah, his benefactor's sea (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).
3. He lacked true surrender of heart to God. This was the prime defect in his character. His goodness, such as it was - and for a time it seemed perfectly genuine - was the result of natural amiableness, of early training, of external influences; it did not spring from a root of true conviction. Therefore, when the sun was up, it was scorched, and withered away (Matthew 13:6). It was goodness like the morning cloud, and the early dew - unenduring (Hosea 6:3). The lesson we learn is the need of a radical change of heart as the foundation of true and enduring piety.
III. JOASH'S IMPERFECT REFORMS. The one point noticed about him at this stage is that, while reforming the worship of the temple, the high places were not taken away as commanded by the Law. This was a reform, it is to be allowed, not easily achieved, but had Joash been a man of more character he might have accomplished it, as Hezekiah did after him (2 Kings 18:4). The fact that he did not attempt it, though popular feeling was so strongly on his side, is an evidence of that weak line in his character which came more clearly to light when Jehoiada was removed. - J.O.
I. THIS WORK HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE KING'S COMMAND. Kings get a great many hard knocks nowadays. But kings have not been all bad. Considering the fierce light which beats upon a throne, and the special temptations to which they are exposed, perhaps the character of kings will bear investigation as well as the character of many of their critics. If in Jewish history we find a Jeroboam and an Ahab, we also find a Solomon and a Hezekiah. If in Roman history we find a Nero staining with cruelty and bloodshed the imperial purple, we find others like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, the patrons of literature, philosophy, and the arts. If in our British nation some of our sovereigns were not all they should have been, we can point to the influence for good which many of our rulers have exercised. So, although Joash ended badly, he began well. The first work of Joash and Jehoiada was to pull down the temple of Baal, and destroy his images. Their next work was to repair the temple of the Lord. Not merely had the house of the Lord been neglected for the worship of Baal, but, as we read in 2 Chronicles, "the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim." Joash was grieved that the house of God should be in this shameful condition. He gave command that the temple should be repaired. He instructed the priests and Levites that they were to make collections for this purpose, not only in the temple, but throughout the land, every man from his acquaintance.
1. We have got the command of a King in reference to his Church. The Lord Jesus Christ expects that all who are his people will take an interest in building up that Church. We are first of all to build up the Church of Christ in our own land and in our own district. The professing Christian who enjoys the privileges of a Church, but contributes nothing to its support, is not obeying the teaching of God's Word. Then, also, we are to pray and give and labor for the extension of Christ's kingdom throughout the world. "Let him that heareth say, Come." "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." Here are three commands of Christ. How are we seeking to fulfill them?
2. The cause of Christian missions rests upon the command of our King. Some may think little of Christian missions. They may make light of their necessity, or undervalue the work they have done - though testimonies to the value of missionary work are becoming more frequent every year from explorers, from scientific men, from statesmen, even from heathen who have not become Christians. But it is enough for the true Christian that Christ has commanded the evangelization of the world. "That command," said the Duke of Wellington, "is the marching orders of the Christian Church."
II. THIS WORK WAS DELAYED BY NEGLECTFUL PRIESTS. Notwithstanding the command of King Joash, which would seem to have been given early in his reign, for a long time nothing was done. The time passed by till the twenty-third year of his reign, and still the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house of the Lord. Joash called the priests and the Levites together, and asked them why they had not carried out the work entrusted to them. Then he took it out of their hands in a certain measure. They who should have been the foremost in their zeal for the house of God had been tardy in this important work. How often it has unhappily been so in the history of the Christian Church! It was through the priesthood of the Western Church in the Middle Ages that the greatest corruptions crept in. Forgetting their spiritual profession, they mixed themselves up with the political strife of their day. The popes aspired to be lords over God's heritage - a claim which Christ forbade his apostles to exercise. They thirsted for temporal power, and put the power of the Church into competition with the governments of the nations, just as the present pope is seeking to do in our own time. They thirsted for wealth and splendor, and thus began the traffic in indulgences against which Luther raised his mighty voice. All this time they were unfaithful to the high commission they professed to hold. They were forgetful of the plain statement of Christ, "My kingdom is not of this world." But this unfaithfulness of the teachers of religion is not confined to the Church of Rome. All Churches have suffered from it at one time or another. How much of the delay in the great work of Christian missions has been due to the neglect and unfaithfulness of religious teachers! For centuries scarcely anything was done to carry the gospel into heathen lands. Protestant missions can scarcely be said to have existed before the nineteenth century. The blight of moderatism, which was over all Christian communities in the last century, was fatal to all missionary effort for the time. But God's work does not depend upon men, or on any class of men. If those who are stewards of God are unfaithful to their trust, God will commit it to other hands. If men enter the sacred stoics of the ministry for the sake of earning a livelihood, God can deprive them even of that. How important for ministers of Christ to remember that they are watchmen upon the walls of Zion, and that if they neglect to warn the sinner, the blood of lost souls will be required at their hands! They are to be teachers and examples of the flock, leaders in every good work. Well it is for the Christian minister when he can say with the Apostle Paul, "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."
III. THIS WORK WAS SUPPORTED BY GENEROUS PEOPLE. We may learn much from this chapter about the place of money in the Church of God. First of all, we see that the people were regularly rated or assessed for the support of religious ordinances. It is to this that Joash refers (ver. 4) when he speaks of the money of every one that passeth the account - the money that every man is set at. And in the account which is given in 2 Chronicles it is said that they made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring in to the Lord the collection that Moses the servant of the Lord laid upon Israel in the wilderness. When we look into the thirtieth chapter of Exodus, the last chapter of Leviticus, and other passages, we find the clear instructions of God himself on this matter. When the numbering or census of the people was made, each one was assessed at so much for an atonement offering. This money was devoted to maintain the services of the sanctuary. Then again, if any one entered into a special vow to be the Lord's, he incurred special pecuniary obligations, and was rated accordingly. All these offerings Joash ordered to be set apart on this occasion for the repairs of the temple, with the exception of the sin and trespass offerings, which were secured to the priests, and which could not be touched for any other purpose. From these and other details we learn that God expected the Israelites to contribute regularly a fixed sum, in proportion to their income, for the support of religious ordinances. He expected of those who took special vows upon them that they should consecrate more of their money to his service. So God expects of his people still, and particularly of those who make the full profession of Christianity involved in attendance at the Lord's table. Some preacher stated lately that it is no "charity" when we give to the support of the Church with which we are connected. It is merely the payment of a debt - the fulfillment of obligations which every one incurs when he becomes a member of a Christian Church, and obligations which can no more be rightly shirked than any other just and lawful debt. Over and above that, he said, there is, of course, a large margin for the exercise of Christian charity and benevolence. This was the case when Joash appealed to the people to contribute, not only the fixed sum at which they were rated, but also "all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord." He was not ashamed to appeal to them for money, for it was for a good cause. It was for God's cause, for God's house. He put the chest in a prominent place, where it could be seen (ver. 9). And his faithful, earnest appeal was not without effect. We read in 2 Chronicles 24:10 that" all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end." No doubt they experienced the blessing which is implied in the words, "God loveth a cheerful giver." We need to study God's Word more on this subject of Christian giving. We have seen what the Old Testament rules were. Here is one from the New Testament: "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." If we were to give systematically, as these words exhort., if we were to measure our weekly offerings by our prosperity, how much larger our offertories would be! what an overflowing offering of silver and gold would be given to carry the gospel to the heathen!
IV. THIS WORK WAS CARRIED OUT BY FAITHFUL WORKERS. Those are very remarkable words, "Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully (ver. 15). There were faithful workmen, and faithful overseers of the work. And what was the explanation of this unusual confidence on the part of the contributors, and unusual faithfulness on the part of the workers? Ah! there had been a reformation of religion! Wherever true religion flourishes, there there will be honest and upright dealing between man and man. When the great revival of religion took place in Ulster in 1859, the change was soon manifest in the conduct of the whole community. Scenes of strife and turbulence became scenes of kindness and peace. The officers of justice had easy work in maintaining law and order, and at many of the sessions there was absolutely no criminal business. When men are influenced by the fear of God it will not be hard to procure obedience for the law of man. When the love of Christ is in men's hearts there will be love for our fellow-creatures also. May we not say the same of the great work of missions to the heathen, that it is being carried on by faithful workers? Where shall we find such a record of faithfulness, of patience, of devotedness, of perseverance, of heroic courage, as in the life and work of many a humble missionary to heathen lauds? When we remember how many of those who have gone forth as missionaries, in connection with the Church and with the great missionary societies, have sacrificed high literary, or commercial, or professional prospects at home, it is but reasonable that the Christian Church should express its sympathy with such self-denial and devotedness by contributing liberally to the work of foreign missions (vide infra, on 2 Kings 13:14-19). - C.H.I.
I. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE PROJECTED.
1. The need of repair. What is stated in Chronicles of the condition of the temple shows how terrible had been the blight which had fallen on true religion in Judah during the reign of Athaliah. "That wicked woman," we are told, "had broken up the house of God" - probably carried away its stones to build or adorn her own house of Baal; or, perhaps, had broken down part of the courts to make room for her temple on the same hill. Moreover, she had taken away all the dedicated things to bestow upon the house of Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7). There was thus much work to be done in repairing the temple, as the numbers of workmen afterwards employed show. Many are the inroads of the world upon the Church - God's spiritual temple; and any breaches found in its walls should give rise to earnest desires and efforts to see them mended.
2. The resolve to repair. Joash gave orders that the repairing of the temple should be proceeded with. He had, perhaps, by this time attained his majority. But it is a singular thing that, with such a wave of reforming zeal as passed over the nation at the time of his accession, the people themselves should have been content to let the temple lie out of repair so long. Care for God's house is one of the ways of showing honor to God himself. Yet how slow men are to move, or make sacrifices, that God's worship may be suitably provided for! They are content to dwell in ceiled houses, while God's house lies waste (Haggai 1:4).
II. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE PROVIDED FOR.
1. By sacred dues. In ordaining that the temple should be repaired, Joash showed also how the funds for the work were to be obtained. The Chronicler gives prominence to the half-shekel tax, which in the days of Moses was levied for the benefit of the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 24:6, 9), and there were the other moneys to be paid on occasion of the fulfillment of vows (Leviticus 27:2-8). It is well when religion is not left to be supported by haphazard contributions, but when there is some definite principle of giving - some portion of income which is regularly set apart for the Lord's use. This creates a fund which can be readily drawn upon when any good work requires aid.
2. By free-will offerings. The stated dues were not to be the only source of revenue. There is named also "all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord." It is expected that religion will touch the heart of a man, and make him willing to part with a portion of his substance for the service of God. If it does not, it is not of much value. On the other hand, it is the heart which is the source of true religious giving. The gifts which come from the hand, not from the heart, do not count for much in Heaven's reckoning. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
III. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE STILL UNEXECUTED. Years passed on. Joash had now been twenty-three years upon the throne, yet the repairs of the temple had not so much as begun. It seems unaccountable that in so holy a work such apathy should have prevailed. The fact may be attributed:
1. To the inertia of the priesthood. Everything seems at first to have been left to the priests and Levites. They were to go through the land, make proclamation of the king's purpose, and collect the money for the work. In this duty they appear to have been slack. "The Levites," the Chronicler says, "hastened it not" (2 Chronicles 24:5). Large bodies of men are slow to move. Some of the priests and Levites were probably men of no great religious enthusiasm. One can sympathize with them in their shrinking from the task of collecting money. There are few tasks more thankless.
2. To the distrust of the people. The people appear not to have had the requisite confidence in the priests to entrust them with large sums of money. At least the money seems to have come in more freely after Jehoiada made his chest with the hole in the lid of it, than it did before. The distrust of the people was natural, for the priests were in no hurry to lay out the revenues they collected.
3. To the self-interest of a privileged class. The priestly dues would suffer serious diminution during the reign of such a queen as Athaliah. Irregularities would creep in, and the priests and Levites, deprived of their proper income, would feel justified in appropriating primarily to their own support whatever moneys came to hand. Joash's decree had the effect of cutting off these perquisites, and of restoring them to their original use in keeping up the sanctuary. It could not be expected that the classes who were to suffer would be very eager in carrying out this decree. It is never safe to trust a privileged class to carry out measures which tell against its own interests. Average human nature is not so disinterested as to act enthusiastically for the promotion of reforms which injure itself. - J.O.
I. PRUDENT ARRANGEMENTS. Wise, business-like arrangements have much to do with the success of any undertaking. Those now entered into were under the superintendence of Jehoiada, and afforded:
1. Security against misappropriation. Jehoiada obtained a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it. It was placed beside the altar, on the right side, and all the money that was brought was put therein. There could thus be no suspicion of any real-appropriation of the funds. Every worshipper had the certainty that what he gave would go for the purpose for which it was given.
2. A removal of temptation. The arrangement of the chest was an advantage to the priests as well as to the people. It no longer afforded any temptation to needy individuals among them to retain funds that were passing through their hands. It put the order, as a whole, above suspicion and reproach. It is well not to put needless temptations in any one's way.
3. A convenience for giving. The chest, as it stood there beside the altar, was a permanent depository to which the contributions of the faithful could be brought. The people had not to seek out persons to receive their gifts. They knew, without asking, where to take them. Sound arrangements of this sort, inspiring confidence, minimizing temptations to negligence or dishonesty, and consulting the convenience of the offerers, were admirably adapted to promote the ends aimed at. The example may be attended to with profit in the financial management of churches, charities, missionary societies, etc.
II. WILLING GIVERS. The fact that the work was taken partially out of the hands of the priests, and that the people had now security for their gifts being properly applied, had an immediate effect on the flow of contributions. We find:
1. Liberal gifts brought. It was not long, as we are told, before there was "much money" in the chest. People are seldom as willing to give for religion as they should be, but if a good cause is put before them, if they have the case properly presented, and if they feel secure as to the disposal of their gifts, it is wonderful often how freely liberality flows forth. We must not blame people for illiberality when their backwardness in giving arises from removable, and perhaps justifiable, causes.
2. A strict account kept. This is another feature in the business-like management of the funds which was now introduced, showing what great pains were taken to impress the minds of the people with confidence in the disposal of their money. When the chest was full, the king's scribe and the high priest came up, opened the box, put the money in bags, and made a strict account of the sums. Strictness in pecuniary details may seem a minor matter, but it is really not so. The man who is honest in his pecuniary affairs is likely to be honest all through. Nothing shakes confidence so much as the suspicion of small unfaithfulnesses in money transactions. Instinctively we apply the principle, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:10, 11).
III. DILIGENT WORKERS. The money contributed by the people was applied to hire the services of workers to execute the needed repairs.
1. The workers were many. There were carpenters and builders, stonemasons and hewers, and part of the money was expended also on the purchase of materials. As in this temple-building so in the Christian Church, there is need not only for givers but for workers, and every variety of gift proves to be of service. Some can give who cannot work; others can work who cannot give; others can both give and work. There are needed those with mission talent - the quarrymen and excavators; there are needed those who can educate, or hew and polish the stones when obtained; there are needed the organizers and builders - those whose function it is to put the stones in their places, and build up the holy temple to the Lord.
2. The workers were diligent. They were set on as soon as funds were forthcoming to employ them, and they wrought with good heart till the work was finished. Labor in the kingdom of God should be diligent. The many workers did not work separately, but together, all of them helping one another; and similar combination and co-operation are necessary to overtake the work of Christ.
IV. FAITHFUL OVERSEERS. Another step in the right direction, following up the previous precautions to inspire confidence, was the appointment of men to superintend the work who could be implicitly trusted. It is a noble testimony borne concerning these men who did the part of overseers in the work of the temple, that they did not need to be reckoned with, "for they dealt faithfully."
1. They were faithful in their oversight. They were men of probity and honor, who conscientiously looked after the men set under them, seeing that the work committed to their care was properly done. It is difficult to estimate the value, even in an economical respect, of the higher moral qualities of character. How much loss, suffering, disease, death, not to speak of minor annoyance, is inflicted on mankind through badly inspected, ill-done work? There is a sphere for faithfulness in the discharge of every kind of duty. Carlyle says of Louis XV., "His wide France, look at it from the fixed stars (them- selves not yet infinitude), is no wider than thy narrow brickfield, where thou, too, didst faithfully, or didst unfaithfully It is not thy works, which are all mortal, infinitely little, and the greatest no greater than the least, but only the spirit thou workest in that can have worth or continuance."
2. They were faithful in their money dealings. So perfectly faithful that it was not felt necessary to keep a strict reckoning with them as to their expenditure upon the workmen. No better tribute could be paid to their incorruptible integrity than the trust thus reposed in them. It was only a very high degree of integrity which would warrant it. As a rule, it is wise to keep account even with those whose integrity we do not dispute.
V. RESPECT FOR RIGHTS. It is added that the revenues which properly belonged to the priests, the trespass money and sin money, were not touched for the purpose of the repairs. Neither was the money given for the restoration of the building applied, until the repairs were completed, to purchase new vessels for the sanctuary - bowls of silver, snuffers, trumpets, etc. Probably in connection with the above arrangements for collecting the people's money other steps were taken to put the priests' legitimate income, the tithe dues, etc., on a more satisfactory footing. A regard for justice is thus observable throughout the whole of these dealings. Right is the proper basis to take one's stand on in works of reformation. - J.O.
1. He retained the high places. His reformation was not complete. The germs of future evil were there. How careful we should be of the beginnings of evil! It seemed a small matter to retain the high places. But that small act of negligence or want of courage prepared the way for national idolatry, and for the ultimate downfall of Joash. It accustomed the people to heathen modes of worship (cf. infra, on 2 Kings 14:1-4).
2. He listened to evil counselors. It was an evil day for Joash when Jehoiada passed away. "Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass" (2 Chronicles 24:17, 18). Ah! how true it is that "evil communications corrupt good manners"!
3. He disregarded the warnings of God. The Lord "sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord... but they would not give ear" (2 Chronicles 24:19). Zechariah the son of Jehoiada came with a special warning. But here again we see the hardening effect of sin. Not only did Joash pay no attention to his warnings, but with the basest ingratitude, forgetful of all he owed to Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, he put Zechariah to death. The messenger of God may suffer for his faithfulness in rebuking sin, as John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, but no royal power can stay the judgments of God. Joash, who had slain God's prophet, was himself slain by his own servants. The nation had forsaken God, and God forsook them in their time of need. Such a career as that of Joash shows the necessity for constant watchfulness against sin. Many, like him, begin well, but end badly. They make a fair profession at first, but by-and-by, when troubles or persecutions arise, they are offended. They go back and walk no more with Christ. Or they become worldly minded, and, being engrossed in the present, forget the concerns of eternity. Many might utter the melancholy cry, "Our lamps are gone out." To every one of us the message may well be sent, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - C.H.I.
I. JOASH'S APOSTASY. Of this a fuller account is given in the Book of Chronicles than here, though the statement in ver. 2, "Joash did right all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him," already hints at a falling away after Jehoiada's death. From Chronicles we learn the nature of his apostasy.
1. He yielded to bad counsel. His good adviser having died at the extreme age of a hundred and thirty, he listened to the flatteries and seductions of the princes of Judah, whose bent was all towards evil (2 Chronicles 24:17).
2. He revived idolatry. If he did not actually participate in the renewed setting up of idols, he permitted it. Baal-worship, from which in infancy he had suffered so much, again lifted up its head in Jerusalem. For this trespass it is said, "wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 24:18).
3. He shed innocent blood. This declension of Joash was not allowed to go unrebuked. God sent prophets to him to testify to him and warn him, especially Zechariah, the son, or perhaps grandson, of the priest Jehoiada. But so far had the infatuation of Joash gone that he actually permitted this son of his former friend and benefactor to be stoned with stones between the temple and the altar in the court of the Lord's house (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; cf. Matthew 23:35). This ineffaceable crime completed his ruin. As Zechariah died he had said," The Lord look upon it, and require it" (2 Chronicles 24:22); and God did require it. The Jews had a tradition that, at the capture of Jerusalem, this blood of Zechariah bubbled up from the floor of the temple court, and could not be pacified. Nebusaradan brought rabbis, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he brought children, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he slew ninety-four thousand on it, yet it was not quiet. The fable illustrates at least the heinousness of the deed.
II. HAZAEL'S INVASION. The instrument employed to chastise Joash and the people for their sins was the redoubtable Hazael. He invaded the laud by the way of Philistia, and reduced it to great distress. We note regarding the invasion:
1. Its resistless character. It was but a very small company of. men that came with Hazael, but they seem to have swept the "very great host" of Judah before them with ease, destroying the princes of the people, who had been ringleaders in wickedness, and sending the spoil on to Damascus (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:24). It is a fatal thing to break faith with God, to apostatize from solemn covenants with him, to provoke him to anger by open wickedness and deeds of blood. The strength of a nation stands not in its mighty men, but in the favor of God, and where that is withdrawn, a handful of armed men will chase a thousand (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25-27; Deuteronomy 28:27-48).
2. The ignominious tribute. What, in so deplorable a case, could Joash do? His princes, so bold in counseling him in courses of sin, were cowards in the field; and Hazael seemed bent on utterly overthrowing him. He had no alternative but to make the best terms he could, and buy the invader off. To furnish the requisite tribute he had to strip both the temple and his own house of all their goodly treasures. He took the hallowed things of his forefathers out of the temple, and the gold that was found in its treasuries; he took also his own gold, and sent everything to Hazael. He, the restorer of the temple, is forced to become the spoiler of the temple. To such depths of ignominy and misery are men led by forsaking the ways of God. Yet nothing seems to avail sinners for warning! They go on as madly in ways of wickedness as if no one had ever tried these paths before them, and found them the ways of death.
III. THE FATAL CONSPIRACY. We have, finally, the account of how Joash met his end by a conspiracy of two of his servants.
1. The origin of the conspiracy. We cannot err in supposing that it had its origin in the seething discontent of the people. They saw the kingdom going to pieces in the hands of an unfaithful king; they saw righteous blood shed; they had suffered severely from the barbarities of invasion. The conspirators do not seem to have plotted any dynastic change. Their act only expressed the bitter hatred with which the person of the king had come to be regarded. How different from the day when the multitude shouted, "God save the king!" And that change had come about solely through Joash's departure from the right ways of God.
2. Its fatal result. The servants, whose names are given in the text, smote him in "the house of Millo" so that he died. Thus Joash fell by the stroke of an assassin, unpitied, unlamented by his people. When the bonds of godliness are loosed, the bonds of fidelity between man and man are loosed too (Hosea 4:1, 2).
3. The dishonor to his body. The crowning ignominy put upon Joash was the refusal of the people to allow him to be buried in the sepulcher of the kings, as Jehoiada had been (2 Chronicles 24:25). This confirms what is said above of the odium in which he was held by his people. - J.O.