Joash: Rise, Revival and Rebellion
By Will Graham
The year is 842 BC. Queen Athaliah wants her grandson dead. Just recently, her son Ahaziah (king of Judah) had been killed by Jehu (king of Israel), and in an attempt to usurp the throne, Athaliah killed off all the royal seed. However, there was one member of the royal family who, by the grace of God, escaped the bloodshed and that happened to be her baby grandson Joash (now one year old).
Rescued by his auntie before the wicked Athaliah could get her hands on him, Joash was hidden in the temple of the Lord with his uncle Jehoiada, the priest, for six years before again being set before the public eye. The child was born into a degenerate nation, a moral midnight had engulfed Judah through the idolatry, paganism, immorality and fiendish exploits carried out during Queen Athaliah’s six-year Reign of Terror. Can you imagine how it was to live under a woman who was prepared to kill her own descendents in her lust for power? Something had to change; something had to give way for God’s Name to be glorified again in the land of the living.
Text and purpose
You can follow the narrative of the whole account in 2 Kings 11-12 and 2 Chronicles 22-24. Out of these five chapters dedicated almost entirely to what we will be sharing here. I have selected just two verses from 2 Chronicles 24:-2 to serve as our reading, which reads: ‘Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.’
With God’s help, I wish to impress upon you three things in this message concerning the life of King Joash, namely a rise, a revival and a rebellion. I pray God uses this Word to stir hearts, challenge souls and ignite fire within our very bones to seek God with all of our strength in this wicked and perverse generation. Nothing less than a whole burnt offering will be accepted on the altar of God, and my desire is that God would so talk to and deal with your heart that you too would respond to His call and go forth in His Name to preach the glorious Gospel of God’s grace to every creature and to bring forth spiritual fruit in abundance so that His Name would be glorified wherever you go and in whatever you do. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Our text shows that in all the days of Jehoiada the priest, Joash did that which was well-pleasing in the sight of the Lord. In the midst of a moral midnight, God still had a powerful light shining bright through the person of His servant Jehoiada. He is the unsung hero of the Old Testament, and wherever you go in the Bible you will be hard-pressed to find a man of a more noble character, of such a devout and consecrated spirit, who excelled in wisdom, prudence, faithfulness and love to the God of Israel and to all His people. In short, he was a man of God.
Married into the royal family, Jehoiada could have easily sat back and enjoyed the comforts of life, his royal connections and respect of the people, ministering in the Temple of the Lord. But there was only one problem. Jehoiada was no ordinary minister. He was hungry for God; he desired a deeper intimacy with Christ; he longed to see the manifested glory of God in his generation. Prosperity, peace and well-being weren’t enough for him. He wasn’t satisfied with the moral rot and decay that surrounded him. Athaliah had led the nation off into the worship of Baal and another million false gods, forsaking the Temple of the Lord and leaving it plundered, broken down and in serious need of restoration. Jehoiada had a holy dissatisfaction within his spirit. He was sick and tired of the way things were and determined to do something about it. But before anything could happen, Athaliah had to be dealt with.
Covenant And Action
Jehoiada’s response to the power of Satan at work in the land was to organize an insurrection against the government of the wicked Queen. He met secretly with the leaders of the people, and upon showing them the young boy Joash hidden in the Temple, he entered into covenant with them, promising to overthrow the immoral tyrant Athaliah and to plant Joash on the throne, crowning him as the true and rightful king in the Temple on the Sabbath. Every opponent was to be killed. A revolution was just around the corner. Joash was Judah’s hope for a new future, for a better day, a new horizon for a distraught and degenerate nation. You were either for Athaliah or for Joash there was no middle ground. One would live; the other would die.
All was arranged. The Sabbath day came when Joash was to be crowned. The people gathered around the young lad to protect him and they led him to Jehoiada, who anointed him and crowned him king. The people clapped and rejoiced, the trumpeters got out their instruments and played aloud, all shouted, “God save the king!” A new beginning, a new chapter in Judah’s wayward past had just been written. Hope and joy! Praise and glory! And all in the Temple of the Lord! Times of refreshing at last!
But Athaliah heard the noise. She came to the Temple to witness the commotion. She had no idea what was going on. While she sat on her godless throne, Christ was stirring a nation from within, brewing up something deep within a man of God. Sooner or later it was going to break forth and now it had. And, Athaliah, on seeing what had happened she cried, “Treason! Treason!” Treason? She was the one who had usurped the throne! Joash was the rightful king. But as soon as she showed up, Jehoiada ordered her to be taken outside of the Temple where she was slain by the faithful. Satan was cast out of the house of the Lord. When Satan hears the sound of a revival, the first thing he’ll do will come “into” the church to extinguish it just as Athaliah came “into” the Temple. She had no interest in the Temple when it was dead and buried, but when life issued forth, there was a reaction from hell. It’s always that way. He’s in torment and agony over a move of God, shown by Athaliah ripping her garments. But thank God that Jehoiada had given the people the old shields and spears of David to strike her dead. We need David’s old-time weapons if we’re to experience an old-time revival. The weapons of faith, prayer, holiness and obedience to God! The spirit of a man who slew the bear and lion with his bare hands because he knew of a certainty that God was with him; the man that knew that it wasn’t enough to hit Goliath on the head with a sling, but that he had to get out his sword and cut the rebel’s head off. When the enemy comes, put a chain around his neck and hit him. You may not think you’re the strongest or the wisest, but if you want to overcome, all you need is a set of knees that can bow, hands that can be raised to heaven, a heart in tune with God and eyes that can shed tears of intercession. If you seek God with all of your heart, then in your darkest night and blackest hour you’re going to go from victory to victory over all the works of hell and unrighteousness, principalities and powers.
It’s David’s armour and spirit that we need in this hour. It’s time to put on the whole armour of God. Robert Brown, the Northern Irish pastor/ evangelist who pioneered in New York died crying out against the armour of Saul, committee meetings and entertainment in the church instead of “old calls to fasting and prayer and sackcloth and ashes”.
Thank God for a godly man in Jehoiada who cast the devil out the second he saw him. Satan will come into the church with his false accusations and aggression, but he must be dealt with and it takes a man who knows God to cast the beast out. They that know their God shall do exploits. We may resist the devil, but if we’re not subjected to God, we’re just fooling ourselves. But a man submitted to God, walking in the Spirit, will trample over the enemy every time for such a soul is more than an over-comer in Christ Jesus- he knows that the battle is of the Lord and that the victory is not won by might nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.
Joash sat upon the throne. Athaliah was out of the picture now. There was joy and peace in the land. Proverbs 11:10 “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices. And when the wicked perish, there is shouting!” Thanks be to God for men like Jehoiada! You know, it cost something for him to experience this moving of God. He hid Joash for six years from Athaliah. Do you have any idea what would have happened to him had he been found out? What would he have felt if he saw one of Athaliah’s officials standing at his door when he came home? He wasn’t hiding the kid for six hours or six days; these were six long, drawn-out, tense years. Here is a man willing to pay the price! A revival isn’t going to cost you much; it’s going to cost you everything.
Covenant and Baal
Marking the new beginning was a new covenant drawn up by Jehoiada in which king and people pledged allegiance to the Lord. A new vision birthed. The people, in their zeal for God, went about destroying the temple of Baal and his worshippers. Idols, foreign altars and images must be cast down cast down. The high priest of Baal, Mattan, was killed, which Matthew Henry claims was the “best sacrifice that ever was offered upon that altar”. The corruption had to be expelled. The result of any true move of God is purity and holiness; sin is cleaned up. God’s glory shines. There was no “unclean thing” (2 Chronicles 24:19).
There was no more humanism in the pulpit- but the truth of Almighty God started to come forth. We don’t need more humanism, psychology and philosophy in the pulpit (we resort to that nonsense because we’ve lost power with God)- what we need is the pure and simple Gospel of the kingdom of God, as preached by Jesus Christ and all of His apostles.
There was a time in the church when the men in the pulpit were men of unction and power; now they’re men of degrees and doctorates. Organized Christianity is in trouble, it has been rejected of God; it’s a religious system demanding schemes and wisdom of men in an attempt to make itself look attractive. We’re not spiritual so we compensate by relying on carnal means and methods. Forget your strategies; forget your schemes; it’s time to get back to the altar; it’s time to slay Mattan and expel the religion of Baal out of the land.
But not only did they pull down Baal’s house. They built up the house of the Lord. It’s of little use if you spend your time destroying and pulling down everything around you if you have nothing else to build in its place. The house of God needed restoration. Solomon had built it with the best materials and utmost dedication, but Athaliah had destroyed it. The people of God willingly offered into the money-chest placed at the Temple door to restore its breeches. The people offered themselves willingly in the day of God’s power. Money flowed freely from their hands to bless the work of the Lord because in true revival, carnal things lose their hold. God loves a giver, but it must be a cheerful giver, a grateful giver. Such a person has a free heart. One who gives not because he has to, or because some cheap prosperity preacher tries to wrangle it out of him, but because he wants to, because he longs to give his all for the sake of the extension of God’s kingdom on earth.
The house of the Lord was repaired and strengthened. Gold and silver utensils were dedicated to the Temple of God. Joash’s rebuilt People began again to call upon the Name of the Lord. These were days of renewal, restoration and revival. It had taken a long time to come, but it came. It started by a cry, by the longing of one man burdened by the Holy Spirit. Before any great revival, there must come a cry from within the child of God, a longing for His glory, a desire for His presence that surpasses all else and consumes within.
Owen Chadwick opens his book on the 16th Century Reformation with this phrase: “In 16th century Europe, everyone that mattered in the Western Church was crying out for revival!” There has to come such a cry, saints. But I would add that it’s not a cry you get from someone else, it’s a heaven-sent cry of the Holy Ghost that makes you spend hours in prayer before the presence of the Lord, seeking for His moving. It’s a cry with groanings which cannot be uttered. There must come a time when a man rises up in God’s Name and says “No!” to the Establishment, there comes an awareness that the present state of affairs is not the way things should be. I submit to you that it’s not enough to be aware of the situation or to merely speak against it, we must do something about it. It’s not enough to talk; we must act. If we act not, our words are worth nothing. But when Babylon comes down; what are we going to construct in its place? Athaliah, Mattan and Baal came down, but the Temple went up! Satan was deposed; Christ enthroned and the people said a resounding “Amen!”
In the midst of the glory, Jehoiada, the faithful servant of the Lord, passed onto glory. A man called “blessed” by Christ, a servant of all, covered by divine grace and gifts. The Word of God says of him, “Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died; a hundred and thirty years old when he died. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward His house”. He lived to see the glory of God in his generation. Burnt offerings were sacrificed on God’s altar all the day of his life. He loved God. His heart was content for his cry had been answered. God fulfils the hunger he puts in your heart. And from one realm of glory he went right into another eternally looking at the face of Christ. A man who had done good to God and His house!
By Will Graham
I wish I could end the message right here. But the truth demands that I continue. I promised I would share about Joash’s rise and revival but I also mentioned his rebellion. Our text tells us that Joash did the will of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada, that godly influence steered the nation of Judah in the right direction. With Jehoiada, all was well. But the moment he went, untold disaster breaks loose. The princes of Judah came to him, and through their flattery, persuaded the king to build groves and idols. It’s a proud and carnal man that listens to flattery. The man of God knows that he’s a no-one, and if he thinks otherwise, he’s a fool (Gal.6:3). In being so easily led astray, Joash rejected the Lord. Apostasy was setting in. In spite of the great revival of the true worship of the Lord and the restoration of the Temple of the Lord, Joash’s was more in love with his own self than with the Lord. He had experienced the glory of revival, yet rejected the Lord as soon as the man of God was out of the road. When a revival is left in the hands of godless men the result is calamity. George Whitefield wrote: “As God can send a nation or people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world, is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm and unskilled guides”. It would have been better that Joash went to the grave rather than Jehoiada. The revival was mere sensationalism and emotionalism: where were the lasting effects on the hearts of the people of God?
We know that the groves and idols were built to cover up the awfulness of the altar-sacrifices. People who want groves are those who want the sting taken out of the Gospel message. Tone the message down- don’t take the Word so seriously! “Yes, talk to me about Jesus meek and mild, tell me about the Saviour who did good to all and loves us all no matter what we do. But don’t talk to me about death to self, about a whole-hearted commitment to God, about the necessity of a life of prayer, holiness and obedience to the commands of the Almighty God of judgment and wrath. Don’t preach against sin”.
It’s the whole Gospel or it’s no Gospel. This Book is worth everything or it’s worth nothing, and if you take anything out of it or add anything to it, you’re in trouble.
It’s interesting that these princes, sons of Belial, came to Joash when Jehoiada was dead. That man of God would have never given a moment’s notice to that rubbish. The Holy Ghost always expels that which is uncrucified. Flattery and popularity deceived the king’s heart. God’s judgement was going to come.
We don’t build groves (altars to the goddess Ashtorath or trees) today in the church; but we do bring in entertainment and trust in man’s wisdom, strength and riches. Nowadays we’ve everything to offer the world except the fiery Gospel of our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Worldliness in the church doesn’t speak to me of success and growth; it speaks to me of defeat and failure. A church that has stopped dwelling in the secret place of the Almighty! Why is it that it’s always the folk who pray most who are the weariest and most worried about bringing in schemes and strategies into the house of the Lord?
Apostasy comes when man falls from grace. He rejects the Holy Spirit and decides to walk in his own way. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church the most wonderful Epistle, revealing the spiritual glories, truths and riches that are found in Jesus – some call it “the Alps of the NT” – it makes your heart warm to read it. But 40 years later John writes to exactly the same church and rebuked it for their love had grown cold for God. What started in revival doesn’t always necessarily end in revival. Once the hand of man touches the move of God, it dies.
Joash had no spiritual hunger or commitment to, or firmness in, God. Before God sent His judgment, He warned the king by raising up prophets. The Spirit of God filled Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who prophesied thus to Joash: “Thus says the Lord, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you!” You never hear a word like that from the pulpit nowadays where all are at ease in Zion. A pastor once told me that we shouldn’t preach against sin in case we upset the people. Here we find a Spirit-filled man and the message cuts sin to the heart.
You don’t have to be an expert to know that Zechariah was going to pay with his life for his message. As apostasy set in, God still had a people willing to preach His true Word. There are still 7,000 who haven’t bowed the knee to Baal.
Joash killed Zechariah. Could he be any more ungrateful? He was rescued by Zechariah’s mum as a baby; protected and coronated by Zechariah’s father. And he stoned him to death in God’s house. Pure grace had rescued him. Pure grace put him on the throne. For crying out loud, he was a seven-year old boy. And yet look how he repays God and His prophet.
Savanarola rose up with holy fire burning within his bones before the European Reformation, preaching against sin, idolatry and superstition. He burned vanities in the streets of Florence and preached of coming judgement. Thousands came to hear this man whose words were as lightning. But when their hearts grew cold, they took him to the place where he had previously burned the dirt and filth of the revived people, and burnt him at the stake. Preaching the Truth will cost you something. A friend called Ralph asked me, “When was the last time you were stoned on the street?” If we preach the first-century Gospel, we’ll face the first-century persecution.
The prophets are like thunderstorms – they go against the wind, terrify sinners and cleanse the air. May such souls arise once again in this decadent age. Men who have the air of another world about them: men who have spent day and night in prayer to God and speak in the Name of God Almighty and righteousness.
God wasn’t going to stand for this. The Jewish tradition teaches that Joash’s sin was seven-fold in killing Zechariah. He killed a prophet, a priest, a judge, shed innocent blood, on the Sabbath and on the Day of Expiation.
He killed a sacred man with a sacred message in a sacred place on a sacred day.
Call a man ungrateful and you can call him no else. Joash had rejected God and experienced one torment after another. His last state was worse than the first. The gold had become dim, the fine silver had changed. He began in the Spirit and ended in the flesh.
Hazael of Syria invaded Gath, and Joash in fear bribed him by offering him the riches and goods of the Temple of the Lord. Far from God, he feared man and impoverished the nation of Judah in the process. He held the things of God in little esteem, and the Lord was the only One who could deliver him from foreign invasion. His carnal methods failed him, for in a years time Hazael came back and as Joash had nothing to bribe him with, they went to battle and he ransacked the nation. Joash was left afflicted in mind and body and was killed by his own servants while asleep in his bed. Here we see the lot of a man that forsakes the Lord. Satan came to seduce him first, then he persecuted him. If you give the devil any space in your life, it’s only a matter of time before he destroys you. He knows no mercy. You kill him or he kills you. It’s a fight to the death.
Joash died in torment and agony, killed and hated by his own people, faced by the wrath of a jealous God. Jehoiada took his stand in God, paid the price, and lived to see the glory of the Lord in his generation. He saw the salvation of the Lord. Are you a Joash or are you a Jehoiada? Will you take the stand? Will you pay the price? Will you seek God no matter what the cost? 99% won’t do in the kingdom of God. A lot of folk have given their lives to Jesus, but very few have given their all to Him.