Raising children is an interesting process that God has parents go through. What I have found interesting about having teenagers is how much of your power and influence wanes as each year goes by. The reason I find this interesting because all the work that you have done with your children is revealed during the teenage years. It is one thing to think your kids are doing well and being obedient while in your home. But it does not mean as much as watching your kids leave home and continue to do right, make godly decisions, and carry on the teachings you have tried to instill within them for years. The true test is when they can make their own decisions without parental interference. You are able to see the true motivation and heart of the child. In 2 Kings 11-12 some people are put into similar circumstances that will reveal the true heart and motivation of those who claim to follow God.
Empty House (11:1-3)
The focus on the Kings account returns to the southern nation called Judah. We are told in the first verse of 2 Kings 11 that a woman named Athaliah is reigning on the throne for six years. Who is she and how did she of all people get on the throne? First, we need to understand who Athaliah is. Athaliah is the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel that Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah married. Remember that we were informed in 2 Kings 8:18 that Jehoram married the daughter of Ahab and this explained the wicked reign of Jehoram. That daughter of Ahab mentioned in the text was Athaliah. The next thing we need to know is that during Jehoram’s reign he killed all of his brothers so that there would no other threats or claims to his throne (cf. 2 Chronicles 21:4). When Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah takes the throne but one year later is killed by Jehu in Israel when Jehu was there, wiping out the house of Ahab as God told him to do (2 Kings 9:27). This is where 2 Kings 11:1 is picking up. When Athaliah saw her son was dead, she decides to kill all of Ahaziah’s sons so that she is able to be queen with no threats to the throne.
Now understand the problem that is being presented. God promised to give a lamp to David and his sons forever (2 Kings 8:19). But if Ahaziah’s children are all killed, then the lamp goes out. There are no more descendants of David if Athaliah is successful. But watch the hand of God in verse 2. The sister of Ahaziah takes Joash, the last remaining son of Ahaziah and hides him and his nurse in a bedroom. Then she takes him and has him hidden in the temple (11:3) for six years while Athaliah reigns.
Preparing For The King (11:4-21)
In the seventh year a priest named Jehoiada calls for the captains of the guards to come to the temple. Jehoiada shows them the remaining heir to the throne and put them under oath to be with Joash, the rightful king. With the protection plan set for Joash, Jehoiada brings out Joash puts a crown on his head, gave him the royal law, and anointed him as king (11:12). The people all clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!” Athaliah hears the noise and looks to see what is going on. Once she becomes aware of what has happened, she cries, “Treason!” But the captains are protecting the king, not her. So Jehoiada orders the captains to bring her out and put to death anyone who follows her. The army captures her and puts her to death (11:16).
But notice what Jehoiada does next in verse 17. He makes a covenant between the Lord, the king, and the people that they should be the Lord’s people. There is a great moment of repentance, renewal and restoration. The covenant is renewed with the people and the people take action. In verse 18 we see the people go throughout the land of Judah smashing the altars and idols of Baal. They tear down the temple to Baal and kill the priest of Baal. With the land purged and the covenant renewed, Joash is brought from the temple of the Lord to the palace to take his rightful place on the throne. This bring rejoicing and peace to the people throughout the land with Joash on the throne.
So Close (12:1-21)
Chapter 12 records the reign of Joash. But we are told something ominous in verse 2. Joash did right in the eyes of the Lord all that days that Jehoiada instructed him. It is an interesting qualifier that is placed on Joash. Joash did right during the time that Jehoiada was instructing him. But he did not tear down the high places. However, Joash does want to repair the temple of the Lord (12:4-5). So he calls for the priests to collect the offerings given so that the temple can be repaired. However, we are told in verse 6 that the repairs are not happening. We are not told what has happened. We do not know why the money collected was not being used to repair the temple. One interesting consideration is found in 2 Chronicles 24:7 that the sons of Athaliah were breaking into the temple. This may be why Jehoiada’s solution is to take a chest and put a hole in the lid so that the money could be kept in it. Essentially, they make a lock box so the money can be saved so that the temple can be repaired. The people hired to do the work on the temple did honest work (12:15).
Things seem to be going great. The tide of wickedness seems to be turning. But then Hazael the king of Syria decides to attack Jerusalem (12:17). Remember that we saw that Hazael killed Ben-Hadad to take over as king over Syria. Elisha further prophesied that he would do evil against the people of Israel. But Hazael now sets his sights on attacking Jerusalem. Joash is described as a good king. But look at what he does in verse 18. He took all the gifts and all the gold that was in the Lord’s temple and the king’s house and gave them to Hazael king of Syria. Joash pays of the king of Syria so that he does not attack Jerusalem. It is a shocking misstep in the life of Joash. Rather than looking for the Lord to rescue him and his people, he looks to the bank account to rescue. So what is God trying to teach Israel and trying warn about our faith?
First, it is important to see the action of Jehoiada and the response of the people. Once the rightful king is established on his throne and the covenant has been enacted between the Lord, the king, and the people, then the people are called to repent and renew themselves by getting rid of the idols. The people are to devote themselves to the Lord. This is a beautiful foreshadowing of God’s expectation of the world when he sent his Son as king. Once Jesus was established on his throne and the covenant had been enacted between the Lord, Jesus the King, and the people, the expectation is for us to repent and to renew ourselves to the Lord.
But all of this excitement about the new king, restoring the temple, and renewing themselves to the Lord hits a speed bump when the king of Syria threatens to attack Jerusalem. All of this devotion to the covenant goes out the window as soon as their lives are threatened. This is the second point that God is teaching. How often do we go through these important steps of repentance, renewal, and restoration only to have the first threat cause us to abandon it all? We can confess that we are devoting ourselves to the Lord, turning over a new leaf, going to change, going to be different, and going to be what God wants us to be only for us to give all of that up the first time it gets hard. The words of repentance are fairly easy to say. What is more difficult is to carry out our repentance and bear fruit of the change that we have proclaimed! How many times we say tomorrow is going to be different only for tomorrow to have the same sins as today? Repentance and restoration all sounds good until the next difficulty arises. Jesus told a parable describing such people in the parable of the sower. Listen to what he said.
And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matthew 13:20–21 CSB)
Notice that life difficulties are what causes the person to fail. Things get hard and their lack of root means that they fade. It is important warning given to us. Are we going to follow through with our repentance and renewal? Or will we fade back into our sinful ways as soon as life does not go according to plan?
This leads us to our final consideration. What is our motivation for our restoration? What is the motivation for repentance? We are told something very interesting about Joash. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord while instructed by Jehoiada (12:2). What was the basis for Joash’s obedience? Someone was telling him what to do. Someone was telling him what he should do next. This is a key truth about true repentance and true renewal. Repentance and true renewal are not merely doing what someone tells you to do.
Far too many times when people are caught in sin they will ask, “What do you want me to do?” I do not want to tell you what to do. I want to see what you want to do. I want you to start the renewal process. If I have to tell you what you should do, then who is really doing the repenting? Is your repentance really coming from your heart or from the heart of another? Serving God is not about fulfilling other people’s expectations of what you should do. Serving God is not about doing what people say you should do for God. These actions are pointless. If you are doing something because someone said that is what you should do, then your heart is not thinking about true repentance and true renewal. We need to seek repentance and renewal for ourselves, not what someone else says you should do. I do not know what repentance will look like in your life. I do not know what you have done. I do not know what you have said. I do not know what you can repair. I do not know what you can change. But you know these things. God wants repentance, restoration, and renewal in our lives because King Jesus has established his throne, and established his covenant with us. Only then will our faith hold firm when life’s difficulties come.