2 Kings 11-12, Galatians 2
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:19-20 ESV
Every now and then, we get a feint glimmer of light shining in the darkness that seems to characterize the histories of Judah and Israel. The house of Ahab, the wickedness of Jezebel, and the ongoing dynasty of godless kings is occasionally broken by a single individual who provides a small degree of hope that things might change – that reformation and repentance might come to the people of God. But these moments of spiritual change and national restoration are short-lived and woefully incomplete. In the midst of all the murder, insurrection, and royal intrigue going on in these chapters, we are introduced to the story of Joash, a young boy who had to be hidden from his own grandmother in order to prevent her from killing him along with his siblings. Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah, upon learning of her son’s murder, decides to make herself the queen of Judah. To secure her reign, she has all the royal family murdered, but her grandson, Joash, is secreted away by the chief priest and hidden in the temple for six years. At the age of seven, he is crowned the king of Judah and given the responsibility to lead the people of God and attempt to restore them to a right relationship with Him. His reign starts off well, as they renew their covenant with God. They even “went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars” (2 Kings 11:18 ESV). Joash would reign over Judah for 40 years, and, for the most part, he would prove to be a good king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Jehoiada, the chief priest, proved to be a worthy mentor. “Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places” (2 Kings 12:3 ESV). The temple, long neglected during the years when the people were worshiping Baal, was in desperate need of repairs. Funds had been set aside for that purpose, but after 23 long years, the priests had failed to spend a single cent on the repair of the temple. As a result, Joash had to intervene and give the money directly to the workers just to ensure that the work was done.
What does this passage reveal about God?
In chapters 11 and 12, there is no direct mention of God’s divine interaction in the events that took place. While we know He is sovereign and in control of all situations, it is interesting to note His perceived silence in all that goes on during the 40-year reign of Joash. Jehoiada, the priest, “made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people, and also between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17 ESV), but we do not hear anything from God Himself. The efforts of the people to destroy the house of Baal and eliminate the worship of this false god from their midst was admirable, but it appears to have been nothing more than an outward display of faithfulness. Their hearts were still not wholly dedicated to God. They continued to worship false gods and treat the one true God with contempt. As a result, God would allow the Syrians to besiege Jerusalem, prompting King Joash to raid the treasury of the temple and use the sacred gifts to pay off King Hazael. Rather than turn to God for help, they relied on the gifts that had been dedicated to God to buy their protection and safety. Unlike the great king, Solomon, Joash knows no peace during his reign. He is powerless against his enemies and seems to have no hope that God will intervene on his behalf. From what we know of God, He stood ready to help His people at any time, but He required that they return to Him and obey Him faithfully and completely. As long as they worshiped other gods they would find Him distant and unwilling to act on their behalf. Their attempts at reformation would prove inadequate and their redemption and restoration would be incomplete. Joash himself would end up murdered by his own servants.
What does this passage reveal about man?
The apostle Paul reminds us that self-reformation never measures up. It is impossible for man to redeem or reform himself. Joash put in a noble effort, but all his reforms proved inadequate. Regardless of the covenant he and the people made, they would find it impossible to remain faithful to their promises. Like all those who had come before them, they just couldn’t muster up the energy to keep their end of the covenant they had made with God. Paul writes, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16 ESV). The Old Testament continually reveals man’s incapacity to live in obedience to God’s commands. Even the good intentions of some of the best people always fell short. Joash meant well, but he could not reform the nation or restore the people of Judah to a right relationship with God. Neither he or they had it in them. But Paul realized that it was through the law that he discovered his true nature as a transgressor of the law. His efforts to attempt to keep the law only revealed his incapacity to do so. Self reform was never going to accomplish what he needed. Any attempt by man to redeem or reform himself will always fail. Which is why God sent His Son to accomplish what no other man had been able to do. Paul makes it clear that if “righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:21 ESV). If man could reform himself, Jesus never would have had to come and would have never needed to die. But He did.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
My attempt to live the godly life does come from my own self-effort. It comes from Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). I cannot reform myself. I cannot change myself. I must rely on the grace of God and the power made possible through the indwelling Spirit of God. I must recognize that any reformation on my life is made possible by Christ’s death, His righteousness and God’s power. I must regularly remind myself that God not only saved me, He must sanctify and change me. I must regularly rely on His strength to do the impossible in my life. Like Joash, I will find myself confronted by the enemies of God, but I must trust in Him to deliver me. I must not attempt to bargain with the enemy or try to buy him off. God wants to give me complete victory over the enemy and reveal His power in my life. But I must continually realize my need for and dependence upon Him.
Father, self reform has never worked for me. Yet I keep trying to do it on my own. Help me to learn the invaluable lesson that the spiritual reformation of my life is a work of the Spirit accomplished through Your power. I must turn to You. I must rely on You. I must acknowledge my own human weakness and rely on Your divine power. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men