2 Chronicles 24:1-4, 17-25
Here we are in the middle of March and yet, in light of our sermon tonight, I’m curious … how many of you back on January 1st made a New Year Resolution? Okay … Of all the different New Year Resolutions out there, according to the USA Today, the top five New Year Resolutions are these.
5. Spend more time with family.
4. Save more money.
3. Lose weight
2. Eat healthier – this one is probably thrown out for the Super Bowl. You know, there should be something like a one day a month exemption for this one.
The number one New Year Resolution is … exercise more.
One of the traditions of Lent is to give something up. Ideally you give up something and replace with a time of prayer or devotion. And since we are in the middle of this Lenten season, I’m curious, who decided to give up something for Lent? Okay.
As we have been going through this Midweek Sermon Series looking at some of the different Kings of Judah found in 2 Chronicles, there has been this running theme so far. Each king, King Asa and King Jehoshaphat, they started out really well. They each started out doing what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD. But at some point during their reign, each king has decided to take matters into his own hands instead of trusting in the LORD. King Asa dies not leaning on God while King Jehoshaphat dies trusting in God.
The story between the death of Jehoshaphat and Joash is one which could easily be turned into a soap opera. There’s romance, there’s corruption, there’s wickedness, there’s secrets, there’s jealousy, and there’s murder. The daughter of King Ahab and the super evil, paganistic Queen Jezebel, remember from last week that she married King Jehoshaphat’s son. Well, they have a bunch of kids and after this father dies, the oldest takes over. Because of his sadistic desire to stay king, he eliminates his rivals by having all of his siblings killed. Long story short, this king’s mother ends up killing off everyone within the family, even her own grandchildren. The reason … she wanted to rule, she wanted to be the Queen of Judah.
And she did for a while. However, God had made a promise that from the line of David a Savior would come. So while this evil woman thought she had murdered all of the royal family … she missed one … Joash.
Once this was realized, an uprising from within the priests of Jerusalem happened. They took Joash’s grandmother, led her outside of the city, and had her killed. Joash took over as king at the age of seven. Now obviously a seven-year-old doesn’t know much about running a kingdom, so his uncle Jehoiada, who is the high priest, helps Joash rule. We’re told in verse 2 that “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicle 24:2). Notice that last part … all the years of Jehoiada. Once Jehoiada dies, things begin to fall apart. We’ll come back to this in a minute.
Under the reign of Joash, some great things happened. You see, the temple was left in shambles after the previous couple of kings abandoned it to worship false gods in different parts of the country. So Joash reinstated the tax Moses had commanded that the people give in order to maintain the temple and to pay the priests. A chest was made and set at the gate of the temple and people came and paid their tax. Joash took this money and restored the temple. After they were done, Joash took some of the extra money and made different things which went inside of the temple.
Remember back to the beginning of the sermon when I asked how many of you had made New Year’s Resolutions? Of those who made them, how many of you have already broken them? Studies show that about 80% of the people who make New Year’s Resolutions, fail to keep them by the middle of February. I won’t ask about how many have already broken their Lenten fast, but it too happens all the time. And what happens if you break your resolution or your Lenten fast? Not much of anything. You may ask God to forgive you and to help you get back on track, but other than that, life goes on and we don’t think much of it.
Like Asa and Jehoshaphat, Joash started out great, but he failed miserably and didn’t think anything of it. We heard earlier that “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicle 24:2). Remember I said we would come back to this last part. Things were good, the temple was restored, worship of the LORD and not false idols was back. But …“After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and worshipped Asherah poles and idols” (2 Chron. 24:17-18). Joash had spent so much of his life in restoring the temple of the LORD, but as soon as his uncle, his mentor, the high priest dies … everything he did is considered as rubbish. And “because of their guilt, God’s anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 24:18b). It’s pretty bad when you go from doing what is right in the eyes of the LORD to receiving God’s anger.
But God didn’t leave Joash alone. God tried to get Joash to come back around. God sent prophets to him. He even sent Joash’s cousin Zechariah, the son of the high priest Jehoiada, to Joash to try to bring him back around. Joash, however, refused to listen. He was so turned off by this that he even had Zechariah stoned to death.
Joash was later attacked by a small Aramean army. If you compared the size and strength of the Aramean army verses that of Judah, the Arameans shouldn’t have had a fighting chance. But because Joash had forsaken God, God supported the enemy Arameans army and they defeated Joash’s army. Joash was even severely wounded in battle.
And because Joash had killed Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, and Joash was severely wounded, his own officials decided to kill Joash off. Now typically a king is buried with other kings … Joash was not. Joash was forsaken by God, even in death.
I think about Joash and how he started out great and then failed miserably and can’t help but think about Peter in our passion reading tonight. Peter was a bold and strong disciple of Jesus. He was the only one who would say that he was willing to die for Jesus. The rest of the disciples either ran away or hid quietly in plain sight. And yet we heard that when Peter was challenged and questioned about his association with Jesus, he backed down. Peter turned his back on Jesus and denied having anything to do with him three different times. At this third time, the rooster crows and Jesus looks at Peter and Peter remembers. Overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow, Peter runs away.
New Year’s Resolutions, Lenten fasts, promises made to others … we fail. We at times fail miserably. We can’t go a year, let alone 40 days, let alone even a day without failing God. God wants, God demands perfection from us … and we drastically come up short. We deserve what Joash got for forsaking God.
“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19b). That’s what Adam and Eve heard as one of the consequences for their sin. This is what we heard on Ash Wednesday as we approached this rail and had the sign of the cross made upon our foreheads with ashes.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). For our sin, we deserve death, we deserve being eternally separated from God … but that is not what you receive. You receive the gift of God of eternal life, of the forgiveness of your sins, of being restored to perfection by the washing of the shed blood of Christ. You receive this and are given eternal life because Jesus does not fail. Jesus does not fail to keep the promises He has made to you. Jesus will never fail to keep His promises.
Jesus goes to the cross to die for you, He goes to the tomb so that He would be the first to rise from the dead so that you too will rise from your grave. You will not die eternally, but live. This is what Jesus promises, this is what Job proclaims, this is what we proclaim together now. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27 NKJV). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.