Pious and Afraid

Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lordaccording to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the Lord. But the people still followed corrupt practices. 2 Chronicles 27:1-2.

Jotham wasn’t a bad king, yet he died so young. We aren’t told why he died at the age of 41. It wasn’t in battle. Some scholars believe he actually stepped aside to let his son take the throne to appease Assyria. The Bible is not explicit on these things, but it does tell us that Jotham stayed out of the temple. Because his father had presumed too much in the temple and good stuck him with leprosy, he may have had a more distant relationship with God. If his religion was more personal than public, his lack of spiritual leadership may be the reason that the people got corrupted.

God does not just want our obedience. He wants our worship, both public and private. What we do in public to glorify God emboldens others to do the same.

Stumbling at the End

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.” Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the Lord had struck him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the Lord. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land. 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.

Uzziah was king for 52 years, most of them good. But at some point he willfully decides to play the role of a priest, for which he is not qualified. And he is not qualified because he was not born into Aaron’s family. The chief priest warns him and Uzziah gets angry. It is this anger, out of unrepentance, that brings God’s judgment.

We must not think our previous acts of service to God have entitled us to sin without consequences. To remain humble, we must fear the Lord, and not think we are now like him. To finish strong, you must remain obedient.

The Fickle King

After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.” 2 Chronicles 25:14-16.

Amaziah had been doing well, but when he captured the city of Seir he was enchanted by their idols. We don’t know what they looked like, but I suspect they were made with great artistry. I cannot imagine that he was aroused by pagan theology. They may have simply been beautiful, and he kept them as treasures that he eventually worshiped.

We are tempted the same way. We are in awe of art, literature, cinematic mastery. Then we are seduced by their message. We forget that those who are slaves to sin are putting on a show for us, luring us from our freedom.

The Figurehead

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.

Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge!” 2 Chronicles 24:17-22.

It appears that Jehoiada was the real animating force of reform in the kingdom. Joash had been raised by him, but as soon as he was gone, Joash listened to the idolators. And when Jehoiada’s son Zechariah, spoke up about it, he was stoned to death for his trouble.

Joash turned out to be just a figurehead instead of a leader, and a fraud instead of faithful. His response to the rebuke of Zechariah was to have him killed, instead of repentance.

We are called to be the priests of our nation. We turn people to God. Whether we are effective, like Jehoiada, or rejected, like Zechariah, we are still to be found faithful. Dead or alive.

Her Time Was Up

When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the Lord to the people. And when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” Then Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and anyone who follows her is to be put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Do not put her to death in the house of the Lord.” So they laid hands on her, and she went into the entrance of the horse gate of the king’s house, and they put her to death there. 2 Chronicles 23:12-15.

When there was a critical mass of support, and Joash was old enough to be king, the high priest struck. Jehoiada had been waiting patiently until Joash was of the, and for the people to embrace the reforms that did away with Baal worship.

I feel like we live in a precarious time like this, where wicked leaders keep pushing the other tribe into a corner, and the cornered tribe is waiting to strike. Would to God that one if our tribes wanted to be the Lord’s people!