A Long Obedience
Father, Your love is unrelenting. Your faithfulness knows no end. Work in me so that my love is more than occasional.
Read 2 KINGS 12:1-21
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
It is easier to begin the Christian race strongly than to cross the finish line with increased strength and devotion.
This week’s readings have focused on northern Israel. Now we move to Judah and its capital and Temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 8,11 are also set in Judah). Joash reigned longer than most of the kings mentioned in this book, but his 40 years had their ups and downs. Why did he not end well? He started out very young with an excellent mentor, Jehoiada the priest (1-2), and, unlike his predecessors, he gave attention to repairing the Temple, identifying funds for the repairs and instructing the priests to make sure they were carried out (4-5). Unfortunately it took a long time for him to notice that nothing was happening on that front (6)! Eventually he had to challenge Jehoiada about the lack of progress (7) and fund the repairs differently (9-12).
We are not told whether priests were syphoning off the original money, but the underlying issue was the relationship between king and priests. When the people asked for a king many years before, the prophet Samuel indicated that it would seriously change their understanding of God as king and cost them dearly (1 Sam. 8). It led to this tension between palace and Temple, seen here when the king takes Temple treasures to buy off the invader.
This history teaches the Judean exiles that, even though he started well, failure to honor the Lord led to Joash’s downfall and eventually to their own deportation. God can prevent invasion, rout enemies and protect Jerusalem, but if his people do not acknowledge him he will not defend them forever. We are not told exactly why Joash does not end well, but he failed to remove the high places (3), which, by using the Canaanite hilltop settings, easily led to pagan worship. Challenged about his apostasy, he has his mentor’s son killed (2 Chron. 24:17-25). He is a warning that beginning well does not guarantee ending well.
Take some time to think about your journey with God as “a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson). How well are you doing?
Holy Spirit of God, as I wait upon You, renew my strength so that I may live effectively and faithfully for You.
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