Sermon preached on 2 Kings 11 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 07/19/2020 in Novato, CA.
The last two weeks we’ve studied the major reformation God had brought to the northern kingdom of Israel via the hand of Jehu. He had purged Baal worship from the land, and had killed all of Ahab’s male heirs and Jezebel herself. Well, in a sort of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, sort of moment, we see here that the house of Ahab and Jezebel will not go quietly into the night. In their own sort of counter-reformation, this Jezebel named Athaliah strikes back at the very vitals of religion and at the heart of God’s promises. If the late, otherwise-godly Jehoshaphat had looked unwise before when he gave his son in marriage to this Athaliah, now in hindsight he looks just plain foolish. I say that with as much respect as I can for King Jehoshaphat – even the godly can unwittingly help the cause of the evil one. Here evil strikes back against godly reformation and it strikes back hard. Yet, as bleak as it looked, the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Lord’s church. That was true at the time of our passage for today, and it is still true today!
So then, we begin today by looking at how the house of Ahab rages on in his daughter Athaliah. What an anti-reformation theme going on here. Think of the timing. Athaliah secures the throne of the southern kingdom of Judah just after her son Ahaziah is killed by Jehu. She then proceeds to start killing off all the royal family. In other words, she starts killing off all the male heirs of the house of David. While Jehu is off in Israel killing off all the male heirs of King Ahab, she is off in Judah killing off all the male heirs of King David. It is the anti-reformation to the reformation going on in Israel by Jehu.
This is sickening to think that she as a mother would be involved in killing off even some of her own blood descendants. And even those others in the house of David that weren’t directly related to her by blood, they were still related to her by marriage. Remember how King Jehoshaphat twice responded to the house of Ahab when it had called out to him for help against its enemies. Both times, Jehoshaphat agreed to help saying, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” This was said in light of the alliance that was forged between Israel and Judah through the marriage of this Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat. In their alliance, Jehoshaphat treated the house of Ahab like family. But here, this daughter of Ahab returns that kindness with hatred by trying to completely wipe out the house of David that she had married into. And here this presumed daughter of Jezebel carries on the Jezebel-like ruthlessness against Judah. Where Jezebel tried to murder all the prophets of the LORD, Athaliah tries to murder all the kings of the LORD.
And so Athaliah then sets herself up as Queen Regnant where she rules Judah for six years. To clarify, she’s not acting merely as a queen consort, which be the wife of ruling king. Nor is she acting as a queen regent which would be a queen ruling temporarily until her son is old enough to assume the throne. A queen regnant is one who rules on their own right as the sovereign over the land. She has usurped all authority from the house of David and presumed to rule in place of it. Realize what this is. By doing this, Athaliah has made herself a literal Antichrist. God had made a covenant of salt with King David to give him the kingdom and the reign over his people. This covenant promise included that from David’s line would ultimately come a king who would be an everlasting king. That was the promise of the Davidic Messiah or Christ. But here the evil one through this wicked Athaliah tried to completely cut off that line of promise. And in place of the rightful Davidic king, Athaliah puts herself. That is by definition antichrist behavior.
But we are thankful that Psalm 2 was still in effect where God declares in light of the defiance of the evil nations that he has installed his Christ-king on Zion. And so that leads us to our second point, to see how God preserved his promise and the line of David. He does that through the courageous service of a husband and wife team named Jehosheba and Jehoiada. When things looked so bleak, when it looked like the line that would lead to Jesus Christ would be cut off forever, God used a Davidic princess Jehosheba and a Levitical high priest Jehoiada to save the line of promise and restore the Davidic king to Judah.
It’s interesting to pause and think about some of the interesting irony here. Using conventional wisdom at the time, one might have thought that killing off all the male heirs of a house would stop that house for good. So, Jehu insured that all of Ahab’s male heirs were killed. But the house continued under the raging of the daughter Athaliah. Likewise, she used that same conventional wisdom to try to kill off all the male heirs of David’s house. But one of the daughters of David’s house acted successfully to save the house from extinction. Jehosheba, whose name means the LORD swears, is used to keep God’s oath unto David. She courageously hides the sole remaining Davidic heir, little one year old, still nursing, Joash. If Jezebel-like Athaliah was an anti-Christ, Jehosheba is an anti-Jezebel. When the unexpected woman of Ahab’s house rises up in infamy to do great evil, God in response rises up the unexpected woman of David’s house to famously do a great good. While there is so much light shone on the deeds of men in the Scriptures, today’s passage highlights the deeds of women – both bad and good.
So then, finally after six years go by, Jehosheba’s husband Jehoiada arranges for the return of the king. He gathers key military and temple guards together and reveals the true heir to them. Notice in verse 4 that he enters into covenant with them. In other words, in some way or another, they covenant together to restore the true king to the throne. Long story short, Jehoiada organizes a timetable that allows for the coronation to happen at the changing of the guard when the king can be safely surrounded and protected by the most forces. That is what they do, and the crown him king and clap their hands and shout out “Long live the king!” Note that verse 12 says that they also give him the “testimony,” probably a reference to giving him a copy of the Law of God.
And so, everything falls into place wonderfully, and Athaliah hears the noise and comes to check it out, verse 13. All this had been happening in the temple and that is a very fitting place to demonstrate that this was God at work to restore the king and the true religion in the land. When Athaliah comes then to the temple, she tears her clothes and cries out “treason”! The irony in her words is that she was the one who had acted in treason. These actions to restore the kingdom are because of her treason. But that is how the evil enemy works. The enemy calls good evil and evil good. The evil one justifies himself and condemns the righteous. But thanks be to God that the LORD is victorious! So then, here the high priest Jehoiada orders that Athaliah be taken out and executed. And thus, the raging of the house of Ahab and Jezebel finally come to a final end.
I love how God used this husband-wife team between Jehosheba and Jehoiada here. We are not told they are married here, but we learn that fact in 2 Chronicles 22:11. Since she represents the royalty of the Davidic house and he represents the Aaronic priesthood, it’s a wonderful picture of a connection of king and priest. Scripture speaks at different points of a sort of royal priesthood idea. Jesus Christ himself is the Davidic King who is also according to Psalm 110:4 sworn by God to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. We Christians today are described even in 1 Peter 2:9 as a royal priesthood. I love to see how royalty and priesthood come together in a critical work of salvation in this passage.
So then, as we see how God uses Jehosheba and Jehoiada here, we should rejoice. God’s promises proved true in how he used them to preserve the Davidic line until Christ Jesus could be born from it. Think about how many dynasties we’ve already seen in the northern kingdom of Israel come and go – literally being wiped out completely. We think of later how Herod the Great would even yet try to snuff out the Christ after he was born by massacring all those babies two and under in and around Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth. But God had sworn and would not change his mind to David his servant, “I will establish your seed forever, and build up your throne to all generations” (Psalm 89:4).
Well, in our last point for today I would like us to notice the further reformation work that then immediately takes place after young Joash takes the throne. I have in mind what we read about in verses 17-20. The last two weeks we’ve considered the reformation that God brought through Jehu into the northern kingdom. Now, as we see Athaliah put down, we recognize that it wasn’t just that Athaliah was trying to wipe out the house of David. But we see that Baal worship had also been brought into the land of Judah. To clarify, this wasn’t begun under Queen Athaliah’s reign, but under her late husband’s reign, King Jehoram. 2 Kings 8:18 said that her husband King Jehoram of Judah didn’t follow in his father Jehoshaphat’s religious footsteps but in his father-in-law Ahab’s. Surely that is a reference to the introduction of Baal worship into Judah. And back then in 2 Kings 8 it connects this with Athaliah’s influence on her husband Jehoram. So, now with Athaliah gone, the people of Judah turn to address the Baal worship in the land.
Presumably the Baal worship was not as widespread as it had become in the northern kingdom of Judah. Remember the great lengths of deception that Jehu went to try to make sure he could successfully round up all the Baal worshippers before executing them. But here the people, in verse 18, go to the temple of Baal and destroy it and kill their priest. The fact that they had to do this, shows that the infection of the house of Ahab into Judah was not just a political matter, but also a religious matter. It threatened true religion with false religion. Surely this threat is reflected in verse 18 when after they destroy the Baal temple they then post watchmen over the temple of the LORD – they presumably feared reprisal.
But notice what additional act of reformation that the people of Judah do at that time. Not only do the “put off” Baal worship. They then “put on” a renewed oath to serve the LORD and his anointed king. I refer you to verse 17. “Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD, the king, and the people, that they should be the LORD’S people, and also between the king and the people.” The typical way we would describe this is covenant renewal. But we might also even describe it this way, “they make a new covenant.” I don’t mean that in the sense of them getting rid of the terms of the Mosaic covenant for something else. But in their covenant renewal they make a new covenant to recommit themselves to the Mosaic covenant. But I point out that language because we certainly recognize the idea of a new covenant ultimately looks forward to the “New Covenant” made in Christ Jesus by his shed blood.
And think of what their “new covenant” is about here. It gets them to recommit to being God’s people. So there is a vertical aspect of the people in submission to the LORD God. But there is also this horizontal aspect where they are vowing submission to King Joash as the heir of the Davidic throne. And while this is done under the context of the Mosaic and even Davidic covenants, it surely points us forward to what is involved for us under the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. When we become a part of the New Covenant we are made a part of God’s people on earth and we are vowing as well submission to the Lord Jesus Christ as our King.
So, God’s people in Judah do this great work of reformation. They put off Baal worship and the put on covenant renewal. The end result places the nation of Judah in a much better place spiritually. Look at how we see this in verse 20. This is a great summary of the resulting aftermath of this reformation. Verse 20, “So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah with the sword in the king’s house.” In the aftermath of this great reformation, there was great joy. And there was great quiet. This is what reformation should bring for God’s people. And I think it shows that Judah still had a great deal of true religion among the people. That the result of all this reformation was great joy and great quiet.
We can appreciate why they had both. Think of their joy. Surely they were overjoyed that the injustice of Athaliah’s brutal coup and the gross evils in massacring the house of David had finally be dealt with. There was a joy in justice being served on her. And surely there was great joy that to the nations’ delightful surprise the line of David had not been broken. Think of the joy that discovery proved to their faith – when they could see confirmed that God’s promise to David had not failed! And think of the joy to the faithful among Israel to finally see that Baal temple torn down. How much that must have afflicted the souls of that faithful in Judah every time they passed by it. It must have tormented their soul to see it standing among the nation whose God was supposed to be the LORD! What joy their souls must have had that there was such an amazing turn of events when I’m sure they had been in such despair. And realize much of this turmoil to their souls had been going on for six years and in some ways even longer. But finally, joy had come to their hearts!
And we can also appreciate their quiet. It says the city was quiet. Let me make sure you understand what this is about. When we hear “quiet” we tend to think about volume in terms of what we hear. While that is true, in the context this is about the volume of the city in terms of its state of either rest or unrest. When a city is at peace and its people living in harmony together and in cheerful submission to the authorities, we can say that that city is “quiet”. The opposite is when there is great division in the city, and great unrest and turmoil in the city. When citizens are ready to rebel against authority, or when they are in sharp conflict against their neighbor and ready to turn against one another – that is the opposite of this “quiet”. When there is raging within the city or against the city, there is not such “quiet”. But this says in the aftermath there was a “quiet”. This is a good thing. In 1 Timothy 2:2, the Apostle Paul says this is something to pray for – that we could live a peaceful and quiet life. Paul’s prayer is especially in the context of governing authorities – that we pray for them for the goal that their governance might promote us being able to have a state of peace and quiet. Well, here, they had overthrown the enemies and were in glad submission to their new Davidic king. Apparently, the watchmen for the temple didn’t even turn out to be needed. There was a measure of peace and harmony and unity that had been restored to the holy city of Jerusalem.
We can appreciate why they had both joy and quiet. Hopefully, we can relate to both in some degree as we yet long for a fuller realization of them both. As Christians in the church, we should have a real joy in the Lord Jesus Christ and a real quiet and peace and harmony in Lord Jesus Christ. Within the church, among our fellow Christians, there should be a great joy and quiet cultivate among us together. Sadly, we know that is not always the case. Doctrinal error and controversy can threaten our joy and quiet as the church of Jesus Christ. Human sin also can and does disrupt that joy and quiet at times within the church. And once we step outside the church into the world we realize that there is so much less joy and quiet we can have in relationship to the world. It is increasingly challenging to live a quiet and peaceable life in our society as Christians. Many of the recent government actions toward Christians have made us and our faith feel disparaged and shown to be held in so little value. Our culture increasingly rages against our faith and convictions and what God calls righteous – again leaving us feeling afflicted and distressed, or maybe angry or sad. These challenges rob us of the joy and quiet we otherwise would have if society were ordered with King Jesus on the throne here on earth.
That is in fact our current situation. I think of that vision in Revelation 12 of the dragon who stood ready to eat the child that was about to be born – a child that clearly represented Jesus – the messianic king! But like Joash in our passage, that child was saved from death and ultimately caught up into heaven. There is one small sense that Jesus is like the hidden Joash right now – in that he is hidden in the temple of God and king indeed, and not yet seated on a throne in this world. Yet, the difference is that Jesus is seated on a throne on high and is actively reigning even if the world cannot see it nor recognize it. But there is a sense we can recognize that because Jesus’ reign is one hidden in the heavenly temple, that the world is allowed for a time to rage. And like the dragon in Revelation 12, the dragon can’t reach the Christ in heaven, so he strikes out at us Christians instead. So that our time is a lot like that six year window when the Athaliah-dragon struck God’s people and robbed them of much joy and quiet.
One day King Jesus will be revealed from heaven with a clap and a shout and with the trumpet sounding. Then he will come in judgment and reformation. Then in the aftermath there will be great joy and quiet for us who are in covenant with King Jesus. Let us then be renewed in this new covenant today and be recommitted to the faith that looks beyond the current raging of the world to the hope of salvation that is yet ours. I don’t know about you, but that is a reminder from the Bible I would have gladly received a year ago. But it’s a reminder from God that I very much needed today. Praise the Lord for the comfort of the word that reminds us of our hope of joy and quiet to come in the name of King Jesus, son of David and son of God. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.