Sermon preached on 2 Kings 12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 07/26/2020 in Novato, CA.
Today’s passage begins in the aftermath of the Davidic kingdom in Judah being restored in King Joash, who also known as King Jehoash by the way. The house of David had been threatened with annihilation at the hand of Ahab’s daughter. But Joash had been hidden away and kept safe until the High Priest Jehoiada could help him to retake the throne. King Joash’s reign is then summarized in verse 2. Listen to verse 2 again, this time from the King James. Verse 2, “And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” The King James translation helps to bring out what is said more clearly in the 2 Chronicles 24 account – that King Joash did what was right in God’s sight, but only as long as the High Priest Jehoiada was alive. We see that here in our passage. In the aftermath here of the kingdom being repaired, we see Joash’s good leadership to repair something else in the nation – the temple. The high priest had helped to see the kingdom repaired, and now the king helps to see the temple repaired. And so, today’s passage will help us to reflect on the leadership involved here in the repairing of the temple and what applications we can draw from such for today.
We begin in our first point by looking at King Joash’s plan A for repairing the temple. This is verses 4-8 and I say plan A because he’ll need to come up with a plan B to actually accomplish the desired repairs. Notice then that this plan A was the king’s initiative. Verse 4 shows Joash as the instigator of these plans to repair the temple. In itself, that is a good thing. It is right in God’s sight for the king of his people to lead an effort to repair the temple.
Verse 4 then shows that Joash’s plan A is essentially to commission and delegate this work to the priests – that’s who he addresses and gives this plan to implement. Verse 5 shows there were two aspects to the plan: a fundraising aspect and a construction aspect. There was a need for a capital campaign to raise the finances required. But then they needed to actually performing the work. It’s not enough to just collect the funds. You have to then do the actual repair work.
With regards to the fundraising aspect, we see the king instruct the priests in verse 4 of where to get the necessary revenues. Verse 4 seems to reference three specific sources of revenue, but summarizes them as “holy things”. Each of these offerings can be described as holy things. The giving of such were different acts of worship and thus were consecrated, sacred things. Before such monies would have been common things. But in giving them unto the LORD as an act of religious worship, they go from common to holy. The very fact that Levitical priests were collecting these offerings shows that such giving was part of their worship of God.
So, then the three specific sources of revenue mentioned in verse 4 reference three specific kinds of offerings described in the law. This is a reminder, by the way, that there were a number of different kinds of sacrifices and offerings outlined in the law as part of the people’s overall worship of God under the old covenant. So then, verse 4 likely describes monies collected through a census, through people fulfilling their vow offerings, and through other voluntarily contributions made by the people. Regarding the census money, we find description in Exodus 30 about a sort of per capita tax that was to be collected whenever a census was to be taken of the people, and that such money was to be used to support the worship done at the Tabernacle (and now at the temple). Regarding the vow offerings, we find various passages in the law about the kinds of vows that people might make unto the Lord where they voluntarily bind themselves to certain financial gifts in their vows, such as in Leviticus 27. And regarding the voluntary contributions, often described as freewill offerings, there are also several places where such are described in the law, but I especially like how we see such being given at both the initial building of the tabernacle and temple, Exodus 35:5 and 1 Chronicles 29:3. There God’s people generously gave over and above their normal sacrifices and offerings out of the need for constructing the tabernacle and temple. And here they will seek to receive more of such especially for the significant repairs that were needed at the time for the tabernacle.
It is very fitting that King Joash would direct these offerings to be used for the temple repairs. These were offerings that were part of God’s law and were meant for the upkeep of the worship. But you might notice that one kind of offering not mentioned in here was the tithe. The reason is surely for the same reason as why it says in verse 16 that the guilt and sin offerings were also not in the list. None of those were to be sources of income for the temple repairs since God’s law said those revenues were for the Levitical priests themselves. So, some kinds of offerings were earmarked more generally in the Bible for the needs related to conducting worship at the tabernacle and temple. Others were specifically designed to be given to the Levites and priests. Joash is careful to not redirect funds away from the Levites which God had already designated to be for them. This was right and good leadership on his part. As an application, this is also why when we receive an offering during the service, I’ll say that this is a time for our tithes and offerings. That is a reminder that our giving need not be limited to just a tithe when the old covenant precedent involved several offerings besides the tithe.
So, then we come to verse 6 and the twenty-third year of King Joash’s reign and find that no repair work had yet been made on the temple. While it’s not entirely clear what year he gave the orders for this plan A to the priests, it seems the point is that a considerable amount of time went by and they never got started on the actual work. Per verse 7, they apparently had been collecting money the entire time but hadn’t actually begun any repairs. So, in some good kingly administration skills he calls the high priest before him to discuss the matter. Verse 8 then is the conclusion of this meeting between the king and the high priest. Verse 8, “So the priests agreed that they should take no more money from the people, and that they should not repair the house.” In case this is not clear what’s going on, it means that the priests get “released” from the job of repairing the temple. They had been given opportunity to lead the effort. But they were now are being relieved of this duty. They would no longer collect and manage the funds for this effort. And they would no longer be tasked with overseeing the actual repair work itself. As a pastor, I actually can appreciate this decision. If I were a Levitical priest back then, I might feel overwhelmed at the idea that I was supposed to not only do all my normal duties, but also be involved in repairing the temple. While I would want to be involved in the process to a certain degree, I would think to actually get the job done in a timely manner you are going to need additional resources to make this happen. Frankly, in our situation, with a more serious investigation right now of a church property, I can say it’s something that you need a lot of help from various people, and I’ve been thankful that such help has been there among both the officers of the church and the building search committee that has been formed.
So then, this all leads to Plan B for King Joash. Here, upon his further initiative and leadership he has a chest setup in the temple near the altar to receive the offerings from the people that would go toward the temple repairs. To clarify, the 2 Chronicles account describes that this chest was especially for the collection of the census tax and that he was asking people throughout the country to come to Jerusalem and place that in the chest. I love that 2 Chronicles 24:10 said that the people of the nation rejoiced to do this. By the way, we can note that by setting it up in the temple, it is further emphasizing that these offerings are the “holy things” as described in verse 4. This was an act of religious worship to bring such a financial offering and deposit in the chest, along with all the other sorts of tithes and offerings that the people might bring into the temple as part of their worship.
You’ll note that the priests still are involved in the process under this plan B – just look at verse 9. It was the high priest who sees to the setting up of the chest in the temple. There were priests who guarded the threshold who are then described as the ones actually putting the money into the chest that they receive from the worshippers. But then in verse 10 we see how the king provides further royal oversight to see that the funds get utilized for the repairs. The king’s secretary would periodically count the money in the chest with the high priest. You have to appreciate the prudence to have multiple people count the money together – certainly a practice we follow here as well. So then there is this increased oversight and procedure in the collection and processing of the donations that would be used for the temple repairs.
And then in verse 11-16, we see how those funds then get put to use to actually perform the work of the temple repairs. Basically, under the joint oversight of both king and high priest, they doled out the money to general contractors who use it to then bring in the various types of construction workers and supplies needed for the repairs. I love the emphasis on the different kinds of workers, as we see God’s people being skilled and gifted by God and useful in their daily callings for the temple repairs. It is also interesting that in verse 15 there was no accounting required of the general contractor, emphasizing that was the case because they were clearly conducting their work honestly. Again, you can appreciate that such work of general contracting was also God’s provision for the people that he rose up such honest and faithful overseers for the temple work. All of this contributes to the application of how still today God’s people are skilled and gifted by God in different ways and its important to involve them in the work of the church. While we often think of the church’s work in more spiritual matters, there are many very practical needs for a church community. Church building projects are especially an opportunity to see that, though the need also exists year-round in one form or another.
So then, the repairs of the temple were finished. It’s not clear here in this account, but we find in the 2 Chronicles 24 account that when they finally finished it, they had money left over which was able to be used for other needs in the temple. So then, King Joash exercised successful leadership to do something that was very right in God’s eyes – the repairs to this holy temple. And he was able to accomplish this through the bringing together God’s people with both their labors and giving, and with proper administration and oversight.
So this brings us to our third point for today, to look at what I’m calling, Joash’s “disappointing plan for kingdom preservation”. This begins at verse 17 when our chapter has a rather abrupt change of focus. We go from talking about temple repairs to the military threat of Hazael, king of the Syrians and then to describe how the king is assassinated. Interestingly, this account in 2 Kings is fairly reserved about what was underlying this. The account in 2 Chronicles is not so reserved. We find in 2 Chronicles after the high priest Jehoiada who had saved his life died, King Joash departs drastically from doing what was right in God’s sight. Through ungodly influence he ends up starting to worship Asherah poles and other idols. He ignores prophets sent to call him to repentance. Even worse, Jehoiada’s son comes to him and by the Holy Spirit prophecies against his actions and Joash has him executed! This becomes the backdrop for why the Syrians through Hazael are able to afflict Joash and why there ends up with a conspiracy against him that results in his assassination.
Of course, while our account in 2 Kings here doesn’t go into such details, the matter was stated briefly in verse 2 when it recognized that he obeyed God when Jehoiada the priest was instructing him. And so, when we see his actions starting in verse 17, we should connect the dots that this must be happening during a time after Jehoiada’s death. The 2 Chronicles account confirms this timeline inference. So then, we can surely infer from this passage alone that this affliction by Hazael must be because Joash had started to turn away from doing what God required of him. Remember, God had announced that he would use both Hazael and Jehu to bring judgment on the house of Ahab, which he did. But when Jehu finished off the house of Ahab but left the idolatry in the land, God turned the sword of Hazael against Jehu. In other words, God had rewarded Jehu in his obedience, but rose up chastening via Hazael in his disobedience. Surely the same is going on here now with Joash. While God had restored the kingdom in Joash and even used him to repair the temple, if he turned away from the Lord there would be God’s hand against him. And yet, think of what could have happened. When God allowed Hazael to begin to have victory over Joash, that could have been an opportunity for Joash to repent of his sin and look to turn back to the LORD.
Unfortunately, faced with the growing threat of Hazael, he comes up with a more foolish plan. Like how his forefather Asa had done, he pillages both the royal and temple treasuries to pay off Hazael and get him to withdraw. Something that is lost in our translation is to compare this action in verse 18 with what is described in verse 4 regarding the collections for the temple repairs. Verse 18 speaks repeatedly of Joash taking these “sacred gifts” that he and his forefathers had given. But the words translated as “sacred gifts” in verse 18 is actually the same Hebrew word as what was used in verse 4 to describe the “holy things”. And in fact, verse 18 in the Hebrew actually uses that word 3 times. So, while our chapter today positively saw King Joash building up the holy things of God in the temple, it ends with him essentially working in reverse of that. Whereas before he built up the holy things in the temple, now he instead pillages from the holy things in the temple. And think about what a holy thing is. It is something consecrated to the Lord and thus belonged to God. Just like the tithes didn’t belong to Joash and so he couldn’t use them in repairing the temple, so too these holy things had been consecrated as holy unto the LORD. How presumptuous for Joash to take them and give them to Hazael!
And yet isn’t this typical human thinking? When faced with a practical threat like Hazael he makes the very pragmatic decision to take all the treasures of temple and palace and pay off Hazael. He probably thinks it is better to give away those treasures to otherwise preserve the kingdom and temple, than to risk losing everything. His plan is imminently practical. You might even look at it and say it “worked”. But it was wrong. And it was disappointing. Joash didn’t turn out to be the hope for the nation that probably so many thought he might be.
This is a temptation for us all. Even true believers can fall victim to the temptation of just acting pragmatically instead of biblically. Sadly, the later course of Joash’s life would suggest that his pragmatism was more than just a foolish mistake that a true child of God might make. Rather, the later course of his life suggests the sad likelihood that Joash wasn’t truly regenerate. Of course, we can’t be dogmatic on this point since Scripture doesn’t explicitly address that. But, looking at the whole of his life, suggests that his faithful obedience and great accomplishment in his early years was due to the external influence of his mentor Jehoiada. But when that influence was removed, his true heart seems to have been ultimately revealed. To clarify, I’m not saying that Joash was just intentionally trying to be deceitful and pretend to be godly when he wasn’t. Someone who is unregenerate likely wouldn’t even be thinking in such categories. Joash was probably just trying to live out what he thought was the right thing for a king of Judah to do. He probably was trying to be a good king and do his duty by rebuilding the temple. He surely knew it would please the people and his mentor Jehoiada and for all we know that might have been his motivation. This is the sad reality that an unregenerate person can do a lot of things that are outwardly in line with God’s word. They might even in their own minds consider they are doing them in service to God. But that is separate from whether that person is truly born again and humbly reliant on the grace of God for life and salvation. It seems the course of Joash’s life would lead us to think that sadly Joash never really knew the LORD. He certainly didn’t live up to hopeful beginnings.
Such a disappointment that we find here with Joash reminds us that our hope ultimately must look beyond him to King Jesus Christ. I love how we see Jesus not only begins well, but finishes well. Not only did Jesus pass the devil’s temptations at the start of his ministry in the wilderness. But he also passed the temptations in the Garden of Gethsemane to forgo the cross, just before the crucifixion. Even as he hung there dying on the cross the world tried to tempt him to call down help from heaven to free him from the cross. But he stood firm in his service to God. This is the one we must put our hope. We need the one who can take a destroyed temple and rebuild it for eternal glory in just 3 days! Who does so by giving up the precious temple of his body so that we can become holy things in his restored temple. Put your faith in King Jesus today and become a part of his glorious kingdom and royal priesthood that he is building.
In conclusion, we are sadly reminded that unregenerate leaders might do great things for the visible church. They might even be used by God in certain ways for our spiritual wellbeing. That is God’s common grace working through them and in spite of them. Of course, our obligations to serve the Lord under such leaders doesn’t change. In fact, we’ve seen in today’s chapter the service of God’s people who served faithfully under Joash whom God used for good things despite where he ended up. And in light of how leaders might fall away, let us keep watch on ourselves as we run the race. And let us ultimately remember that we must always be putting our hope in Jesus and not in any earthly leader.
And while we’ve providentially come to a passage that deals with both fundraising and building construction, I can’t help but make application to our church’s current circumstances. We have a building prospect before us. I encourage you to consider how you might support such a project through your time, talents, and treasure. While a building is not at the core of what we are about as a ministry, it is certainly a pragmatic circumstance that we are biblically reminded of as something useful for the ministry of the church. Let us continue to keep such matters in prayer and thought as we consider as a congregation moving forward with the building prospect before us. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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