2 Kings 12:1-14:22
Joash was seven years old when he became king of Judah and he reigned for forty years. He was instructed by Jehoiada the priest and generally ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ (2 Kings 12:2) – apart from not removing the high places (traditional sites of pagan worship).
Joash told the priests to use all the money collected in the temple to repair the temple. The priests were slow to start repairs but quick to collect the money. After several years, Joash enquired why there had been no progress. This finally prompted the priests to employ the necessary craftsmen (2 Kings 12:11-12). The priests then acted with complete honesty with regards to handling the money for the repairs.
Joash paid Hazael, King of Aram, all the gold from the treasures of the temple and the royal palace to persuade him not to attack Jerusalem. Even when a king is working on a project for God, money is still required to both pay for it and protect its future. Eventually, Joash was assassinated by his officials.
Meanwhile, the evil king Jehoahaz ruled Israel. As God was angry at the nation for its idolatrous ways. He kept Israel under the oppressive power of successive Aramean kings.
Jehoahaz eventually asked for God’s help and God did respond due to the severe oppression of the Israelites by the Arameans. The Israelites were delivered from Aram and lived in their own homes. However, they continued with their idolatrous behaviour.
The army of Israel had been virtually wiped out by the Arameans leaving the country undefended. Jehoahaz was succeeded by his son Jehoash.
Jehoash carried on with evil behaviour in the tradition of Jeroboam. Jehoash went to visit Elisha, when the prophet was terminally ill. Elisha told the king to shoot an arrow from a bow through an East window, while he put his hands on the king’s hands. This arrow symbolised an upcoming victory over the Arameans (2 Kings 13:17).
Elisha then told the king to strike the ground with his other arrows (presumably also shooting them through the window). Joash rather half-heartedly just struck the ground three times. Elisha was angry at Joash’s lack of zeal and passion. Elisah explained that if the king had struck the ground five or six times his enemies, the Arameans, would have been completely destroyed. Now they would only be defeated three times. If we are offered a chance to receive a blessing or grab hold of a prophecy, we should do it with enthusiasm. We shouldn’t be lukewarm when it comes to the promises of God. We should keep vigorously striking the ground until God tells us to stop.
Elisha died and was buried. Later, when a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s tomb in an emergency, the dead man sprang back to life when his corpse touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). This is why the Mother Church venerates relics. God still works miracles through the dead bodies, bones and possessions of the saints.
Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah. He carried on in the positive footsteps of his father (2 Kings 14:3). He executed the assassins who had murdered his father but excused their sons. He defeated ten thousand Edomites but then arrogantly challenged Jehoash, king of Israel. The king of Israel warned him not to ask for trouble but Amaziah did not back down. His country, Judah, was subsequently routed by Israel. Israel broke down six hundred feet of the wall of Jerusalem and plundered the temple and the royal palace. This was a new low in the relationship between idol-worshipping Israel and the more righteous Judah.
After Paul was held in jail for two years, Governor Felix was succeeded by the splendidly named Porcius Festus.
Festus visited Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders had still not forgotten or forgiven Paul. They still wanted to kill him in an ambush and so asked Festus to have Paul transferred back to them.
Festus convened a court back in Caesarea. Paul appeared before the Jews. They still could not get any of their serious charges to stick because they could not be proved. Paul gave his defence and explained that he was innocent of all charges (Acts 25:8). If we are ever accused falsely by belligerent prosecutors we can remember Paul’s trials and know we are in good company.
Festus asked Paul if he was prepared to go to Jerusalem. Festus cared more about appeasing the Jews than justice. Paul refused. No-one had the right to hand him over to the Jews as he had done nothing wrong. Paul appealed to Caesar and would now have to be sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Rome.
King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, visited Festus. Agrippa was fascinated to hear about Paul. He wanted to hear about the ‘dead man’ (Jesus) who Paul claimed was alive. Paul would once again deliver his testimony to influential people.
God is our strength and we should sing his praise with enthusiastic joy. We shouldn’t mumble worship songs and hymns; we should sing them vigorously feeling proud to make loud music and strike our tambourines.
Jesus rescued us from slavery. He hears us when we cry out in distress. We will be tested to teach us endurance and character but he will always rescue us. He removes the heavy burdens from our shoulders and gives us rest. He invites us to share his light yoke with him as he walks gently in step with us every day of our lives. Jesus set free our hands so we could help him carry his righteous burden. This will be a joy because Jesus our saviour is humble, his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt.11:28-30).