"Now JEHOIADA was old and full of years, and he
died at the age of a hundred and thirty. He was buried with the kings
in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and
his temple." 2 Chron. 24:15-16
That must have been a remarkable spectacle in Jerusalem,
when this funeral procession was seen wending along the ridge of Mount Zion,
on its way to the sepulcher of the kings. No 'royal' head had bowed to the
stroke of death--and yet the gates of that sacred mausoleum, which holds the
dust of David, Solomon, and the succeeding kings, have that day been flung
open to receive an addition to its silent trust!
Who can be the newly-embalmed and shrouded occupant for
the 'long home of silence'? For whom has a nation decreed this strange,
unusual honor? Honor, indeed, it was; for zealously were these precincts
guarded against unworthy entrants. Royalty itself was not always a passport
through these gloomy portals, if life had been stained with dishonor or
crime. The very last king who died in his palace in Jerusalem (though the
blood of David flowed in his veins) was deemed unfit to repose along with
the dust of his sires. After an inglorious reign of eight years Jehoram was
buried, we are told, "in the city of David, but not in the sepulchers of
the kings," (2 Chron. 21:20).
Who, then, is this honored subject for whom regal funeral
rites are appointed, while his master is left to his long slumber in a
common resting-place? No regalia, no imposing symbols of royalty, are
carried alongside that casket; yet the long funeral crowd, and the
undisguised, sincere lamentations, truthfully proclaim that "a prince in
Israel has fallen."
True, JEHOIADA, in his official position, as God's high
priest, was worthy of all honor; yet, most of the Jewish pontiffs passed to
their graves in strict privacy, without leaving in the sacred chronicles
even a register of their death or burial. It was his character and worth,
not his position, which gathered that mourning crowd, and opened that
place of honored interment! We are summoned in thought to the funeral of a
faithful public servant--a venerable patriarch--a minister and man of
God--one who, for the long period of one hundred and thirty years, had lived
out that great definition of spiritual existence, "to be good
and to do good."
His name was not associated with great hero-deeds or
brilliant martial exploits. He had a better and nobler vocation. By his
piety and zeal, his prudence and sagacity, he had steered the ark of God
amid environing storms. Half a generation--thirty years--had passed, since
he had been able to engage in active duty; but even that long "sunset"--that
period of deepening twilight--was one, also, of sacred and momentous
influence. Alas! no sooner had his hand left the helm, and death sealed his
eyes, than the ark was once more among the heathen. His brother Hebrews,
therefore, had not miscalculated his worth when they followed his body to
its grave with tears, and decreed to him a regal funeral.
The funeral is all left to imagination. The sepulcher on
Zion has long ago moldered with the royal dust which for ages it enclosed;
but the epitaph on Jehoiada's shrine is still left deathless and
imperishable on the pages of Scripture--"Now Jehoiada was old and full of
years, and he died at the age of a hundred and thirty. He was buried with
the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel
for God and his temple." As we read his eulogy let us select, among others,
three features of his character which stand out with special prominence--his
faith, his courage, and his unselfishness.
I. HIS FAITH. His lot, as we have just said, was cast
in a stormy period of Judah's history. It will require a brief historical
summary to put the reader in possession of the ecclesiastical and political
exigencies of the time.
One of the basest and most unscrupulous of tyrants (a
disgrace to her sex) swayed at this moment the usurped scepter of the house
of David. It was the only blot in the fair fame of good Jehoshaphat, that,
from motives of worldly policy (oh, how many in a similar way blight and
ruin their children's prospects), he brought about an unhallowed
marriage-union between his son and successor to the throne and a daughter of
Ahab and his infamous queen Jezebel. Athaliah inherited alike the depraved
nature and practice of her Syrian mother; she obtained a speedy control over
the facile mind of Jehoram, who, obliterating all memory of his father's
goodness, plunged into the wild excesses of the house of Ahab--importing to
Jerusalem Phoenician idolatries, and stripping the very Temple to decorate a
shrine for Baal.
Ahaziah's name means "God-exalted," but by his own
guilty deeds he became rather God-forsaken. Philistines and Arabians
were stirred up to inflict on him the divine retribution. They sacked the
palaces, dragged his wives and children into captivity--Athaliah and her son
Ahaziah alone being left.
Ahaziah's reign was a brief and inglorious one. He fell,
mortally wounded, on the heights of Jezreel, and was buried in Samaria. On
his unexpected decease, the artful queen-mother, as the only means of
perpetuating her power, and of gratifying an unnatural ambition, resolved on
the desperate and unscrupulous measure of consigning the remaining
seed-royal to a cruel and indiscriminate massacre. "Can a woman forget
her nursing child, that she may not have compassion on the son of her womb?
She may forget," (Isa. 49:15). Yes, she did forget! It was her
own unhappy grandchildren whose blood had to answer the bloodthirsty edict!
"When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son
was dead, she set out to destroy the rest of Judah's royal family." 2 Chron.
Good old Jehoiada the high priest, at an age extending to
nearly a century, looked on in dismay at the inauguration of this reign of
terror. He was himself united in marriage to a daughter of Jehoram; and they
were jointly cognizant of a fact that had escaped the knowledge of the
murderer--that is, that one infant child of the king still survived the
cruel extermination. They knew God's promise, and they had faith to believe
that it would not fail. "The Lord has sworn in truth unto David; he will
not turn from it. Of the fruit of your body will I set upon YOUR THRONE,"
(Ps. 132:11). It was a perilous experiment--a bold venture, whose
discovery would cost them their lives; but they resolved (confiding the fact
to a select few) to hide this only remaining descendent of David's line,
with his nurse, in one of the chambers of the Temple. Meantime they would
watch the favorable moment, to wrest for him the scepter from the hands of
the usurper, and invest him with his hereditary rights--"But Ahaziah's
sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah's infant son,
Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king's children, who
were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. In this
way, Jehosheba, the wife of Jehoiada the priest, hid the child so that
Athaliah could not murder him." 2 Chron. 22:11
We can imagine that nothing but a devout faith in
God could have instigated this pious pair to so perilous a resolve. It was,
of all others, a subject for the exercise of faith. The very spot in the
sacred corridors where that little one night by night was rocked asleep,
seemed to be a pledge of safety and success. Was it not of the temple-courts
the Lord Himself said, "THERE will I make THE HORN OF DAVID to bud; I
have ordained a lamp for my anointed," (Ps. 132:17). Might not this be
the sacred lullaby his aunt loved to sing in the sacred chamber over his
cradle, "In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the
secret of his tabernacle he shall hide me?" (Ps. 27:5) Yes! God HAD
"ordained a lamp for his anointed." That lamp was flickering. It was
reduced to one feeble spark in the person of a little infant. The extinction
of that spark would be the extinguishing of God's promise. But they knew
that "what God had promised, he was able also to perform." That tiny
lamp was confided to their custody. They would do all they could, looking to
Him for a blessing, to preserve it from being quenched by the fury of the
oppressor. Did not the parents of Moses, in similar circumstances, and in
the face of an exterminating massacre, hide their child for three successive
months, and "were not afraid of the king's commandment?" In a like spirit,
undeterred by the certain vengeance which disclosure of their plot would
entail, they are "strong in faith, giving glory to God," (Rom. 4:20).
Oh, for a spirit of similar faith in the midst of
difficulties--believing God's declarations, trusting His faithfulness, and
with our finger on His promises, saying, "Remember this word unto your
servant, on which you have caused me to hope!" God often puts us in
perplexing positions for the trial of our faith. He brings his people, or
his Church, into exigencies, where "vain is the help of man," just that we
may, with unswerving confidence, cast our burdens upon Him, saying, with the
Psalmist, "This I know--God is for me. In God will I praise His word; in
the Lord will I praise His word. In God have I put my trust; I will not be
afraid what man can do unto me," (Ps. 56:9-11).
II. Let us note Jehoiada's BOLDNESS and COURAGE.
Boldness in action is the necessary result of faith.
It is the principle of faith bearing fruit. Doubtless, Jehoiada had often
and again commended his enterprise in prayer to Him "who dwelt between the
cherubim," and was encouraged, by an appeal to the Urim, to go boldly
It was on a Sabbath morning--when the sacrifice was laid
on the altar, and the crowd were standing round the outer temple-gates. The
fresh relay of priests and Levites had just come in; and the others, whose
weekly course that day expired, according to custom, remained inside the
sacred enclosure until evening. Thus a double guard--a double force was
secured, for the carrying out of the bold plot. The secret, wisely and
judiciously confided to a confidential few, had been whispered in other
favoring ears. "These men traveled secretly throughout Judah and summoned
the Levites and clan leaders in Judah's towns to come to Jerusalem. They all
gathered at the Temple of God, where they made a covenant with Joash, the
young king. Jehoiada said to them, "The time has come for the king's son to
reign! The Lord has promised that a descendant of David will be our king." 2
The votive trophies of battle--spears and swords which
king David had placed in the temple-armory--were taken down from the walls
on which they had for a century hung. Making use of these weapons, the
enrolment of a volunteer band of priests and Levites was speedily completed.
These were posted at the several avenues, to guard alike against confusion
or attack. On a raised seat or platform, adjoining "the king's pillar,"
with massive golden crown on his head, and God's law in his hand, stood
an innocent boy of seven years of age. It was young Joash, the alone
survivor of the murdered family! But there he was, God's own pledge
that the fruit of David's body should "sit upon his throne!"
And now the astounding fact, (for six years carefully
concealed from the populace,) that in these priestly chambers there
slumbered, night after night, an heir of the throne of Judah, was made
known! It spreads with the speed of a conflagration. The shout "Long live
the King!" rises first in the Temple-court. It is caught up by the dense
crowd thronging the gates. The strange, unusual commotion floats across the
valley, and is wafted in at the palace windows to the ears of the queen. In
a few moments she has crossed the bridge connecting palace and temple. A
glance of her infuriate eye reads the whole truth. "Treason! treason!"
she cries in vain, to her speechless, unpitying, unsupporting guards.
Her life of guilt is fast ebbing to a close--her die is
cast. As the shouts of a patriot people are ringing a welcome to their young
king, the infamous Athaliah is dragged outside the sacred enclosure to pay
the just penalty for her crimes. She lies weltering in her own blood!
2 Chron. 23:9-15--Then Jehoiada supplied the commanders
with the spears and shields that had once belonged to King David and were
stored in the Temple of God. He stationed the guards around the king, with
their weapons ready. They formed a line from the south side of the Temple
around to the north side and all around the altar. Then Jehoiada and his
sons brought out Joash, the king's son, and placed the crown on his head.
They presented Joash with a copy of God's laws and proclaimed him king. Then
they anointed him, and everyone shouted, "Long live the king!"
When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and
the shouts of praise to the king, she hurried to the Lord's Temple to see
what was happening. And she saw the newly crowned king standing in his place
of authority by the pillar at the Temple entrance. The officers and
trumpeters were surrounding him, and people from all over the land were
rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Singers with musical instruments were
leading the people in a great celebration. When Athaliah saw all this, she
tore her clothes in despair and shouted, "Treason! Treason!"
Then Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders who were
in charge of the troops, "Take her out of the Temple, and kill anyone who
tries to rescue her. Do not kill her here in the Temple of the Lord." So
they seized her and led her out to the gate where horses enter the palace
grounds, and they killed her there.
We cannot sufficiently admire the calm forethought, the
consummate prudence, and the determined courage of Jehoiada. It was an
enterprise which required a wise head and a strong hand, as well as a pious
heart. We would naturally look, at all events, for the accomplishment of
such a plot to other than one whose head was whitened with the snows of a
century. In this respect, it is a deed unparalleled in the annals of sacred
history. Such exploits generally demand the prime of manhood, when the sun
of life is at its meridian. We look for quiet bars of purple and
gold--emblems of repose--when that sun is going down--then "the keepers
of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, and those that look
out of the windows are darkened; when fears are in the way, and the
grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails," (Eccles. 12:5).
The stirring ambition, as well as the physical endurance,
requisite for such deeds, have then generally declined; and when they occur,
we must look for some stronger than any impelling natural principle.
GOD had evidently nerved that old man's arm. He had girded him for the
battle. He had, with reference to his old age, verified the truth of that
unfailing promise--giving "strength" equal to his "day." He had answered his
prayer--"O God, you have taught me from my youth--and hitherto have I
declared your wondrous works. Now also, when I am old and grey-headed, O
God, forsake me not, until I have showed your strength unto this generation,
and your power to every one that is to come." (Ps. 71:17, 18).
It belongs not to God's ministers to intermeddle with
political intrigues, except in the gravest emergencies, when His cause and
His Church are concerned in the issue. But it is a remarkable and
encouraging fact that, in all great and momentous crises of His Church's
history, when its bulwarks have been assailed by enemies without or traitors
within, He has ever raised up men adequate for the exigency; sage in
counsel; firm in principle; bold and fearless in action; who have, like
Jehoiada, not only been instrumental in sheathing the sword of oppression,
"stilling the enemy and the avenger," but in vindicating truth, upholding
the cause of righteousness, and transmitting a heritage of spiritual
blessings from generation to generation.
III. Let us further mark Jehoiada's UNSELFISHNESS.
Duty and self-interest are often in conflict and antagonism. It was so with
Jehoiada. Had he been a selfish man--guided (as the world too often is) by
policy, and sacrificing all that is sacred to base and unworthy
personal ambition, he was the very last who would have shown any anxiety to
shield Joash from the general massacre. Though he himself had no royal blood
in his veins, yet (by marrying the sister of the former king) his own son
Zechariah was (failing the children of Ahaziah) the heir-apparent to the
throne of Judah. If, therefore, on principles of base worldly expediency, he
had been careful to hide anyone from the vengeance of Athaliah, it would
have been his own child rather than Joash. But this good and honored man
would spurn such sordid baseness. Though he had the strong temptation of the
golden crown glittering on the brow of his own son, with a noble
unselfishness he takes with parental fondness the unprotected orphan and
rival under his nurturing roof, and does all in his power to prevent a cruel
tyrant stretching forth her hand against the Lord's anointed.
Noble lesson here, also, in the midst of a world and an
age of selfishness! When we see so many grasping with unscrupulous
greed any tempting bribe--from avaricious monarchs grasping kingdoms, to
avaricious and unscrupulous citizens in private life building their own
reputation and fortune on the ruins of another--stooping to base craftiness,
godless "expediency," unprincipled policy, in attaining their ends--oh, it
is refreshing to turn to these staunch examples in the olden days, where
self-interest spurned to climb the coveted heights on the ruins of a man's
life, or means, or character--willing, unselfishly, to give way, although
another rather than themselves be bettered, if the will and cause of God be
promoted, submitting to any amount of sacrifice for private and public good.
"All seek their own" is the too truthful motto of these degenerate
times; but the noblest feature in a man's character is abnegation of self--if
his fellows can point to him and say, "That man is as much interested in the
welfare of others as in his own."
If we have dwelt mainly on the one public act of Jehoiada,
it is not to the exclusion of the more strictly religious traits of his
character and history; for it is evident from the sacred narrative, that
what embalmed him most in the memories of Israel--what summoned forth the
warmest tears on that day of his funeral--was his great work in connection
with the repairing of the house of the Lord. His sacred influence had
happily been brought to bear upon the young king. He summoned the priests
and Levites and gave them these instructions: "Go at once to all the towns
of Judah and collect the required annual offerings, so that we can repair
the Temple of your God. Do not delay!"
The king and Jehoiada gave the money to the construction
supervisors, who hired masons and carpenters to restore the Temple of the
Lord. They also hired metalworkers, who made articles of iron and bronze for
the Lord's Temple. So the men in charge of the renovation worked hard, and
they made steady progress. They restored the Temple of God according to its
original design and strengthened it. 2 Chron. 24:5, 12-13
Happy for a nation, happy for a church, when they have in
their rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, this combination of political
sagacity and manly piety--unflinching alike in their fidelity to the throne
and the altar, "rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto
God the things that are God's"--who, moreover, imbued with the great truth
that it is "righteousness" alone which "exalts a nation," deem it the
loftiest mission in which they can be embarked, to "lengthen Zion's cords
and strengthen her stakes."
How many there are whose life-long ambition is posthumous
fame--that, like Jehoiada, they may be "buried in the city among the kings,"
and on storied urns or marble monuments their names may be handed down to
successive generations! God's Great Ones have a truer and nobler
immortality; but if you would have the most enviable immortality earth
can bestow--if you would aspire to live in the memories and hearts of
those that come after you--let the eulogy on the old priest of Israel be the
coveted epitaph on your lowlier grave-stone--it may stimulate others, as
they read it, to follow your steps–"He had done much good for God and his