By J.R. Miller
2 Kings 11:1-12
It is interesting to study and think of the influences that combine in the making of any man. When we begin to go over the story of our ancestors, we soon lose ourselves in the vast number of them--parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, running back for generations. Yet every one of these passed down to us something which mingles in our blood and in our brains. We cannot choose our ancestors as we may choose our companions, and therefore in a certain sense cannot be held responsible for the make-up of our lives from this source.
Yet, after all, we are responsible, for the Bible tells us how we may bring heaven down into our lives, to change the old nature into new divine beauty. Men sometimes blame heredity when their life has gone wrong. "I could not help doing this or that. It came down in the tides of my blood, from my great-grandfather." Yes; but here is Christ, ready and able to come into your heart and change all this bad heredity--into good grace. That is what the doctrine of new birth, the birth from above, means.
We are to study Joash, the boy king. What kind of ancestors had he? They could scarcely have been worse than they were. His grandmother was Athaliah, and there was nothing good in her that we are told of. Ahab and Jezebel were his great-grandparents, and history tells us of few worse people than they were. There certainly was bad blood enough in the veins of the boy king--to have foredoomed him to a life of evil. His own father, too, was a wicked king. The story of his life is told in a sentence; "He walked in the way of the house of Ahab . . . for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. " With such an ancestry--what sort of character would one naturally have expected in Joash, the boy king? Yet he disappoints our fears. He seems to have had, at least in his early years, no inclination toward the wickedness of those who had gone before him. He led in noble reforms, and brought the people back to God.
Athaliah wished to reign, and, that there might be no rival claimant to the throne, she determined to slay all the royal children. We are reminded of the cruelty of Herod in slaying the infants in Bethlehem in order to make sure of destroying the newborn King of the Jews. But, like Herod's, Athaliah's terrible massacre failed of its intention. It was necessary that the infant prince should live, in order that there might be no break in the line of David, for of that line the Messiah must come. No purpose of God can fail. He knows how to deliver His children from peril. We think of the way Moses was preserved for his great mission, and Jesus for His work as the Redeemer.
In the case of Joash, the hands to help carry out the divine purpose, were those of the good priest and his wife. The boy was snatched up in the moment of peril, rescued from death, and hidden away in some obscure apartment of the temple. It was easy to hide him in this way, for there were many rooms in the holy house. Besides, the temple had long been neglected and had also been broken up. For seven years the child was concealed there, and most tenderly sheltered and nourished. No doubt he was well trained, too, and carefully taught the laws of his nation. The protection of this child was exceptional. He was specially dear to God, because of the place he held in the line of the divine promise. Yet every Christian is a child of providence. The children's angels have instant access into the divine presence whenever they fly to heaven on any errand in behalf of those for whom they are caring. When God has a plan in the future of any life--He takes care that the man is preserved and trained, and at the right time led forth ready for its mission.
It was a great day in Jerusalem when the boy Joash was brought out and crowned as king. The secret of the temple had been well kept. Athaliah had no suspicion that a member of the royal family was still alive and in preparation for reigning. She was taken utterly by surprise, when she heard the people crying, "God save the king!" The Lord laughs at men's plots and schemes to defy or overthrow His purposes. Athaliah thought that her place on the throne was safe, that God had been driven from His kingdom, and that her heathen religion now had no opposition. But when she rushed to the temple and saw the boy standing there, wearing the crown, and surrounded by the guards, she was dismayed and could only cry out, "Treason, treason!" But it was not treason--it was the triumph of right against wrong, the defeat of conspiracy and plotting. She had tried to thwart God--and God had thwarted her.
The chronicles of those days, seem to be only a record of sin, of departure from God, of plot and intrigue, of blood and shame. Why should we linger on these painful stories? What help can come to us from such Bible study as this? The answer is, that even in the chapters which tell us these tragic things, if we read them closely, intelligently, and through to the end--we can see the hand of God moving, restraining, checking, overruling.
Two things we may note specially:
For one thing--we see that sin cannot prosper. For a time sin may seem to succeed, winning its victories, overthrowing the good, setting up its throne. But we need only to wait a little while--to see failure and ruin as the final outcome of whatever is evil. We need never fret when wrong seems to prosper for a time, when wicked men seem to succeed. We have only to wait for God, and at the end we shall find that sin is always terrible failure and always brings irreparable ruin. "Though the mills of God grind slowly--yet they grind exceedingly small."
Another thing we learn from these Bible narratives is that through all the records of men's crime and sin--God's purposes of good and blessing for His people go on unchecked and undefeated. It may not be easy to continue optimistic when we read the chronicles of these ancient kingdoms. But there is a white line running through all the disheartening history. God is preparing the world for the coming of Christ. The divine promise is never overlooked. God's hand is never off the current of events for a moment, even at most tragic moments. We must read the story, too, remembering that it is only part of one great cycle which stretches to Calvary. God is redeeming His people.
We should interpret the history of our own times in the same way. God is still and always on the field. Evil is not on the throne. It is not chaos we see as we look out on the events of the world as they are chronicled in our morning newspaper. The divine purpose runs through all the story. Out of all that seems evil--good will surely come. God is leading the world to something better--to righteousness, to truth, to holiness!