By J.R. Miller
2 Kings 12:1-15
Joash was only seven years old when he was brought out from his place of concealment in the temple and crowned as king. It is evident that the influence of the good priest Jehoiada and his wife, was an important factor in the reign of Joash--so long as they lived. The record is: "Joash did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." After that, he lost much of his earnestness and energy in doing good.
A great many people are dependent for their better moods and for whatever is really beautiful and noble in them--on the influence of human friends. There are children who do well while their parents are living--but who, when these are gone, drift out into the world. Many a young man's departure from God, dates from the day when he stood by the coffin of his father or mother. It is important that we seek always to keep ourselves under the most wholesome human influence possible, for our character takes its color largely from that which touches it. But we should make sure always, that we are also under higher influence than the human, so that when the human force is gone--the divine may abide.
The great work of Joash--was his repairing and restoring of the temple. This sacred building had been not only neglected during the days of the kings before Joash--but it had been robbed of its treasures and left in ruins! For seven years Athaliah had reigned--the only woman who ever sat on the throne of David. During that time religious worship was entirely abandoned. The very building itself was desecrated and broken up. Through the influence of Jehoiada, Joash early in his reign entered upon the work of the repairing of this sacred building.
The work of restoration was committed to the priests. They were to use all the holy gifts, consecrated to religious service, in the good work. They were also bidden to hasten the matter. With this money they were to repair the breaches of the house, mend the broken walls, replace the beams, and put the sacred buildings in proper condition. Some time had now passed since this order was given, and the work had not yet been done. No reason is given for the failure. We are merely told that the priests and Levites did not hasten the work. They were indifferent to it. There is no intimation that there was any dishonesty on the part of the men. Perhaps the only reason was lack of interest.
The king called the priests, saying, "Why haven't you repaired the breaches of the house?" He chided them with their delay and lack of interest, and demanded of them why it was. God would keep us active and diligent in all our work. It is a sin to neglect any duty. We grieve Christ when we loiter at our tasks. Promptness is half of obedience. Children should be taught early the duty of swiftness and alacrity in all their work. Loitering is sin. It takes out of life much of its power for good.
A new plan for raising money was now adopted. Instead of the priests going about the country asking men for gifts, a chest was made and set beside the altar. A hole was made in the top of the chest, into which money should be dropped. The chest was kept locked, and the people were asked to put their offerings into it. In this way, an entire separation was made between the gifts meant for the priests' own use--and the offerings made for the restoration of the temple. This gave definiteness to the giving--each offerer was sure that the money would be used for the purpose for which he gave it.
The contribution box should always be near the altar, so that when we come to pray we may also give. The angel told Cornelius that his alms as well as his prayers had gone up before God. We need to have both praying and giving in our devotions. There should be no religious service without an opportunity for an offering to God. Giving opens the hand, while praying opens the heart. "It is more blessed to give--than to receive;" so he who receives only and does not give--misses the better part of the divine blessing. We need the contribution box in our Christian life as well as the Bible, the hymn-book, and the altar of prayer.
Evidently the giving became very enthusiastic. In Chronicles we are told that "All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly, dropping them into the chest until it was full." All the people gave. This is one lesson we should get here. The princes and people alike came to the contribution box with their offerings. Everybody ought to give to the Lord. The poorest cannot afford to miss the blessing of giving. The humblest have their share of the responsibility of the work. The richest and greatest are not exempt from the obligation, and need the blessing which comes to those who are ready to work with God.
There is a suggestion, too, in the way the people gave. No one knew what another put into the box. Thus even the poorest, who could give the least, would not feel ashamed of the smallness of what they could give. The money was given to the Lord, and He knew what each person gave, and He understood the circumstances of each one. It is very important in all of our Christian life and service--that we give or do, not to be seen of men--but only for God's eye. Jenny Lind used to say, "I sing to God." She forgot the throngs who were listening to her, and thought only of God.
Another point to be noticed here is that the people gave gladly. There was no reluctant giving, no giving merely through a sense of duty, without heartiness. Everybody gave cheerfully, enthusiastically, joyfully. Paul tells us that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, and it has been noted that the word rendered cheerful in Paul's phrase, means hilarious--God loves a hilarious giver. Joy ought to be the incense rising from the altar--when our gifts are laid there for God. He may use what men give reluctantly or grudgingly, and it may be made to do good to others, to advance the Lord's cause; but the giver gets no blessing from it. It is only what we give or do with joy--which leaves blessings in our own hearts.
The people responded so generously--that the chest was soon full, and then the king's officers opened it, counted the money, and put it up in bags. We get a suggestion here on the importance of honest business methods in the Lord's work--as well as in the common affairs of life. Those who are called to take charge of money in connection with God's Church, should be exceedingly careful that every penny is accounted for. Treasurers in Mission Boards and Christian Endeavor Societies should realize their responsibility and should keep most sacred charge of all money entrusted to them.
Only the other day a treasurer of a young people's society, scarcely more than a boy, was called upon to pay out the money which had been collected and placed in his hands, and it was discovered that it had been used by him in some affairs of his own and could not be replaced. The amount was not large in this case, and friends quickly made it good; but the young treasurer was guilty of embezzlement of funds which belonged to God. His error was a most unhappy experience in his life. Whether it will prove a beneficial lesson to him--or the beginning of a career of careless money dealing, cannot now be known.
At last the work of repair and restoration began and went on vigorously and enthusiastically. In Chronicles the language is, "So the workmen wrought, and the work of repairing went forward in their hands, and they set up the house of God in its state, and strengthened it."