Home > Ministry, Speaking > Tree Stakes, Roots, Vengeance, & Ego

Tree Stakes, Roots, Vengeance, & Ego

These are my notes from a sermon I preached at CrossRoads of Arlington on 2/6/11.  You can listen to it here or download it via the CrossRoads of Arlington podcast in iTunes.  Note:  This is a message that is probably better off being listened to rather than being read.  In my opinion.)

This week, we’re going to skip ahead a couple of generations to focus on King Joash and then his son, King Amaziah.  In the passage we’ll be looking in 2nd Chronicles 24-25, the writer highlighted the significant decisions these men made that changed the direction of their lives that eventually resulted in them both being assassinated.

As we look at this story, we want to learn “what they did” as well as “why they did what they did.”  Then, we want to see “what we can learn from the decisions that these men made.”  And as we do so, we also want to keep an eye out for God in these accounts.

As some of you may have noticed already, I have a couple of items here on stage with me to help me illustrate this message.  I have a tree and a tree stake.  How do those have anything to do with the lives of these kings?  We’ll get to that later, but first let’s look at the the story of Joash in 1st Chronicles 24.

THE STORY OF JOASH (2nd Chronicles 24)

Starting in verse 1,

“1 Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba.”

Stop right there.  How did Joash become king when he was only 7 years old?

We need to go back a few chapters to understand how we got here.  There are a lot of name’s, but bear with me.  Joash’s father was Ahaziah, and he was not a good king, as the writer tells us “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  Ahaziah ended up getting killed.  When he died, Ahaziah left behind wives, children, at least one sister, and his mother.

His mother, Athaliah, was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, 2 very bad people.  When Ahaziah was killed, Athaliah, just like her mother might have done, decided to consolidate power.  She attempted to kill all of her grandchildren so that she could remain in power.

She would’ve succeeded if it hadn’t been for Ahaziah’s sister, who happened to be a great woman.  She took Joash and hid him from his grandmother so that he wouldn’t be executed.

Talk about a dysfunctional family, but there was hope.

Ahaziah’s sister was married to a priest named Jehoiada, an important name that we want to remember.  Jehoiada was priest, a man devoted to God, and he began an underground revolution.  He convinced the levities and the commanders of the army that Ahaziah’s mother, if she remained in power, would eventually lead them to destruction.  On the appointed day, everyone took their place for the coup.  Jehoiada brought in Joash and anointed him as the new King of Judah.

You may wonder, why did Joash have to be king?  Joash was only 7 years old.  Why didn’t Jehoiada didn’t make himself king?  The people of Judah believed that for God to continue to bless them as a nation, the king had to be a descendant of David.  Joash was the only remaining descendant.

Joash is anointed king.  Ahaziah’s mother heard the commotion, and she came out running and yelling, “Treason, Treason.”  Jehoiada gave the order, they captured her, executed her, and then began the process of undoing everything she had instituted.  They smashed the temples of Baal she had created, and people once again began to worship God.

That’s the backstory of how Joash became King of Judah at age 7.

Continuing in verse 2

2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest.

Here we see a very key phrase that will be important in our understanding of Joash.  He followed God “all the years of Jehoiada the priest.”  We’ll see this phrase or one similar to it a couple of more times in this story.  It provides a foreshadowing that although these two are working closely together, when Jehoiada died, things would change, Joash would change.

But while Jehoiada is alive, King Joash institutes a rebuilding of the temple so that the people can worship God.  Joash had the levites and priests collect the money, and then this king and this priest hired the people as well as paid the people.

When the work had been completed, the people brought the money back to the king and the priest, who then hired people to make articles for the Temple.  These two men are very close.

And then we pick up at the end of verse 14,

As long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were presented continually in the temple of the LORD.  15 Now Jehoiada was old and full of years, and he died at the age of a hundred and thirty. 16 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.

Once again we see that phrase, “as long as Jehoiada lived,” a reminder that once he died, Joash changed.

And when Jehoiada died, because of his devotion to God, he was afforded a privilege not normally given to priests.  He was buried with the kings.  This is how much King Joash and the people thought of him.

But now things begin to change.  In verse 17,

17 After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. 18 They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen.

As long as Jehoiada had been alive, Joash listened to him.  Once he died, Joash began listening to other people and those people led him away from God.  He abandoned his devotion to God and ignored the warnings that came from the prophets.

This would be a significant decision on Joash’s part that would change the direction of his life.

Now it’s possible that there was one person who might be able to get Joash’s attention, and that person is Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son.  Zechariah and Joash have probably known each other their entire lives.  They were probably raised together in the same home.

Continuing in Verse 20

20 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’”

And here is how Joash responded, verse 21

21 But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD’s temple. 22 King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, “May the LORD see this and call you to account.”

Jehoiada had saved Joash’s life, and now Joash killed Zechariah, the son of the man who had saved his life.

From there, things began to get worse and worse.  The army of Aram marched against Judah and even though they were the smaller army, they routed Judah.  In the midst of that battle, Joash is injured to the point that he is confined to his bed.  Here’s what happened, verse 25

25 When the Arameans withdrew, they left Joash severely wounded. His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. So he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

Those who had convinced him to kill Zechariah have now assassinated him for doing so.  Be careful who you listen to.

TREE STAKES AND ROOTS

Now that we know what he did as well as why he did it, we want to see what we can learn from Joash’s choices.

And now you may be wondering how does this tree and this tree stake have anything to do with the story of Joash?  Sometimes, when you put a new tree in the ground, you will put a stake in the ground near it.  Then, you will take some rope or twine and tie the stake to the tree.  You do this to support the plant.  It’s not strong enough to stand on its own or to withstand the elements of nature by itself.  You don’t want your tree to get blown over.  It needs help.  Once the roots of the plant have gone deep enough, you can remove the stake.

For the story we just looked at, Joash represents the tree, and Jehoiada the stake.  The illustration provides a bit of an analogy for life of faith.

A stake is there to do its best to keep you standing straight.  In the story of Joash, we saw the phrase again and again, “as long as Jehoiada lived, Joash did right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Jehoiada was the stake that influenced and guided Joash from a child into adulthood.  He helped him.  That stake, that person, helps you stay strong when the elements of life are beating against you.

A stake is there to let your roots grow deep.  For parents, a perfect illustration is your children.  When they are born, you do everything for them.  Feed, clean, and repeat.  Then you teach them to use a bottle.  Then a spoon and a fork.  Then they’re getting their own food and making a mess of your kitchen.  Then you hopefully teach them to clean up after themselves.  We’re still working on that.  The roots are growing deeper as a person because Samuel at age 5, turning 6 this week, doesn’t wear a diaper and he doesn’t drink out of a baby bottle.

In matters of faith, Paul used a similar analogy when he wrote his letter to the Colossians, challenging them to grow deeper in their faith.  In chapter 2, verse 6, “so then as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

However, if you never let your roots of faith grow deep, then whatever is near you will be the thing that is influencing and affecting you the most.  Case in point:  Joash.  He was fine as long as Jehoiada was alive.  Yet once Jehoiada died, because the roots of faith had never gone deep into Joash’s life, the officials now began to influence Joash and he ended up killing Zechariah.

A couple of questions:

One, do you identify more with a young Joash in this story?  Are your roots going deeper into Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit and the things you are learning in the bible having a greater influence on your life?  Or are there people, like the officials to the king, around you, who are having a negative influence on you?  If your roots of faith in Jesus Christ haven’t gone that deep, what are you going to do about it?

Two, do you identify more with Jehoiada in this stage of your life?  Are you someone who’s roots have gone a little deeper, someone who is a little bit further along in their faith, who needs to be like Jehoiada to a younger person in their faith, like a Joash?  If you are that person, are you doing it?  If you’re not doing it, why not?  What are you going to do about it?

Three, if you are acting like a Jehoiada to a Joash, is it time to cut the cords?  This is one thing that we didn’t see Jehoiada do.  He was always there with Joash, there until he died.  At no point, at least from what we can tell, did he ever take a step back.

Sometimes when you use these stakes, you might cut the cords but leave the stake.  You want to see if the tree is strong enough to make it on its own.  You want to make sure that you don’t need to give the tree support again. At some point, we may need to cut the cords and see if the roots of that person’s faith are running deep.  That doesn’t mean that we completely abandon the person.  We’ll still be there, but they need to stand up on their own faith, not mine and not yours.

At one point, I had a person that I would consider a Jehoiada to me.  They listened to me, they gave advice, and helped me understand things.  Later, as I had moved away, and was having trouble making some decisions, I contacted this person.  I need your help.  This is the situation, these are the factors, give me any insights or wisdom you might have. I don’t know what to do.  Here was the reply, “I’ll pray for you.”  They were cutting the cords.  At first, I was upset.  I don’t want prayers, I want answers, and then it dawned on me, with God’s help and what I’ve learned in the past, I can figure this out.  I don’t need this person to give me wisdom anymore, and if I did still need that person, that would not be a good indicator on my part.  Is it time to cut the cords?

Each of these questions require that we go to God and ask Him to help us figure out where we are- are we a Joash, a Jehoiada, do we need to cut the cords?  When God answers that question, then we ask what do we need to do?

THE STORY OF AMAZIAH (2nd Chronicles 25)

Now, we move on to the story of Amaziah, Joash’s son.

In verse 1,

1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly.

Here’s why the writer says Amaziah did not wholeheartedly do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.  Although he executed the men who assassinated his father, and he did so in accordance with Moses’ instructions, he did nothing about the worship of other gods.  When Jehoiada had died, Joash had abandoned the worship of God and instead worshiped Asherah poles and idols.  When Amaziah became king, he did nothing about the idol worship.  This is a foreshadowing of the choices that Amaziah would make.

War was a way of life for these kings, and Amaziah made plans to engage the Edomites in battle.  He gathered together all the men who were capable for war, and when he realized that he didn’t have much of an army, he hired one hundred thousand men from Israel to join him in battle.

We pick up in verse 7, as Amaziah is preparing to go to battle.

7 But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the LORD is not with Israel—not with any of the people of Ephraim. 8 Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.”

Two things to note here.  One, when the countries had split into Israel and Judah, Israel had instituted all sorts of new religious practices which had displeased God, which is why we see the phrase “The Lord is not with Israel.”  Second, if God wants you to win, then you will win.

All of that stuff is important, but Amaziah has a more pressing question on his mind, verse 9a

9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?”

What about the money I just shelled out.  Continuing in verse 9b

The man of God replied, “The LORD can give you much more than that.”

In other words, if God wants you to have victory, you will have victory.  And a hundred talents might seem like a lot of money to the king of a small nation, but it’s nothing to the Creator of the universe.

Amaziah sent these Israelite troops home, and he went off to battle and won, just as the man of God told him he would.  Amaziah followed God’s instructions and he found success.

At this point, Amaziah made a series of significant decisions that would change the direction of his life, eventually leading to his assassination.

Significant decision number one by Amaziah is found in verse 14 when he returned from battle,

14 When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.

Just prior to departing for battle, he had this encounter with God, wherein a prophet told him he would be victorious as well as blessed.  God has proven himself to be true and now Amaziah has responded by worshipping other gods.

Why would he do such a thing?  Again, we need to remember that when Amaziah became King he’d done nothing to get rid of the worship of other gods.  This provides us with some insight into his thinking.

And then whenever a king had victory in battle, his mindset was either “I had victory because my god is greater than your god,” or “I had victory because your god favored me more than you.”  Humility or Ego.  It appears than even though God had told amaziah he would be victorious, Amaziah has chosen the ego over humility.

The other religions that amaziah had allowed to continue are having a negative influence on him.

Continuing in Verse 15,

15 The anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and he sent a prophet to him, who said, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?”

Previously, when confronted by a man of God about his actions, Amaziah responded favorably.  But now, he has enjoyed a little bit of success.

In Verse 16,

16 While he was still speaking, the king said to him, “Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?”  So the prophet stopped but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

At this point, Amaziah could’ve stopped, realized the choices he’d made, and the direction that his life was headed.  But, the success he’d enjoyed and negative influences around him were setting him on a different path.

Earlier in the story, the man of God had come to Amaziah and told him to send home the Israelite mercenaries he’d hired.  These mercenaries were not happy and they went home in a rage.

Going back to verse 13,

Meanwhile, the troops that amaziah had sent back and had not allowed to take part in the war raided Judean towns from Samaria to Beth Horon.  They killed three thousand people and carried off great quantities of plunder.

Amaziah now makes his second significant decision.

He wants revenge for what these Israeli mercenaries have done.  Instead of just going after the particular mercenaries, Amaziah decides he’s going to exact revenge on Israel as a whole.  All ten tribes will pay for what these mercenaries did.  Amaziah sends a threatening challenge to the king of Israel who tells him it would be foolish to start a war that he’s going to lose.  A bit of trash talking ensued between the two countries.

Amaziah would not listen.  Continuing in verse 21,

21 So Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. 22 Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 23 Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash brought him to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate—a section about four hundred cubits long. 24 He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of God that had been in the care of Obed-Edom, together with the palace treasures and the hostages, and returned to Samaria.

Amaziah lived for fifteen more years, but the people of Judah were conspiring to get rid of him.  Eventually he fled to Lachish, where his own people tracked him down and assassinated him.

EGO AND VENGEANCE

Now that we’ve seen what Amaziah did and why he did what he did, what can we learn from him?

One, Amaziah heard from God and he did what God said.  God said “Don’t take the Israeli mercenaries into battle with you, and you will enjoy success.”  Amaziah did what God said and he won a battle against a larger army.

When a good thing happened to Amaziah, he responded by forgetting about God and giving his devotion to something else: to other religions and his own ego.

The first lesson from Amaziah:  when things go well, we have a tendency to bask in our own ego and forget God.

When things in our life are going well, do we forget about god?  Do we have a tendency to bask in the limelight of our success, thinking that it is due to our own ability and inner greatness, rather than God choosing to bless us? When things go well, do we forget God?

Maybe we’re more familiar with the second reaction of Amaziah.

When God spoke in this instance, Amaziah listened.  Although he didn’t say so, Amaziah had an expectation that God would take care of everything if he followed the instructions.

We even think the same thing.  If I do what the Bible says, then everything will work out perfectly.  Nothing will go wrong.  I will be protected.  Those around me will be protected.  God will answer my prayers.  I’ve done my part, and now God will do his.

So how did Amaziah react when his expectations weren’t met?  You can almost imagine him thinking the following.  “I followed the instructions, and this is the result, 3,000 of my people were killed.  Yeah, I won that battle, but what about that?”

Amaziah expected God to take care of him when he fired the mercenaries. This is how he responded.  He wouldn’t even listen to God.  He shut God out completely.  It’s as if he said, “I’m done with God.”  And shutting out God cost Amaziah his life.

Here’s the second lesson from Amaziah:  When we’ve followed the instructions or the rules and things don’t go as we expected, we have a tendency to get mad and stop listening to God.

How do we react when things don’t go as we expect?  I followed the instructions, I did what God said, and this is what happened? Like Amaziah, do we get mad at God and shut him out completely?I’ve been there.  I bought land there, built a house, put out some trees, and laid down the grass.It’s not a good place to be.

Two kings, Joash and Amaziah.  Two men, who made significant decisions that radically altered the path of their lives for the worse.

Rather than just focus on the negative, on the mistakes these men made, there’s one another element to these stories that we don’t want to ignore.  We want to look for God in these stories.

And we see a God who moves, who inspires, who acts, and who speaks.We see God save Joash’s life through the actions of his aunt.We see God inspire a man to stand up and say the way our country is going isn’t right.We need to do something different.  We see God inspire a man to be a stake in a young man’s life to help influence and guide him so he can stand on his own.  We see God speak- through the prophets, through Zechariah, through a man of God.

Instead of just focusing on the negative actions of these 2 kings, perhaps we need to be reminded that God saves, that God inspires, that God moves, and that God speaks.

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Categories: Ministry, Speaking
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