JEHOASH BEGAN HIS FORTY YEAR REIGN over Judah at the tender age of seven. He was a living testimony of the marvellous protecting hand of the Lord, and it is fitting that his name means 'Jehovah's gift, or favour'. The drama which surrounded the life of Jehoash began when he was but a year old when Athaliah, 'that wicked woman', tried to exterminate the line of Judah. Athaliah, we recall, was the daughter of Ahab and his equally infamous wife Jezebel. It is not difficult to appreciate that her wicked deed was satanically inspired when we remember that in the divine programme, it was purposed that the Lord Himself was to be born of the line of Judah. At the time, Athaliah was the widow of Jehoram, king of Judah, who had died of an incurable disease. Their only remaining son Ahaziah died at the hand of Jehu, and his destruction was of God, scripture pointedly announces, 2 Chron. 22. 7. It was then that Athaliah seized the throne of Judah by killing her grandsons. The poignant verses which describe the events are found in 2 Chronicles 22. 10-11.1 'But when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah'. Then note how the Lord marvellously overruled! The next verse begins with one of the momentous 'buts' of scripture. 'But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king Jehoram, took Joash, the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber [the room used to store mattressesl. So Jehoshabeath ... the wife of Jehoiada the priest, (for she was the sister of Ahaziah) hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not.' The young Jehoash was then hidden in the house of the Lord. Meanwhile, Athaliah reigned over Judah, all the time thinking that the youngest of her grandsons, a mere babe, was dead. Seven years later, on a certain sabbath day, the chief priest Jehoiada, who must have been over a hundred years of age at the time, took courage ('strengthened himself) and gathered certain men - captains at the temple, and many others - and all armed to the hilt. From the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, '.. they brought out the king's son, and put upon him the crown .. and made him king. 'And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, God save the king.' (i.e., 'Let the king live'), 2 Chron. 23. 11. lt is not difficult to predict the reaction of Athaliah when she heard the joyful noise of the ceremony - the tnunpets, the singers and the musical instruments. She rent her clothes and cried ;Treasonl' The captains of hundreds slew her with the sword at the horse gate by the king's house. Her violent end was a just recompense for her wicked actions, and another of Satan's attempts to thwart scripture's first prophecy as uttered by the Lord God in Eden's garden was halted. The woman's seed, and that through the line of Judah, would crush the serpent's head. 2 Chronicles chapter 23 is one of the most dramatic in scripture! The young Jehoash then began to reign well. He was minded to repair the house of the Lord that the sons of Athaliah had broken up. When the Levites were slow in collecting the silver for the repairs, he called for Jehoiada the priest to give account, and referred him to the commandment of Moses. He then ordered a chest to be made, probably the biggest collection box ever, and placed it outside the house of the Lord. Everyone rejoiced. Silver was collected in abundance. The house of the Lord was repaired. The house of Judah was in a healthy spiritual state. Burnt offerings were offered continually. But the drama in the life of king Jehoash had not finished yet. What happened next was almost unbelievable. Three verses in 2 Chronicles 24 give us a warning of the tragic mistakes that the king was about to make. v.2 'And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest'. v. 14 'And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada'. v. 15 'But Jehoiada .. died'. Again we observe one of the momentous 'buts' of scripture. The rapid sequence of the events that followed is like an avalanche. As soon as Jehoiada died, the princes ofJudah approached Jehoash and made obeisance to him. The king fell for their flattery and listened to their proposals. The stark outcome was that '.. they left the house of the Lord God ... and served idols', 2 Chron. 24.18. Despite his anger, the Lord sent prophets (not just one, but several) to persuade them to return, and to testify against them, but their words fell on deaf ears. Then it was by the Spirit of God that Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (or more likely, the grandson, in view of Jehoiada's great age) faithfully declared: 'Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you', v. 20. For this the people stoned Zechariah to death at the commandment of Jehoash the king. Not only so, but it took place in the court of the house of the Lord. We recall that even of the godless Athaliah it was said: 'Slay her not in the house of the Lord'. Such was the rapid degeneration of the king and the people with him, that any word from prophet or priest was fruitless. Let the full import of the king's evil deed be understood. Jehoiada the chief prIest was the uncle of Jehoash. Jehoiada's wife had saved the life of her year old nephew from the murderous intent of Athaliah. Yet Jehoash, now as king of Judah, is instrumental in the slaying of the grandson of that good man and his wife. What sort of gratitude was this? 'Joash .. remembered not, the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son, 2 Chron. 24. 22. We note the last words of the dying prophet, perhaps best rendered: 'The Lord will see and will require', v. 22, words which the Lord Himself referred to and confirmed in Luke's Gospel. '... the blood of Zacharias, which perished, between the altar and the temple: .. It shall be required of this generation, Luke 11. 51. The Lord did act swiftly, having forsaken Judah. It only needed a small band of Syrians to come and slay the princes of judah, and to take away a large portion of the people, and to leave Jehoash sorely wounded. Two of his own servants from the land of idols slew him in his bed 'for the blood of the son (not 'sons' as in A.V.) of Jehoiada the priest', v. 25. When they buried Jehoash the king, it was in Jerusalem, but not in the sepulchres of the kings. It was Jehoiada the priest who was buried among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward his house', 2 Chron. 24. 16. There are many lessons from this narrative to be learned by us as present day saints. The life of Jehoash could well be entitled 'A contrast in black and white'. He started so well (a man who 'did that which was right in the sight of the Lord'), but died not only violently, but in shame. Why was there such a spectacular collapse in the life of this king of Judah? There was an obvious moral weakness in the character of Jehoash which only became apparent when the circumstances of life changed. When the defect was exposed, it revealed gross ingratitude and a cold indifference to the value of spiritual principles and to the preciousness of godly lives. The better part of his life was influenced for good by the godly priest Jehoiada, but Jehoash himself never really had deep spiritual roots in his own life. The lesser man played the bigger part. What a thought for us in light of the Judgment Seat of Christ. What a source of sadness such features have been in the homes of many of the Lord's people. The spiritual roots of some believers sometimes never achieve any great depth, and the bonds of human love are often strained to the full. How ungrateful the hearts of even the best of men can be at times. Faithful seasons of service for the Lord and an uprightness of walk are no guarantee of good stewardship in the future. How unreliable is the arm of the flesh. Is it not sobering to realise that although Israel's God is ours, so also is the fallen nature of king Jehoash reflected in our own? Yet it was that through the lineage of such a king, and others like him, that the Saviour of the world was born. How marvellous is divine grace that helps us in all our weaknesses, shortcomings and sufferings.