Perhaps the most evil couple in the Bible was a husband and wife named Ahab and Jezebel. They worshiped idols rather than the One True God. They hated God’s people as well as God’s prophets. As King and Queen, they sought to turn the nation away from God. The judgment of God came upon their lives in graphic fashion. Nevertheless, their legacy continued in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Wherever their descendants went, they were a contagious and contaminating influence. One example is their daughter, Athaliah. She married Jehroam, the king of Judah. Jehoram’s father was the godly king Jehoshaphat. However, Scripture records his departure from the ways of God due to the influence of his wife, Athaliah.
Her evil influence infected the king and the nation. It was likely due to her influence that Jehoram killed all his own brothers once the throne was secure in his hands. Jehoram and Athaliah reigned only eight years as king and queen. Then Jehoram died a horrible death due to the judgment of God that fell upon him. The Bible records that he departed with no one’s regret. 2 Chronicles 21:20
After his death, Athaliah continued to spread the contagion of evil. Her youngest son, Ahaziah became king in his father’s place, only because all her older sons were killed at the hands of an enemy. The Bible summarized Ahaziah’s life in this way, He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. 2 Chronicles 22:3
Later, Athaliah would lose some of her grandsons as a result of the continued outpouring of God’s judgment against her evil influence. Even her youngest son, Ahaziah, fell victim to God’s wrath. Nevertheless, her heart never skipped a beat in her devotion to evil.
Why was Athaliah so devoted to evil? Why was it that she had such animosity toward the Lord? Certainly, it was in part due to the influence of her wicked mother and father, Ahab and Jezebel. But perhaps it was also reflected in the name they gave her, the name Athaliah. It means, afflicted of the Lord.They raised her with a hatred for God built into her own name. Now, because of her great wickedness, her whole family was afflicted by God’s judgment.
Even then, Athaliah didn’t change. In 2 Chronicles 22:10 we read, Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring of the house of Judah. She killed the remainder of her own grandchildren so that she could be the sole ruler of the land. For six more years, her wicked influence held sway over the land of Judah and over the lives of God’s people.
However, in the providence of God, there was one little grandson spared from Athaliah’s wrath. His name was Joash. He was hidden from Athaliah, and carried to the safety of the house of God. There he grew up under the protection, nurture, and influence of a priest whose name was Jehoiada.
From this point forward, there are three characters who will be our concern. First, there is Athaliah, whose name means afflicted of the Lord. She represents the influence of evil that often infects the life of God’s people. Is there an Athaliah in your life? Is there some evil influence that spreads like a contagion in your life? That influence will seek to remove every connection to God you have in your life, seeking to be sole ruler.
The second character that will concern us is this priest, Jehoiada. It is important for you to be aware of the meaning of his name. His name means “The Lord Knows.” So, let me say up front, if there is an Athaliah in your life, the Lord knows.
Third, there is the little boy Joash. Joash represents the rightful king who must be placed on the throne. His name means: The Lord has bestowed.
Every day that Athaliah ruled the nation, all she had to do was to look at the temple of God and think about the priest who stood there as the leader of God’s people. Every time she did, she would remember that Jehoiada meant—the Lord Knows. The Lord knew every evil plan in her heart. He knew how she and her parents had devastated His people and allowed His house to fall into disrepair. But the Lord also knew that the tables were about to turn, and this woman, Jezebel’s daughter, whose name meant, afflicted of the Lord—would soon be deposed and destroyed by the sword of the Lord.
Jehoida was a man who remained faithful to the Lord during one of the most wicked periods in the nation’s history. The first thing that this faithful priest did to lead these people back to God was to call the people and the king to a covenant of commitment.
Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king, that they would be the LORD’s people. 2 Chronicles 23:16
Remember, these were a people whose lives had been governed by Athaliah, that contagious influence of evil. Their own lives had been infected by that influence. Some of them, like the people of Elijah’s day, became unfaithful to the Lord. Now came time to make a new covenant and a new commitment.
This was a turning point in their history. It was a day of decision. The challenge of Jehoiada, for both king and people, was that they commit themselves to be a people of the LORD alone.
Only then can we truly call ourselves His people. Is it time to renew that covenant in your church? Is it time to renew it in your life? We have a tendency to try to steer our lives in the direction of our own choosing. When that happens, we usually wind up in the ruts of the past because we always choose the path of least resistance. Not so with Jehoiada. In his mind and in his heart, the LORD was the only one qualified to lead His people. He was priest, Joash was king, but the LORD would be their leader.
There was a second step that Jehoiada took that set the people of God on a course to Revival. And all the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down, and they broke in pieces his altars and his images, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. 2 Chronicles 23:17
Can you imagine the contradiction that must have existed in that community? On one side of town was the house of Baal. On the other side of town was the house of the LORD. Without a doubt, there were people who were involved in both. Jezebel took the holy things from the house of the LORD and began using them to facilitate worship in the house of Baal. Athaliah, like her mother, was a worshipper of the false god Baal. There were those among God’s own people who followed her lead.
Jehoiada sought to lead God’s people to a new commitment. Remember, his name means “the Lord knows.”And the Lord did know! He knew who spent more time in the temple of an idol than they spent in the temple of the Lord.
For them to be the Lord’s people that temple of idols had to fall. Its presence needed to be removed from that community, and its hold over their lives needed to be broken.
But what about your life? Is it your sincere desire to belong to the Lord? Is it your sincere desire to be a person after His heart? Do you claim Jesus as Lord of your life, while at the same time holding idols in your hearts, having made your heart a temple of worship for idolatry?
There was a time when God confronted the people of Ezekiel’s day with the two-sided nature of their commitment. Outwardly they gave all the appearance of being committed to the Lord. But God gave Ezekiel insight into the secret lives of God’s people. And this is what God said:“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?…. Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.”’ Ezekiel 14:3; 6
Do you have a split-personality spiritually? The time has come to choose which you will follow and who you will serve? Idols have no business in the sanctuary of the Lord. Your heart is that sanctuary. You see, the Lord knows!
Not only did Jehoiada lead them in casting down their idols:He led them in a return to true worship.
Moreover, Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the Lord under the authority of the Levitcal priests, whom David had assigned over the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses—with rejoicing and singing according to the order of David. 2 Chronicles 23:18
When worship becomes routine, it faces the danger of becoming a ritual. The people who are more apt to succumb to that danger than others, are those who are the most involved. When worship becomes routine and ritual, the heart no longer has a part in what happens. When you separate the heart from worship, that is the beginning of a great compromise.
The first thing you compromise is the quality of your own commitment. Whereas there might have been a time when you couldn’t teach or preach or sing or pray with the presence of sin in your life it comes to the point where it no longer stings your heart to do so.
The second thing you compromise is the character of the worship itself. It is trivialized by your attitude and your actions. Those most likely to be guilty, are those who are most involved. That is exactly what had happened in the time of Jehoiada.
Jehoiada recognized that in his own life and in the lives of others. So he made it a point to bring the service of God’s house back to the order God intended. Jehoiada brought heart back to worship so that it would be more than empty ritual. Jesus said, But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. John 4:23
Do you worship in spirit and in truth? Did you know that the Lord seeks that kind of worship from His people? Does your singing and your service and your praying spring from the passion of a heart that stands on tiptoe reaching for God, or is it ritual?
The reforms led by Jehoiada sought to address more than just form and function. Because of his leadership there was a renewed emphasis on holiness.
He stationed the gatekeepers of the house of the Lord, so that no one would enter who was in any way unclean. 2 Chronicles 23:19
Are you in any way unclean? The absence of holiness excluded the people of the Old Testament from worship. In the Old Testament, the idea of clean and unclean was more ceremonial and outward in nature. In the New Testament, it is not related to what you touch or what you eat but who you are. It is related to outward acts but also to the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Because we no longer understand holiness of the heart, we no longer value holiness of the life. My heart is to be the sanctuary of God. I am not to allow anything into my heart that is in any way unclean. Are you guarding the gates of your heart and mind?
God’s people drifted far away, but there was still a way back to God. Where are you in your relationship with the Lord? I remind you of the man who led this effort—the man Jehoiada. His name means the Lord Knows. Does the Lord know where you are? Is there a way back for you? In the book of Jeremiah, this is what God said to His people:Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
What if we followed the path by which Jehoiada led people back to God? What if you and I made a new covenant of commitment with the Lord? What if we removed the idols that stand in the sanctuary of the our hearts? What if we returned to a worship that sprang from the heart rather than from routine and ritual? And what if we once again began to walk the path of holiness?
One other thing they did that was key to what needed to happen. They placed the Rightful King on His Royal Throne.
Over a six-year period, Jehoiada quietly, but very deliberately, raised the little boy rescued from that family. Rescued as a little one-year old boy, he was now seven. He was not old enough to lead a nation, but he was young enough to listen and learn from Godly counsel. The day came when they took this little seven-year-old boy, put the crown on his head, and set him on the throne of the kingdom. The same day he was crowned, Athaliah tore out in a fitful rage to take the life of this little grandson who was her only rival to the throne.
There will always be an Athaliah who seeks to hold sway over the people of God. An Athaliah is anything or anyone that influences away from God—who seeks to introduce us to idols that rise up to take the place of God in our hearts and lives. Some of you have an Athaliah in your life—something that for years has determined where you stand with God. The time has come to deal with that Athaliah once and for all—to put that influence in its place so that your life is ruled by God and God alone.
For this brief period of their history, these people had a king on the throne—but God was once again their sovereign. As a result, all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword. 2 Chronicles 16:21
Is the King on the throne of your life? Isn’t time you placed Him there, allowing Him to have control of your life? These are the essential steps God’s people must take if we are to make our way back to God. We must make them individually and we must make the corporately. Whatever the situation is in your life, whatever it is that reigns on the throne of your heart, I remind you… the Lord knows.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao