Sunday, March 12, 2017

Athaliah and Jehosheba

Today's Women of the Bible study is about Athaliah and Jehosheba, a mother and step-daughter pair.  These women lived in a time of Israel's history that was violent and dreadful, a time when the leadership of the nation did not want Israel following God Jehovah, and instead wanted them following god Baal.  The kingdom was a divided kingdom at this time, and in order to get a true understanding of what happened, we need to dig into a little Bible history.

Jezebel was an evil queen in 2 Kings who brought intense Baal worship to the nation of Israel.  She was married to Ahab, who allowed the Baal worship to happen (among other things).  These two people were extremely evil, and the nation of Israel suffered because of them.  As things happen, Ahab and Jezebel pass away (check out Jezebel's death in 2 Kings 9:30-37).

Jehu was anointed King of Israel by Elisha the prophet in 2 Kings 9.  Jehu was commanded by God to strike down the house of Ahab.  There were 70 sons of Ahab, and they were all killed under Jehu's watch.  This story is found in 2 Kings 10.

Ahaziah became King of Judah.  We are going to get the rest of our story from 2 Chronicles 22 and 23.  Start by reading 2 Chronicles 22:1-9.
22 Then the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his place, for the band of men who came with the Arabs to the camp had slain all the older sons. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. He did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab, for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction.He also walked according to their counsel, and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to wage war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth-gilead. But the Arameans wounded Joram. So he returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which they had inflicted on him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Aram. And Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram king of Judah, went down to see Jehoram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick.Now the destruction of Ahaziah was from God, in that he went to Joram. For when he came, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the Lord had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab.It came about when Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he found the princes of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers ministering to Ahaziah, and slew them. He also sought Ahaziah, and they caught him while he was hiding in Samaria; they brought him to Jehu, put him to death and buried him. For they said, “He is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart.” So there was no one of the house of Ahaziah to retain the power of the kingdom.
Ahaziah was not a son of Ahab, but he was a son-in-law.  So, he was not under the original command of Jehu's to be killed.  However, Ahaziah "walked in the ways of the house of Ahab".  Also in that verse we learn that Ahaziah's mother Athaliah "was his counselor to do wickedly".  Let's stop here for a moment.  I have a 5 year old son and a 2 year old daughter.  I do not have to counsel my children for them to do wickedly.  They act bad enough on their own.  We all do!  We all have a sin nature.  It is a natural thing for us to do wrong.  As a mother, I have to teach my children what is right, and work hard with them on a daily basis to make sure that they do the right thing.  I don't have to worry about my children doing wrong - they will do that.  What I have to worry about is making sure that they learn the right thing, and understand that doing the right thing is the way to act.  Eventually my children will be old enough to understand that they are sinners, and that Jesus Christ died to save them from their sins.  Eventually they will understand that the reason I work so hard for them to know and do the right thing is because we are commanded by God to do the right thing.  And once we give our hearts to Jesus, we want to do the right thing.  Eventually my children will be old enough to put the pieces together and make sense of what I as their momma tried to teach them, and hopefully they will do the right thing and act the right way to please the Lord, not please their momma.  Eventually.  But until my children are old enough to know and understand what Jesus Christ did for them, it is my job to teach them.  And it is a job that I do not take lightly.  I want nothing more than for my children to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and to honor Him and serve Him with their lives.  I want to make sure that I lead them in that direction daily, and one of the most basic ways that I can do that is to teach them right from wrong, and to show them what it means to act good instead of wickedly.

Ahaziah's mother Athaliah lived her life completely opposite of that.  Instead of teaching her son right from wrong, she encouraged him to be wicked.  I cannot begin to imagine how wicked they truly were.  I know how bad my children can be without encouragement.  I cannot begin to picture how bad they would be if I encouraged them to act that way.  Athaliah was a bad, bad person, and she helped her son to also be a bad, bad person.  "He did evil in the sight of the Lord", and his death and destruction "was from God".  Remember how I said that Jehu was not commanded to kill Ahaziah because he was not of the house of Ahab?  Ahaziah was associated with the house of Ahab. Jehu was given the opportunity to kill Ahaziah, and he took advantage of that opportunity.  You can read about Ahaziah's death in 2 Kings 9:27-28.

We know that Athaliah is evil, but just in case you were wondering just how evil, you can read about it in the next verse in 2 Chronicles.
10 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.
If my son had been killed, I would have been beside myself in grief.  Not Athaliah.  She saw an opportunity to become Queen of the land of Judah.  In order to take advantage of that opportunity, she had to kill all of the royal offspring.  These were her sons and grandsons that she killed.  She was an evil, selfish woman, who thought she could get in the way of God's redemptive plan for His people.  She was killing off the line of Judah.  Fast forward many years and see that Jesus Christ's lineage came from this line (check out the lineage in the first chapter of Matthew).  If Athaliah had been successful in her plan, she would have wiped out the lineage of Jesus Christ.  Of course, God was not going to let that happen.  He used the step-daughter of Athaliah to save His people.  Read 2 Chronicles 22:11-12.
11 But Jehoshabeath the king’s daughter took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah so that she would not put him to death. 12 He was hidden with them in the house of God six years while Athaliah reigned over the land.
 Jehoshabeath (known as Jehosheba in 2 Kings 11) was the sister of Ahaziah.  She took Ahaziah's son named Joash (sometimes known as Jehoash) and hid him in the temple of God.  The temple of God was the last place that Athaliah would have ever stepped foot.  She was an avid worshiper of Baal.  She would have never gone into the holy temple of God, thus making it the most perfect hiding spot for the baby Joash to be hidden.  Jehosheba was the wife of Jehoiada, who was the priest at that time.  In all of the Baal worship that was happening in the land, this couple still worshiped God Jehovah.  Jehosheba had faith in the True God of Israel.  She risked her life to save the life of this baby.  She went out and did something that took so much bravery, but was with the intent to save the kingdom and show her faith in God.  We don't hear anything else about Jehosheba throughout this story, but we do hear a lot about Jehoiada.  I can imagine that as this story turns from wickedness to goodness that Jehosheba was alive to witness it all.  I can imagine that she was so happy and proud of her husband Jehoiada and her King Joash.  I can imagine that as she helped hide this baby and raise him in the temple that she continued to tell him that God was going to use him for good.  Think about the contrast between Athaliah, who counseled her son to do wickedly, and Jehosheba, who had faith and trust in God, and helped raise Joash to have that same faith.  Relate this back to what I said about being a mother.  It is my job to make sure that my children know who God is.  I cannot save my children, they have to make the decision to accept Christ on their own.  But I can lead them in that direction.  I must lead them in that direction.  And that is what Jehosheba did.

The rest of this story unfolds in 2 Chronicles 23.
23 Now in the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and took captains of hundreds: Azariah the son of Jeroham, Ishmael the son of Johanan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri, and they entered into a covenant with him.They went throughout Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. Then all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And Jehoiada said to them, “Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord has spoken concerning the sons of David. This is the thing which you shall do: one third of you, of the priests and Levites who come in on the sabbath, shall be gatekeepers,and one third shall be at the king’s house, and a third at the Gate of the Foundation; and all the people shall be in the courts of the house of the Lord. But let no one enter the house of the Lord except the priests and the ministering Levites; they may enter, for they are holy. And let all the people keep the charge of the Lord. The Levites will surround the king, each man with his weapons in his hand; and whoever enters the house, let him be killed. Thus be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out.”So the Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded. And each one of them took his men who were to come in on the sabbath, with those who were to go out on the sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss any of the divisions. Then Jehoiada the priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and the large and small shields which had been King David’s, which were in the house of God. 10 He stationed all the people, each man with his weapon in his hand, from the right side of the house to the left side of the house, by the altar and by the house, around the king. 11 Then they brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him, and gave him the testimony and made him king. And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him and said, “Long live the king!”12 When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came into the house of the Lord to the people. 13 She looked, and behold, the king was standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters were beside the king. And all the people of the land rejoiced and blew trumpets, the singers with their musical instruments leading the praise. Then Athaliah tore her clothes and said, “Treason! Treason!” 14 Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains of hundreds who were appointed over the army and said to them, “Bring her out between the ranks; and whoever follows her, put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the Lord.” 15 So they seized her, and when she arrived at the entrance of the Horse Gate of the king’s house, they put her to death there.
 16 Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king, that they would be the Lord’s people. 17 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. 18 Moreover, Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the Lord under the authority of the Levitical 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. 19 He stationed the gatekeepers of the house of the Lord, so that no one would enter who was in any way unclean. 20 He took the captains of hundreds, the nobles, the rulers of the people and all the people of the land, and brought the king down from the house of the Lord, and came through the upper gate to the king’s house. And they placed the king upon the royal throne. 21 So all of the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
 This story pretty much unfolds by itself, so I am not going to put much explanation to it.  I do want to point out a few things, though.   The last verse says that the people rejoiced and the city was quiet because Athaliah was dead.  For the six years that she reigned the people were in torment.  Once again, I cannot imagine what life was like back then.  I can't imagine the evilness in the land.  It must have been bad, though, because once Athaliah was dead, the land was quiet.  The people could finally rest.

The other thing that I want to point out is the events of verses 16-18.  As a nation, the people were coming back to the Lord.  In verse 16 Jehoiada made a covenant with the people.  They verbally committed to following the Lord.  But just making a verbal commitment isn't everything.  In verse 17 the people acted on their commitment.  We are known by our fruits.  We cannot just say that we love the Lord and serve the Lord without showing it through our actions.  And finally in verse 18 the people sang and rejoiced.  We need to make sure that we praise the Lord!  We must rejoice!  We owe God so much praise and adoration, and we never need to neglect it.

Thanks be to God that He used Jehosheba to save His people.  As we finish this study, there is so much that we can apply to our lives.  The obvious things - don't be like Athaliah!  But also, the subtle things - be open to doing God's work.  Have faith that God is going to fulfill His plans, and be willing to do whatever it takes to serve Him.  Be like Jehosheba, and serve the Lord no matter what!

1 comment:

  1. How rich the scriptures are in lessons. Thanks for sharing a story that is not widely known, but has much to offer.


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