Joash has been in hiding in the House of the Lord since he was an infant. At the age of seven it’s time to take the throne from his murderous grandmother, Athaliah.
Can you imagine hiding your whole life? Joash knew nothing different. He was never in the sight of the queen. We don’t know if he ever got to go outside at all. I hope he did. Was he raised in fear or in purpose? Was he always told that he would one day take the throne? Was he prepared for this task all his life? He certainly learned of the Law and of the Lord who provided that Law. He apparently had a great love for the Lord. Let’s join in our story and see if any of our questions are answered.
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The morning of the beginning of Joash’s seventh year begins like so many before it. He stretches his arms high into the air before rises from his pallet. It is not that his body is stiff with age but he has seen Jehoiada do it each day and he imitates him. Jehoiada is the only person he had seen in his life since his nurse departed when he reached the age of five. Jehoiada is his world! And he loves him with his whole heart.
Jehoiada has taught Joash to love Someone else even more; the Lord his God. Joash studies his words every day. He knows the commandments of the Lord by heart. Not just the words but the meaning behind the words too. He knows the stories of deliverance and victory as well as the stories of discipline and defeat. His heart if FULLY convinced that the only hope in life is to follow the words of the Lord with all his heart.
Joash makes his way to the table where his breakfast waits. He knows that today will be a very important day. Jehoiada has been preparing him for it for the last three months. In truth he has been preparing Joash for this day all his life, but who is counting. Joash has only known this day was special for a short time.
“Is today the day father” asks Joash as he takes his seat at the table.
“It is indeed my son. By sunset you will be crowned king of Judah.”
“I will be a good king.”
“If your heart remains true to the Lord.”
“It will father.”
“I pray it is so my son.”
Once breakfast is over and cleared away Joash goes to his hiding place. It is a small room where he spends much of his time. In this room he has learned many things over the years. He learned to read and write. He learned to work with numbers. He learned the cities and towns of the land of Judah. He learned about the issues that faced the nation he would one day rule. And most importantly he learned the Law of the Lord. All these things he will need when he becomes king. When he is finally allowed to leave this room behind; the room, but NOT the lessons.
Joash came to this room every morning and stayed until called out in the evening. It was critical he not be discovered until the time was right. Jehoiada had tasks he had to attend to as a priest of the Lord. Joash worked on his lessons while Jehoiada tended to the needs of the people. Today would be the last day he would be hidden.
“What if the people don’t like me?” “What will it be like outside?” “What if I’m not a good king?” “What will the queen do when she sees me?” These questions and more fill Joash’s mind this morning as he waits. He is glad that today’s wait will not be as long as usual. His mind is too full for him to concentrate on his studies.
Jehoiada has been working hard to make sure this day goes as planned. He commits it once again into the hands of the Lord. He knows the Lord is the One with ultimate control over Joash’s future and how this day goes. He knew this from the day Jehosheba laid him in his arms. The Lord spoke as much to his spirit. The Lord also began preparing him for the tasks of this day several months ago. Jehoiada knew Joash would one day be king of Judah but he didn’t know when that would be. The thought of a seven year old king never crossed his mind until the Lord laid it there.
Jehoiada calls one of the servants of the Temple to him. As he watches his arrival he takes a deep breath. “Here we go” he thinks.
“Carry this message to the garrison. ‘Jehoiada the priest requires the presence of the captains of the Carites and of the guards. Attend him at the northeast corner at midday.”
The servant rushes off to deliver discharge his duties. He carries the full confidence of Jehoiada.
The men Jehoiada summoned are descendants of the men who accompanied King David when he returned to take the throne. Those who came with him were Philistine by birth but their hearts were intertwined with David’s. They became the royal guards. They were sworn to protect the king with their lives. They were the ones who carried Ahaziah back after he was struck down by Jehu. When Athaliah struck down the royal family they refused to follow her. She was NOT of the house of David and they held no allegiance to her. They waited on the hand of the Lord for their next station for they knew the prophecy of the line of David reigning forever. They held fast to that promise and served in Judah’s army until that day.
Phicol was the captain of captains for the Carites. He is the man Jehoiada’s servant sought out. He was drilling with his men when a guard approached.
“Master, the servant of Jehoiada the priest requests an audience with you. He carries a message for your ears only.”
“Very well. I will be along in a moment. Have him wait in my chambers.”
The guard salutes and hurries off to escort the Levite to his master’s chambers. Phicol calls his second to take command of the troops and then makes his way to his chambers.
The Levite stands at attention beside Phicol’s desk as he enters.
“I was told you had a message for me.”
“I have my lord but it is also for the captain of the guards. Would you that I reveal it to you first or do so in the presence of both?”
Phicol ponders only for a moment then steps to the threshold and summons the guard.
“Have Anath report to me at once.”
The guard salutes and rushes to find Anath. While they wait the Levite quietly surveys the commander’s quarters. This is the first time he has ever been inside the garrison. His tasks usually keep him close to the Temple. He is surprised to see similarities in the quarters of a great military commander and that of a lowly servant. Both contain a place for sleeping, a table and chair, and trunks for storage. This is where the similarities end. Phicol’s chambers have weapons displayed on the wall and standing in the corners. The table is much larger and covered in scrolls that probably deal with matters far above a servant’s station. Before he can contemplate what differences might lie within the trunks the door opens and Anath strides through.
“Anath, join us please. This young Levite says he has a message for us from Jehoiada.” Phicol turns to the servant and addresses him. “Speak your message.”
The servant inclines his head in respect then begins. “My master Jehoiada the priest requires the presence of the captains of the Carites and of the guards. Attend him at the northeast corner at midday.”
Phicol waits to see if there is any more to the message but the Levite falls silent.
“Is that all?”
“Yes my lord” replies the servant.
“Then you are dismissed.”
The servant exits without even a glance back. He is most grateful his task is complete. He is more than happy to return to the Temple where he belongs.
“What do you think this is about” asks Anath.
“I have no idea. We will learn together in but a few hours’ time” replies Phicol.
Jehoiada is waiting when the two commanders arrive at the appointed hour.
“Commanders” greets Jehoiada with a nod.
“How may we serve” asks Phicol.
“I have a matter of great importance to discuss with you both. It is a matter from the Lord and also from the house of David. I would know if you are still loyal to the house of David.”
Phicol bristled at this question. How dare anyone challenge his allegiance. Jehoiada quickly responded to the fire he saw ignite in the captain’s eyes.
“No disrespect intended commander. I must be certain before I continue. Lives depend on your answer.”
“My allegiance since birth to this day has not changed. I have sworn to protect the house of David with my life.”
“And you commander” Jehoiada asks of Anath.
“I too serve the house of David. I await the Lord’s hand in restoring it as He promised.”
“Good. This is all I needed to hear. Follow me please.”
Both men followed Jehoiada into the quarters of the priests. Jehoiada led them to the room where Joash waited.
“I have a story to tell you.” Jehoiada paused to gather his thoughts to best present them to the two captains of captains. “Six years ago Athailah laid waste to the royal family. Unknown to her at the time was a selfless act perpetrated by her daughter Jehosheba. The infant son of Ahaziah was hidden away with his nurse during those dark hours. When the ashes of the dead were being blown across the city of Jerusalem as the wind caught the bonfire the infant and his nurse stole away into the House of the Lord. He has remained here these six years in hiding. He has been educated in the Law of the Lord and the matters of the land of Judah. He is still a child in the eyes of man but the Lord has instructed me that it is time to bring him forth so he may take the throne of his father David.”
All the while that Jehoiada was speaking Phicol and Anath were silent in amazement. When the story ended Anath could hold his tongue no longer.
“Praise be to the Lord God who sees His people!”
At this spontaneous praise Jehoiada knew it was time to introduce Joash to the men who would protect him with their lives. He opens the door to Joash’s hiding place and motions him to come out. He takes the boy’s hand and brings him to stand in between himself and the two captains.
“My I introduce you to Joash, rightful king of Judah.”
Joash held his head high as the two battle hardened soldiers knelt before him. They could not see the nervousness that hid within him. He knew what the revelation of his life meant. Nothing would ever be the same again. But he had the Lord to walk beside him and Jehoiada to guide him.
“This is the thing that you shall do:…” said Jehoiada after giving the two captains time to pay their new king honor. “…one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king’s house shall guard the palace. And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king, shall surround the king, each with his weapons in hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in” (verses 5, 6b-8).
“We will be ready” replied Phicol.
“As shall we” agreed Anath.
Jehoiada squeezed Joash’s shoulder in support as the captains left. The Sabbath started at sundown tomorrow. By this time in two days Joash would be on the throne. Until then he had to return to hiding.
The Sabbath arrived with all its usual grace. Jehoiada had prepared the Levites for something special to take place but he had not told them exactly what. They were all to stand ready at the hour of the evening sacrifice. None were to be absent.
The guard changed one hour before sundown to ensure the new shift was in place in time for the evening sacrifice. Instead of leaving their posts at the king’s and returning to their garrison they went instead to guard the palace. Those who were assigned to guard the House of the Lord reported directly to Jehoiada. Phicol stood as their leader. Jehoiada gave him the spears and shields that had been King David’s. They had been kept safe in the House of the Lord and used only in service to the king and on days of commemoration to the Lord.
Phicol accepted the armament with all honor due them. He distributed them among those who would stand closest to Joash.
Jehoiada had to move about his tasks with great speed this day. ALL had to be in place the moment the evening sacrifice began. As this was an ordinary Sabbath, as far as the people knew, he was not required to perform this day’s sacrifice. This freed him up to stand beside Joash as he stood beside the pillar of the king.
Joash has been in hiding all day. To stop his mind from racing he began reciting the psalms of David. Even at the age of seven he had learned the comfort they held. He hoped to someday be able to sing David’s psalms to the Lord in front of His altar. Staying hidden, even from the Levites who ministered in the Temple prevented him from worshiping the Lord in fullness. This was the last day that requirement would stand in the way between him and his Lord.
“It’s time” called Jehoiada as he opened the door to Joash’s hidden room.
The two of them make their way through the Temple. Jehoiada had snuck Joash out in the night time on a few occasions so he would be familiar with the route to take and where to stand for this momentous day.
From near a dividing curtain Phicol and his men wait the arrival of Joash and Jehoiada. Their soft footsteps give them away only to the most experienced ears of Phicol. He turns to meet them as they move from the shadows.
“All is ready my king” Phicol says to Joash.
The words nearly freeze Joash’s small feet. “My king. Will I ever get used to hearing those words address me” he thinks.
“I’m ready” he replies with confidence beyond his years, and probably beyond what he was feeling.
The first group of guards press forward through the curtain and spread out in a defensive position. They take positions from the south side of the house all the way to the north side, encompassing also the altar where the priest will present the evening sacrifice in just a few minutes.
Once the first group is in place the second group takes their place upon the steps leading up to the portico. Each soldier in both ranks holds his sword at the ready in his hands. None will dare approach such a formidable rank.
Jehoiada and Joash step onto the portico. They take up position beside the pillar of the king. There before hundreds of people, who have gathered for the evening sacrifice, stands two rows of elite guards, the high priest and a young boy dressed in royal robes.
Jehoiada produces the crown of the king from the folds of a cloth laid upon a nearby table. The ordinary table had gone unnoticed until that moment. It was out of place but such a small thing that no one had bothered to look long at it. Jehoiada steps behind Joash and gently places the crown upon his head. His small head required some alterations to the crown to make it fit but it sits beautifully upon Joash’s head.
Jehoiada then retrieves a scroll. It contains the Law of the Lord. Each king was to have a copy of the Law to meditate on so he would lead the people in the way of the Lord. He lovingly delivers it to Joash’s outstretched arms. It’s length is nearly half of the height of Joash but he holds it fast with a look of determination that would rival the hardiest soldier.
Jehoiada’s final act is to anoint Joash with oil. He removes the flask of oil from the folds of his robe and pours it over Joash’s head.
At that moment Anath blows the trumpet and the people break out in chorus, “Long live the king!” (verse 12b).
Athaliah hears the commotion coming from the House of the Lord. She stopped attending the sacrifices and feasts shortly after installing herself as queen. She only darkens its doorsteps when absolutely necessary for her office. But the sounds she hears rising in the evening call for her urgent attention and attendance in the House of the Lord.
She quickly summons her personal guards and makes her way through the palace. As she exits the palace her guards are stopped by those placed by and loyal to Anath. Athaliah’s guards are no match for this elite group. Athaliah’s guards were held fast but she was allowed to proceed. She was ‘allowed’ to learn of her fate.
Athaliah rushed through the courtyard gate and into the House of the Lord. She pushed her way through the crowd until she too could see Joash wearing the crown standing beside the pillar, according to the customs. Beside him were Anath, Phicol, Jehoiada, and trumpeters heralding the king. There was no mistaking this sight. A new king had been crowned right under her nose.
Upon closer scrutiny Athaliah saw the features of her own son reflected in the face of the new king. Somehow she had missed this child. He held right to the seat she occupied. Athaliah tore her clothes in anguish and cried out.
“Treason! Treason!” (verse 14b).
Phicol, Anath and Jehoiada all noticed her at the same time. Jehoiada acted quickly. He had been expecting something such as this. He spoke to the two captains who stood with him.
“Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her. Let her not be put to death in the House of the Lord” (verse 15a, 15c.).
Anath signaled to three of his men. They closed in on Athaliah and took hold of her. They bodily carried her back through the crowd and out the horses’ entrance to the king’s house. Many in the crowd turned their attention to her as she was being pressed through their midst but only a handful followed.
Athaliah’s guards who had been detained earlier were assembled with those who followed her from the House of the Lord. All were gathered in one place. Athaliah was the first to be put to death. Those who followed her out followed her in death and her guards followed them. There would probably be more cleansing of those loyal to Athaliah in the days to come but for now her supporters were no more.
Back inside the House of the Lord Jehoiada continued on with the requirements of the day. The people had accepted Joash as king without reservation. Now there needed to be a renewal of the covenant with the Lord.
Joash had been raised his entire life in the House of the Lord. He had already vowed to serve Him only. The people needed to know of his commitment and needed to commit themselves to walk after their king AND their God.
“I present to you this day a son of David, whom the Lord spared, to sit upon the throne. The Lord has raised him up for this day. Will you covenant with your king Joash to walk in the ways of the Lord all your days?”
“We will” answered the people as one.
Jehoiada turned to Joash. “And will you Joash, son of David, king of Judah, commit to lead the people in the ways of the Lord all the days of your life?”
“I will” answered Joash without a moment’s hesitation or an ounce or reservation.
“As the servant of the Lord what is your command?”
Jehoiada had discussed Joash’s first act as king in detail. The temple of Baal had to be torn down to establish that Judah had only one God, the God of their fathers; the One who chose them as His own.
“Baal must be purged from the land. Tear down its altars and break the images in pieces. The priests must be put to death for they are an abomination to the Lord.”
The crowd roared with determination to see the king’s first command brought to life. They moved in mass. Within moments they had reached the house of Baal that had been erected during the time of Ahaziah. They stormed its gates, broke down its walls, smashed its images and took hold of its priests. There before the altar of this apostate god, his priest Mattan was killed.
The roar of the crowd could be heard all the way to the very portico where Joash waited. Jehoiada was waiting for a specific sound to carry to him and his king; that of victory.
Shouts of joy reached the ears of Jehoiada and he knew it was time for the last portion of Joash’s ascension to the throne. Joash would be presented to the people and actually take his seat on the throne.
Jehoiada motioned for eight of his men to stand watch over the house of the Lord. Phicol and his men surrounded Joash as they moved in unison down the steps of the House of the Lord. They made their way across the courtyard and to the gate of the guards. Proceeding through this gate they made their way to the king’s house and into the throne room. Joash then took his seat on the throne of the kings.
The people bore witness and rejoiced as their king made his way to his rightful place. No longer would they bear the commands of a murderous queen. No more would the worship of Baal come between them and their Lord. They were once again committed to follow the Law of their God and to follow a king who had committed to lead them in this path.
By nightfall all Jerusalem was at peace. Athaliah was dead, along with those who followed her. The temple of Baal lay in ruins. And the people of Judah went to their homes in peace.
(to be continued)
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Joash would not be able to rule on his own at such a young age. He would have advisors to assist him, especially in his early years. We read that he didn’t abolish the “high places” where the people made sacrifices and offerings. These were presumably sacrifices and offerings to the Lord and not some other god. I wonder if he left this because he didn’t know how far he could push the people in reform or because he thought it a little thing.
God apparently gave them a measure of grace in this area even though He called for His name to be worshiped in one place. Was it because we would one day be free to worship Him anywhere, as long as we worship Him in spirit and in truth?
Joash, who will be called Jehoash in subsequent verses, wore the very fingerprints of God. One little baby saved from among all those of the royal family. Raised entirely in the House of the Lord. Stands before the nation as a child and leads them back to the Lord. That puts new understanding to the words “a child shall lead them all.” Joash had the faith of a child and his childlike faith would revitalize the nation.
Father God, thank You for Your fingerprints. Thank You that I can see You hand at work throughout the years. Your Spirit reveals it when I am willing to listen. Keep leading me Father. I want to know Your heart. I want to know Your plans for my life. Even the plans that will take a lifetime to fulfill. So long as we walk together, the journey will be fruitful and filled with purpose.