Some Lessons from the Chronicles (Part 6)
Harry Lacey, Cardiff
JOASH AND AMAZIAH
The apprehension of much of the Old Testament, and the interpretation of much of its instruction to meet the needs of our time, depend upon mi understanding of the ministries of prophet, priest and king. This is particularly true of the chapters devoted to the reigns of Joash and Amaziah. In the review of the life of Joash, the influence of priest upon king is contrasted with the influence of princes upon king; in the case of Amaziah we have his acceptance of the influence of the prophet, contrasted with his later rejection of it. If the chapters are read in the light of the following analysis, their message will become apparent:
2 Chron. 24. 1-16. The king and the priest - success.
17-27. The king and the princes - the priestrejected - failure.
2 Chron. 25. 1-13. The king heeds the prophet's message - success.
14-28. The king rejects the prophet's message - failure.
The Scriptures, by example and implication, clearly teach that a work of God requires the ministries of prophet, priest and king. Harmonious blending of these three faculties was essential for spiritual success in God's ancient kingdom in Israel. So consistent are the principles of God's spiritual economy, that what was true for Israel is also true for the churches of Christ to-day, and, indeed, for the work of God in the Christian household or personal experience.
(1) The prophet comes from God with His message for the occasion.
Doctrine—the Voice of God.
(2) The priest knows how to draw near to God himself and to teach others to do so for themselves.
Devotion—the Worship of God.
(3) The king maintains order for God according to the instruction of these two ministries.
Rule—the Order of God.
Blending of these ministries
A little reflection will suffice to convince us that where these ministries blend effectively, each supplementing the others, a state of spiritual well-being will obtain and abide; but if a believer neglects the teaching of the Scriptures (the prophet), and is careless about approach to God (the priest), it is not likely that lie will be able to regulate his life wisely (the king) lor God.
It was under the combined ministries of Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, of Joshua the priest, and of Zerubbabel the ruler, that the temple was raised up out of the ruins of the Desolations, and the worship of Jehovah was restored after the Babylonian captivity. Being replete with these ministries, the work of God was brought to a successful issue, and only when one or other of them failed did that work again become decadent.
Under the Jewish economy no one man could fill the public offices of prophet, priest and king simultaneously— Uzziah was smitten for his attempt to usurp the priests' privileges. Nevertheless there were a few men in whose characters were combined the features of the threefold ministry. Moses was a prophet who came out from God to man, yet when the people and the official priest failed, it was he who became their priest and by his intercession saved them from oblivion—moreover, by enjoining upon the people the order of God which was revealed to him in the Mount, he ruled for God and God, therefore, ruled through him. David was another example—-though officially king only, he was a prophet in his tune, and a priest in his character. See Acts 2. 29, 30 and 2 Sam. 6. 14.
Our Lord Jesus Christ embraces every office and fulfils every function, just as He embodies every grace; He is prophet, priest and king, both morally and officially. He ever heeded the voice of God, pursued the devotional life toward God, and regulated His ways for God. The elements of teaching, intercession and rule blended harmoniously in the ministry of the days of His flesh, when He was distinctively The Prophet, as they do now hi His exaltation while He is distinctively The High Priest, and as they ever will do from His coming when He will be distinctively The King.
It follows that for the believer to be Christ-like these faculties need to be present in a moral way. The soul ever needs to hear and to heed the voice of God ; in every stage of its growth the exercise of prayer and worship is essential ; it is in dire peril if it be bereft of the control of God at any time. In the same way, if the household is to be really a Christian household, the Word of God needs to be read to its assembled members, prayer needs to be offered by its head in the presence of those members, and the order for the house, thus learned, requires to be maintained in the grace and fear of God.
Whilst the three blend perfectly in Christ and arc present morally in the greater men of God, it must be recognized that all God's people and all God's rulers did not possess them all. This suggests the
principle of inter-dependence.
The ministry of those who were distinctively priests was to supplement the ministry of those who were distinctively kings, and both were to be supplemented by the ministry of those who were distinctively prophets. This principle is evident in God's order of plurality of elders in local churches, for no one man to-day can embrace these features in such a way as to mate him independent.
Then again, in addition to the functioning of local leadership, God has ordered for the visits of those whose gift is not localized. According to Eph. 4. 11-13, the visits to a local assembly of the evangelist on the one hand, and of the pastor and teacher on the other, is to effect adjustment. Whilst the exalted Lord furnishes His local churches with variety of gift, He will not expect them to exclude the adjusting effects of the wider ministry. Whilst Joash received the ministry of the priest Jehoiada, he walked in the ways of the Lord and prospered, and as long as Amaziah hearkened to the voice of the prophet he, too, was blessed; but when they rejected these ministries the reverse became true.
The same principle holds good in the Christian churches now. The Spirit divides to every man severally as He wills, and "the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of thee'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Cor. 12. 11-21). Inter-dependence of gift and ministry is clearly of God; monopoly of it, exclusion of it, and independence, are equally clearly not.
The lives of Joash and Amaziah appear for the most part to be favourably reviewed, for of each it is said he did right in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless
both died in dishonour.
The reason for the ignominious end of the good ruler Joash was that he jettisoned the influence of the priest Jehoiada after he died, and accepted the influence of the princes instead of that of the priest Zechariah who followed. The equally-sad end of Amaziah was due to his rejection of the voice of the prophet the Lord, sent to him, even though, like Joash, he had formerly heeded such ministry. The way in which these facts are set over against one another in the narrative establishes the lesson that
rule alone fails
to meet the need, either of the people of God or of those who endeavour to lead them. Government needs to be supplemented by priestly influence and by the voice of God from time to time through His prophet. The leading or oversight of the churches of the saints is not simply a question of management, and an elderhood is not simply a kind of committee of management. However businesslike and sagacious oversight might appear to be, it will be a dismal failure unless the realized sacredness of the courts of God, leads to real dealing with God in the light of His altars and His holiness. Furthermore, unless those who seek to lead God's people are prepared to considerthe voice of God as it is brought to them by whatever means, they, like Amaziah, will eventually fail. Let overseers ask themselves if, in their deliberations, the Word of God is the criterion, and if dealing with God first is their way of handling the matters of God's people.
It was as easy for Joash to discuss matters with princes, as it was for Amaziah to 'take advice.' There seemed a little natural glamour and show of worldly wisdom in these things, whereas it required grace for the one to accept the ministry of the priest Zechariah, and for the other to heed the words of the prophet. There is a touch of officialism in Amaziah's answer to the prophet—"Have we made thee of the king's counsel?" The question of ' official appointment' weighed more with him than the soundness of the prophet's message. The kingdom of God
stands upon moral worth alone,
and neither officialism nor privilege has place therein. The truth of God, the will of God and devotion to God are the things that matter, and all else will eventually fail however strategic and stately it may appear. The truth in the prophet's words is apparent. If the gods which Amaziah had taken from his vanquished foes could not aid them against him, how ridiculous for him to put his trust in these same gods. The reasoning was unanswerable, but because the man who presented it was not 'officially appointed' it was rejected in spite of its truth. Pompously Amaziah 'took advice' and, by so doing saved his face—and sealed his doom. He has gone down to posterity as a ruler who governed, but not according to truth.
We may not, however, dismiss him without noting that in the former part of his reign, he had grit to act for God and to deal with matters that needed rectification. Furthermore, be it said to his credit, that in the same period he was amenable to the advice of God through the man of God. The former part of his reign is evidently an example, as the latter part is a warning.Under the influence of the priest Jehoiada, Joash the king was exercised to
restore the house of the Lord (24. 4).
Material wealth, rightly belonging to God, had been misdirected through the misrule of former days. Now (as, again, at a later period—Mal 3. 10) the people were called upon to render to God the money to which He had right. Workmen who could give their skill and time to the work were necessary if the temple was to be renovated, and they needed to be supported and supplied with materials. The grace of liberality and priestly ministry, in presenting of our money to God, finds a prominent place in the New Testament. It is not only a privilege, hut a plain necessity if churches are to be built up to be temple-like structures for God's pleasure.
As the earlier part of Joash's life, through priestly influence, was characterized by the sacrifice of wealth to God and of burnt offerings to Him continually, so may the rule of personal life, the home and the church, be directed by doctrine, and enriched by a sense of the immanence of God.
"Appeals should never be circulated"
Remarks under this heading on page 234 (Jan. / Feb. issue) have been interpreted by some readers as a criticism of assemblies who make known special needs beyond their power to meet. This was not the intention of our contributor, who had in mind the practice—which obtains in some religions communities—of circulating appeals to their members, with the object of securing from them a guarantee as to donations. This, of course, is quite a different thing from one assembly acquainting other interested assemblies with special needs, and from the commendable practice of responsible brethren in an assembly acquainting the members of that assembly with its financial position, so that each one may intelligently determine his responsibility before the Lord.