LESSONS FROM THE DEATH OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH
The divine record of the reign of Joash, a king of ancient Judah, is “mixed.” During the years that he was guided by Jehoiada, a faithful priest of God, Joash did some good things for the nation. However, following Jehoiada’s death, Joash led God’s people down the wrong path. That included the murder of a prophet by the name of Zechariah [not the same man who wrote the 38th book of the Old Testament].
Why was Zechariah killed, and what circumstances led up to that tragedy? Here is what the Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 24:17-22:
(17) Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. (18) Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. (19) Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (20) Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he also has forsaken you. (21) So they conspired against him, and at the commandment of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. (22) Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The LORD look on it, and repay!’
Now, it is time to look at some lessons.
Godly preparation and godly action by godly men cannot guarantee the faithfulness of God’s people following the passing of those godly leaders. Jehoiada the priest was a good leavening influence in Judah (2 Chronicles 22:10-24:16). Yet, despite his righteous efforts, after his death Judah turned to idolatry (24:18). The same thing happened in Israel after Joshua died (Judges 2:7,10), and it was not Joshua’s fault. In our lifetime on earth, we make our best effort to teach the truth, live the truth, and defend the truth. After we die, though, the path taken by our offspring and the church will be out of our hands. They will have to make their own choices.
God’s does not exhibit wrath arbitrarily. In Joash and Zechariah’s day, why did wrath come upon Judah and Jerusalem? “. . . because of their trespass” (24:18). It was sin – sin of which the people refused to repent, that brought on the wrath of God. God does not become angry and carry out punishment in some random fashion. Instead, His wrath is poured out “upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). When God shows His wrath, it is always justified, in each case being caused by man’s transgressions.
Despite the rebellion of His people, God kept on sending prophets to testify against them. Why would God do that? Why not just leave them alone? His purpose in sending His messengers: “to bring them back to the LORD” (24:19). What about His motive for doing such? He did it “because he had compassion on his people” (36:15). Yes, He was (and is) a God of wrath, but let us not miss the truth that He was (and is) a God of compassion, too. God wants all to be saved.
God’s true prophets were guided by the Holy Spirit. Zechariah declared God’s message when “the Spirit of God came upon” him (24:20). As the Bible says, prophecy came about when “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). David declared, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).
Those who refuse to accept and walk in harmony with the commands of God cannot prosper. That is just what Zechariah told the people: “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?’” (24:20). Going back to Joshua, what did Jehovah tell him about prosperity and success? The way to obtain and maintain them is to think about, talk about, and follow the instructions of God’s law (Joshua 1:8). True, meaningful, lasting prosperity can be achieved in only one fashion: walking with the Creator. One who thinks he can find an equal or better form of prosperity is only deceiving himself!
The Lord forsakes those who forsake Him. Slowly read this historical fact again: “Because you have forsaken the LORD, he also has forsaken you” (24:20). Let us not argue with this truth nor be found asking God to forgive those apostates who refuse to abandon their rebellious state. God forsakes forsakers.
When people do not like the truth that is preached, they sometimes respond by attacking the messenger. When Zechariah rebuked the people for their rebellious ways, King Joash ordered the prophet’s death by stoning – in the courtyard of the temple, of all places! (24:21). As a prophet, Zechariah’s role/task was to speak the message that God wanted him to speak, not deliver a message that the people liked. Zechariah’s commitment to God’s will was costly for him – it cost him his life! (And we recall the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7, right?). When God’s faithful preachers proclaim his truth today, do not be surprised if some hearers, including weak members of the Lord’s church, turn against the messenger of truth. No, it should not happen, but it does.
King Joash “repaid” the kindness and help that Jehoiada showed to him by killing the latter’s son. (24:22). We are amazed at how ungrateful some people are. May we never become so self-centered, so cold, and so proud that we fail to express and manifest sincere gratitude for those who have helped us along the path of life. Let us learn all of these lessons well.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.