Reading through the Bible in a year always forces me into the nooks and crannies of the Old Testament that I’m prone to miss. Sometimes I find myself reading a passage, wondering to myself, How have I missed this story all these years?
Recently, I stumbled upon the story of Jehoshabeath. I’m pretty sure I skimmed her story in prior instances simply because of all the hard to pronounce names (so stick with me, I promise it’s worth it).
In case you’ve missed her story as well, she was the daughter of King Jehoram and the wife of Jehoiada the priest. Upon the death of her brother, Ahaziah the king, his mother Athaliah decided to take command and rule in Jerusalem.
To do so, Athaliah destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. In her hunger for power, she even killed her own grandchildren. This is not the picture of a sweet grey-haired grandma most of us imagine. Old age does not cure a hard heart or power-hungry soul. She saw her opportunity and would let nothing stand in her way.
The Kindness of Jehoshabeath
In the midst of Athaliah’s treachery, a rescue secretly happened:
But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death. And he remained with them six years, hidden in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land. (2Chronicles 22:11-12)
Jehoshabeath and her husband, Jehoiada, the priest rescued the baby Joash, hiding him in the house of God for six years. When he was seven, Jehoiada assembled the help of the Levites and together they crowned the boy king, resulting in the downfall of his grandmother, Athaliah.
Jehoiada continued to have a father-like role in the life of Joash. He gave him advice, taught him what was right, and helped focus Joash’s efforts on restoring the temple. All the days that Jehoiada lived, Joash remained faithful to the Lord.
However, once the priest died, Joash began to listen to other advisors and abandoned the house of the Lord to serve idols. God sent Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, to speak against the people for breaking the commandments of the Lord.
The Treachery of Joash
No one appreciated Zechariah’s confrontation, least of all the king. We are told:
But they conspired against [Zechariah], and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!” (2Chronicles 24:21-22)
The King kills the son of his rescuers. Treachery in response to kindness.
And, this is where I wonder about Jehoshabeath. Was she still alive? Did she hear the news of her own son’s death at the hands of Joash? Did she regret the rescue so many years before? If she could have known the future, would she have shown the same kindness to the one who would kill her own son?
At this point in my reading, my motherly heart takes over I’m feeling nothing but anger at Joash. How dare he scorn the kindness he’s been shown? He’s just overall terrible and when his destruction comes in the next few verses, I’m glad.
But I can’t stay there for long. I keep pondering the result of Jehoshabeath’s choice: her kindness to Joash resulted in the death of her son. Joash’s death doesn’t change that fact. It only means that both of these boys she helped to raise are now dead.
The Gospel of Grace
As my mind absorbs the story, suddenly the light goes on to the bigger picture. Here in the middle of Chronicles, I haven’t just stumbled onto a soap-opera-like tragedy. I’m faced with the gospel. And, in the bigger story I’m not the rescuer Jehoshabeath or Spirit-filled Zechariah.
I’m the character Joash.
Just like Joash, I’m in need of rescue. Rather than a power-hungry Grandma, a righteous and holy Judge has claim to my destruction. I deserve death and have no hope of redemption.
Except for the promise of God.
God had a rescue plan when he told Adam and Eve that a Seed would come who would crush the serpent’s head. All of Scripture is the story of God inclining Himself to a people unworthy of rescue. He moves towards, they run away. He seeks, they hide. They forget His kindness, He refuses to forget them.
Unlike Jehoshabeath, God knew the future when he chose to rescue, knowing it would come at the death of His beloved Son.
He chose kindness for me, treachery for His Son.
And here in Chronicles, this shadow-like gospel story awakens my heart. The proactive kindness of Jehoshabeath, the costly rescue, the painful result, all illuminate the tragedy and beauty of the cross. Love and sorrow mingle together, resulting in redemption.
In response, may we not forget the kindness shown to us. We have the greater story, the greater redemption – may we have a greater joy and wonder at the God of our rescue.