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Repairing the Temple

Date: Jul. 5, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

2 Kings 12:1-21

Key Verse: 2 Kings 12:5

“Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.”

It is no secret that buildings require maintenance from time to time – they can be damaged or worn out by people, or by nature. The Bible House that we are working on was abandoned for a few years before we bought it. During that time of neglect, a water pipe burst, and ruined all the floors. Mold grew on every wall. In downtown there is a train stop called Union Station, built 90 years ago, and the steps have been worn down by millions of commuters and travelers that they need to be replaced, or they will become more and more dangerous to use. Buildings do not naturally maintain themselves, so over time some damages are done either by too much use or by neglect. Work needs to be done not only to make them useful, but also beautiful. In today’s passage, we will see how God’s temple in Jerusalem will undergo its first major restoration since it was built. The temple was built as a home for God here on earth, and after it was built and dedicated, God blessed it by bringing his presence there. The temple was the place to worship God, and bring offerings to him. It was a home for God here on earth. If there was any building that needed to be maintained, it was God’s temple. It had been standing for around 130 years. It was plundered by Egypt around its 35th year, and it was looted by Athaliah’s sons within its last 10 years. It suffered neglect, as the nation was split in two, and the rulers were becoming more and more unfaithful to God. God’s house was being neglected! When king Joash came of age, he would reverse this trend by calling for the repairs to any damages in the temple, and establishing a fund to do so.

Look at v.1-2, “In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes for the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Joash became king when he was 7 years old. It was an amazing story of how God literally brought back the line of David from the ashes when Athaliah attempted to slaughter all of his descendants. He ruled 40 years because he did right in the eyes of the Lord. His father only ruled 1 year because he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. His grandfather only ruled 8 years because he did evil in the eyes of the Lord. How was this pattern broken? Remember that when he was only a year old, he was hidden away as Athaliah killed all of his brothers. His father and grandfather had also died. Joash was raised up in the temple by Jehoiada the priest, away from the influence of his wicked ancestors. Look again at v.2, “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Notice that Joash did right all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Jehoiada was a good spiritual mentor. Pay attention to verse 2 though, and see if you notice anything interesting about it. We will talk more about that later.

Verse 3 says, “The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” Many good kings have this statement added to their profiles. The high places are different places throughout Judah and Israel where people went to worship. God was not pleased with the high places because God instructed the people to worship in one place only – the temple, but these high places were built so that people did not have to go all the way to Jerusalem. The only approved place to offer sacrifices to God was the temple, but the high places were used so often now that kings were hesitant to shut them down. The high places did not make a king good or evil in God’s eyes, but if the king allowed idol worship in his nation, then they would be considered evil. Sometimes people worshipped other gods at these high places, but right now, during Joash’s reign instructed by the priest Jehoiada, only the God of Israel was worshipped at those locations.

In the next verse we see something exciting: Joash begins to exercise his executive authority as king. He was crowned at the age of seven, but this now happens several years after that, after he has grown and matured. Look at v.4, “Joash said to the priests, ‘Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the Lord – the money collected in the census, the money received from personal vows and the money brought voluntarily to the temple.’” Joash has decreed the first national offering collection. I don’t want to say tax collection, because some of the money being collected was voluntary – taxes are not. Joash ordered the priests to collect 3 different types of offerings normally made to the temple. The first was a census offering, where every male over 20 had to pay half a shekel. A shekel in Biblical times was 11 grams, so if they paid a half shekel of silver, it would be $2.50 per male over 20. The second type of collection was money from personal vows. There was a law that if you wanted to make a vow to the Lord, you would have to pay a certain amount, and I think the terms of the vow would be what you specified, whether it was a day, or a week or a year. For example, if I wanted to dedicate myself to the Lord and say, “I will not drink soda for one year,” the price for a male between 20 and 60 years old was 50 shekels of silver, or around $250 in today’s money. A woman’s price was 30 shekels, or $150. So if Mary wanted to dedicate herself, or if I wanted to dedicate Mary to the Lord and say, “Mary will wash the dishes every day this month,” whoever made the vow will pay her price, which was $150 good for the vow. The prices for the different people are in Lev 27. The third type of collection was any voluntary offering, which was a free will donation of any amount for any reason.

What would all this money be used for? Can we all please read v.5, “Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.” It would be used to repair the temple! Now, this may not have been his very first decree or executive order, but it certainly was his most important. Why was it so important to repair the temple? Because it was the place where God has chosen to live. It was the house of God. It was the place that God has ordained for the people to bring their sacrifices, offerings, and vows to the Lord. It was the place that God has told them to rejoice in the presence of the Lord. It was the only place to meet God. God did not want people to worship the Lord in the way pagans their gods (Deut 12:4). He did not want the Israelites to go to the high places, like the people they conquered. He wanted the true worshippers to go to the place he chose – his temple in Jerusalem. Again why was it important to repair the temple? Because the state of the temple reflected their state of worship. If the temple was damaged or neglected, it shows that the people were neglecting the worship of God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. Now Joash wanted to repair the temple. He wanted to reestablish the importance of the temple as the center of worshipping God.

Things did not work out so smoothly at first. Look at v.6, “But by the twenty-third year of King Joash, the priests still had not repaired the temple.” This was the twenty third year of the king’s reign, so the king was about 30 years old. Don’t misunderstand the verse like I did though – the priests did not take 23 years to repair the temple. It may have been a few years though, probably long enough for the king to be frustrated. So he summoned Jehoiada the priest and said, “Why aren’t you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for repairing the temple.” In the original decree, Joash asked the priests to go out to the towns and collect the money. This did not work too well. The priests may not have been excited about the idea of going to collect money from the people. They were priests, not salesmen or tax collectors. It also seems like they may have been trying to do the work themselves, and taking the money to buy materials, or pay other priests to do the work. Priests are not carpenters either. Nobody was charged for doing anything dishonest, but they were just not managing the project well.

After the king told them not to go out and collect money anymore, the priests agreed they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves. I imagine a sigh of relief from the priests, who might not have been sure if they were doing the right things. It’s kind of like that feeling when someone asks me at work, “Hey Mike, we’re going to need to you update all of last year’s data and subtract out some duplicated numbers based on this spreadsheet we have…” and then later saying, “Nevermind, we found an easier way to do it.” Phew!

Here was the new plan, look at v.9, “Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hold in its lid. He placed it beside the altar, on the right side as one enters the temple of the Lord. The priests who guarded the entrance put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the Lord.” So the new plan was, “Why don’t we have people bring the money?” An proclamation was issued all throughout Judah and Jerusalem that they should bring to the Lord the tax that Moses the servant of God had required of Israel in the wilderness (2 Chr 24:9). Now here’s the interesting thing: “All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly, dropping them into the chest until it was full (2 Chr 24:10).” Perhaps it was also made known that their contributions would be used for the maintenance of the temple, but for some reason, people were bringing in their offerings gladly. They could also see that their collections were being properly handled. They would give the priest who was guarding the entrance, who would then take it and drop it into the chest. This was the first time something like this was done. It was the birth of the offering box, or the establishment of a new way to maintain the temple. Originally, the temple was built using money and materials from the royal treasury, which consisted of gifts, tributes or plunder from other nations, but I imagine the sources of that wealth was beginning to dry out. Now, the people themselves could take part in the maintenance of the temple through the offering.

The plan was a success. Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the Lord and put it into bags. There might not have been coins at this time in Israel’s history, so everything was weighed and then put into bags. The bags may have all carried the same weight, perhaps a talent, which was about 75 pounds. A talent of silver would be worth about $17,000 today. When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the Lord – the carpenters and builders, the masons and stonecutters. They purchased timber and blocks of dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the Lord, and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple. It seemed like some major repairs were required, involving carpenters, masons, stonecutters, and purchases of wood and cut stone. They even hired workers in iron and bronze. The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them, until the work was finished. The temple of God was rebuilt according to its original design and reinforced, and finally restored (2 Chr 24:13).

The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the Lord; it was paid to the workers, who used it to repair the temple. The money was first used to rebuild the structure and frame of the temple. Only after that was done, was the money spent making the objects dedicated for temple service. Many of the sacred objects had to be replaced or remade, since the sons of Athaliah had looted them previously for Baal worship. The restoration of the temple was complete from top to bottom, inside out, and everything was done in full trust and faith. This is a remarkable statement in v.15, “They [the royal secretary and high priest] did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.” There was no cheating, stealing or any hint of inappropriate behavior during the entire project, even as large sums of money had to be distributed across many different workers and suppliers.

The priests did not become poor either because of the repairing. They were taken care of as well. Look at v.16, “The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the temple of the Lord; it belonged to the priests.” The collection consisted of census tax, vow tax and free will offerings, and that was enough to provide for the restoration of the temple. All those expenses were met. They did not run out of money to give to the priests who were working at the temple. In fact, the guilt and sin offering money was set aside for the priests. The violations of the law can be found in the book of Leviticus, and that would tell you the amount the guilt or sin offering would cost. It’s kind of like paying a ticket for a traffic violation. When you pay for a traffic ticket, the money goes to the city’s department of revenue. In a similar way, a violation of God’s law required you to make a payment to God, and God would share some of that offering with the priest. In that way a priest could make his living in the service in the temple.

Everything seemed to be nice and harmonious, but not long after, there was trouble again. Verse 17 says, “About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem.” In the past, it was much harder for Aram to directly attack Judah. Israel was kind of like a buffer between the two nations. After Hazael became king, the size of Israel was reduced, and Aram took territory around the Jordan River, and now had direct access to Judah. He first captured Gath, a city that belonged to Judah, and after the success, decided to set his eyes on the capital city: Jerusalem.

What did Joash do? Look at v.18, “But Joash king of Judah took all the sacred objects dedicated by his predecessors – Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, the kings of Judah – and the gifts he himself had dedicated and all the gold found in the treasuries of the temple of the Lord and of the royal palace, and he sent them to Hazael king of Aram, who then withdrew from Jerusalem.” He did what? He emptied the temple and the palace of all their treasures and gave it to Hazael. Didn’t he just accumulate more treasure in the temple? Now it is all gone. Actually some time had passed since the restoration of the temple. We find out in 2 Chr 24 that this attack from Aram was judgment upon King Joash. The Aramean army came with a small force, and invaded Judah and Jerusalem. The Lord had given Aram victory over Jerusalem’s larger army, and in order to save the nation, Joash had to buy off their retreat with all the treasures in the temple and the palace.

Things did not end well for Joash. Look at v.20-21, “His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla. The officials who murdered him were Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer. He died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. And Amaziah his son succeeded him as king.” King Joash, the one who brought a reformation and revival to Jerusalem by the repairing of the temple, was murdered by his own officials. How could a king start so greatly, but end so poorly? What happened? The parallel passage in 2 Chr 24 gives us the details. The priest Jehoiada had died old and full of years at 130 years old. This may have been near the end of King Joash’s reign, where he may have been in his mid-forties. After Jehoiada passed away, some officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They brought idol worship back into the land, and abandoned the temple. The Lord burned with anger. God, in his mercy, sent prophets to warn the people, but they did not listen. Finally, Jehoiada’s own son, Zechariah, testified against them, and Joash ordered him to be killed. Joash did not remember the kindness Jehoiada had shown him, and had his son killed. Within a year, Aram came to attack, and stole away the plunder from the temple. Judah had forsaken the Lord. They had abandoned the temple, so the Lord threw away all the treasures they put into it. Before the Aramean army left, they wounded King Joash severely in the attack, and he was finished off by his own officials who came to avenge the death of Zechariah. All of this was God’s judgment on King Joash, who turned away from the Lord, abandoned the temple, allowed idolatry back into Judah, and mercilessly killed the son of the priest who saved him.

The case of King Joash and Jehoiada shows us the importance of good spiritual mentors in our lives. Look again at v.2 in this passage, “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” What’s interesting about that verse is it says Joash did what was right, and it adds “all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Jehoiada guided and helped Joash to do right. When he passed away, Joash was influenced by the officials who wanted to bring idolatry back into Judah. He did not listen to Zechariah, who spoke the truth to the people about their disobedience to God. Good spiritual mentors will tell us the truth, and not be afraid to tell us the truth even when we are wrong. We may need to humble ourselves to accept the correction of good spiritual mentors, unlike Joash. I spoke before about how Sh. Bob confronted me with my sin, many years ago. It was when I was travelling, and I was going out to drink heavily, and my pictures were posted on Facebook. When Sh. Bob confronted me about it my blood was boiling, but he was right, I needed to repent, to turn away from my sin, and to flee the evil desires of youth, otherwise worse would happen to me. On the other side, it’s important that we also be good spiritual mentors to others, to not be afraid to speak the truth to others, but to do it in a way that is considerate, gentle and with love. Whether we listen to advice, or give advice, the words that a spiritual mentor speaks should be consistent with the word of God, and the spirit of the gospel. The officials who came to Joash after Jehoiada died were not obedient to the word of God, and led Joash astray. Zechariah spoke the word of God to the people of Judah, to lead them back to God.

Now, what about the temple? Wasn’t it a shame that everything that was put into the temple in this passage was taken away almost as quickly? Wasn’t the temple the home of God? Didn’t God choose to live there? Where is the temple today? Today in Jerusalem a Muslim mosque sits where the temple of God used to be. Where is the temple of God? My friends, God has created a better temple, a living temple, a temple not bound by space or time through Jesus Christ. The temple today is the church. Not a church building, but the church people. The building that we see in today’s passage was only a shadow, an image of the reality of what God wanted to do. That’s why he had no problem throwing out the treasures in that building if his people had abandoned it. The reality is that our bodies are the temple of God. 1 Pet 2:4-6 says, “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Paul says this directly in 1 Cor 6:18-20, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” The temple is the place where God dwells. It is the place where God has chosen to live, and it is the place where we worship and offer sacrifices to God. And we no longer offer sacrifices like bulls, lambs or goats, but our sacrifices are spiritual. Our sacrifices are a broken and contrite heart (Ps 51:17), or as the author of Hebrews writes, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb 13:15-16).”  

The temple is the place where we can find God. Jesus once told a Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:21,23-24).” To worship in the Spirit and in truth means to put your heart and your mind into worship – not doing things out of habit or mindlessly, but intentionally worshipping God by the power of the Holy Spirit that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

As we saw in today’s passage, the temple needed some repairs. It had been neglected, abandoned and in a state of damage and disrepair. Likewise, our bodies, as temples, are in need of repair. Sin corrupts our bodies, and our souls deteriorate because of sin. Sin, temptation and evil desires are in all of us – in truth, we are no better than Joash, who turned and forgot almost immediately what Jehoiada had done for him. Though raised by a great spiritual mentor, and taken away from the pattern of wickedness of his parents, somehow sin’s ugly head showed back up in his life. It’s because he, like all of us, inherited sin from our parents. Day by day we have abandoned God, and forsaken him. That is sin, and it will ruin our bodies until the day we die. Now then, how shall we repair the damages? We cannot! How can we? We have not the money nor tools nor the expertise to mend our souls. How then, can we repair the damages? We cannot, but Jesus can. Then how can we repair the damages? We can look to Jesus, trust in Jesus, because Jesus paid it all through his shed blood on the cross. By his death on the cross, all your sins are forgiven. He has washed clean your heart, your guilt and your sin are all wiped away, so that his Holy Spirit may come and live within you. And when the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, the repairs begin, working until the day you are restored to your original design, and reinforced with eternal life. The king has issued a proclamation: come to Jesus, and you will be saved. Never abandon him, but come, put your trust in him, and be repaired, and restored and renewed forever.

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I Will Spare Them No Longer

Amos 7:1-9

Key Verse: 7:8b

And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

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