After the death of Josiah, “the people of the land anointed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him the next king” (II Kings 23:30b, NLT). Jehoahaz spent only three months on the throne of Judah, but in that short length of time, he was recorded as having done “evil in the Lord’s sight” (II Kings 23:32a).
Jehoahaz was not Josiah’s eldest son – there were three brothers older than him. First Chronicles 3:15 lists “The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, Jehoiakim the second son, Zedekiah the third, Shallum the fourth.” Shallum apparently took the name “Jehoahaz” upon becoming king. How’d he beat his older brothers to the throne? It would seem he was preferred by the people of Judah over his brothers. In anointing Shallum/Jehoahaz, they threw aside the established protocol of enthroning the first-born.
“Pharaoh Neco put Jehoahaz in prison at Riblah in the land of Hamath to prevent him from ruling in Jerusalem. The king of Egypt then installed Eliakim, the brother of Jehoahaz, as the next king of Judah and Jerusalem, and he changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God” (II Chronicles 36:4a, 5).
Jehoiakim may have been a mere puppet king controlled by the Egyptians, but he still wielded his power with an iron fist. The prophet Jeremiah delivered the Lord’s message concerning the evil, self-centered Jehoiakim:
“What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim, who builds his palace with forced labor. He builds injustice into its walls, for he makes his neighbors work for nothing. He does not pay them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace with huge rooms and many windows. I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar and paint it a lovely red.’ But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!” (Jeremiah 22:13-15a).
“A beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!” God wanted Jehoiakim to understand that his greatness as a ruler and as a person didn’t depend on his stuff – not his material wealth or any other outer trappings; what mattered was who Jehoiakim was on the inside.
Just as “A beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king,” material possessions aren’t the gauge of a great person. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with owning a nice home, a nice car, a nice anything you can afford – as long as those things aren’t the focus of your life. When is having any of this stuff wrong? When funding it takes priority over giving to the Lord. When acquiring it is your focus rather than Jesus.
“Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of the godly person, because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on possessions or position or power.” (Jerry Bridges)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates