The Apostle Paul commanded the Corinthians to: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong (1 Cor. 16:13).” The greek word there is a wonderful one: andrizomai. It means, “be a man.” God commands the bride of Christ to “man up.” We are to be watchful, vigilant, courageous, and strong. This is one way of saying the Christian life isn’t for pansies or pushovers.
Even in the love song of Solomon the groom describes his bride in military language: “[You are] fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners (Sg. 6:10).” Christ calls His church to be valiant, to fight against sin, to fight for their faith, and to do so manfully.
2 Kings 11 –– And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, [even] him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land. [ . . . ]
Summary of The Text
King Jehoram of Judah killed all his brothers (2 Chron. 21:4); he was married to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab & Jezebel (2 Ki. 8:18); all of Jehoram’s sons were killed in a raid by the Arabians, except Ahaziah, the youngest (2 Chron. 22:1). Elijah had prophesied of the downfall of Ahab’s kingdom and line (1 Ki. 21:21-29). Several years later, Elisha anointed Jehu king of Israel, then tasked him with wiping out Ahab’s line, in accordance with Elijah’s prophecy. When Jehu hunted down King Joram––Ahab’s son, and current king of Israel––Ahaziah happened to be chumming around with Joram (his brother-in-law); so Jehu assassinated both of them (2 Ki. 9:23-27).
Athaliah’s reign is introduced in such a way as to make the reader feel like everything is all out of whack. It doesn’t follow the expected pattern for the introduction of a new ruler for Israel or Judah. After her son’s death, the annihilation of her father’s dynasty, and the execution of her extended family she asserts herself as ruler of Judah, likely an attempt to preserve her father’s legacy. Her power grab begins by destroying all the royal seed (11:1). David’s line was in grave danger and would have been destroyed had not Jehosheba––the wife of Jehoiada the high priest––stolen the youngest son of Ahaziah, Joash, and raised him in the temple for six years (11:2-3).
When Joash was seven, Jehoiada hatches a plan to restore the rightful king to David’s throne. He conscripts a band of trustworthy leaders, swears them to secrecy, and then shows them the king’s son (11:4). His plan to protect young King Joash while overthrowing the usurping Athaliah involved forming a barricade of bodyguards to surround the temple on a Sabbath day (11:5-8). This scheme was put into action; David’s weaponry was brought out of the treasury; Jehoiada crowned Joash, gave him a copy of the covenant, anointed him, and they all made a noticeable ruckus (11:9-12). Athaliah hears the cries of “God save the king,” rushes to the scene (unfortunately for her, without any bodyguards), sees her grandson, rends her clothes, and cries, “Treason (11:13-14)!” Jehoiada commanded she be executed (outside the temple), along with any that tried to defend her, and his orders were followed (11:15-16). Then a covenant renewal ceremony takes place between the Lord, the king, and the people, followed by a purge of all the Baal paraphernalia (11:17-18). Joash is then seated on David’s throne, and the people rejoice (11:19-20). The narrative then returns to the expected way of introducing a new ruler (11:21).
The Lord Has Sworn
Psalm 132:11 promises, “The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” So, when you read through this soap opera, you might think, “Boy, I hope God has an insurance policy on this promise of His!” Athaliah went about to destroy the seed which God had promised would forever sit upon the throne of David. Further, this threatened the even more ancient promise to Eve. Here was a little baby, about to be slaughtered, upon whom hung Israel’s only hope for the promised Messiah.
Oftentimes, God’s promises feel like they are hanging by a thread. He has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse our conscience; but we still feel the grime of guilt and shame. He has promised to lead us in triumph over our sins (2 Cor. 2:14); but we stumble again to that same temptation. He has promised to give us a Spirit of power (2 Tim. 1:7), but we remain timid and fearful. He has promised to deliver us from our enemies (Ps. 18:3), but anxiety, lust, arrogance, and laziness hound us at every turn.
God promised David that his seed would sit on the throne forever, so when Athaliah comes to power that promise seems like a long shot. It’s precisely at the moment when faith seems most improbable and inadequate that God delights to introduce a new character to the story. Out of nowhere comes the woman, Jehosheba. If Bunyan had been tasked with naming the characters of this story, he couldn’t have done any better; Jehosheba means, “The Lord has sworn.” Faith does not concern itself with circumstances, it concerns itself with the Lord of the covenant. Faith doesn’t look at the bleakness of the situation and conclude, “Well does anyone have directions to the nearest Baal temple?”
What is Your Range?
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Christ’s Spirit dwells within you (Rom. 8:11). But sin wants to claim the throne that belongs to Christ, and it wants to kill the rightful king. Sin can attempt this in you as an individual, but also desires to take the throne within communities. In other words, growing in holiness, and fighting against sin is a group project where we’re graded individually. Do not think that you must try grow in godliness on your own, but also do not think that you can get holy just by being around other saints. We must fight alongside each other and labor to see Christ formed in each of us individually and corporately.
Husbands, parents, business owners, pastors, and presidents are to be like a barricade around that which they are called to preserve, while staunchly opposing the entrance of evil. If there’s sin in your marriage, family, business, or country you must scheme to apprehend it at the first opportunity, take it “without the ranges,” and slit its throat. You must not allow sin “within the ranges.” The rebel Queen must be dethroned, the rightful king must be enthroned.
Be Like David’s Son
King David chased down lions, bears, and Goliaths in order to preserve the flock which God gave him (1 Sam. 17:34-37). Christ chased down a dragon, ripped you from its deadly jaws, and restored you to His flock. You are to do the same for the flock you’ve been given. You must be like Jehosheba and Jehoiada, risk everything to preserve the life of the King within the temple, and you must not get queasy when that means the execution of the unlawful tyrant of sin. Andrizomai. Ruthlessly hunt down any sin which vaunts itself against the true king, while trusting in God’s sovereign hand of providence to hover over it all. Notice that while Jehosheba and Jehoiada act courageously, we are led to be reminded of God’s covenantal promise and thus see God’s hand as being the primary actor in these events. You are to grow in godliness in much the same way, you must not be passive, but remember that all your activity to dethrone sin and exalt Christ are ultimately governed by God’s gracious and almighty hand.
This story begins with a covenant that seems to be on the brink of being broken. It ends with that covenant being renewed. Faith is often assaulted, but faith is always vindicated: a covenant king receiving the praise of joy of His covenant people. When Athaliah makes a claim to what is rightfully Christ’s, do not rest, do not cease, do not delay to lay hold of God’s covenant promise. Then watch God bring about an unexpected deliverance. The serpent’s seed will be crushed by the seed of the woman.