2 Chronicles 27.
Many instructive lessons may be gleaned from the brief record of Jotham, King of Judah. Before he came to the throne, on the judgment which befell his father in consequence of his wicked intrusion into the holy place to burn incense, he had governed the land (chap. 26:21); but the divine estimate of his character and reign refers to him after his father's death. As the anointed king, he was held more directly responsible to God, both for his own individual state, and for that of his people and kingdom. It is everywhere a principle in Scripture that the more exalted the position, the greater the responsibility, that, in the Lord's own words, to whom much is given, of him much is required.
The first thing mentioned of Jotham is that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did." It is good to notice, before examining the force of this statement, the plain indication here given of parental influence, and, on the other hand, of filial reverence for, and imitation of, his father's example. It is very blessed to see, although all is of grace, the piety of parents reproduced in their children, and when it is the case, it is a striking testimony to God's blessing having been bestowed upon the home training.
Acknowledging this, we may yet inquire what is exactly meant by Jotham's walking in his father's steps. It signifies, we judge, that it was good as far as it went, but that it was not piety, nor obedience, of the highest kind. Both of Hezekiah and Josiah, it is said that David their father was their model. (See chaps. 29:2; 34:2.) David was the man after God's own heart; Uzziah was not, and to remember this, is to see the difference. It is the oft-repeated truth, that to see what God's mind is, we must go back to the beginning. Jotham, therefore, should have considered the example of David, if he desired to obtain the full favour of God. Even believers now fall into the same mistake when they make their parents' walk, or indeed the walk of some other Christians whom they specially admire, their standard, instead of the walk of the only perfect Example. (See 1 John 2:6.) Let us heed the lesson.
What we have pointed out will explain Jotham's next feature. It is said, "Howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord." We do not read that his father did, except on the sad occasion of his unholy and presumptuous transgression. It may, therefore, have been that Jotham was also in this, his father's imitator; and the effect on his mind of the terrible chastisement his father received, might have had some influence in keeping him out of his privileges. Cases are not unknown, even in this day, where the maintenance of the holiness of God's house has led the relatives of the subjects of the discipline to withdraw from the place where the Lord manifests Himself in the midst of His gathered saints.
Be this as it may, Jotham was not a worshipper, and thus he did not meet the mind of the Lord. Worship, according to the revelation of that day, was the special characteristic of David, as his Psalms again and again testify. He even desired to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple. And nothing short of this satisfies the heart of God, even as the Lord taught the woman of Samaria. "The hour cometh," He said, "and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." (John 4:23.) The object of His blessed, seeking grace, is not realised unless He has His redeemed children around Him as His worshippers. It is plain, therefore, that the Spirit of God marks it as a failure that Jotham entered not into the temple of the Lord. If so, is there no admonition for us through Jotham? Alas! how many professors, and among them some real Christians, are not worshippers; they have no thought of entering into the holiest, according to the teaching of Heb. 10; and to them the language of Peter, concerning believers as living stones, as being built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, is well-nigh unintelligible. May this word respecting Judah's king exercise us all in the presence of God.
Connected with this feature is added, "And the people did yet corruptly." If we turn to the account in 2 Kings, we shall learn the nature of their evil practices. It says, "Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places" (chap. 15:35), and an exactly similar statement is made of the state of things in his father's reign. (v. 4.) May there not be a connection between Jotham's not being a worshipper, and the idolatrous practices of the people? For if Jehovah had occupied His due place in his heart, it would have been an intolerable grief to him to witness such flagrant disobedience and rebellion. How different was the conduct of his grandson, Hezekiah. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them; and then, when he had caused the Levites to sanctify themselves, and the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and when everything was duly ordered, together with the celebration of the passover, we read that, "all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all." (Chap. 31:1.) All this was but the moral consequence of recognizing the claims of God's holiness in His house. Beginning there, as Hezekiah did, in the first circle of his responsibility, he could not but maintain the honour of the name of his God in every other sphere, even to the uttermost circumference of his obligations. This explains much in a day of laxity like the present. If we, as Christians, are not right with God in the assembly, we shall assuredly fail to maintain His authority in our homes, and to walk before Him in our daily lives.
The example of Jotham would also tell upon the people. As the anointed king he was under the responsibility of knowing the Lord's mind. (Deut. 17:18-20); and of walking according to it, so that he might lead the people in the way of God's commandments. The loftier the position, the greater the influence; and hence Jotham's neglect of the temple could not but fail to open the door to the corruptions which the Spirit of God has indicated. As we read in the Proverbs, "A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes." (Chap. 20:8.) Jotham's failure was thus a fruitful source of evil in his kingdom.
Notwithstanding his failure, however, Jotham exhibited much activity and victorious power in conflict with enemies. As a builder he excelled, following in this, also, in the footsteps of his father. Whether this was done to secure the Lord's inheritance, or to promote his own might and glory in his kingdom is not revealed. There are servants in this day who labour much, and zealously, in caring, or seeming to care, for the Lord's interests; and, even though their motives may be mixed, in desiring to advance what they have especially at heart, as well as to commend the name of Christ, the Lord can use them for the good of His people. They seek to guard the people of God from the incursion of the enemy, and are foremost in drawing the sword in defence of the truth they have received; and yet they have never themselves entered upon the enjoyment of their highest privileges. They serve without, but they have not learned what it is to worship in the holiest. In the book of Revelation, we read that the seven angels "stood before God" waiting for their service (chap. 8:2); and surely this is a pattern for all who would serve acceptably. It was in this very thing, we judge, that Jotham failed.
In verse 9 we have a kind of summary: "So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." At first sight, this might appear to contradict what has been said. So far from this, it simply gives the principle on which God could bless him, and bestow upon him the prosperity and success which he enjoyed. It is in fact an illustration of the word, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." And governmentally, it is strikingly exhibited in the whole history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, that God ever prospered the monarchs who recognised, even outwardly only, His word, name, and authority. He has said, "Them that honour Me, I will honour," and this is verified even where the honour rendered may not proceed from a renewed soul. It is so in all dispensations. For example, if God be honoured in a household, if His name be called upon, He will in His government on earth bless that household; and so, in like manner, when affairs of daily life and business are conducted with the recognition of His name. But this is not salvation; it is temporal mercies according to the principles of God's government. (Compare 1 Peter 3:10-13.) Jotham thus prepared his ways before the Lord, and became mighty. Whether there was a work of God in his soul is not here the question. There may have been; and if so, he had blessings of another and a larger kind as his portion. But, whether so or otherwise, there is much profitable instruction for us all in this feature. Jotham prepared his ways before the Lord; there was forethought, consideration, and purpose. He was not governed by circumstances; but he carefully arranged his paths according to the will of God.
If, therefore, his failures constitute a warning for us, some of his characteristics become an example. May we heed both alike, as we ponder his history, remembering with gratitude, at the same time, that we have a perfect example vouchsafed to us in the pathway of our blessed Lord and Saviour. And it is written, "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked."