It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.”
But he had never acted from love to God; what he had done was out of complaisance to Jehoiada, who had helped him to the crown. The religious party had set him up, and therefore so long as they were in power he held with them, but when the idolatrous faction became strong he went over to their side. He who is blown one way by the wind will turn to another quarter if the wind changes. How important to possess deep-seated principles.
No doubt the princes congratulated Joash upon his deliverance from the oversight of the aged priest, and “now,” said they, “let us leave the dull and severe religion of Jehovah for the gay and pleasurable worship of the idols. We have had enough of this Puritanism, let us fall in with the ways of other nations, and enjoy the festive rites and more liberal morals of Baal and Ashtaroth.” To this the king gave willing ear.
Thus polluting with murder the sanctuary itself. They could not bear to be reproved for their faults. Some children show the same spirit, and are very angry if they are spoken to. Such bad temper would lead to murder if it were not restrained. He who is angry with another for telling him of his faults is a murderer.
An ungrateful man is capable of any crime. After the father had done so much for the king it was disgraceful to kill the son for doing his duty. Such a crime could not go unpunished.
The dying martyr’s blood brought speedy vengeance on the land. The princes had been first in the sin and therefore they were conspicuous in the punishment, and the city wherein the murder had been perpetrated was made to feel the brunt of the war.
Thus Joash was first despoiled by his enemies, then his land was invaded by them, and as a climax he became personally diseased. Since all this did not lead him to repentance, the Lord put an end to his wicked reign by well deserved punishment. He had slain the sons of his benefactor, and soon his own servants assassinated him in his bed. “Evil shall slay the wicked, and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.”
Whither shall I flee from Thy presence.”
About this time occurred the visit of the prophet Jonah to Nineveh, of which we will now read, and, as we do so, we may note the honest way in which the prophet describes himself, and reveals his own infirmities and faults.
The city is said to have measured sixty miles round the walls, and to have contained a million of inhabitants. It was full of idols, and its wealth was obtained by plundering other nations. It was very gracious on the Lord’s part to send a prophet to warn such a city; but it was no slight task for one man to venture on so unwelcome an errand.
Who would have thought that a prophet would act so wickedly? Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. We are much weaker than a prophet, and more likely to fall; let us therefore cry to the Lord to keep us.
Jonah went down to Joppa;
The finding of the ship was one of those providences which some think it right to follow in the teeth of God’s express commands. Old Thomas Adams says, “If thou wilt fly from God, the devil will lend thee both spurs and a horse; yea, a post-horse that will carry thee swiftly.” It is our duty to follow God’s orders, and not the apparent leading of circumstances.
Sin is expensive; the fare thereof must be paid, and men care not how much they pay to gratify their wrong desires, though they will grumble at any little which the cause of God asks from them. What a mad errand was Jonah upon when he hoped to fly from the Lord, who is alike present in all places, as much present in Tarshish as in Nineveh!
If we run from God he will send rough messengers after us: we may flee away in a calm, but a storm will soon be sent as an officer from heaven to arrest us.
On this, Adams remarks: “Mariners living in the sea almost as fishes in their element, are commonly men devoid of fear, venturous, and contemners of danger. Yet now seeing the tempest so vehement on a sudden that their goodly and tall ship was tossed like a cockboat, and cracked so that it was like to be torn all to pieces, they were persuaded that it was no ordinary storm, but a revenging tempest, sent out by some great power which had been provoked: now they tremble for fear, like little children when they are frightened, lest their ship break, or leak, and so sink, and they lose their ship, lives and all. These fearless fellows were brought down by danger, and quaked like a young soldier who starteth at the sound of a gun. They did well to pray, but they prayed not well, for they turned to idol gods which could not even help themselves.”
He for whom the storm was sent was the last to hear its message. When good men fall into sin they are generally in such a slumbering state of heart that it is hard to bring them to repentance.
How well these words may be applied to those who are careless hearers of the gospel; they are asleep, and asleep in awful danger. Even a heathen might rebuke them as this shipmaster chided Jonah. O that they would awake and call upon God for their own sakes, and the sake of their families who are perishing with them.
What men call chances are all in the hands of God. How sad that the best man on board the vessel should be convicted as being, for the time, the worst of all! When good men sin their offence is very great. Let us pray God to preserve us, lest we also be put to shame before the ungodly.