“In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the Lord. Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” 2 Kings 15:32-36
When we study the life of Jotham, the 11th king of Judah, we must recognize the condition of the kingdom he inherits from his father Uzziah. Judah is in the midst of the good times! Uzziah had been a very good king that God had blessed for many years. The only spot on his record is found at the end of his life when he intrudes on the office of the priest, and as a result God smote him with leprosy.
“But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense.” 2 Chronicles 26:16
But for the majority of Uzziah’s 52 year reign, he served God and God blessed him greatly! He had expanded the territory of his kingdom and built the city of Eloth. Eloth is located on the coast of the Red Sea which gave Judah access to many rich trade routes. During a time when many products were moved by ships to far away ports, this city gave Judah trade access to the rich cities of the East. Uzziah also had great military success. During his reign they defeated the Philistines, Arabians, and the Ammorites. He also fortified the city of Jerusalem and built towers along the walls.
The key to his success is found in 2 Chronicles 26:5 “…and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.” This is the key to success to every Christian, every church, and every nation. The Bible is not saying that if you seek God you will become rich. God says that if you seek him you will prosper. Prosperity does not always mean monetary wealth. I have never even been close to wealthy, but my life has been quite prosperous! I’ve got a wonderful wife and family. We enjoy our Christian lives! But it is because we have dedicated our lives to serving the Lord, and he has made us to prosper.
Judah had experienced the blessings of God for several years when Uzziah died. This was the condition of Judah when Jotham takes the throne. The Bible tells us that Jotham was an excellent king. He repeated all the things that made his father successful and he did NOT enter into the Temple, which was the downfall of his father. Thus we see in Jotham a man who learned from both the successes and failures of his father. This is the mark of a wise man.
When we read about the life of Jotham, we cannot find any fault. He is a wise man and an excellent king. Verse 6 of 2nd Chronicles chapter 27 sums up his life. “So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” But verse 2 tells us, “… And the people did yet corruptly”
Leadership is very important in the success of a kingdom, but the people of that kingdom must also respond to leadership if they are going to be successful! When I look at this period of Judah’s history, I see a population that has taken the goodness of God for granted. God had blessed them with riches, with land, and he has given them 68 years where 2 good kings ruled.
How is it that a nation can have great leadership and still fail? It doesn’t seem possible, but this is exactly what happened to Judah. Consider that in spite of Jotham’s great success as king, God took him after only 16 years! This is a referendum on the people of Judah, not on Jotham. After Jotham dies, his son Ahaz will take the throne and will be the worst king to sit on the throne in 137 years! God just had enough and gave the people the king they deserved!
Why do people fail even when leadership is good? This is an important question to consider and it applies to many situations. For example, our nation is not guaranteed success if we elect a good president. Is leadership important? Sure it is, but it is not the only factor involved for success! This same principle also applies to the local church. It is vital for a church to have a spiritual pastor, but there are many very good pastors that labor fervently amongst a congregation that will not be led!
Why do people fail even when there is good leadership in place?
FAILURE TO COMMIT THEMSELVES TO GOD
There is one thing that the people of Judah would not deal with … the High Places! The worship of Jehovah in Judah revolved around the Temple in Jerusalem, but along many of the hills of the nation, men still sacrificed to idols. This was very difficult for a king to control completely. One of Judah’s best kings, Asa, removed them, but before the end of his life they had reappeared because people would rebuild them shortly after they were destroyed. No king up to this point could control it, though several made the attempt.
It really came down to the fact that the people were not willing to fully commit themselves to God! As a nation, they served God and they served idols at the same time. This never works!
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matt. 6:24
We have seen people fail in this area throughout the Bible and throughout history! People try to please God while in this condition … even when God has repeatedly said, “Thou shalt have no other gods beside me”. It is an impossibility to please God while being disobedient to his Word.
When we truly commit to the Lord, by definition we forsake all others. The failure to commit is not a characteristic that is unique to Jotham’s generation. Every generation struggles in this area and our generation is no different. Loyalties are split between serving God or serving the world. The church should have a pastor that is committed to serving God; and the church should have deacons that are committed as well. That is expected of them, but church members should also expect that of themselves. The success of our churches depends on it.
God expects each of us to be committed to him!
FAILURE TO COMPLY
Rules and boundaries are good things and we find them in all facets of life. Our parents gave us rules to obey, the school sets boundaries on students, and the government has established things that we can or can’t do. Each time there is a failure; a price must be paid. Why should we expect rules in every other area of life, but not in our spiritual life?
God has given us commandments that we are to obey. When we disobey these commandments is it God’s fault? Of course not. Asa destroyed the high places and when the people would not leave their idolatry was it his fault? NO!
Never lose sight of the fact that the relationship between a nation and God is not dependent solely on the relationship between the leader & God. People play an important role as well! This is something that our nation must realize … our success is doesn’t depend upon a president, it depends upon our citizens. Leadership is important, but it isn’t the only thing important.
The same principle is true in the local church. The church is to preach and institute the Biblical boundaries God demands. But if people will not comply, God will not bless the church Judah had great leadership, but they failed because they would not submit themselves to the law of God
FAILURE TO FOLLOW
Uzziah was leading his nation in the right direction, but his nation would only follow so far. When Jotham takes the throne he also tried to lead his nation in the right direction. But the people still responded the same way, there was only so far they were willing to go.
Many good leaders had identical experiences. Whenever I read the book of Exodus, I cannot help but feel sorry for Moses. He was a willing servant who totally invested himself to the work God called him to do. But the children of Israel never really followed him, they had to be pulled along!
Samuel is another good example of a good leader who was rejected by his people. He was the final judge, only because the people demanded a king! The nation wanted to be like the other nations around them; nations that did not serve God! It is interesting to notice that when they took Saul for their king, that they ran to Samuel whenever they found trouble. Had they followed God and not their human “intellect” they would not have experienced so much trouble. The list of good leaders that would not be followed is quite long.
Uzziah and Jotham were great kings and God blessed them. But there came a time when the people of Judah would no longer follow them and they paid a price. God took their good king from them after a mere 16 years and gave them Ahaz, a wicked and foolish man to be king. I’m sure that when Ahaz came to power that many in Judah felt that life would be better because all restraint was removed. What they got was not what they expected.
The generation we live in mirrors the generation of Jotham’s day. It is a time when many will not commit themselves to God. It is a time when doctrine is dismissed in the wake of the emerging church movement. And it is the age of casting away anything or anyone who is an authority in our lives! God cannot and WILL NOT bless this type of behavior.
Our success as Christians can only come if we COMMIT ourselves to the Lord, COMPLY or submit ourselves to God & his Word, and success will only come if we continue to follow GOD!