When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.
2 Kings 11:1 (NIV)
I’ve observed of late that popular culture has been focused on the British royal family and, in particular, on Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. The powers of media have aligned to ensure that the popular Netflix series The Crown was released just before Harry and Meghan’s Netflix special and then followed up with the release of Harry’s book Spare just last week. So, it’s no surprise that everyone is talking about it.
Unless you’ve been somewhere hiding under a rock, you know that the title of Prince Harry’s book, Spare, is based on an old saying that the royal family needs “an heir and a spare.” I have not read the book, but I’ve read multiple reviews with a generous number of excerpts. Harry obviously feels that his family dismisses his existence as nothing more than a necessity should his older brother need a kidney. He also wants to be left alone and given his privacy. This would be a lot easier to come by without a multi-episode Netflix special and the release of a tell-all memoir that includes mention of both his and his brother’s privates.
The world is obviously very interested in the royals, and there is something fascinating about the deeply archaic and historical traditions in our modern society. Monarchies were the primary system of government for most of the world throughout most of human history. It’s amazing how similarly monarchies around the world operated in history’s game of thrones.
This is a great segue to today’s chapter where we find that the Kingdoms of both Israel and Judah have been dominated by Ahab and Jezebel for decades. In the Kingdom of Judah, the line of David was to determine who was king, but the Queen mother, Athaliah, was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel who had been married into the royal house of Judah to make an alliance.
In recent years, the house of David had been decimated. Athaliah’s husband, King Jehoram, had murdered all of his brothers upon ascending the throne to reduce any threat of a challenge. More recently, King Jehu, the usurper King of Israel, had slaughtered much of the royal family of Judah as he, Michael Coreleone-like, settled all family business when taking power. Athaliah, upon hearing of her son’s death, realizes her chance to claim the throne for herself. She was clearly her mother’s daughter. Athaliah runs the family’s well-worn playbook and has all of the sons in the royal family slaughtered to secure her throne. Yes, it’s highly likely that she had her own grandchildren murdered in order to maintain power. She wanted to make sure there wasn’t a “Spare” to be found.
However, Athaliah’s sister-in-law steals away to Solomon’s Temple with a royal infant named Joash, where he and his nurse are hidden away and protected. Seven years later, the high priest and nobles of Judah crowned the boy king, assassinated Athaliah, and tore down the Temple of Baal, the god that she and her family worshipped.
What makes the story of the surviving Spare Joash intriguing beyond the events of today’s chapter is the fact that Judah clung to the Davidic royal line because it had been prophesied that the Messiah would one day come from the line of David, and the line of David would be an eternal throne. The actions of Aunty Jehosheba and the priest Jehoiada were motivated by faith that the royal line would stay intact and persevere and the prophecies would be fulfilled. The Spare made way for the Savior.
Fast forward nine hundred years or so. It is recorded that the crowds listening to Jesus teach in the temple called him the “Son of David.” In doing so, they were recognizing Him as the Messiah and king. The high priest of the Temple in Jesus’ day conspired with the local King Herod to have Jesus arrested and executed in order to eliminate the threat Jesus might have posed to their positions and power. As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are stark similarities to how systems of monarchy operated over the centuries.
In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that all systems of human government are subject to different variations on the game of thrones. They are all kingdoms of this world in which power and wealth are brokered, challengers are eliminated, threats are mitigated, and those in power go to great lengths to cling to it. And, I find the way of Jesus to be a transformative path that leads in the opposite direction. God’s Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the Kingdoms of this world:
Love is the only law.
Power flows through and out of humility.
Leadership is measured by the quality of service to others.
Kindness leads to change in others.
Enemies are blessed, not cursed.
Forgiveness is absolute.
Struggling is growing.
Loss is gain.
Giving is receiving.
Death is the way to Life.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.