Scripture instructs us that sometimes we should settle with people who could possibly hurt us and the people we love. The Book of Proverbs says it is wise if you owe someone to settle with them before they drag you to court. Sometimes, sending a present to someone who is angry with you works rather well. Husbands know this by heart.
2 Kings 12 includes a story of King Joash, a godly king of Judah, buying off King Hazael of Aram to stop him from attacking his kingdom. He emptied the temple of its precious treasures to keep him away. Did the king act right? Sadly, we can’t find the answer from the narrative. There is no mention of any consultation with God, any attempt on the king’s part to rally the people in prayer to seek God’s help. The author just tells the story leaving the readers to read between the lines.
The rest of the chapter shows this decision enraged many in Judah. His own servants, most likely, soldiers who served as his personal guards and assistants, killed him.
Two things come to mind as I read this chapter today. The first is the bigger picture of a nation and a people in spiritual decline. Both nations have begun to slide down spiritually, spiralling away from God, and headed for judgment. Every Israelite knew the covenant they made with God. He will be with them, blessing and protecting them if they faithfully followed the Lord. If they don’t God’s hammer is going down and they would lose everything, the land, their lives and eventually, even the temple, the symbol of God’s presence would be taken away. The temple treasures going to the enemy could be seen as a warning to the king and the nation.
But second, this story really points us to Christ. This payout reminds us of Jacob’s actions to appease his brother’s wrath. Do you remember how he had the little ones, Jacob’s children, meeting their uncle all rehearsing their dad’s humble appeal for forgiveness? He had gifts to offer him. He was giving up a sizeable amount, perhaps even willing to give up all so his brother won’t kill him. In the end, as in our story today, Jacob’s strategy worked well.
This story points us to another transaction, this time with far worst threat involving not just a nation, but the whole of humanity. The Bible calls this buyout as ransom or redemption. Mark 10:45 echoes Jesus’ own words explaining his reason for coming into the world. He said, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The apostle Peter says the same thing in his letter. He says we were redeemed not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood (life) of Jesus.
We should state here that Jesus did not pay the ransom to Satan, as some, sadly, advocate. The payment was made to God himself. As Creator, we owe him obedience, worship, and gratitude. We all failed. The whole humanity failed. We all sinned and deserved to perish eternally, forever separated from him, away from his loving gaze and affirming presence.
To save us from this ordeal, God sent his own Son, his treasure, his one and only Son, the darling of Heaven, to take our place in judgment. Just as the temple treasures, really belonged to God, so God, through his Son paid the penalty of sin. In this way, we could be saved, we could turn to him, and be forgiven on the basis of the atoning work of Jesus.
So the King of Aram discontinued his threat. King Joash and his people were spared. Good story. But this is nothing compared to the result of Jesus’ ransom. Those earthly kings remained as enemies, only there was the suspension of violence. Jesus did not merely end up violence, he did not only stop the guillotine of judgment from cutting us off forever. Through him, former enemies are reconciled to God and then adopted into his family.
Every time you go to a store and pay someone for something, remember Jesus. Let us remember that he paid a debt, he did not owe, to give to us blessings we don’t deserve.